Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Best and the Worst of 2010-11

The Guardian’s football writers as they do at the end of every season have picked their best and worst from the 2010-11 Premier League season. Here are my selections in the same categories:

Best goal Littered in Dimitar Berbatov’s league topping tally of goals were some of the most awe-inspiring finishes, of which none was finer than the second of his three goals against Liverpool in Manchester United’s 3-2 victory at Old Trafford. Perhaps, Wayne Rooney’s winner in the Manchester Derby was a cleaner strike, a more technically perfect volley, if you will, but Berbatov’s finish reeked of unadulterated class. His entire movement, first to lift the ball up for the volley and then the strike in itself, was so languid yet majestically elegant that time seemed to stand still – a goal for the ages.

Best match The 4-4 draw between Newcastle United and Arsenal is a popular choice, and rightly so. To come back from 4-0 down against a club competing for the title is no joke, but in many ways it’s been a joke of a season for Arsenal. Their defensive frailties were in abundant evidence on that February afternoon, and when Cheik Tiote produced a splendid, rasping volley to equalise, the stadium erupted like only St. James’ Park can.

Best player Again, a well-liked choice, but Luka Modric has been an absolute joy to behold. The little Croatian’s touch, vision and passing have been extraordinarily crucial to Tottenham’s run this season. Modric’s light frame induced questions of his suitability to the hurly burly of the English game. But over the last two seasons, he has not only proven his capacity to adapt to the league, but has shown himself to be adept at playing in a two-man central midfield, as a box-to-box playmaker, the rarest of species in Rob Smyth’s words.

Best manager Blackpool’s football was at times this season as vivid as their tangerine coloured jerseys, but their gloriously cruel relegation means that Ian Holloway narrowly misses out on the gong. I will instead stick to the prosaic choice, Sir Alex Ferguson for leading Manchester United to its historic 19th league title, the 12th under his reign.

Best signing Signed for pittance (believed to be about 2.5 million pounds) in the summer, Peter Odemwingie has been a revelation for West Bromwich Albion. His 15 goals in 32 league appearances have been crucial to their survival in the Premier League.

Biggest flop It’s a toss up between Joe Cole and Fernando Torres, but the latter will have to bear the greater ignominy, purely down to his price tag. Signed for 50 million pounds by Chelsea in January, he’s regularly looked a forlorn figure. His touch and his movement are a shadow of what they were two years back, and most significantly he’s scored only 1 goal in 14 appearances for his new club.

Best pundit Viewers in India have to often make-do with Steve McMahon and Paul Parker who spit out inanities in the name of punditry. Jamie Reeves offers the rare relief.

Main gripe The League’s refusal to review incidents on the basis of a referee having seen it and decided against acting on it.

Change I’d like to see for next season. It’s high time FIFA embraces goal-line technology.

Is it the best league in the world? Like Barry Glendenning says, it depends on the definition of ‘best’. The Bundesliga is perhaps the most balanced league in the world, but its short on quality. The rift in class between Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the other clubs in Spain makes the La Liga an ultimately mundane affair. The Serie A has certainly regressed in recent years, as can be seen from the performance of its clubs in the Champions League. So I’ll probably go with the Premier League at the moment. It has enough quality and it certainly keeps me captivated.

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