Best of the Best: The Big 4 Select XI

by Eamonn Power

The presence of a “Big 4” in the Premier League is well documented. Using only players from these footballing heavyweights,  I’ve compiled what I believe to be the best team possible and one, which after expending a lot of effort putting together, I’d dub as near to unbeatable as could be.

I’ll admit it now, I’m a United fan but I’ve honestly tried to be as impartial as I could during selection ….…. many of you out there will likely scoff at it and brand me an idiot, but this is my opinion and I’ll stick by it, damn it.



Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina (Liverpool)

A few years ago, this position wouldn’t have even required a second thought with big Petr Cech as sure-fire as could possibly be. Chelsea’s number one however has lost a lot of what once made him brilliant, he’s far from certain under high balls and has even allowed some embarrassing blunders enter his game at times. Some isolate the split second that Stephen Hunt’s knee collided with his skull as when it all began to go downhill for him, whether this is the case or not is hard to tell. Arsenal’s Manuel Almunia is a non-runner due to the simple fact that he doesn’t ever seem to save anything. It remains a source of serious puzzlement as to how he hasn’t been replaced yet. This leaves Edwin Van der Sar and Reina, with the nod going to the Spaniard partly due to his lower age but also down to his excellent consistency between the posts for the Merseysiders.

Right-Back: Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)

This is probably the trickiest spot of the whole team to fill, with nobody making a clear case for inclusion. Sagna is probably neither the best attacker nor the best defender of all the options but his classification as competent in both of these traits gets him his place. His form this season has dropped from what he is capable of but he gets the call up nonetheless. I’ll have him stay back and work on his crosses after training though. Glen Johnson and Rafael are a joy to watch going forward but both are suspect when asked to actually defend, which when going for the 3 man midfield system (as I am) is somewhat important. Gary Neville is past it and Wes Brown, although a fine defender doesn’t offer much offensively. Branislav Ivanovic has had a fine season for Chelsea since being given his chance by Carlo Ancelotti but it may be too early to fully judge his ability. Phillip Degen doesn’t show enough to get near the place, neither does Carra whenever he’s called upon in this position.

Centre- Halves: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United) & John Terry (Chelsea)

As hateable a duo to opposition fans as there could be. Rio is a beautiful player in all aspects apart from his physical appearance. His touch and composure on the ball are unusual for a player of his size and position. Deceptively fast (except against Craig Bellamy), he’s also a great tackler. Fabio Capello will be praying that his injury problems for the season have ended. Rio also possesses the advantage of raising squad morale with his “hilarious” wind-ups. We’ve been merked mate.

John Terry is a horrible, horrible person. I’d come to that conclusion long before recent allegations of affairs with team-mate’s girlfriends and subsequent abortions came to light. His appearance on the TV during games consistently angers me…..but when the chips are down, there are very few other players I’d prefer to have out there. It’s an old cliché, but he wears his heart on his sleeve and constantly rises above adversity for the sake of his team. His speed (or more so, lack of) often gets questioned, but that’s why I’ve put Rio beside him, innit?

Left Back: Patrice Evra (Manchester United)

This is where things get interesting with possibly two of the finest left backs in world football within these 4 clubs. Emilano Insua is cut early doors, Gael Clichy, who’s form of two years ago has dropped substantially, is quick to follow him, thus leaving Ashley Cole and Pat Evra to duke it out. Both have been incredible this season with the two of them making cases (which will ultimately fail) to be named their respective club player of the year. This decision is almost the definition of nip and tuck. The Frenchman gets the place, mainly due to the fact that he’s much less of a prick than Ashley, also because he’s part of one of the strangest friendships of recent times, forming a tight trio with Ji Sun Park and Carlos Tevez. Weird.

Defensive Mid: Darren Fletcher (Manchester United)

Liverpool fans will rate Mascherano ahead of him; Arsenal fans (maybe pushing it a little) will mention Alex Song’s vast improvement. The truth is that the only player that comes close is Michael Essien with the Chelsea man maybe a little unlucky to lose out. Darren Fletcher has been a revelation in recent times for United, and it’s hard to believe, that after Rooney, his isn’t the first name on the team-sheet for United’s big matches. His energy levels are incredible, going box to box and doing his job diligently for the full 90 minutes every time. He’s even managed to pop up with some incredibly important goals in his time. Like a lot of great players his importance is noticed most when he isn’t playing.

