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Tuesday 19 November 2013

Best XI: John Scales' pick of the season so far

PLP pundits pick their Barclays Premier League teams of the season so far

Ahead of the return of the Barclays Premier League this weekend, we asked Premier League TV pundits to select their team of the season after the first 11 matches of the season. The third team is selected by John Scales, who played for Wimbledon, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Ipswich Town in the Barclays Premier League.

GOALKEEPER

Artur Boruc (Southampton)
Minutes played: 990; Clean sheets: 6; Save percentage: 83.9

Boruc is tall, imposing and I have been impressed by him. As a defender, to have someone behind you like that is a massive benefit. Boruc is very consistent. You don't want somebody who is brilliant one minute and goes walkabout the next. He looks as if he gives the back four a lot of confidence. You need a unit that comes together and works well and fundamental to that is a talking centre-half and a dominant goalkeeper. Southampton have done so well because they have got both.

DEFENDERS

Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Minutes played: 990; Clean sheets: 7; Tackle success: 73.9%

He is an exceptional player who is developing very well and improving all the time. I have seen him play many times for Spurs and it looks like he is maturing into a real quality full-back. In the modern game you have to get forward and be a threat and he does that. Defensively he knows his role and is getting more aware of situations and circumstances.

Dejan Lovren (Southampton)
Minutes played: 990; Clean sheets: 6; Tackle success: 83.3%

Lovren has been outstanding. He is a really dominant feature and character in that back four. He looks very composed, very solid. He has come in and it is no coincidence that Southampton have conceded so few goals this season. The Barclays Premier League is a tough place to be but he has settled in really well. He is helped by the fact that Saints press so effectively and as a unit are playing well. He is the outstanding centre-half of the first 11 matches.

Per Mertesacker (Arsenal)
Minutes played: 810; Clean sheets: 3; Tackle success: 80
%
We are now seeing what he is about. He is an experienced international but he took time to settle in. Laurent Koscielny is really talented and looks a better player alongside Mertesacker, who is the leader, the organiser and the communicator. When he is on his game, Mertesacker is a great centre-half. You need people in the back line who can marshal a defence because you can have as great an individual centre-half as you like but if you don't have somebody who reads the game and communicates, you've got no chance.

Leighton Baines (Everton)
Minutes played: 990; Clean sheets: 6; Tackle success: 82.4

Leighton Baines is at the peak of his game and is an exceptionally talented footballer. We know what a threat he is with his set-pieces but he is also a leader with presence and character. He is your perfect full-back. He is intelligent, quick, he reads the game well, he knows when to pass, when to move into space, when he needs to sit back and defend. There are not many weaknesses to his game. He is very, very talented.

MIDFIELDERS

Oscar (Chelsea)
Minutes played: 839; Goals: 4; Chances/assists created: 14

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is no fool. He knows what he wants in his team and what Oscar brings. He is brilliant going forward and has been involved in so much that has been good for Chelsea. Oscar has been the shining light in that team this season so far. Defensively he has got great discipline. The modern game is not just being brilliant with the ball, it is also the importance of what you do without it, the positioning and the work you do within the team. No wonder he is so popular with Mourinho and why he has been in the team so consistently, because offensively and defensively he has been great.

Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Minutes played: 922; Goals: 6; Chances/assists created: 13

The first player on my list. He has been everywhere, done everything; he has risen to the challenge, he looks inspired by Mesut Ozil arriving and the responsibility he has been given. He is getting forward and scoring the goals that have given him confidence and the platform to feel like he deserves to be in that team and to be regarded as an essential part of it. He has established himself as a 'must' in that side, which is no mean feat and he should be proud of what he has done.

Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton)
Minutes played: 927; Goals: 1; Chances/assists created: 7

Schneiderlin is one of the reasons why Southampton have done so well. He is a talented player, he knows that holding role and he does it as effectively as anybody. He stands out as having a real ability to be the heartbeat of the midfield, where he sets it up for everybody else. That is why that position is so important: it gives everybody else around him the confidence to play their game and make the runs and press the game. Every manager will be looking at Schneiderlin and saying, 'I wish we had a player like that.' These players are few and far between. They are worth their weight in gold. It's the most difficult position to get absolutely right. 

David Silva (Manchester City)
Minutes played: 579; Goals: 3; Chances/assists created: 27

David Silva has had a great start to the season. He has been in exceptional form and does what we know he does very, very well. It is a big club, so much is expected and they have such a lot of big players that it is difficult to make your mark. His performances have shown what a top-quality player he is. He also has the right attitude and has as much ability as anybody in the Barclays Premier League.

FORWARDS

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Minutes played: 974; Goals: 8; Chances/assists created: 11

When Luis Suarez was out, Sturridge was phenomenal on his own and led the line brilliantly. He did a fantastic job and proved to his manager that he has matured, that he can be relied upon consistently and that he has got all the ability in the world. When Sturridge and Suarez are together, it is the best movement, link-up and partnership I have seen this season. They do not play as an out-and-out front two; one comes short, one goes long. They have complemented each other brilliantly. It cannot be underestimated how well Sturridge has done and how much he has matured. He has worked hard in the summer and it has paid dividends.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Minutes played: 539; Goals: 8; Chances/assists created: 18

Luis Suarez is an exceptional talent, a phenomenon. He has got an awareness about the game, the ability to take players on, to strike from different angles, to be in the box at the right time, to be always on the move, knowing where the space is as well as being deadly in front of goal. He is a player that every centre-half dreads. The front two have put Liverpool in a really strong position. I love watching him play.

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Key Points

  • The Barclays Premier League returns this weekend after the international break
  • Ahead of the fixtures, Premier League TV pundits select their team of the season so far
  • Here, former Spurs defender John Scales picks the 11 players who have impressed him this campaign