Top 10 Premier League Centre Backs

10 – Gary Pallister

Manchester United were so desperate to get Pallister that they broke the record paid for a defender and the centre back delivered for them and was certainly worth the investment. Forming one of the best partnerships with Steve Bruce, he helped the club to four league titles.

Pallister.jpg

9 – Vincent Kompany

One of the bargains of the Premier League era. Manchester City may be able to throw their money around these days but Kompany is still badly missed when he is out of the team and it would seem like no amount of money can replace the Belgian.

Kompany

8 – Sami Hyypia

A Liverpool legend that spent 10 years at the club and certainly a fan favourite on the Kop. Winning many personal awards and helping the club win the Champions league in 2005 would have made not being able to win the league title slightly easier to take.

Hyypia

7 – Jaap Stam

This might be a strange inclusion in the list as the Dutchman only spent three seasons in the Premier League with Manchester United but his quality was there for everyone to see and it isn’t a surprise that he won the title every year he was there.

Stam

6 – Jamie Carragher

At the start of his career he was played in every position on the pitch but when he finally settled as a centre back, he was one of the most consistent to ever play in the position at club level. Was unlucky not to play more internationally.

Carragher

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Who will win the Premier League?

The Premier League will be very difficult to predict this season because of all the changes that have taken place over the summer.

Three of the top five have new managers so will that work in their favour or will it take them a while to adjust to their new jobs.
Manchester City under Manuel Pellegrini will be an interesting prospect because he does like his teams to play more attacking football and win every game that they play. This is different to former manager Roberto Mancini who at times was a little negative. The signings the club has made will surely improve the squad and I am excited to see how Stevan Jovetic does because he could easily be the signing of the season.

Jose Mourinho is back at Chelsea and this might just make them become the best team in the country once again. He has a great team to work with and will be hoping that he can replicate his first spell in charge. It will be interesting to see if he still favours the players that were there in his first spell like John Terry who should not be in a title winning first 11 anymore. He has a tough choice in picking his main striker this year because Romelu Lukaku, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba are all capable on their day.

Sir Alex Ferguson has left Manchester United in a very strong position so it should not be too hard for David Moyes to at least challenge for the title this season because they still have the same team. The Wayne Rooney saga over the summer will not have helped things and the fact that he has not been able to convince many players to join them will be a little concerning. There will be even more pressure on Robin Van Persie to succeed this season and Moyes has to hope they do not become a one man team.

Arsenal are another club that has struggled in convincing players that they are the team they should be joining but if they can bring in someone like Luis Suarez then they could be right up there come the end of the season. As much as Arsene Wenger thinks top four is good enough I believe this may be his last season in charge if they do not come close to the title again. They have been falling further and further behind their rivals and that is probably why they have tried to spend a lot of money this summer.

Tottenham Hotspur could be seen as outsiders for the title because at times they did play some good stuff last year but unfortunately a lot does rest on whether they can keep hold of Gareth Bale. I do not think they are a one man team but he did win a lot of games for them last year but the signing of Roberto Soldado is a very good one and if he hits the ground running they will have a clinical striker on their hands that will add goals consistently which Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor failed to do last season.

A Liverpool legend – Jamie Carragher

Jamie Carragher has announced that he will retire from football at the end of the season and hopefully he will stay involved in the sport.
Jamie Carragher
For me, he has been one of the best defenders in the Premier League in the history of the league especially when he started playing centre back. He will go down in Liverpool history and there is no doubting that everyone will remember him after this season. He may not have got the headlines over the years like some of him teammates such as Steven Gerrard, but he has been just as important and proof of that is the fact that he has played over 700 times for the club. He is a one club man which is very rare these days and it just shows that there is still loyalty in football.

At the start of his career Carragher was very versatile and played in a number of positions. He was originally seen as either a full back or defensive midfielder. He was a valuable member of the team but under Gerard Houllier this slightly harmed his chances because he struggled to hold down a regular position and in his early days one of his worst games in his career was against Manchester United when he scored two own goals in a 3-2 loss. However, in the 2000-01 season he had one of the best ever by winning three trophies including the FA Cup, League Cup and the UEFA Cup. During this year he played 58 times which is remarkable. He followed this up with another two seasons of playing over 50 times. After this though his career stalled but this was down to injuries more than anything else and unfortunately this hampered his England chances as he missed the 2002 World Cup.

