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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Game, Team and Player of Weekend 2

Chelsea, Swansea and Everton all continued their 100% start to the season, while Arsenal are still struggling to score goals since the departure of Robin Van Persie but on the other hand have looked solid defensively so is this an improvement? Aston Villa and Southampton are the only two teams left without a single point. So who will win my game, player and team of the weekend?

Firstly, onto team of the weekend. Everton are yet again candidates for the best team as they swept away Aston Villa in the first half scoring three goals and looking like they could have went up another few gears if they needed or wanted to. They are having a quick start to the season which is very rare for the team from Merseyside. Next, I think that West Brom deserve a lot of credit this week with them getting a point at White Hart Lane, they got a last minute equaliser through James Morrison but throughout the game they at least deserved a point and dealt with the threats of Tottenham very well and only conceded unfortunately through a deflected Benoit Assou-Ekotto effort. But the winner this week is, Swansea City as they continued their unbelievable start to the season and comfortably beat West Ham 3-0. Yet again, all of their star players performed including Michu, Nathan Dyer and the rejuvenated Wayne Routledge. Is this really the same Routledge we saw struggling for Newcastle United and many other clubs over the years? They are still to concede this season and in all honesty, West Ham didn’t cause them many problems but it is still impressive. Eight scored, none conceded.

Player of the weekend is always difficult to choose because there are always players that played well but don’t exactly standout. For example, Joe Allen, did for once get a lot of plaudits but he will probably play like he did for Liverpool against Manchester City most weeks but won’t get anywhere near enough praise. He controlled the midfield in a game that the home side should have won but for two costly mistakes. The way he keeps the team ticking over is sublime and whenever he has the ball, you know he will not give it away cheaply. Another player that doesn’t get nearly enough praise is Mikel Arteta and he was also brilliant this weekend for pretty much the same reasons, but unfortunately didn’t do quite enough for Arsenal to help them get a win. Similarly, Moussa Dembele put in an amazing performance in a losing effort against Manchester United. I can’t remember the last time a player from an away side controlled the midfield as much as the Fulham man did and if anything it has just alerted even more clubs to his quality and with a few days left of the transfer window, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone came in with a bid. My player of the weekend though is, Eden Hazard who has just shown everyone why he was wanted by nearly every club in Europe. His pace over five yards is fantastic and Newcastle United had no answer to him. He seems to have just given everyone a lift at Stamford Bridge and whenever he gets the ball, the crowd know something good is going to happen. The way he keeps the ball is brilliant to watch as he easily goes past players and sees passes that not many others can, in my opinion he was the main difference between the sides on the day. To top it off, he got yet another assist and a goal from the penalty spot.

This weekend most of the games seemed very competitive and could have went either way. Liverpool against Manchester City was definitely one of these as both clubs could have won the game near the death, but it is Liverpool that are the most disappointed with the draw as both the goals they conceded were mistakes and avoidable. Tottenham against West Brom could also be a contender because to me it showed exactly what the Premier League is about. No team ever gives up and West Brom showed that by creating numerous chances towards the end of the game and deserved their draw just purely because of their effort and determination throughout the 90 minutes. But my game of the weekend has to be Manchester United against Fulham. There was everything in this game, goals, mistakes and even goalkeeper David De Gea doing a Cruyff turn inside his own box to beat Fulham striker Mladen Petric. Fulham took the lead through Damien Duff but then the home debut boys took over with Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa scoring before the game seemed over when Rafael added a third. But, Fulham didn’t lie down and led by Dembele they pulled one back through a horrendous error from De Gea and Nemanja Vidic. They just didn’t have enough in the end and if Bryan Ruiz’s header had went anywhere but at the Man United keeper, it may have been a great comeback but it wasn’t to be.

Hughes looking to improve QPR

A slow start to the transfer window might be starting to pick up the pace with QPR and Mark Hughes finally getting somewhere. They had been in talks with a lot of players and clubs to bring players in but finally they got in Taye Taiwo, a left back from AC Milan who has been linked to Arsenal and Newcastle in this transfer window.

The 26 year old has only played four league games for Milan but he was a very good full back for his previous club Marseille and was rated as one of the best in Europe at one point. QPR fans will be hoping he can rediscover this type of form and can aid them in their quest to stay in the Premier League.

No offence to the current left backs at the club but that is where they are the weakest and obviously Mark Hughes has identified this quickly. In his first two games he played Clint Hill in that position and although he is a very steady player in the Championship he is not good enough for the Premier League and left back isn’t even his best position as I believe he does a better job at centre back. The other left back in the squad is Armand Traore who is 22 and does seem to have some potential which former manager Neil Warnock spotted but against the better side he looks poor when defending and not very effective going forward with wayward passes and awful crosses. Which was shown mostly in his last game for Arsenal when they shipped eight at Old Trafford and then proved once again that he is a liability in one of his first games for QPR when he was branded a disgrace by Warnock for his sending off in the game against Aston Villa.

Hughes obviously wants to improve the defence with QPR being linked to players such as Chris Samba and Wayne Bridge. However, both of these look unlikely as Blackburn are reluctant to let Samba go and if they do Tottenham seem very interested and will probably be a better destination for the centre back. Wayne Bridge is a strange one for me as he doesn’t seem interested to leave Manchester City even though he gets nowhere near the first team, he just seems to want to pick up his wages and sit in the reserves. I hope I am wrong about him because to me he has been the second best England left back for years and if it wasn’t for Ashley Cole, he would have been first choice. I also feel sorry for him because he always joins a club with a lot of money and potential and then gets replaced, at Chelsea with Ashley Cole and now at City firstly with Kolarov and now Clichy. They are also in talks with Nedum Onuoha who may be a good signing as he did look promising for City.

