Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur –The ultimate starting XI
Fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur travel to fifth placed Aston Villa this weekend in one of the biggest games of the weekend. Spurs go into the game full of confidence following their sensational 9-1 win over Wigan Athletic while Villa will be looking to get their campaign back to winning ways after sharing the spoils with Burnley. Both Martin O’Neill and Harry Redknapp have assembled two talented squads, but if you had to build an ultimate starting XI from the squads available, who would you plump for? Would you pick Lennon ahead of Milner? Would you rather have Gomes in goal than Friedel? Would Jenas or Heskey even make it on to the subs bench?
Here is my ultimate team which will play in a traditional 4-4-2 formation from the players who should be available for selection on the day.
It wasn’t that long ago that Heurelho Gomes had Spurs fans up and down the country tearing out their hair. Now the Brazilian shot stopper is one of most consistent performers in the Premier League. Gomes has come on leaps and bounds since his disastrous start at White Hart Lane and has saved Spurs on more than one occasion already this season. However, despite his vast improvements, in my eyes he is just not as reliable as Villa’s Brad Friedel. The former American international has plied his trade in the Premier League for the past 12 years and just keeps getting better with age. Quick, agile and an excellent reader of the game, Friedel is one of the best in the country and bags the number one shirt in my team.
Assou Ekotto has made the left-back slot his own at White Hart Lane this season and has blossomed under the guidance of Redknapp. But his opposite number Stephen Warnock has made an equally impressive start to his time at Villa Park. Martin O’Neill has labelled Warnock his “warrior” for his tough tackling style. However, my vote goes with Ekotto simply because he is in currently in the form of his life.
Martin O’Neill’s acquisition of Richard Dunne has turned out to be an astute bit of business for the Villains. An experienced international defender, Dunne has a point to prove after being shown the door by Mark Hughes and Manchester City and Aston Villa have already benefited from his arrival. Strong in both boxes and quick on the ground, Dunne will never let you down and joins Ekotto in the back four.
Alongside Dunne I have to go for Tottenham’s Ledley King. Probably one of the best readers in the game, King is an awesome defender. Comfortable on the ball, a great passer and wonderful tackler, it’s a shame that he will never truly fulfil his potential due to injury. He just gets the nod ahead of James Collins who has been another brilliant signing for Aston Villa. Why Zola let him leave West Ham United I’ll never know.
Completing my defence is King’s team-mate Vedran Corluka. Luke Young is a decent player but in my eyes Corluka is the hungrier of the two players and he has youth on his side to help attack down the flanks. He also has vast experience of European and international football.
If Luka Modric was available then he would have been the first name on my list. Unfortunately the magical Croatian is still out following his broken leg this season so I have to go without him.
On the left wing then it has to be Ashley Young. The former Watford man may not be in the same sparkling form that he showed last year but he is still liable to produce something outstanding from nothing (just ask West Ham). He has the pace and skill to deliver from the dead ball line or cut in on his deadly right foot and it’s those options that make him difficult to defend against.
In the heart of midfield I would have to go for Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone. The Spurs player is one of the most under-rated performers in the league and is undoubtedly one of the best passers in the league. The former Nottingham Forest man also has a mean shot in his locker.
Accompanying Huddlestone has to be his Spurs team-mate Wilson Palacios. The former Wigan midfielder has been one of Redknapp’s most important signings at the club. The tenacious midfielder closes down the ball at every opportunity, is not afraid to put in a hefty tackle and has bags of energy. The Honduran international doesn’t mind doing all the dirty work and that’s the kind of player every team should have.
Of course that means I’ve left out the power of Stiliyan Petrov and the creativity of Niko Kranjcar, but I firmly believe that Huddlestone and Palacios would be disciplined enough to deal with their defensive duties first and foremost, letting the wingers attack at every opportunity, before getting involved themselves.
So who will finalise my midfield, the hard working James Milner or the electrifying pace of Aaron Lennon? This may be controversial but I am actually going to plump for Milner. The former Newcastle United man is willing to do anything and play anywhere for Villa and, unlike Lennon, more often than not deliver the goods at the end. Milner is one of the league’s most industrious players and miraculously never seems out of breath at the end of a game. Lennon is frightening when he’s at full pace and can make even the most experienced defender look stupid, but his final ball remains a huge problem and for that reason it has to be Milner.
Well, following his five-star display against Wigan last weekend, Jermain Defoe is an automatic choice for my team. The former Wet Ham and Portsmouth man has pace to burn, a lethal strike, and accuracy that an Olympic archer would be proud of. The problem is who do I play alongside him? Robbie Keane has been a shadow of his former self since he returned to the Lane so he’s out. Peter Crouch has the height to complement Defoe but he is much better with the ball at his feet than in the air while Roman Pavlyuchenko hardly gets a look in these days. So what about the strikers at Villa? Well, Emile Heskey could be a perfect foil for him, given his strength and power, but lacks first team starts, John Carew, like Crouch, gives me an option height wise, but I think I would have to go for the blinding pace of Defoe’s fellow England international Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Agbonlahor could give Usain Bolt a run for his money, is a cool finisher and, like Defoe, has the ability to hold the ball up and play his team-mates in. Any defence in the world would be terrified with the prospect of that forward line bearing down on them. The opposition would surely sit nearer to their own penalty area so not to allow either Defoe or Agbonlahor the chance to get in behind them because if they did they would never be caught. It also gives the likes of Huddlestone, Milner and Young the chance to cut inside and test the keeper from distance.
So here is my ultimate team:
Subs: Gomes, Collins, Warnock, Kranjcar, Lennon, Petrov, CarewDo you think you could build a better team from those players available? I’d love to hear from you.