In my opinion Rafael Benitez needs to be given a lot of credit because he moved him alongside Sami Hyypia in the centre of Liverpool’s defence and even more trophies followed including the Champions League in what has to go down as one of the greatest finals ever. During this game even though Liverpool conceded three goals he came out of it with a lot of credit as he produced two fantastic blocks in the game to keep Liverpool in the game. After this he went on to break the European appearances record after playing in his 90th game in 2007 against Chelsea.

Six years in a row he played over 50 games in all competitions but towards the end of this spell many critics had started to slate Carragher for his lack of pace. But, he was never the quickest and I always felt this was a little harsh. This season he has only played 12 league games but played very well against Arsenal and was given man of the match.

His international career never took off and he only played 38 times and I always felt that he was better than John Terry and he would have been a better choice as they both play in a similar way, and love making last ditch tackles and blocks.

Does Wayne Rooney deserve to be captain against San Marino?

Wayne Rooney has been named as England captain for the next qualifier against San Marino but is he the right choice?

With Steven Gerrard ruled out of the game through suspension, manager Roy Hodgson had to make a decision on who should lead the team out and maybe he decided to give it to the Manchester United striker as a bit of a confidence boost. He hasn’t made the greatest starts to the season as he has suffered with a few injuries and has had to play second fiddle to summer signing Robin Van Persie so maybe he is feeling as though he is not the top man anymore at Old Trafford. If, Hodgson has give him the armband for this reason, to make him still feel like he is the best English player then it is quite good man management because it is the first time in a number of years that he hasn’t been the main striker at club level.

But does he actually deserve to be captain? He has matured over the years but he can still be a liability at times as all England fans found out when he was suspended for the first two games of Euro 2012 which meant a lot of people didn’t even want him to go to the tournament. Looking back, he probably shouldn’t have because he was very poor and it meant that players that had just started to get a bit of form in their game were dropped, in particular, Andy Carroll, who seemed to have a good understanding with Danny Welbeck and it could have been the start of a good partnership.

However, he is experienced and has 75 caps so there is no doubting his commitment to England and everyone knows that when he pulls on the shirt and give 100%. Plus, you have to consider the fact that both Gerrard and Frank Lampard are out so the obvious choices are not available. Maybe, this was the only real appointment Hodgson could have made, and he is partly to blame for it but it is the players’ faults that they won’t have this honour. Rio Ferdinand isn’t in the squad anymore because of ‘footballing reasons’ according to Hodgson but we all know it is because he backed John Terry over him and I’m not calling Terry a racist but he said a racist term and was rightfully in the end found guilty by the FA, and because of this Terry quit England so that leaves Hodgson with even less options.

Ashley Cole was linked with the role to mark his 100th cap but because of his tweet I don’t think Hodgson would be allowed by the FA to make him captain, even if he really wanted to. So, that doesn’t leave England with many options as there isn’t really anyone else in the squad that has been a captain at club level never mind internationally. Possibly, the only other real alternative to Rooney is actually Joe Hart and that is simply because he is the only guaranteed starter for club and country every week.

So what do you think? Does Rooney deserve the armband or was he the only real option under the circumstances?

 

Will Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Dawson be the right options for QPR?

QPR manager Mark Hughes is reacting quickly to his side’s 5-0 defeat against Swansea City on the opening day of the season by trying to recruit some new defenders.

I was really surprised that Hughes didn’t try and strengthen the defence to begin with as they already had a decent enough strike force with Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse as well as the always unpredictable Adel Taarabt. Just look at the defence that started on the opening day, Fabio, Clint Hill, Anton Ferdinand and Nedum Onuoha with Ryan Nelsen on the bench. Fabio is only young and could improve but he is not the best at defending yet and looks better going forward. Anton Ferdinand has never been more than an average centre back in the Premier League and if he is first choice your team will mostly finish in the bottom half closer to relegation. Onuoha, just simply hasn’t lived up to his potential when he first came through at Manchester City and it could be a long season for him. Finally, Clint Hill, how on earth is he a Premier League? Yes, first season up leave him in there, but now the ambitions have changed and surely someone better should have came in.

