I bet I know exactly what you are thinking right now: "What if two brilliant football minds got together and did a fantasy draft where each of them assembles an 18-man squad by being only able to pick one player from each Premier League squad?" Well, you're in luck! -- TBB writer Sweet science and I decided to hold such a draft during an email exchange. The rules were pretty simple: as stated in the question y'all were thinking, we could only pick one player from each Premier League club. For example, if one of us picked Wayne Rooney, then that same person couldn't select another Manchester United player. The remaining 17 players on the squad had to be filled-out from players on the remaining 19 other teams.
Sweet science had the first pick and selected Rooney. I then had successive picks and I used those on Robin van Persie and Gareth Bale. From here, we took turns selecting two players at a time. Injured players were eligible for selection (e.g. Nemanja Vidic) but players who had transferred to other leagues during a recent transfer window (e.g. Christopher Samba) or players whose loan to a Premier League club had expired (e.g. Landon Donovan) were not eligible.
This hypothetical match-up is a one-off at Wembley. Martin Tyler and Ray Wilkins will paint the picture with their words (my word!). Here are the squads:
Gene's bench: Ben Foster, Wes Brown, Alejandro Faurlin, Matthew Jarvis, Lee Chung-yong, Grant Holt, Darren Bent
Sweet Science's bench: Shay Given, Brede Hangeland, Marouane Fellaini, Stuart Holden, James McClean, Steven Fletcher, Steve Morrison
An explanation of our teams after the jump:
I'm having a go.
I don't rate that many defenders in this league right now and Vidic's season-ending injury only exacerbates the dire choices we had. Therefore, I attempted to draft a side that could fluidly attack, press hard, work the ball out of the back, and have a center-back and a holding-player that could provide cover by defending space intelligently. This wasn't about choosing necessarily the best available players for me, but rather selecting a starting XI that is balanced and that has a tactical plan. My selection choices for my bench was intended to pick specialists that would enable me to chase a goal late if needed, close out a game with defensive bite and calm possession, or provide a 'Plan B' if my initial plan wasn't getting it done.
I nearly selected Modric along with RvP with my initial choices because I wanted a regista that could dictate the match from deep. However, with Sweet science's opening pick of Rooney, I knew I could get the recently returned Scholes (he's also my all-time favorite player for pure footballing reasons so he had to be in my side) late in our draft. This also allowed me to use my Spurs selection on Bale -- the Welshman will provide a direct option in attack by receiving near the touchline and providing my side with width. This will help stretch the opposition and compliment well the fluidity between RvP, Dempsey, and Silva by creating larger channels for through balls. The latter is my 'can-opener' as he along with Dempsey will fluidity interchange in the space between the lines. RvP will often drop deep and create space in behind him for midfield runners and this will be complimented by Scholesy's trademark late-arriving runs into the box. These players should be able to combine for a lot quick one-touch passing near the box and provide penetration. Dempsey's aerial ability will be a nice target at the far-post for Bale's crosses from the opposite side.
Baines will have the freedom to surge forward as his value certainly lies in his crossing and ability to combine with Bale further up the pitch. Rangel will be more conservative with his positioning but he will provide overlapping runs down the right flank when Silva/Dempsey tuck inside. The Swansea right-back's value though lies in his passing ability as he will be essential in building the attack from the back. Luiz receives criticism for his defending -- certainly fair at times -- but it is incredibly overblown by lazy traditional media and fans that don't actively search for the truth themselves. The Brazilian is incredible coming out of the back into midfield with driving runs and he breaks up a lot of attacks. His pace will be important as well for my high-line as he has the pace to recover on the turn.
Who will defend? Lucas and Taylor will be very important players to my approach. Lucas probably has no equal in the Premier League in being able to break up attacks by being able to both defend space intelligently or by man-marking an attacker out of a game. The high-line will minimize his vertical responsibilities but his lateral movement will be key in covering for the marauding full-backs. His industry will also be key so that Scholes is free to pull the strings from deep. Luiz will most certainly be the CB that engages Rooney and follows him up the pitch when the United attacker drops deep. Taylor will be the covering CB and his ability to read the situation and sweep will be vital to my side's defending.
The solid arrows indicate general movements for each player while the dotted-arrows shows the passes I'm looking for some key players to supply. Scholes with long diagonal balls to the flanks while also short passes that links the midfield with the attack or brings the full-backs into the attack. Lucas provides the latter as well with his tidy distribution. Silva is my 'can-opener' with his penetrating through balls for RvP and other attackers though the channels.
Alternate approaches/Late change situation
I'll try to keep this shorter. Holt and Bent allow me for a 4-2-4 option if I need to chase a goal. Bent is my poacher while Holt provides a physical target in the box. Lee and Jarvis are direct wingers that can supply crosses or use their energy to press tired defenders. Faurlin is tidy in distribution and can break up attacks -- thus, he's ideal to come on late in order to preserve a lead in a 4-5-1 shape. Brown provides cover at both CB and FB.
SWEET SCIENCE (SSFC)
Let me talk you through my team:
Vorm - Brilliant debut season in the PL. Great shot stopper, good command of his box and good with his feet too
Sagna - Just have to look at the good job he done on Bale at the weekend to realise what a good player he is. Argubly the best RB in the league
Shawcross - Strong in the tackle. Good in the air. Reads the game well. If Fergie had known Pique was homesick, he would have stayed at United....
Kompany - Needs no introduction. Very happy Gene didn't pick him
Taiwo - Was torn between him and Enrique. But if I went with the Liverpool man, I would have been short in midfield as Gerrard would have been out. Good at going forward, experienced, pacey.
Tiote - A great holding midfielder. Great engine. Reminds me of the 2008 Owen Hargreaves. Just less injured
Lukaaa - Probably top of mine and Gene's wishlist in real life for United. Good engine, fantastic quality. Can defend and score goals. He is the real deal. Just look at the pass he makes to pick out Bale for his dive at Arsenal at the weekend
Gerrard - Again can do it all. Will push him slightly firther up the pitch so he can keep an eye on Scholes (Because Gene is never going to leave him on the bench is he)
Hoilett - Pacey and tricky. Can score and create and will give me width on the right
Mata - You only have to look at what he did in our recent game at the Bridge to see why he is in the team
Rooney - Will lead the line. His workrate will keep the defense occupied. His Quality on the ball, and his finishing will pose them enough problems. Can score or create goals from anywhere
My Bench - Given is GK cover. Can you get any better cover? Experienced and reliable... Hangeland is a proven PL defender. His height gives him fantastic arieal prowess. Felliani is an industrious midfielder. Also, very good in the air so he could get on the end of any crosses or set pieces. Stuart Holden is a fine, flexable midfielder. He can play left, right, in the hole or as part of a midfield three. Good at set pieces too. McLean is a winger in the Bale mould. Pacey, great left foot. Can dribble, cross and score. A fine start to his Sunderland career. Steven Fletcher leads the league in goals scored from headers this year. So if by any chance this team needs a goal (It won't), it will give us another dimension. Morrison is the second joint top English goal scorer for Norwich. Scored goals of quality all season.
That is why my team is going to win
In the comments section below, let us know who you thinks wins and why. Also, who would your first choices have been had you been in our boots? Which of our selected players do you not rate? Which non-selected players do you rate?