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Monday, December 28, 2009
Premier League Team of the Decade

Jon Carter

The decade has contained a selection of fine players in England's top division, but our job is condense them down into one, all-powerful team. ESPN Soccernet's selections are below, but feel free to add your own team to the comment section at the bottom.

GK: Shay Given. Either at Newcastle or, more recently, Manchester City, Given has been a model of consistency. An impeccable shot stopper, the Irish 'keeper commands the respect of any defence he finds himself behind and has proven his ability to win a game for his side numerous times. Solid when coming for crosses, his decision making is one of his key attributes and even with the presence of rivals like Petr Cech, Edwin Van der Sar and Jose Reina, he has the credentials to hold onto the number one jersey despite having so far enjoyed a trophyless career.

RB: Gary Neville. Is there a more consistent right-back in world football over the years? Well, not in the Premier League which is why the Man United skipper comes in. His powers having been waning with age and injury, but for his aggressive attitude on the pitch, commitment and exceptional professionalism, Neville is head and shoulders above the rest. A good attacking outlet with a tremendous crossing ability as well, Neville is a shining example for today's young players and still commands the respect of his fellow professionals.

CB: John Terry. Mr Chelsea is the rock that the Blues have been built around and carries the weight of expectation upon his shoulders. His desire, never-say-die attitude and commitment to the cause have made him one of the most respected defenders in the business and the fact that he is England captain may help too. A ferocious and fearless tackler, Terry's aerial ability is second to none and, although he may suffer from a lack of pace, his positional sense and guile make up for it. A vocal leader on the pitch, his indomitable style cements his place in the side.

CB: Rio Ferdinand. The country's most expensive defender when Manchester United signed him from Leeds in 2002, his performances at the World Cup in Japan/Korea made him the hottest property in world football. Fast, composed and with a good footballing brain, Ferdinand comes from the school of ball-playing centre-backs and his passing ability sets him apart from his rivals. A committed and tough tackler, his pace and positioning make him the ideal partner for a combative Vidic or Terry style of player and his occasional lapses of concentration have only recently returned to his game.

LB: Ashley Cole. For all his lack of personal appeal, Cole's work down the left flank as a youngster at Arsenal and then after his controversial transfer to Chelsea have elevated him ahead of any rival. A tireless runner, his attacking forays allow his team an attacking outlet, but he also carries out his defensive duties with aplomb. Fast and agile, he covers his team-mates well and can never be accused of lacking passion for the cause. Cole may not be the most popular of players after a few off-field indiscretions, but his consistency and talent see him stand above others in his position.

LM: Ryan Giggs. When he burst onto the scene in 1991, his pace and dribbling ability made him one of the hottest young players in the game. A touchline-hugging winger, his real skill this decade has been his transformation into a playmaker and versatile midfielder who is still a vital part of the Man United squad at the age of 36. Giggs' consistency over the years, his passion for the game and professionalism have contributed to his place in English football history. His only disappointment, like one George Best, has come at international level where he has missed out on the major competitions with Wales.

CM: Paul Scholes. An attacking midfielder who set the bar for others in the position, Scholes' role in bringing success to the Man Utd side began in 1994, but has continued until the end of the following decade. One of the best passers in the game, his eye for the crucial ball put him at the centre of United's attacking play and his goalscoring ability (either from one of his trademark volleys, or a well-timed run into the box) made him a legend at Old Trafford. His awareness on the ball, vision and technique make up for a chronic lack of tackling ability.

CM: Patrick Vieira. A tigerish midfielder, Vieira is the ideal man to anchor a midfield. His ferocity in the tackle and physical strength were shown during his years at Arsenal and his importance to the Gunners' cause is shown by the lack of silverware since his departure in 2005. More than a holding midfielder, his rangy style, dribbling skills and aerial ability also made him a decent attacking threat and his box-to-box nature gives him the edge over others in the centre of the park.

