David De Gea

BenjaminWills’Blog Premier League Team of the Season so far (2014/15)

The Premier League always offers drama, excitement, and talking points, and the 2014/15 season has not failed to disappoint so far. Here are the 11 men who have caught the eye of BenjaminWills’Blog from August to December.

Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Manchester United)

Spain international De Gea has really made an impact in English football after overcoming a stuttering debut season in 2011/12 and is considered by many to be one of, if not the, best Goalkeeper in the Premier League.

De Gea has managed six clean sheets this season so far despite playing behind a much talked about inexperienced Manchester United defence that has included the likes of Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair at centre back as well as winger Ashley Young as a makeshift wing-back.

He has made a string of impressive stops, most notably from Bryan Oviedo against Everton in the dying stages to keep it at 2-1 and in the home clash with Liverpool where Raheem Sterling looked certain to score.

Saving from Private Bryan: De Gea keeps out Oviedo

Saving from Private Bryan: De Gea keeps out Oviedo

Honourable Mention(s): Robert Green (QPR) who has made the most saves so far this season with 59 and Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea) who has kept the most clean sheets (Seven) and least goals conceded (14).

Right Back: Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton)

Southampton have surprised many this campaign, spending a large section of the latter end of 2014 in the top four despite losing five first teamers and their manager in the summer.

The Saints have conceded just 15 goals in their 19 games with season with only leaders Chelsea conceding less (14) with Clyne part of an impressive foursome that also features Jose Fonte, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand.

Clyne is the most proficient tackler in the league with 48 successes when attempting to win the ball and his quality displays were rewarded with his full England debut against Slovenia in November.

Clyne-ing up the pecking order: England may have found their right-back.

Clyne-ing up the pecking order: England may have found their right-back.

Honourable Mention(s): Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City) and Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea).

Centre Back: John Terry (Chelsea)

Many have compared the current Chelsea team to that of 2004/05 where they romped to the title with a record 95 points.

One of the few surviving members of that side is captain John Terry who, if you go by stats, is performing even better than he did 10 years ago.

He has won a higher percentage of his tackles, more of his duels, and conceded less fouls. To quote a famous Chelsea banner; “Captain. Leader. Legend”.

Better at 34 than 24? John Terry is in fine form.

Better at 34 than 24? John Terry is in fine form.

Centre Back: Toby Alderweireld (Southampton)

Tobias Albertine Maurits Alderweireld, or “Toby”, to his friends, Alderweireld has been the cement in the heart of the Saints’ defence with partner Fonte while Bertrand and the previously mentioned Clyne are doing the business on the flanks.

Alderweireld swapped the Spanish capital for the South Coast in September to get more first team football, he is getting it, and his performances make you wonder why he has not had a look in at Vicente Calderon.

The Belgian defender has won 17 tackles, losing just 12, won 22 aerial duels, made 89 clearances while comitting zero defensive errors. His loan at St.Mary’s could well be made permanent in the near future.

TA

To-by or not To-by: Will Southampton make his loan deal permanent next Summer?

Honourable Mention(s): Winston Reid (West Ham) and Jose Fonte (Southampton).

Left Back: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Chelsea fans’ Player of the Year last year Azpilicueta is shining again this term, although he is naturally a right back, “Dave” has taken to the other side like a duck to water.

So much so that even Champions League runner up Felipe Luis has failed to dislodge his spot in the Chelsea 11.

He has made great strides since his under the radar £7 million arrival from Marseille in August 2012 and has proven to be a fine replacement for Ashley Cole.

Just call me Dave: Azpilicueta has faultlessly made the transition from right to left back.

Just call me Dave: Azpilicueta has faultlessly made the transition from right to left back.

Honourable Mention(s): Aaron Cresswell (West Ham), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United) and Ryan Bertrand (Southampton).

Right Midfield: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

It is a surprise to no-one how much of an impact Alexis has made on the Premier League in such a short space of time.

The Chilean terror arrived in North London from Barcelona for £35 million five months ago on the back of a successful World Cup, scoring two goals in four games as Chile reached the last 16 ahead of holders Spain in Group B.

And he made an immediate impression on Gunners fans, helping his new team to a 3-0 win over Champions Manchester City in the Community shield on his debut and soon started scoring goals. 10 of them in fact, in 18 games, making him the fourth top scorer so far.

