As I sit here enjoying the opening days of Euro 2016 I am basking in the joy and the euphoria that comes with an international tournament and in the way only football can. But in the last 24 hours what has gone fairly unnoticed is the dark day that players back home dread. Contract release day. Even though contracts usually run until the end of June, yesterday marked the day where the Premier League clubs announced the players signing on for next season and those who are unfortunately departing their respective clubs.
So I was sat here, sipping an ice cold Pepsi Max, the drink of kings (Pepsi, I welcome any sponsorships. I’m not afraid to sell out), and I thought “Hey, why not signal the return to blogging for Severn Sport with a fairly predictable piece listing a ‘Released XI’ it could work”…Ryan you genius that is exactly what I am going to do. So here we are looking at the best released XI from the Premier League and I have even included substitutes for you.
We start in goal. Three keepers stood out for me, Steve Harper from Hull, Victor Valdes from Manchester United and my number one, the seasoned veteren Mark Schwarzer from champions Leicester City. The big Aussie gets in the starting line up based on two things, longevity and ability. A loyal Premier League servant who may have played his last game in England and will be probably be joining the likes of Valdes, probably Harper and Tim Howard who will be graciously bowing out of the Premier League this summer – the latter has agreed to join MLS side Colorado Rapids. Schwarzer has signed off by winning the league twice without playing many club games in as many seasons with the aforementioned Leicester and Chelsea the season before. If we have seen the last of Schwarzer in between the sticks then I wish him all the luck in the world and congratulations on a fantastic Premier League career.
In terms of defenders I have followed suit with three of the four in terms of picking players who have been fantastic servants to the league over the years. So let’s dive in with the back of Steven Taylor of Newcastle, Sylvain Distin of Bournemouth, Kolo Toure of Liverpool being joined by Martin Demichelis of Manchester City. With Distin at left back and Toure at right back as they both have a fair level of experience playing said roles despite the fact I have realistically picked four centre backs. But it was hard to leave them out based on usual position. I’m doing a Roy Hodgson, trying to fit in all of my star players at all costs. So lets assess the four at the back. Distin has been a fantastic import into the division with spells at Newcastle, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Everton and most recently the Premier League new boys of last year, Bournemouth. The Frenchman has chalked up 469 Premier League appearances and has endeared himself to the fans wherever he has played. A true unsung Premier League hero.
In the middle I have two opposites in Steven Taylor and Martin Demichelis. On the one hand we have a man who played for one of the top Premier League clubs for just a mere three years, winning a Premier League title, two League Cups domestically as well as playing for an Argentina side who finished runners up in both the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America, so a player who played for a limited time yet achieved so much. Question marks were always hanging over him though in regards to quality but you have to admit they are big achievements.
Compare that to Taylor. A modern Premier League one club man. Throughout the history of the league we have seen some incredibly loyal one club men come and go, Giggs, Scholes, Gerrard, Carragher to name a few and I would argue you can put Taylor in that same bracket. Despite the fact he doesn’t have the personal honours the likes of Demichelis and the other one club men have managed to earn over their careers, but he has earned the love, the adulation and the admiration of every single Newcastle United fan and we all know how passionate they are up there about their football, and their heroes. Injuries have plagued Taylor at points throughout his career as it has done to many a footballer in the modern era but what the injuries didn’t affect were Taylor’s passion and pride in playing for the Toon. He was there with Newcastle in both their relegations as well as earning a Championship winners medal for their title winning display in the 2009/10 season. Taylor would be an asset to most Premier League sides but I fear his next club will probably be playing Newcastle next year in the second tier.
At right back it is the cult hero that is Kolo Toure. A man who chalked up over 350 Premier League appearances for three of the biggest teams the league, no, European football have seen in Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal. Internationally he is one of the main men behind Ivory Coast’s stronghold on African football. In his career he has won two Premier Leagues including being a vital member of the Arsenal invincible season of 03/04, three FA Cups, three Community Shields (yes, I am counting it) and has also won the 2015 African Cup of Nations. Plus his brother isn’t bad either. One hell of a family pedigree.
