Sunday 11 December 2016

Kevin Palmer's Premier League XI of the season so far: One Irishman worthy of inclusion

Published 06/10/2015 | 14:34

Alexis Sanchez was one of the first names on the teamsheet
Alexis Sanchez was one of the first names on the teamsheet

The opening weeks of the Premier League season have been a nightmare for lovers of fantasy football, with unpredictable results flowing at a fluid rate.

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Chelsea’s dramatic collapse, Manchester United’s brief rise to the top of the table and the improbable success stories at Leicester and west Ham have provided a compelling narrative in the opening weeks of this campaign.

As we select at Independent.ie Team of the Season so far, it is safe to assume that a lot of the names included will not have been included too many fantasy squads at the start of August.

David De Gea (Manchester United)

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This Spanish giant seemed certain to join Real Madrid on the final day of the Spanish transfer window, but the move fell through at the last and his value to United has been shown since his return.

Rock solid in the Premier League and Champions League, the non-sale of this 24-year-old is arguably the best piece of transfer business United were involved in last summer.

Robbie Brady (Norwich)

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We had to get an Irishman into our team and the form of Brady amid a decent start to the season for Norwich has to be encouraging ahead of the decisive Euro 2016 qualifiers this week.

Brady has found a home for himself as an attacking full-back and his importance to the Irish cause should be confirmed in the coming days. Here’s hoping he gets his set-piece delivery right against Germany and Poland and it may be the best chance we have to score the crucial goals.

Scott Dann (Crystal Palace)

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Palace boss Alan Pardew has been oozing with praise for this accomplished defender in the opening weeks of the season and it is easy to see why.

The Eagles have been tight at the back as they have moved into a top four position in the early weeks of the campaign and Dann’s influence both as a leader and a defender have been crucial in that success.

Chris Smalling (Manchester United)

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Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal mistakenly introduced this defender as ‘Mr Mike Smalling’ at a pre-season press conference, but you suspect he knows his name now.

Smalling has emerged as a giant at the back for United this season, with his growing maturity allowing him to assume the captaincy role when required.

Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)

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This former Chelsea trainee is proving that he may well have been good enough to make the grade at Stamford Bridge if he had been given the chance.

Bertrand is an accomplished full-back and he confirmed as much as he impressed both defensively and with his attacking bursts against Chelsea last weekend.

Riyad Mahrez (Leicester)

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Anyone who suggests there are no bargains to be found in an over-inflated transfer market need to look at this success of this Algerian international.

Snapped up from French Ligue 2 side Le Havre, he has scored five goals in the opening weeks of the season and his form is such that top Premier League clubs may soon come calling or his services.

Dimitri Payet (West Ham)

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West Ham’s owners were eager to promote their capture of Payet from Marseille as a major coup last summer and the opening eight games of this season have confirmed their hype was justified.

Four goals and some classy contributions have ensured that this French international has made his mark in the Premier League this season.

Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace)

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It seemed hard to believe that this proven performer would be willing to sign for Palace when rumours emerged that Eagles boss Alan Pardew wanted to sign him.

Yet this has proved to be a marriage made in heaven, with Cabaye’s presence in the Palace midfield giving them a stamp of class that has already moved them up a level or two in terms of status as credibility.

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

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It took time for Sanchez to wake up after a summer that saw him sprinkle his brilliance on the Copa America, but he has burst into life in the grand manner of the last couple of weeks.

His hat-trick against Leicester was a sign of things to come and the two brilliant goals he scored against Manchester United on Sunday provided compelling evidence that one of the start of last season is rebooted and ready to shine once again.

Jamie Vardy (Leicester)

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Vardy made his mark in the top flight last season, but this has been the season when he has confirmed he is the real deal.

With seven goals to his name already, Leicester’s attacking flier is the form player in the Premier League right now and he will look to score in his fifth consecutive game when he returns to club duty for a game at Southampton later this month.

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

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City have not always fired on full cylinders at the start of this season, but their best player has got them out of trouble more often than not.

Aguero is the outstanding striker in the Premier League and his five-goal burst against Newcastle in 20 devastating minutes last weekend confirmed as much. If they can keep this guy fit, City will probably end up as champions.

MANAGER – Alan Pardew (Crystal Palace)

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Much maligned and hard for many to like, Pardew should now start getting the credit he deserves for being a damn good manager.

Newcastle have collapsed since his exit last January and Crystal Palace have blossomed under his watch. Those two occurrences are hardly a coincidence, with Pardew now established at the best English manager in the game.

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