Agent of Shield: Sanchez has been Arsenal's Superhero.

Agent of Shield: Sanchez has been Arsenal’s Superhero this season.

Honourable Mention(s): Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Centre Midfield: Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)

Arguably the player of the season so far, Cesc Fabregas’ form on his return to the Premier League has picked up from when he departed Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal in 2011.

Back then he had already established himself as the sixth best assister in Premier League history with 71 in eight years but has leap-frogged former Arsenal team mate Thierry Henry into fifth since his move to the West side of the capital.

Fabregas has contributed 13 assists in his 18 games in a Blue shirt, with two goals to his name as well. He is Chelsea’s most influential player in the final third by a mile.

Absolutely Fab-ulous: Fabregas is arguably the Player of the Season so far.

Absolutely Fab-ulous: Fabregas is arguably the Player of the Season so far.

Centre Midfield: Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)

While the aforementioned Fabregas is the go to guy to put the finishing touches to Chelsea’s attacking play, Nemanja Matic is very much the man who gets things started.

Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa are often the subject of the plaudits to the 41 goals the Blues have scored this season (joint highest in the league with Manchester City), Matic has been the driving force behind them.

BenjaminWills’Blog has waxed lyrical about Matic in the past and it appears this season the imposing Serbia anchor man is getting the praise he so truly deserves.

Comeback King: Matic has become Chelsea's most important player three years after his exile.

Comeback King: Matic has become Chelsea’s most important player three years after his exile.

Honourable Mention(s): Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Alex Song (West Ham), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) and Michael Carrick (Manchester United).

Left Midfield: Stewart Downing (West Ham)

If there is one player from this side that is best defined as the “most improved” then Stewart Downing is that player.

The revitalised England winger has scored four goals, assisted six and created 54 chances already this campaign while he only managed three goals, two assists and created just 62 chances throughout the whole of last season.

In the first half of 2014/15, he has set up more goals than the heavily praised David Silva who has just two assists to his name and created 31 chances with Downing also boasting more key passes (48) to Silva’s 29.

It is a completely different Downing to the one who scored zero goals and fashioned zero assists in the 2011/12 season for Liverpool.

Happy Hammer: Stewart Downing is back to his best.

Happy Hammer: Stewart Downing is back to his best.

Honourable Mention(s): David Silva (Manchester City)

Striker: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

The Premiership’s top marksman at the halfway stage is a deadly diminutive forward that goes by the name of Sergio Aguero.

A World Cup runner up in July, Aguero has bounced back from that bitter disappointment and has rediscovered his scoring boots after he failed to find the back of the net in Brazil.

He is having no such problem domestically though, scoring 14 goals and is eight clear of City’s next top scorer Silva. It says a lot about Aguero that he is had his injury issues this season but is still top of the league’s goal scoring charts.

Argentine Assasion: Aguero is in hot form as ever.

Argentine Assasion: Aguero is in hot form as ever.

Striker: Diego Costa (Chelsea)

Costa arrived on English soil to more than a few doubters to his ability, but, he has, quite literally, pushed all of that to one side.

The imposing Brazilian-born Spaniard, 25, has bulldozed his way past most Premier League defences and notched 13 goals from 54 shots in the process as Chelsea have stormed to the summit.

That tally is one less than Aguero with 14 (one came from the penalty spot) while the little Argentine needed 22 more shots than his fellow former Atletico star striker.

Deadly Diego: At long last Chelsea have found a striker they can rely on.

Deadly Diego: At long last Chelsea have found a striker they can rely on.

Honourable Mention(s): Charlie Austin (QPR) and Graziano Pelle (Southampton)

Here is BenjaminWills’Blog Team of the Season so far in graphic form then:

Graphic

TOTS graphic provided by @YidNick

West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Manchester United

A late Daley Blind strike rescued a point for Champions League chasing Manchester United at the Hawthorns as the Red Devils dropped to sixth in the table.

Blind’s effort, coming in the 87th minute, denied West Bromwich Albion a famous win over Louis Van Gaal’s side with a curling shot from the edge of the box after the Baggies’ back line failed to efficiently clear a cross from the right.