Centre Mids: Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

Two extremely good players. Fabregas is a top runner for World player of the year this season and is probably my favourite player in the world to watch, cut from a similar mould to his fellow Spaniards and midfield masters Xavi and Iniesta. It speaks volumes of Spains’ chances at this years World Cup that one of these incredible players will most likely not even make the starting eleven.

Lampard, although not reaching the highs of other seasons has managed to score 10 goals and provide another 9 assists. Steven Gerrard doesn’t make the cut. Few can deny that he has been far off his best this season. The midfield may look a little narrow, but both Evra and Sagna are more than capable of bombing forward and supplying a bit of width if needed.

Left Wing Forward: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Won’t be too happy with me telling me that’s he’s operating slightly on the left again, but I’m the boss. I’m the gaffer. What I say goes. Rooney has been in great form this season. Finally delivering on his undoubted potential to score goals on a regular basis. 30+ this season is now more of an expectation rather than a hope. Pace, power, vision, skill, determination, he’s got the lot. Fergie and Capello are rubbing their hands in delight.

Centre Forward: Didier Drogba (Chelsea)

On his day, as unplayable a striker as there is. He’s also a despicable professional but it would be very hard for any fan to claim they wouldn’t want him on their team. Strong as a horse, with speed to match, Drogba has the skill to score any number of goals in any game. Pity he’s such a little girl.

Right Wing Forward: Fernando Torres (Liverpool)

Incredible talent. As a United fan I’ve never been so disappointed that we never followed through on rumours of interest in a player. Like Drogba, he can change any game, lightning fast, great feet and (despite recent petulance and sulking) a generally likeable character . Which is nice. The Spaniard has bagged 50 goals in 72 appearances for Liverpool since his arrival from Atletico Madrid. If his hamstrings weren’t made out of styrofoam who knows how many more he’d have had by now?

Honourable mention: Robin van Persie (Arsenal). Very unlucky to have his potentially best season in an Arsenal shirt interrupted by a horrible injury. Great player with a wand of a left foot.

13 Responses

  1. Pig 'n Swizzle says:

    “Keep your eyes on the prize (sitting in the stands) and the ball’s gonna hit you in the face,” famous quote I just made up. But extremely relevant in the case of this article… I would like to see this lineup against the likes of Don Quixote.

  2. John E. Star says:

    Can’t believe Ashley Cole has been omitted. Admittedly a tough call between him and Patrice but Cole would make the world XI on current form.

    The 4-3-3 formation is a mistake. Neither Cesc nor Lamps are at their best when on the back foot, leaving D. Fletcher to shoulder most of the defensive burden. Make the tough call and cut one of the front 3…….

  3. braveheartspawn says:

    Liked your last article on the review of the game sunday…..Loved the last paragraph comparing The Scottish Whiskey drinker and the French professor….genius!!!!

    As for the team….a few disagreements here and there…but a good formation….nice mention of Van Persie also.

    I do however want to point out my differences

    Evra – the 2nd best left back in the premiership…..but no one can touch Ashley this year….against Sunderland….unreal…..never have I seen a full back play like that….granted Malbranque helped him with his laziness.

    My other argurement is if Gerrard loses out on form this season…Ferdinand has to lose out also….Vidic, Gallas, Vermaelen would have to be considered…

    Fletcher…I do see the thinking and I like that you mentioned Song…I think he has been unreal this year….but do think Stevie has to be put in this team and at the expense of Darren!

    The top 3 pick themselves you might get a few that will argue that rooney should be moe central as of the season he is having this year the kid can play anywhere….he is unstoppable this year!

    Also mentions for John O shea, Anelka would be nice!

    All in all a fair assessment of a team and in fairness you werent too bias!

    Keep the articles going cant wait for your next game review…..gonna be hard to top the last paragraph of the last one…it was sensational!

  4. Matt says:

    Ste-ven Ger-rard.