QPR have bid for Michael Dawson and he has been a fantastic centre back for Spurs over the years, although he can be a little injury prone. But, he is exactly what the team needs, he isn’t afraid to put his head in where it hurts and just seems to want to block every shot and will throw his body in the way. He has played 242 times for Tottenham and this Premier League experience will be invaluable to QPR and he would play like a leader on the pitch whether he is given the captain’s armband or not. Now that it is known that he is available there may be other offers from clubs but I think realistically he will join QPR if he leaves Spurs because it means he can stay in London and they will surely offer him a very good contract with a high wage.

Dawson has four caps for England

Next, Ricardo Carvalho is reportedly close to joining the club on a season long loan from Real Madrid and even though he is 34, I think he is one of the best centre backs to have ever played in the Premier League. He made John Terry look like a great defender as Carvalho’s positioning got him out of a lot of bad situations and to me it is not coincidence that Terry has looked a shadow of his former self since the departure of Carvalho. He played 210 times for the London club but the only problem is that he only played 13 times for Real Madrid last season so there will be question marks over his fitness and form.

Carvalho has played 75 times for Portugal

These are the sort of signings Mark Hughes should have been making from the beginning but unfortunately it seems like he currently has 11 individuals on the pitch rather than a team and if he doesn’t sort that out soon then a relegation battle will be on his hand yet again.

Ledley King retires and takes up a new role at Tottenham Hotspur

Ledley King has retired from football after a career ravaged by injuries and will be considered as one of Tottenham Hotspur’s greatest ever players.

King had the potential to be one of the best centre backs in the world

The centre back was named as 25th best player of all time in an article in The Times back in 2009 and might now be considered closer to number one. There is no doubting his commitment to the club as he has taken on an ambassadorial role within the club, there aren’t many players around like King anymore as he has shown his loyalty for a number of years and once stated that he would never play for another club which has now came true with his retirement.

It is a shame that he had so many injuries throughout his career but he was a fantastic defender and could have been one of the best in the world. In my opinion if he had stayed fit, John Terry would never have got as many caps for England and the team may have performed better. He only managed to play 21 times for England but scored twice for his country, I think he could have went on to play close to 100 games but we will never know and it is a shame.

Another thing that will have disappointed him is that he only won one trophy at Tottenham and that was the League Cup in 2009 but ever since making his debut in the 1998-99 season he has worn the shirt with pride and has held the defence together. When he was first coming through Spurs weren’t the team they are now and were mostly around mid table so it can’t just be coincidence that when he was playing close to full seasons they were battling for a European place. He only ever once played every league game in a season and that was in 2004-05.

King has been praised by nearly every manager that he has played under and this is because he isn’t a normal English defender that likes to do the dirty stuff like diving into tackles and making blocks, he loved cutting out through balls and using his fantastic positioning to stop strikers from getting in on goal. He could do everything, he is clearly a winner and would do all that he could to get the win for his team.

He occasionally played in the holding midfield role because of his good passing ability and he even scored a goal against Bradford City in 9.7 seconds. He has had a good career and I’m sure he will have a lot of happy memories. The King of White Hart Lane played 315 times scoring 15 goals and the fans will surely never forget him.

Player of the day- Andrea Pirlo and would the Italian get in the Spain team?

England have crashed out of yet another tournament after losing in a penalty shootout against Italy, however they were massively outplayed by their opponents.

The Italians deserve their place in the semi finals and they will give Germany a better game than England would have so at least it will be a good game to watch. It is disappointing that England have gone out on a personal level but to be fair to the players and Roy Hodgson nobody really expected us to win the group so that should be seen as a massive achievement. But, onto the game and it was all Italy and they had numerous chances to win the game and had a lot of attempts on Joe Hart’s goal. Mario Balotelli was threatening in behind with his pace and was almost through one on one but was blocked out by John Terry. The game finished 0-0 and in extra time the pattern of the game didn’t change and the Italians poured more and more men forward with Antonio Nocerino having a goal disallowed just before it went to the dreaded penalty shootouts. Italy won 4-2 with Ashley Young and Ashley Cole missing. I enjoyed the Italian penalties actually as they mostly showed their composure and showed the English how it was done. Balotelli’s was brilliant as no keeper would have saved and Andrea Pirlo’s well it is difficult to describe it as he was under so much pressure and he had took it like he didn’t have a care in the world and it wasn’t in front of millions of people around the world.