West Brom twice took the lead, firstly when Stephane Sessegnon blasted home with a strike that flew into the top corner giving David De Gea no chance in the Manchester United goal just eight minutes into the match.

Marouane Fellaini pulled United level three minutes after the half time break, smashing an unstoppable shot past stand in Goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

Saido Berahino regained West Brom’s lead with 24 minutes left on the clock after substitute Fellaini’s equaliser, Chris Brunt’s intelligent through ball picked out this season’s top English scorer in the Premier League so far and he calmly slotted the ball past De Gea after losing his marker Phil Jones.

Robin Van Persie came closest without scoring for the visitors when his rasping volley hit the inside of the post, bouncing out to deny the Dutchman a place on the score sheet.

The hosts only fashioned eight shots on goal (two on target) during the 90 minutes compared to United’s 22 (seven on target) but will be proud of their display, especially given their 2-1 defeat at Anfield before the international break.

West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Pocognoli, Gardner, Morrison, Sessegnon (Mulumbu ’86), Dorrans, Brunt, Berahino

Subs not used: Daniels, Gamboa, McAuley, Blanco, Ideye, Anichebe

Man United:  De Gea, Rafael, Rojo, Jones, Shaw, Blind, Herrera (Fellaini ’45), Di Maria (Young ’76), Mata (Falcao ’72), Van Persie, Januzaj

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Smalling, Fletcher, Carrick

Manchester United 2-1 Everton

Manchester United overcame Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford to secure back to back home league wins for the first time since November 2013.

Louis Van Gaal’s marquee summer signings won the game for his side with Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao scoring either side of Steven Naismith’s header.

Di Maria opened the scoring with 27 minutes played, sweeping in from just inside the area, assisted by Juan Mata after Phil Jagielka could not efficiently clear a cross from the right.

Naismith lost his marker Rafael to head home Everton’s equalizer from Leighton Baines’ cross 11 minutes into the second half but Falcao’s first goal for Manchester United seven minutes later proved to be the winner.

The Colombian was on his toes to pounce on Di Maria’s low shot and beat Tim Howard who had little chance of keeping it out.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

It could have been an entirely different story however as Baines had a penalty saved in first half stoppage time.

Tony Hibbert was brought down in the box by Luke Shaw but David De Gea saved the spot-kick which was too near the centre of the goal.

United were worthy of their win however, putting Everton on the back foot from the off. Howard having to deny a Falcao header just four minutes in.

They started the second half with the same velocity, Di Maria’s miscued shot was almost turned in by Falcao from close range but there was too much speed on it.

Everton did fashion chances of their own however. Jagielka had a header cleared off the line by Falcao from a corner before a late flurry of chances.

Substitute Leon Osman forced a superb save by De Gea in the closing stages before fellow second half sub Bryan Oviedo’s effort from the edge of box was somehow tipped over the bar by the Spaniard.

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael, McNair, Rojo, Shaw (Blackett ’71), Blind, Valencia (Fellaini ’78), Di Maria, Mata, Falcao (Wilson ’73), Van Persie

Subs not used:  Lindegaard, Thorpe, Fletcher, Januzaj

Everton: Howard, Hibbert (Browning ’77), Jagielka, Stones, Baines, Barry, Besic, Pienaar (Oviedo ’64), McGeady (Osman ’77), Naismith, Lukaku

Subs not used: Joel, Gibson, Eto’o, Alcaraz

Man of the match: Angel Di Maria

Manchester United 4-0 Queens Park Rangers

A rejuvenated Manchester United strolled past Queens Park Rangers, winning 4-0, as they intend to make Old Trafford a fortress again.

The rout started 24 minutes in when Angel Di Maria’s flighted free-kick went all the way in with Robert Green left clutching at thin air as Di Maria’s attempted cross flew past him.

Fellow summer signing Ander Herrera doubled the hosts’ advantage on 36 minutes when he swept in from the edge of the box from Wayne Rooney’s pass as a result of a rampaging run by Di Maria.

It was three just before the break when goalscorer of the second Herrera turned provider, assisting Rooney who took a touch before lashing the ball past Green from just inside the area, beating the former England goalkeeper at his near post.