QPR need to focus on improving their strike force though if they have realistic ambitions of staying in the league because Jay Bothroyd, DJ Campbell (although he was impressive for Blackpool last season), Rob Hulse and Federico Macheda they are not going to score a lot of goals. I would have put Heidar Helguson in that list but so far he has done the business somewhat surprisingly but I don’t think he alone will score enough goals to keep them up.

They also need a goal scoring midfielder but they aren’t easy to find so they may just be hoping that when Taarabt comes back from the Africa Cup of Nations he will live up to his potential because I was expecting a lot more from him but he has been unable to step up to the plate.

Newcastle’s striking dilemma

Demba Ba has been one of the best signings in the Premier League this year and Newcastle need someone to step up to the plate and fill his boots while he is away on international duty.

The options they have are Peter Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi, Hatem Ben Arfa and Leon Best. Sammy Ameobi would have had a chance to try and cement his place in the starting line up but he picked up an unfortunate injury which could keep him out for months in a reserve game against Wigan.

Since coming back from injury himself Ben Arfa has been blowing hot and cold for Newcastle producing wonderful moments that any player in the world would be proud of with his goal against Blackburn where it seemed like the ball was stuck to his foot. But, in other games it has seemed like he hasn’t got back to his best and has looked off the pace. A lot of the Toon Army want to see him playing on the right wing but manager Alan Pardew seems reluctant to do this, seeing him as more of a number 10 type player that drops off the main striker and dictates play from there, in the way that Dennis Bergkamp did so effectively for Arsenal.

Shola Ameobi can be one of the most frustrating footballers in the world (especially to Sunderland fans as he seems to perform to the best of his abilities in the Tyne-Wear Derby) because at times he looks like he is a good player, for example when he rescued a point for Newcastle earlier in the season with an unstoppable left foot strike against Tottenham. He can cause problems to defences, using his height and power to his advantage but then there is the other side to his game. He frustratingly gets caught offside countless times in a game and trips over his own feet. When he is good, he is very effective, but when he is bad, he looks more like a Sunday League footballer.

Leon Best is another player that can be frustrating, he had to wait almost a year to score his first goal for Newcastle but he did have limited chances when Andy Carroll was at the club. He contributed magnificently when Carroll left for Liverpool in keeping Newcastle in the Premier League by finishing the season with an incredible six goals in 11 league games. Then he started this season where he left off and was a potential candidate for the coveted number 9 shirt. After his double against Fulham and his equaliser against Aston Villa he has struggled slightly but in his defence he has picked up a few niggles recently and has been on the bench. Many people would argue Ba produced his best alongside the Irish international as he challenged aerially and didn’t mind putting in a shift for his team.

Peter Lovenkrands has been frozen out of the Newcastle squad this season and will be desperate to prove a point to his manager but I can’t see this happening as he has lost a yard of pace and that was his main asset. He will be loved by the Newcastle fans because of his performances in the Championship and also playing and scoring in a game against West Brom despite having just returned from Denmark after his father died. He will be remembered very well by the Newcastle fans but I can’t see him making much of an impact unfortunately

I believe Newcastle play at their best when they have two out and out strikers on the pitch and therefore should play Best and Ameobi however I do believe the team needs slightly more creativity and that is why Ben Arfa also needs to be in the team, although I think he should play on the right wing as Gabriel Obertan has looked very poor so far.

Alan Pardew will be hoping to get through this period
picking up as many points as possible and then hoping to end the season with a flurry of points upon the return of Demba Ba as they look to secure European football at St James’ Park next season

England’s right back for the Euros

When Liverpool played Manchester City in the Carling Cup it gave England fans the opportunity to see two players aiming to be England’s starting right back at Euro 2012 with Glen Johnson being switched to left back for the tie and Micah Richards playing in his usual right back position.

Both players have played plenty of times for England and will be hoping to impress Fabio Capello in the coming months to show why they should be one of the first names on the team sheet. Glen Johnson seems the favourite at the minute for Capello but may not be the fans’ choice. Everyone that watches Johnson play knows he is good going forward but at times looks suspect at the back and even though in the modern game full backs need to be good going forward, their primary role in the team is to stop the opposition scoring.

Micah Richards must feel hard done by as he broke into the England team a number of years ago and seemed to be the natural successor to Gary Neville but for some reason he lost his way on the international scene. But his team are top of the table and have one of the best defences in the league so surely he deserves another shot. Like Johnson, very good at going forward and is probably one of the strongest and quickest players in the Premier League which allows him to get back into position quickly after making a break forward.

While this game was being played, Kyle Walker of Tottenham was helping his team keep a clean sheet at home to Everton and is proving to everyone why Harry Redknapp made him his first choice right back at the start of the season. Scoring a wonderful goal against Arsenal obviously made the Spurs fans love him but he is most certainly catching the eye of Capello. His loan move to Aston Villa last season has done him the world of good and he would be disappointed if he wasn’t selected.

Danny Simpson has an outside chance of making the trip to Ukraine and Poland because he has been in good form for club side Newcastle but it isn’t looking very likely at this stage. But he is proving to be one of the best right backs in the country and if the players above him in the pecking order suffer an injury or go on a poor run of form, he would do a solid job for the team.

Other options for Capello are to play Chris Smalling, Phil Jones or Phil Jagielka at right back as all of these have played in that position at some stage in their career but all three of them are better centre halves than right backs. Although, their versatility could work in their favour, it is unlikely that they will get played at right back ahead of Walker, Richards or Johnson.

Verdict: Micah Richards should be England’s first choice right back as he is currently stand in captain for the team that is top of the league and is looking very impressive, his marauding runs forward cause panic in the oppositions defence due to his sheer size and presence therefore he adds something completely different to the team.

But who will Capello choose?