Thursday, April 5, 2012

Teams of the Year - by league position

As the Premier League season draws to a close, it becomes typical to start vetting candidates for awards. Why wouldn't you? I mean, it's like writing about All-Star selections in the NBA – it's easy column inches relying on relative opinions rather than absolute logic and saves you from using undeveloped ideas before they're fully mapped out.

So with seven matches per club left in the English Premiership, the blogosphere gets inundated with posts describing Team/Player/Manager of the Season, Biggest Surprise/Disappointment, Best/Worst Transfer and Favourite Fernando Torres hairstyle.

(Personally, I think he looks better blonde, but he's not wearing it with the same panache he did at Liverpool. It's been one – more – tough year for Fernando).

Recently I've wondered what actually constitutes the “mid-table”. It turns out it's a disparate concept with no strict boundaries, utterly reliant on individual point of view. The closest I've been able to find on the internet of finite definition has been in the black-and-white world of a Football Manager forum – so the chances of me using this information as accurate data are precisely zero.

For the time being I'm happy to characterise the mid-table as teams not likely to earn continental football as a result of their league position, but teams that are also not in danger of relegation. This means, for now, the mid-table encompasses everyone between seventh-positioned Everton and West Bromwich Albion in fifteenth spot.

Given the fact that, for the most part, the most rich and talent-heavy clubs may as well play in their own little league, it's an interesting exercise to select separate “Teams of the Year” from clubs in each section of the table – those contending for Europe, “mid-table” teams and those relegation threatened clubs.

European contenders (4-4-2): Hart, M. Richards, Luiz, Kompany, A. Cole, Tiote, Y. Toure, Bale, Mata, Rooney, van Persie.

Mid-table (4-4-2): T. Howard, Naughton, Huth, Skrtl, Baines, Britton, Sigurdsson, Dempsey, Larsson, Sessegnon, Suarez.

Relegation-threatened (4-4-2): Given, L. Young, Hanley, Berra, Warnock, McCarthy, M. Davies, Hoilett, Moses, Bent, Yakubu.

Only players playing 20 games or more were considered – unless winner of a Player of the Month award (Sigurdsson).

The table above displays quite succinctly the deepening Premier League class divide; a gap it's taken an immense effort from a no-name Newcastle squad to breach. While the selection semantics are polemical – recent form dips cost Silva, Ba and Aguero for mine – suggesting there isn't a boundary of player quality between teams competing for European football this season's and those who are not.

More strikingly, could these “best of the rest” outfits be competitive with clubs in the table's upper reaches? An overactive imagination could convince that the Mid-table team could challenge for a spot in the Champions League if everything went right – but surely no more?

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