Off the mark: Ander Herrera scores his first goal for his new club

Off the mark: Ander Herrera scores his first goal for his new club

Today was a day in which everything went right for Louis Van Gaal’s side, none more evident than when a totally unmarked Juan Mata turned in a wayward shot by Di Maria for 4-0 with 58 minutes on the clock.

QPR chances were few and far between but deadline day signing Niko Kranjcar came close three minutes after half time but his shot as saved by the boot of David De Gea.

Eduardo Vargas too came close, he shot wide late on after seizing on a poor back pass by Marcos Rojo.

Marquee signing Radamel Falcao came on for his Manchester United debut in the 67th minute, replacing Mata.

The Colombian had a chance to extend United’s lead ever further but he could not convert Daley Blind’s rebounded effort.

Manchester United: De Gea, Evans, Rojo, Rafael (Valencia ’67), Blackett, Di Maria (Januzaj ’82), Herrera, Blind, Rooney, Mata (Falcao ’67), Van Persie

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Shaw, Fletcher, Pereira

Queens Park Rangers: Green, Isla, Caulker, Ferdinand, Hill (Traore ’45) Kranjcar, Sandro (Henry ’74), Fer, Phillips, Austin (Vargas ’59), Hoilett

Subs not used: McCarthy, Onouha, Zamora, Taarabt

Man of the match: Angel Di Maria

Burnley 0-0 Manchester United

Louis Van Gaal is still without his first win as Manchester United Manager as newly promoted side Burnley held the Red Devils to a 0-0 draw at Turf Moor.

British record signing Angel Di Maria played 70 minutes on his debut for his new club and showed signs of promise but was replaced by Anderson after the £59.7 million man picked up a knock.

It was a game of few clear cut chances but Burnley came close on a number of occasions.

David Jones struck the bar with a free-kick just three minutes in and two minutes later Lukas Jutkiewicz had a shot saved by David De Gea after seizing on a weak Jonny Evans back pass.

Robin Van Persie came closest for the visitors but saw his half volley in the area tipped out for a corner brilliantly by former United youth product Tom Heaton.

Di Maria’s intelligent lofted through ball picked out the Dutch forward who chested the ball down before striking it with power but Heaton was equal to it.

Jones also had a dipping volley palmed out for a corner by De Gea.

Manchester United felt they had two penalty shouts in the match turned down. In the first half Ashley Young was bundled over by Kieran Trippier in the box but Chris Foy adjudged there was no malice in the challenge. Young’s reputation for diving may have gone against him.

Late on in the second half, shouts of “penalty” were heard again as the ball struck the hand of Ashley Barnes from Young’s shot not deliberately in the eyes of Foy.

Neither team created enough opportunities to be worthy of the right to claim they deserved the three points. Burnley defended in numbers well but were unable to break through a United defense that had been largely called into question in recent weeks.

Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Arfield, Jones, Marney, Taylor (Reid ’88), Ings (Barnes ’78), Jutkiewicz

Subs not used: Gilks, Ward, Long, Wallace, Sordel

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Evans, Blackett, Valencia, Young, Fletcher, Di Maria (Anderson ’70), Mata (Januzaj ’87), Rooney, Van Persie (Welbeck ’73)

Subs not used: Amos, Keane, James, Hernandez

Man of the match: David Jones

MK Dons 4-0 Manchester United

Manchester United’s woeful start to life with Louis Van Gaal got even worse as League One side MK Dons cruised to a 4-0 win at Stadium:MK.

Braces from on loan Brentford outcast Will Grigg and Benik Afobe, also on loan from Arsenal inflicted one of the most embarrassing results in Manchester United’s recent history.

The rout began 26 minutes in when a terrible pass by Jonny Evans was intercepted by Ben Reeves who cut it back for Grigg for a simple tap in.

Grigg doubled the Dons’ lead with 63 minutes played, attempting to shoulder in a cross but what turned out to be a chested effort was bundled in, the cross again provided by Reeves.

It went from bad to worse for the visitors when Afobe slotted in a third with 20 minutes left, once again Reeves the provider in what was a surprisingly easy day at the office for him.

Afobe completed the demolition when he fired home from the centre of the box to the right hand side of the goal six minutes before the final whistle.