Man of the match- Andrea Pirlo- The Italian midfielder is my player of the tournament as he has just been fantastic, every time he gets the ball he produces something special, his through ball to Balotelli was outstanding and his awareness was incredible. He picked up the ball near his own box and casually chipped the ball through right into the path of Balotelli who just couldn’t take the chance. He could have got man of the match just for his penalty but his passing is in my opinion unrivalled as not many players can drop in deep and play little one twos then play a cross field pass with so much accuracy. A lot of people will argue that Spain’s midfielders are better because they have a better passing average but Pirlo dictates a game by himself whereas Xavi and Xabi Alonso etc do it more as a partnership. That is just my opinion and I think if he was Spanish he would get into their first 11.

Has Pirlo been the best player at Euro 2012?

Player of the day- Steven Gerrard plus My hatred for ITV!

England have won Group D after beating Ukraine while France couldn’t get the win they needed as they lost against Sweden however they still qualified.

France decided to play a few of their fringe players with Hatem Ben Arfa and Yann M’Vila who have hardly kicked a ball this tournament getting a start and Laurent Blanc’s gamble did not pay off. For me the big mistake was leaving out Yohan Cabaye who had been in superb form so far and is someone who I consider to be undroppable at both club and international level. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sebastian Larsson scored the goals and they sent their fans home happy. France will now face Spain in the quarter finals.

The England game wasn’t the most exciting and their fans will take confidence from the result however their performance still wasn’t great going forward even with the returning Wayne Rooney in the starting 11. The first half showed England struggle to break down teams that aren’t the best at defending and when they did take the lead early in the second half, it was largely down to a mistake from the Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov. However, it is worth saying that the cross from Steven Gerrard was fantastic and Wayne Rooney had to be in the right position to header home. It wasn’t the most exciting game but England were very lucky when the ball seemed to cross the line before John Terry managed to clear. How the fifth official missed it I will never know and it just shows that they actually are pointless and do nothing. Also, it looked as though the ball hit John Terry’s hand later in the half but that also wasn’t given.

Man of the match- Steven Gerrard- It wasn’t the greatest performance from England but their captain showed his worth by supplying the cross for the goal and putting in a number of other threatening crosses. He linked up well with both Rooney and Danny Welbeck at times and that will be important against better teams. Plus, his partnership with Scott Parker is getting better and better by the game as they know where the other is on the pitch and if they should go forward or sit back and protect the back four. It is refreshing to see Gerrard playing well after all the years of seeing him struggle alongside Frank Lampard. He has easily been England’s stand out player this tournament already and he is finally showing his true ability at international level and is a fantastic example to everyone when he is on the pitch.

Gerrard is closing in on his 100th cap for England

Finally, I would just like to say I really hate coverage of the England games, especially on ITV as the commentators aren’t impartial at all and try to claim that England are the best thing in world football. They are not and they think every player is brilliant. They don’t even care that much about the opposition and will not even give them that much credit. They hardly talked about Ukraine when their shot crossed the line, instead they focused on how well John Terry did to get back into the right position but who cares about that, he didn’t stop the goal and if the fifth official was awake or we used goal line technology then it would have been a goal so why praise him? Then instead of saying that would have changed the match, they talked about the Germany game at the World Cup. Football doesn’t revolve around England and it is no wonder England fans are always naive and think they can win big tournaments. I support England but I hate the way ITV portrays the players and it really makes me hate watching the national team and that is without even mentioning Adrian Chiles.

Chelsea’s best performance for years is enough to beat Barcelona

Chelsea beat Barcelona 1-0 to give them an excellent chance of qualifying for the Champions League final but it is still a tough task.

Di Matteo has now won 10 of his 13 games in charge of Chelsea

First things first, Barcelona were not at their best and even though they weren’t at their best they still dominated the game and possibly should have won the game. They had numerous chances to work Petr Cech who did pull off a few wonderful saves but on the whole they just missed chances, hitting the woodwork and missing guilt edged opportunities. In particular the Cesc Fabregas chance which was brilliantly cleared off the line by Ashley Cole, but in all honesty should have been a goal and Fabregas should never have given Cole the chance to hack it away.

