Not for the first time, I have found myself taking a typical pub conversation a little too far. On this occasion, the topic of discussion over a bag of nuts was: pick a team choosing only Premier League players playing for clubs outside the Big 6. The “Big 6” being of course – Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs. Being the way I am, I took this home with me and after far too much thought, this is what I came up with!
Honary mentions: Xherdan Shaqiri, Jermain Defoe, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Salomon Rondon, Winston Reid, Nathan Redmond, Manuel Lanzini, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jonny Evans
Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel
This was probably the easiest decision I had to make in the whole process. The stand out keeper from those available, especially given Forster’s poor form and the decline of Joe Hart. Jack Butland (for me, England’s no.1) is still someway off Schmeichel’s level despite his obvious potential. Begovic could maybe be inserted in to this conversation but he’s not quite on the level. Schmeichel could quite easily be playing for one of the top 6 clubs, Liverpool stands out as a great fit.
Defence: Matt Lowton, Harry Maguire, Virgil van Diijk, Ryan Betrand
From the easiest decision to what was certainly the hardest; right back. It was noticeable how top heavy the league is at the position. Seamus Coleman was the probable favourite for the position, but after not playing due to injury this term and coming off a down year last season, it was hard to justify. Matt Lowton has had a solid season in a solid defence, and represents what is currently the highest placed side outside the Big 6.
Virgil Van Diijk was an easy pick, not many centre halves in the league get quoted £50million plus. After picking up plenty of caps and forcing his way in as an England regular, Betrand beat out the competition at what is a very deep position.
The second centre back position was a more difficult choice. In the end, it was between Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans. I could be accused of slight bias here, after predicting Maguire would play for England when watching him play reserve football years ago, I have a slight affinity towards him. Whilst he probably has a mistake or two more in him than the more experienced Evans, I feel like he also offers more upside in terms of positive impact on a game. This one could have gone either way though. I’ve arguably missed out Mamadou Sahko here, but from a personal point of view he’s a player I struggle to really define.
Midfield: Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye, Morgan Schneiderlin, Riyad Mahrez,
This is certainly the deepest position area outside the top six. Mahrez is far and away the best player in this side, but the other wing required a lot more deliberation. In the end I opted for Zaha, with his goal return fending off the likes of Nathan Redmond and the elusive Xherdan Shaqiri.
In the middle, there really were a lot of ways this could have gone. There seemed to be an abundance of solid but not spectacular players to choose from. Harry Arter came to mind, along with consistent Premier League stalwarts such as Darren Fletcher, but West Brom’s Grzegorz Krychowiak felt like the biggest snub here after impressing for his new club despite their poor season. Ive probably leant towards reputation slightly with these picks, going for two players with impressive bodies of work but not so impressive recent form. However, Cabaye and Schneiderlin, feel like apt players to anchor a Best of the Rest XI after both earning moves to bigger clubs, only to return due to not living up to the standard.
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy
It would have been easy to over-complicate this one and I very nearly did. It was difficult to leave Lanzini out the side, a really aesthetically pleasing attacking player who is consistently having an impact on games. I initially had Sigurdsson ahead of Rooney, but a quick look at the leading league scorers and this debate was over. Rooney has had a mini-resurgence in recent weeks and reminded us all of his quality. Whilst Vardy is not at his record setting pace of a couple of years ago, he’s still consistently the biggest goal threat outside of the top echelon.
- It was noticeable how many Leicester players I picked. That said, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given their league position, 8th.
- I only picked one Burnley player and that came at a stretch, which is testament to the job Sean Dyche has done. Regression to the mean is to be expected but this side consistently overachieves. His uncompromising manner and rigid, high tempo style of play may not win him too many suitors, but the results are unquestionable.
- I had a hard time picking any Everton players. Whilst of course being a completely subjective exercise, the lack of stand out obvious picks should be a concern for a team with their net outlay and supposed ambitions.
Feel free to respond with your own XI’s or argue against my picks!
Somebody try telling me this isn’t an awesome (and amusing) look. From the goggles to the tucked in top.
Dario Saric everyone.
St James’ Park. Possibly the best away end in England?
Watched as a neutral from the Leicester end today. The Foxes came out deservedly on top, 3-2 winners in a game which both sides had leads.
- Mahrez just looked on a higher level to anybody else, Leicester have done incredibly well to keep him for this long. Begs the question, how much longer can it last? His departure for bigger & better things seems inevitable.
- Demari Gray really impressed. England are expected to take a young squad to the World Cup this summer. Southgate knows him well from his u21 coaching days. Could he make a late push to make the squad?
- Speaking of international duty, Leicester left back Ben Chilwell looks like a player who will pick up England caps in the future.
- Newcastle look like a Championship squad (because they are). Rafa feels forced to play incredibly defensive. A struggle to entertain as well as a struggle to stay up lies ahead for this club.
Late night NBA for me again! Great to see the TNT guys back on my screen. This time the Lakers take on the 76ers at Well Fargo Center!
Is this a little glimpse in to the future of the NBA? I can’t put my finger on it but these two young teams seem to play with a certain edge when they face up. Perhaps they feel the potential of a heavyweight rivalry on the horizon too.
Simmons, Fultz, Embiid & Covington isn’t a bad core to build around. This side is a lot of fun. I find Simmons in particular an intriguing player to watch. I think the scariest thing about him is there are still so many flaws to his game, so much room to improve, yet he’s a top 30 player in the NBA one year in??
I’d like to see Markelle Fultz get right again and contribute his year. The storyline surrounding him this rookie year is downright bizarre! The Sixers could really do with a second ball handler, especially come play off time. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if they essentially redshirt him for the remainder of the campaign.
Over to the west and the Lakers are certainly one to watch this free agency. Could they add one, possibly two stars to play alongside Ingram, Ball & Kuzma? Will they manage to get off the Deng contract?
Even prior to free agency, this Lakers team has a lot to watch for. The long term potential of Ingram really excites me, that is a lot of upside right there. CJ says it best! Kyle Kuzma is a flat out scorer and looks like a steal at the 27th pick of the draft. I personally really enjoy watching Randle ball & his pending restricted free agency is definitely a story line worth keeping an eye on. Oh, and there’s a point guard who goes by the name of Lonzo Ball.
Both are exciting to watch now, both are surrounded by great narratives, both have young cores, both have cap space. Both are…potential Lebron landing spots?? I can’t wait to see what the future holds for both these clubs, but let’s enjoy the now too!
Definitely up there as one of my favourite ever sports garments. Had this screengrab a long time. Unfortunately i don’t have the bottle (arms) to ever wear it! Wouldn’t mind as a collectors piece though, maybe when I’m a bit less skint. Almost bought a Tracy McGrady replica of the same uniform. Have looked for other similar merchandise but came up short. Really fantastic piece though… almost cheesy but it draws the line perfectly for me.
Vince by the way, still dunking at 40!
Currently sat watching the Detroit Pistons on the road at the Milwaukee Bucks! About to enter the 4th quarter at the time of posting, with the scores tied at 76! Looks like I’ve picked a good one. Or have I? A close contest means I’m going to watch the game until its close and its nearing 3am here!
The East has been surprisingly entertaining this year! Both these teams look set for the play offs. Despite the Pistons having a stronger current record, (14-9, 12-10 respectively) I’d say the Bucks have the most upside to do damage in the play offs, mainly on the back of Giannis’ MVP calibre play! It’ll be interesting to see how they bolster their roster before the trade deadline, I expect they surely will?! I really liked the addition of Eric Bledsoe.
Quick shout out to Andre Drummond’s dramatic upturn in free throw success!
Will watch the conclusion and then its off to sleep for me!