Super Sub: Arsenal loanee came on for Grigg and bagged a brace himself

Super Sub: Arsenal loanee came on for Grigg and bagged a brace himself

Milton Keynes Dons, who finished 10th in England’s third tier last season, also had a clear penalty shout turned down in the second half with Evans guilty of a hand ball in the area.

Manchester United were woeful throughout, the likes of Anderson, Danny Welbeck an Javier Hernandez did nothing to convince Van Gaal that they merit selection in the Premier League.

Van Gaal’s Red Devils were experiencing hell themselves on a miserable night in Milton Keynes, having just four shots on target all game, all of which coming once they had gone behind and the first coming as late as an hour in.

Clueless: Van Gaal wrote lots of notes but could not figure out the answers.

Clueless: Van Gaal wrote lots of notes but could not figure out the answers.

Substitute James Wilson had the closest chance for the humbled favourites but David Martin handled it well, it was 3-0 by that point.

4-0 did not flatter MK Dons, a club founded as recently as 2004 as a result of Wimbledon FC’s liquidation and the franchise team celebrated their biggest ever attendance of 26,969.

Angel Di Maria was confirmed as a Man United player for a British transfer record of £59.7 million before kick off and the task he has on his hands to return his new club to the top is clear to him now if it wasn’t already.

MK Dons: Martin, Baldock, Lewington, Kay, McFadzean, Alli, Potter, Bowditch (Powell ’56), Reeves, Carruthers (Green ’61), Grigg (Afobe ’68)

Subs not used: McLoughlin, Spence, Randall, Hitchcock, Afobe

Manchester United: De Gea, M Keane, Evans, Vermijl, James, Powell (Wilson ’57) Janko (Pereira ’45), Anderson, Hernandez, Kagawa (Januzaj ’20) Welbeck

Subs not used: Amos, McNair, Thorpe, Zaha

Man of the match: Will Grigg

Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City

Swansea City earned a shock 1-2 victory over Manchester United in Louis Van Gaal’s first game in charge to deny him a positive start to life at Old Trafford.

Returning fan favourite from Tottenham Gylfi Sigurdsson won the game for the visitors when he turned in Wayne Routledge’s miscued volley with 72 minutes on the clock.

Ki Sung-Yeung initially swept the Swans in front after 28 minutes following Sigurdsson’s pass across the edge of the box.

Wilfried Bony blocked Phil Jones in an off the ball incident which prevented Ki from being closed down but referee Mike Dean ruled that there was no malice in the challenge.

Manchester United’s new captain Wayne Rooney leveled the scores after 53 minutes when he acrobatically turned in Jones’ headed knock on from a corner.

He almost doubled his tally 25 minutes from time but his free-kick clipped the outside of the post before going out for a goal kick.

Neither team were dominant in what was a match that involved very few clear cut chances.

Super Sigurdsson: Swansea's new signing celebrates winner on his return

Super Sigurdsson: Swansea’s new signing celebrates winner on his return

It was Manchester United who came closest without scoring in the first half in fortunate circumstances when Jones’ cross needed tipping over the bar by Lukasz Fabianski.

Rooney also had a tame headed effort saved easily.

Jesse Lingard had his Premier League bow cut tragically short when he was substituted on 24 minutes due to injury.

The second half was a similar story, Swansea limited the pre kick off favourites to limited opportunities while Manchester United’s weak back line was too easily exploited.

Van Gaal’s coveted 3-5-2 system was dealt with comfortably by Swansea. The pace from the likes of Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge and substitute Jefferson Montero was too hard to deal with for inexperienced wing backs Ashley Young and Adnan Januzaj while Bony and Sigurdsson caused problems for Jones, Chris Smalling and youth graduate Tyler Blackett.

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Blackett, Lingard (Januzaj ’24), Fletcher, Herrera (Fellaini ’67), Young, Mata, Rooney, Hernandez (Nani ’45)

Subs not used: Amos, James, M Keane, Kagawa

Swansea City: Fabianski, Rangel, Amat, Williams, Taylor (Tiendalli ’53) Ki, Shelvey, Dyer (Montero ’67), Sigurdsson, Routledge, Bony (Gomis ’77)

Subs not used: Tremmel, Bartley, Richards, Sheehan

Man of the match: Ashley Williams