Premier League After 20 Years.
It was sometime last week as I was doing my European Dream Team that I realised it’s been 20 years since the Premier League’s inception. Of course, it’s been a full 5 months since it was celebrated but I wasn’t writing for this blog at that time, so since I’ve got nothing better to do and there’s a gap to be filled, I think it would be nice to go over some of the great players that the Premier League has brought to us over the years.
This is in a standard 4-4-2, a formation known around the world and mostly used in England.
Goalkeeper: David Seaman
With over 400 appearances for Arsenal and winning 4 FA Cups, and 3 First Division/Premier League titles, it’s clear the man is an Arsenal legend. But why have in the team? Because he’s simply the best. In ten Premier League seasons, Seaman completed 130 clean sheets. 130. A stunning feat.
Right-back: Gary Neville
It may hurt a lot of us to admit this but Gary Neville was the best right-back of his generation. His partnership with Beckham on the right-flank was at times devastating, his defensive work was even more impressive. And with 8 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, and 1 Champions League medal to his name, how can you argue that he’s not one of the greats?
Centre-back: Tony Adams
Mr. Arsenal was simply peerless in defence. A true legend. Defensively, he was near unstoppable. He was well-disciplined, brave, strong. Everything you need and want in a defender and for nearly 20 years at Arsenal, he gave his all, no matter the ups and downs. I don’t think there’s anything I can say that can bring justice to this man.
Centre-back: Sol Campbell
One of the best centre-backs I’ve ever had the honour of watching, Campbell’s key strength was how athletic he was. For such a big man, Campbell could move his body, and his feet whilst remaining powerful all the same. Perhaps the strongest and best tackler I’ve seen in an Arsenal shirt, Campbell had to be in this team.
Left-back: Ashley Cole
Cole was a key member of the Invincibles team of 03-04 for a reason. Not only was he a fantastic defender, who could take on any winger that challenged him down the line, but his awareness and knowledge of when and when not to go forward and attack was instrumental in that team. Apart from Denis Irwin, I couldn’t think of a single player that could challenge Cole for a spot in this team at left-back.
Right-midfield: Cristiano Ronaldo
Undoubtedly the finest player to have graced the Premier League in the past five, maybe even ten years, Ronaldo dazzled defenders in the league. How did he do it? Simple. The man’s a beast. He has remarkable athleticism for a guy that tall, he has flair, skill, technique, strength, aggression and raw talent which shows almost every time he plays. To add to this, Ronaldo’s height gives him superiority in the air and means that he has scored some great headers. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s a free-kick specialist too. You want more? He can finish with both feet and scored a total of 81 Premier League goals. And after becoming the world’s most expensive player costing Real Madrid £80m, Real can still wonder if they got this man for a bargain.
Centre-midfield: Patrick Vieira
The engine, the powerhouse, the legend himself. A simply remarkable player, Vieira matched power with grace for the Arsenal and almost immediately became a key player for our team. With 279 appearances for Arsenal and 29 goals, he’s a legend. Perhaps, it’s slightly ironic that he beat his well-known rival Roy Keane to make it into my team.
Centre-midfield: Paul Scholes
I’m going to be honest, there are few players – whichever position – that I admire as much as Paul Scholes. Just a wonder to watch, he was the complete midfielder. His passing is something that is always noted, and rightly so, his passing was seemingly always accurate. Watching him, he just seemed to be able to do anything. Whether it be the perfect pass or whether it be scoring goals from all over the pitch, Scholes knew how to do it. I think it’s just a shame that the England national team failed to use Scholes correctly when they had opportunity to.
Left-midfield: Ryan Giggs
20 years in the Premier League and counting, Ryan Giggs could not be left out of such a team. I’d say it’s even more incredible that, like Scholes, Adams, and Neville above, Giggs has played for one club and one club only over the years. For twenty years, Giggs has looked to be playing without ever tiring. Never stops running, never stops giving his all for the team, always keeps possession well and keeps going. Over the years, his playing style has evolved to suit his age, and he’s become a playmaker but his class has always been there as well as his technique. There was only ever going to be one player for this position, and that was Giggs.
Striker: Alan Shearer
An unbelievable centre-forward if ever I’ve seen one, Shearer, as we all know, is the leading goal-scorer in Premier League football. And you don’t become leading goalscorer by accident either. Standing at 6 foot and with a large build and physical strength, Shearer would have been a handful for anybody trying to defend him. He was able to hold off defenders with relative ease, as well as work as a target man providing the ball for a striker to work off him. But Shearer was no slouch. As well as incredible ability in the air, good for scoring headers, Shearer was great with his feet too. With 260 Premier League goals, the man was a great finisher, often with both feet. He poached goals from everywhere, whether it be a free-kick or penalty or a one-on-one, Shearer would be on it time and time again. Shearer is a classic striker and a Newcastle legend, so of course he had to be in the team.
Striker: Thierry Henry
“Thierry Henry could take ball in the middle of park and score a goal that no one else in the world could score”. That’s a quote from Arsene Wenger on Henry. And, you know, it sums up what Henry is all about. He’s the king. The legend. He was so cool and composed on the pitch playing for Arsenal, he was classy. I love that about him. One-on-one’s against the keeper, you knew there was only one man who was going to win it and that was Henry. And then, his blinding pace allowed him to beat defenders with ease, allowed him to get in behind the defence and cause damage. It’s what he did best. He scored goals consistently every season. And spectacular ones at that, because that’s what he did. The man was a genius, a god even. Thierry was the special one for our club. So special, he beat even Eric Cantona for his position on the team.
In 20 years, the Premier League has established itself as the best, most entertaining league in the world. It creates the most revenue, it’s famous worldwide and it’s provided us with the most thrills, shocks, frustrations, and beauty of all leagues worldwide. There is no greater league than the Premier League. After 20 years, we can truly say we’ve seen the greatest managers – Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger – and the finest players – whether it be Jaap Stam, Steven Gerrard, or Marcel Desailly. But none of this would have been created without the fans. The ones that turn up on match day to support their team, the ones that spend money on the merchandise, the tickets, etc. The ones that sit at home, cheering as if they were there at the stadium. It’s these people that make football tick, you can’t forget that. So thank you to the Premier League for 20 years of great football, we’ve seen controversy in the Mario Balotelli’s and Eric Cantona’s of our world, we’ve seen outstanding goals with Dennis Bergkamp against Newcastle, we’ve seen tears with United losing the title on the final day to City, we’ve seen Invincibles and we’ve seen our share of the unexpected with chickens, cats, and lots more making a pitch invasion. Here’s to another 20 years of the world’s greatest league.
Feel free to comment below with your thoughts and you can call me a closet Manchester United fan on twitter via @reece_sim.