CM: Steven Gerrard. The heart and soul of Liverpool this decade, Gerrard's impact as one of the finest attacking midfielders of his generation cannot be understated. Strong and powerful, his direct running and unrivalled shooting power have turned him into a Kop hero. Best when he has the freedom to attack, his limitless energy and never-say-die attitude mark him out as a complete midfielder. While he offers a goal threat, his tenacity in midfield is also useful in defence and his ability to grab the biggest games by the scruff of the neck has proved to be his biggest asset.

RM: Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite only having been a part of the English game from 2003, Ronaldo's impact is there for all to see. The world's most expensive player raised the bar for attacking talent in the division and, once he got over his initial adjustment period, went on to become one of the greatest the Premier League has ever seen. For all his tricks, Ronaldo's pace, dribbling skills and powerful shooting made him the most dangerous of opponents. A steely nerve and freakish consistency all contributed to an incredible 42-goal haul in 2008 that may never be beaten by another midfielder in the modern era.

CF: Thierry Henry. Having moved from the flanks to a central striking role under Arsene Wenger, Henry blossomed into one of the finest strikers in the game. His searing pace and deadly finishing ability saw him plunder record after record at Arsenal and he was often at his best drifting out wide to create space for others. Capable of the sublime, the Frenchman's skill on the ball and close control when running at pace saw him capture the admiration of all who saw him play and, although his impact waned towards the end of his time in England, he can still consider himself one of the very best.

Subs:
Brad Friedel: Mr Consistency and a 'keeper who has performed at the highest level for Blackburn and now Aston Villa, despite never making the headlines.
Sol Campbell: Having risen to prominence with Spurs in the 90s, Campbell's impact upon a controversial move to Arsenal in 2001 is still enough to see one of the most solid centre-backs in England claim a place on the bench.
Roy Keane: For leadership, grit and aggression you need look no further than the fiery Irishman. Although just imagine telling him he was on the bench and Vieira was starting... Frank Lampard: Another fantastic goalscoring midfielder, he was at the core of Chelsea's rise to prominence and would make one of the best impact players off the bench ever.
Ruud van Nistelrooy: A poacher of the highest calibre, a bench role could get goals late in the game and he has done well to oust arguably the greatest striker in Premier League history. Most of Alan Shearer's good work was done in the 90s and, therefore, he drops out for our XV, but his 261 goal haul may never be beaten.

Soccernet says:

John Brewin (4-4-2): Friedel, G. Neville, Vidic, Terry, Evra, Giggs, Lampard, Keane, Ronaldo, Henry, van Nistelrooy. Subs: Given, Campbell, Gerrard, Rooney, Torres.

Mark Lomas (3-5-2): Given, Terry, Ferdinand, Campbell, Keane, Vieira, Ronaldo, Gerrard, Giggs, Henry, van Nistelrooy. Subs: Van der Sar, A. Cole, Scholes, Pires, Makelele, Shearer.

Robin Hackett: (4-4-2): Cech, G. Neville, Ferdinand, Terry, A. Cole, Ronaldo, Gerrard, Keane, Giggs, Henry, Shearer. Subs: Reina, Vidic, Makelele, Scholes, Torres.

Dom Raynor (4-4-2): Van der Sar, G. Neville, Terry, Campbell, A. Cole, Ronaldo, Keane, Lampard, Giggs, van Nistelrooy, Henry. Subs: Given, Ferdinand, Gerrard, Vieira, Shearer.

Tom Adams (3-5-2): Given, Terry, Ferdinand, Campbell, Giggs, Lampard, Vieira, Gerrard, Ronaldo, Henry, van Nistelrooy. Subs: Jaaskelainen, G. Neville, Keane, Pires, Drogba.

Dale Johnson (4-4-2): Given, G. Neville, Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Ronaldo, Lampard, Gerrard, Giggs, van Nistelrooy, Henry. Subs: Van der Sar, Carragher, Keane, Vieira, Shearer.


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