Onto Chelsea and what has on a whole been quite disappointing, it was  a very good performance by them and the goal they now take to the Nou Camp should give them at least a lift and a bit of confidence. Roberto Di Matteo should be getting praised for what he has done because under Villas Boas the team from London were going out of the Champions League and may have not got as far as they have done in the FA Cup. His team selection turned out to be perfect, choosing Didier Drogba instead of Fernando Torres. This was a very big decision and in the end it made the difference with Drogba scoring the only goal of the game. He may have split opinion on his performance with him at times looking very strong and powerful with the Barcelona defence struggling to cope with him then at other times flopping to the floor at the slightest touch. With a lot of controversy about diving at the minute Drogba didn’t do anything to help the situation but in his defence the opposition players were doing very similar things and maybe it was just a little more embarrassing to watch him do it because of his size. However, I thought he had a decent game and held the ball up well and allowed his team to push out at times, he also took his goal brilliantly.

The defence deserves the most praise out of everyone and that includes John Obi Mikel who was fantastic and sat in the back four cutting out a lot of the little through balls that Barcelona like to play. He did give away a few free kicks in dangerous areas but he kept possession well when he had it and nullified the threat of the oppositions attacking players. In the centre of defence John Terry had arguably one of his best performances for a number of years but man of the match for me was Gary Cahill, for a player to play the way he did just a few months after being in a relegation threatened side was unbelievable. I think Cahill is good but I have said it before that he struggles when a striker has clever movement. He dealt with Lionel Messi better than most this season and even when his team were under pressure he bailed them out with a last ditch tackle or block.

It must have been a fantastic night for the Chelsea fans but they and the team know this tie is not over and it will be a lot more difficult in the away leg but at least they have something to hold onto. There is far more optimism that they will be in the final now than there was when the draw was made.

Have Chelsea moved on since Jose Mourinho left?

Chelsea have secured their place in the Champions League semi final after a hard fought victory against Benfica.

This victory sets up a game against the best team in the world and their players know that they will have to perform better than they did over these two legs. The away performance was very good for a European game, nicking an away goal and keeping a clean sheet, you cannot ask for anymore than that but the worrying thing was the home game. Chelsea took the lead after Ashley Cole was brought down in the box to win a penalty which Frank Lampard scored and this should have really allowed the English team to push on and win the game comfortably but somehow they let Benfica back into the game and maybe this was down to complacency as they may have felt, like most did, that the y were in the semi final. Even when Benfica were reduced to ten men they still didn’t really dominate the game like they should have done and allowed the Portuguese team back in the game as they conceded an equaliser on the night and possibly a crucial away goal.

The most worrying thing for Chelsea is that they were outplayed and outclassed for much of the game and no offence to Benfica but if they can do that then Barcelona will destroy them. Yes people will say the older more experienced players got them through but I also believe that they are part of the problem, most of these players played under Jose Mourinho where one goal was usually enough and they never tried to force the game after they took a lead. I think that the likes of Lampard and Terry are still in this mould of thinking and that’s why they sat deep and tried to soak up the pressure, but the team isn’t good enough to do that anymore and these players need to wake up as it has cost them multiple times this season especially at home. Stamford Bridge isn’t the fortress it used to be and teams have proven that if you attack Chelsea they will fold a lot easier than they did in the past.

Mourinho still in the heads of the Chelsea players

Looking forward to the semi final and I believe that everyone will expect Barcelona to win and this could play into Chelsea’s hands as they will be underdogs and AC Milan proved that if you remain solid and break quickly on the counter, you can cause the Barca defence problems. It took two penalties from Lionel Messi to effectively the end the contest at the Nou Camp and if Chelsea remain resilient and disciplined they do actually have a chance of beating them.

Didier Drogba has to be a starter for me as he could dominate the backline and will hold up the ball effectively which alleviate the pressure that will be on the defence for most of the game. However, Fernando Torres may start and this could be the opportunity he needs to live up to his price tag and make him a Chelsea hero.