  5. Jamie says:

    Hard to argue with any of that. I think I might have Essien rather than Fletcher though.

  6. Kevin Coleman Kevin Coleman says:

    To be honest I don’t really like the three pronged attack of Torres, Drogba and Rooney. All are best played centrally. At the moment I would cut one and partner the other with Rooney.

    I’d also twiddle the midfield a bit. The lack of Essien is catostrophic, he’s absolutely amazing and ten times the player Fletcher is. Chelsea (although minimally and probably not visible to the human eye!) are not the same without him.

    I’d also keep Fabregas in the centre with Essien, and put Arshavin on the left and maybe Valencia on the right. Though to be honest, none of the top four have stand out RMs.

    Or on second though, this team would be pretty sick:
    ————————-Reina
    Sagna—- Ferdinand– Terry——– Evra
    ———————Cesc—Essien———
    Torres?————-Gerrard————–Arshavin/Rooney?
    ————————Drogba———————-

  7. Leg Break says:

    Given the title of the article, why is Torres there?

  8. Eamonn Power Eamonn Power says:

    I dabbled with the idea of a 4-4-2 but found it difficult to see how it would add more benefit that having those three goalscoring animals up top. definitely dont think that gerrard or arshavin would add more to the team than any of them. Im dreaming of a perfect world here, no difficulties in adjusting to each other, the system, no speaking out against the formation in the media etc.!

    i said it in the piece that leaving out ashley cole and essien were two very difficult calls and that hasn’t changed. fletcher has really impressed me and i fully believe that his importance to united is greater than essiens to chelsea, as proven in the past month while essien has been in africa.

  9. Buck Rogers says:

    Enjoyed your other article, good read and a very insightful review of the game. This is a good piece and in fairness you argue a very strong point for all your inclusions BUT I have some strong opposition to some of the team. Steven Gerrard?? Cannot see how he is not in that team if Rio Ferdinand makes the cut. Gerrard albeit considerably below his best this season has to be included. When we judge Stevie G we think about Instanbul or that FA Cup final or the heights he hit last season, this is unfair. In what can only be described as a car crash of a season Gerrard has still been the heart and soul of the team and would most definitely deserve his place in that team over Lampard. Lampard has the likes of Michael Ballack and Essien around him in centre mid with Drogba up front, for long periods this season Gerrard has soldiered for the Pool cause with Lucas and N’Gog. Gerrard is also a more complete footballer than Lampard and would fit perfectly into that midfield along side Fabregas and Fletcher.
    Left back: Although Evra has been brilliant this season and I am a huge admirer of his I have to say Ashley Cole has been outstanding this season. He has improved immensely going forward which has added to his already formidable array of talent. Currently the best left back in the world.
    Defensive Mid: Im a big fan of Darren Fletcher and believe he is highly underrated but I can’t see past Mascherano. On his day without question he is the best defensive mid in the league. Despite his ridiculously stupid red card he was magnificent against United at Anfield this season. Again like Gerrard because Liverpool have been appalling this season he has taken some flack while in actual fact his form has been alot better than people are lead to believe.
    Although I have mentioned your inclusion of Rio Ferdinand, he’s an awesome player and worthy of inclusion along side Terry.
    Can’t argue with your inclusion of the three front men, awesome on their day. Rooney has been exceptional this season has achieved a goal scoring regard that I thought was beyond him. Drogba is unstoppable on his day and Torres WHEN fully fit is the best striker in the world although Rooney is giving him a good run for his money at the moment.

  10. Buck Rogers says:

    Also Mr Leg break if you saw fit to read the introduction to the piece you would see why Torres is included, also you failed to see that Pepe Reina is a Liverpool player?!! Lad!

  11. TheGhost says:

    The Fuck? Gerrard is better than both Lampard and Fabregas.

  12. Bim says:

    Don’t make me laugh… Darren Fletcher ahead of Gerrard. He’s been injured most of the time.. the whole team has been below par. I agree with braveheartspawn’s comment on Ferdinand… he’s been cack this year. The rest of the team I agree with.

  13. Neil Sherwin Neil Sherwin says:

    No room for Tevez, Adebayor, Given and De Jong?

    ;)

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