For this XI I am playing a 4-2-3-1, the preferred formation for a number of teams in world football today. The two holding midfielders were both released by Arsenal and both have so much experience it is frightening. The midfield two are Mikel Arteta & Mathieu Flamini from the Gunners. Two players who were adored by the Arsenal faithful and rightly so. They both filled a position (or tried to) that Arsenal have needed to fill since the departure of Patrick Vieira. A holding midfielder is hard to come by and in these two Arsenal had very capable players. Even though they were better suited to being second or third choice behind a midfield kingpin they often found themselves at the forefront of the Arsenal midfield. Mainly due to the injury ridden, paper players in Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere. Two players I believe Arsenal owe a lot to for their service.
Next we have a flat advanced three, playing with two wingers and a central attacking midfielder. A traditional 4-2-3-1 that turns into 4-3-3 when we have the ball but a 4-5-1 when we do not. Who can possibly fill the voids? From left to right they are as follows, Charles N’Zogbia (remember him?) Nick Powell (and him?) & South African winger, Steven Pienaar. So where to begin. Let’s start with the Frenchman Charles N’Zogbia, or as a certain Joe Kinnear calls him Charles Insomnia, something that I’m sure keeps N’Zogbia awake at night. What won’t will be the wages he has accumulated over the last few years of his Aston Villa contract where he has merely turned up to not play but take home a pay packet at the end of the month that us mere mortals can only dream about. For some reason though he makes his way into my team, mainly due to the fact I didn’t fancy including Kieran Richardson any time soon.
Moving to the opposite wing and we have a man who I don’t rate as a player. There I said it. I don’t think Steven Pienaar is a good player, I’ve never understood the hype and I am sure he has only been liked for those stupid cornrows. One of the main reasons I don’t like him is the fact he always seemed to play well against United or in games I didn’t want Everton to win in (for betting purposes only). So I figure he is a player who I would clearly rather have in my team than playing against me, much to my dismay.
In the middle of the two wingers playing just off the mysterious and prestigious striker is a man of whom so much was expected, now ex-Manchester United midfielder Nick Powell. Signed from Crewe after a good season a couple of years ago now looked to be the start of the development of the future of English football. But alas it appears Powell is all but set to fade into football infamy and Premier League mediocrity for sure. After a blistering start to his United career (scoring on his debut at home to Wigan) it was clear he would be going out on loan to get up to speed. They haven’t worked and after spikes of outcry and Powell standing up to the regime of van Gaal it was clear his United days were numbered, as yesterday proved. I’m sure he will be snapped up by a Championship side where if he finds the right club can look to start to rebuild his once promising reputation.
So who gets it? Who gets the much sought after spot of striker. There are plenty to choose from, Steven Fletcher, Peter Odemwingie, Marouane Chamakh and others but I have gone for the legend that is Emmanuel Adebayor. Lets be honest, Adebayor is a marmite player, you either love him or hate him. I for one love him. I think when he is in form he is up there with the league’s best finishers right now. It is testament to him that when it doesn’t go his way for a while or he finds himself out of favour he always comes back with a vengeance and always delivers the goods. I feel that his Premier League days are probably numbered and realistically are probably over now after a couple of bad years under his belt. I would imagine his next team will be outside of England, probably the second most likely player to be playing abroad next season, the first being Mario Balotelli. There is too much baggage around Adebayor now and I don’t feel that he is worth the gamble any more. Which is a shame.
So there we have it. The end of season Premier League released XI.
The substitutes would be as follows: Victor Valdes (Manchester United), Kieran Richardson (Aston Villa), Brede Hangeland (Crystal Palace), Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal), Leon Osman (Everton), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City), Sebastian Sessegnon (West Bromich Albion)
And obviously the manager would have to be Louis Van Gaal, a man replaced this summer by Manchester United. Who would make your Released XI? Let us via Twitter @SevernSport