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The Alternative PFA Team of the Year

Bale? Van Persie? Nah. Ignore the big names, discard the usual suspects. Here are XI players who didn't get the nod, but could and maybe should have done.

Well, why not?
Well, why not?
Scott Heavey

Tradition is a marvellous thing. This PFA Premier League Team of the Year, for example, comprised David de Gea, Pablo Zabaleta, Jan Vertonghen, Rio Ferdinand, Leighton Baines, Gareth Bale, Juan Mata, Michael Carrick, Eden Hazard, Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez, a good safe selection from the usual suspects. Upset Arsenal fans can perhaps take some joy in their contribution to Van Persie's development? No, no, maybe not.

But when the most striking inclusion – Carrick – has spent the entire season playing well for the eventual champions, well, perhaps it's time to start looking for something else in the awards. Something bold. Something daring. Something really, really, stupid. Here, then, in accordance with a tradition of almost exactly one year, is the SB Nation Alternative PFA Team of the Year.

Loose cannon: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

We established, last year that small goalkeepers are fun. Lloris has a bit of that; while he's no Super Vorm, he's not averse to bouncing around his six-yard box if the situation requires it. But Lloris doubles down on the entertainment by playing sweeper-keeper with a demented commitment to speed. This means two things. One: Tottenham play a lot better when he's in goal, as he provides defensive security while helping them advance up the pitch. Two: at some point he's going to get sent off twenty yards outside his box, which is always funny.

Example to us all Benoît Assou-Ekotto

Nothing to do with his football, particularly since he spent a decent chunk of the season crocked. Everything to do with this Guardian interview, in which our hero, among other things, either appears or affects not to have noticed the whole Suarez-Ivanovic 'incident'. "He did what? Il a mangé?" Just imagine being blessed with such an attitude. Imagine not giving, and not feeling the need to give, a toss. Bliss.

Bloke at the back to do that serene strolling thing that makes British football fans feel faintly angry and nauseated: Matija Nastasic (Manchester City)

Precocity, or precociousness, whichever it is, is annoying. It's bad enough knowing that footballers of around one's own (rapidly increasing) age are devastatingly superior to you in every way; when a nineteen-year-old – born in 1993! – slips into Premier League football like it's his favourite pair of trousers, then there really is no hope. Bring out the bath chair and the tartan blanket, and turn on the television. It's Watercolour Challenge time.

Bloke at the back to do the heading: Clint Hill (QPR)

Bear with me here. This is a not a choice made on the basis of Hill's titanic performances at the back, since there haven't been any. Nor his marshalling of an excellent QPR defence, since they've been a smouldering pile of hot bobbins. Not even his inspirational leadership, since QPR spend most weekends looking like a group of strangers thrown together for a package holiday, with nothing in common bar a passing curiosity about the same small slice of geography, feigning interest in one another's careers while they wait for the retsina to kick in. But there are other kinds of achievement beyond actually being good at things, and this season has seen no achievement more remarkable, more singular, than Hill's uncanny ability to stay in the team while all around him chopped and changed. Death, taxes, and Clint Hill looking confused and cross as the opposition score, again and again and again and again and again.

Adorable scamperer Rafael da Silva (Manchester United)

Mythologically speaking, twins have often been used to evoke dualism, to embody two related but opposed forces, like good and evil, or night and day. Apollo was the Greek god of the sun; his twin sister Artemis, goddess of the moon. The parallels are obvious in the Premier League, which this season was driven by the two opposing concepts of Playing For Manchester United and Playing For QPR. At one end of the table, Rafael destroyed all the concerns about his quality and established himself as the first-choice right-back for his title-winning club, finding time along the way to score an utterly delirious goal against Liverpool. At the other, Fabio lost his place to Armand Traore and grew a silly beard.

Introverted wide-man: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

He just seems far too nice for this league. What's he up to? What's he planning? What lies behind that apparently open, pleasant grin, and carefully-endearing, slightly-silly haircut? Is this two-footed thing a sly dig at the inadequacies of England's footballers? Is this letting Theo Walcott take free-kicks thing an attempt to drive up the blood pressure of half of north London? Questions, questions ...

Bloke in the middle to do the smouldering: Claudio Yacob (West Brom)

Oh Claudio! With your dark eyes and your dark arts! With your stern countenance and stern enforcement! With your middle-of-the-road 'Personal Life' entry on Wikipedia – the Beatles and Adele – and your middle-of-the-park anchoring of a thoroughly decent and impressive West Brom team! Oh Claudio!

Bloke in the middle to do the passing: Erhun Oztumer (Dulwich Hamlet)

Some people might question just how the mighty Hamlet's tiny Turkish genius ended up in this list, since it's a Premier League team. Those people – having of course acknowledged his obvious class, paid tribute to his remarkable skill, and noted the crucial role he played in Dulwich Hamlet's glorious Isthmian South title triumph – might query whether he is in fact eligible for such a prestigious award. They might even go on to suggest the faintest trace of, well, bias, given that your correspondent spent a recent Saturday running around the Champion Hill pitch, waving a pink-and-blue scarf and singing, badly. But, well, that's just how good he is.

Perverted winger(s): Not-Antonio Valencia, Not-Ashley Young, Not-Luis Nani (Manchester United)

For virtually the entire of his time at Manchester United, Alex Ferguson, that most adaptable of managers, has held tightly to a faith that sustained Paul McCartney's recording career well beyond its sell-by date: wings are the business. But this season, albeit not by his design, the wide spaces of Old Trafford have been strange and desolate places. Ashley Young (when fit) has refined his mediocrity to new levels of underwhelming, Good Nani is losing the battle with OhforGod'ssakewhatareyoudoing Nani, and Antonio Valencia, if you'll forgive me (a) recycling a joke and (b) the joke itself, has looked more and more like Antonio Villareal. When Ferguson's best wide options are Danny Welbeck and Ryan Giggs, something's gone badly wrong somewhere.

False nine: Michu (Swansea City)


True nine: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa)

It's not just the goals, though they've been plentiful, varied and excellent. Nor is it just the importance, though without him Brad Guzan and Andi Weimann would have had thundering nervous breakdowns around Christmas time. It's the goals, and the importance, and the fact that Benteke – who's keener on crosses than any Christian has a right to be – is a centre-forward in the proper style, built to do all of the scoring. Some strikers are precise, others are powerful; Benteke, ideally, is both. Plus, he's Belgian, and all teams need a Belgian. It's going to be depressing when he goes to Spurs and turns rubbish.