FOX Sports' BPL Team of the Season

After 10 months filled with exciting, dramatic Premier League action, we pick our 2012/13 Premier League Team of the Season.

One final time for Sir Alex...

By FOX Sports Editorial Team

Manchester United may have sewn up the Premier League title early, but this season was by no means an uncompetitive one with the fight for the top four going down to the wire and a mere 10 points separating eighth and 17th place.

After a lengthy debate, we have finally settled on our Premier League Team of the Season, and here it is.

Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Manchester United)

The choice to put De Gea as the starting goalkeeper was not an easy one to make, with other candidates like Hugo Lloris and Asmir Begovic having excellent campaigns as well.

The big factor that swung in De Gea's favour was the manner in which he bounced back from criticism to regain his spot as United's numero uno. He still is a slight lad who has a tendency to flap at crosses, but he now relishes the aerial battle, rather than shy away from it.

The match against West Ham was a particularly memorable one for him. Despite being bullied by Andy Carroll in the box all game long, De Gea always went back for more - it's typical of the never-back-down attitude that Sir Alex Ferguson instils in his players.

Right-Back: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City)

Manchester City had a season that could be summed up by one word - ‘meh'. Mancini's attempt to play with a three-man defence fell flat on its face, the strikers failed to impress in the first half of the season while the midfield failed to replicate their stylish performance from last season.

Zabaleta was arguably the only City player to turn up consistently from start to finish. Regardless of whether he was playing as a wing back in a 3-5-2 or a right back in a 4-4-2, the Argentine came up with top-notch delivery down the flanks while tracking back when needed. No other right back in the league came close to him.

Centre-Back: Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)

At an estimated transfer fee of £9 million, Tottenham had themselves a bargain when they signed Vertonghen from Ajax last summer.

The Belgian has shone playing as a sweeper for Spurs with his marauding runs that add an extra impetus on the attack for his side - the match against Manchester United perfectly illustrated his attacking abilities; armed with a stinging shot on goal, and the ability to dodge past opponents into space, Vertonghen would have appeared at ease if asked to play as a midfielder.

However, it is his stability in defence that earns him the reputation as the best defender in the league this season. He has all the characteristics of the perfect modern centre-back: the pace to man-mark strikers, the size to challenge in the air and the calmness to play with the ball at his feet.

Centre-Back: Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)

Let's be honest - the Chelsea defence this season has been lacklustre when compared to the fortress that Mourinho built five seasons ago. John Terry has been inconsistent, Gary Cahill has been plagued by injuries and David Luiz... has been himself. To exacerbate matters, the lack of tracking back from their midfielders meant that they were frequently left to fend for themselves.

Rising from the gloom, Ivanovic has been the solid bedrock on which the defence now rests. He covered up for the deficiencies of his fellow defenders with an astute reading of the game and was equally effective when called upon to play as a right back.

Left-Back: Leighton Baines (Everton)

It's hard to argue against Baines' case as the best left back in the league. 

His crosses were among the most potent around, he linked up well with his team mates, had the instinct to dictate play from his position in the field, didn't get caught out in defence and kept this high standard of play throughout the season - there's not much more you can ask for from a left back.

Right Midfielder: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)

Now, we know that Cazorla has been played in the middle of the park for Arsenal for the majority of the season but, hey - it has been a dry season for wingers and we reckon that Cazorla would have outshone any other right winger in the country when asked to play there.

Cazorla's amazing ability to be equally effective with both feet left fans mystified about which is the dominant one. (He confessed to be right-footed in March). 

Combined with his vision to pick out team mates from anywhere on the pitch, he was so comfortable at the heart of Arsenal that it's hard to remember he only joined the team this season.

Central Midfielder: Michael Carrick (Manchester United)

It's hard to gauge Carrick's contribution to Manchester United by simply looking at goals and assists - fans would have had to watch United play to see how much of it revolved around pinging passes at Carrick and how he created space out of nowhere with his astute passing.

The fact that he was voted the Players' Player of the Year in United's in-house awards ahead of Robin van Persie speaks volumes of how much their team-mates appreciated what he has done this season.

Central Midfielder: Juan Mata (Chelsea)

It would be fair to say that Mata was to Chelsea what Carrick was to Manchester United; it's hard to recall any attacking move from Chelsea that did not involve the Spaniard.

Mata's all-round abilities to both create and score has seen him top the assists charts with 12 this season and added 12 goals to his tally, which means he has been directly involved in an impressive 32 per cent of Chelsea's 73 goals in the league.

Left Midfielder: Gareth Bale (Tottenham)

It was an ominous sign when Bale changed his squad number from 3 to number 11 at the start of the season, stating that he was "not a left-back anymore".

Bale has rocketed into the football stratosphere where stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi lie in a stellar season where he bagged the PFA Young Player of the Year, the PFA Players' Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year awards.

It has helped that manager Andre Villas-Boas was willing to maximise the potential of Bale's terrifying burst of speed and ferocious shot by handing him a free role higher up the pitch. 

A fan who pointed out to Southampton's Luke Shaw that it was obvious that Bale was going to cut in past him and score, was met by the Saints defender's simple reply: "couldn't catch him:(".

Striker: Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

A controversial choice, we accept. Even neutrals struggle to look beyond the numerous fracas and controversies he was involved in - the culmination of which was the bizarre bite on Branislav Ivanovic. 

After a heated debate within the editorial team though, we managed to come to a conclusion: Suarez the footballer was just too good, so good in fact, that we simply had to include him the Team of the Season.

The 33 games he was involved in brought 23 goals (and 8 assists) with some truly wonderful moments to savour - none more so than the one against Newcastle.

To chest down a 50-yard pass while jostling against Fabricio Collocini and sprinting at full speed is no mean feat, but to have the presence of mind to skin Tim Krul and poke the ball into an empty net only goes to show he was on another level altogether.

Striker: Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

When Van Persie made the controversial move to join United from Arsenal at the start of the season, his message was clear: he wanted trophies.

36 games, 26 goals and eight assists later, the Dutchman has fulfilled his wish and it could be said that United might not have done it without him either - there were many occasions where they struggled to unlock their opponents, but Van Persie invariably came up with a moment of magic to rescue the points for his side. 

What made the Dutchman so dangerous was his ability to manufacture a goal from any situation - his volleyed finish from Rooney's cross against Aston Villa being a perfect example of this invaluable quality.

Substitutes

Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

Lloris' arrival at Tottenham was greeted with uncertainty given that they already have a world-class goalkeeper in Brad Freidel, but the Frenchman showed that he deserved every minute in goal with consistent performances.

Full-Back: Rafael (Manchester United)

Rafael's biggest weakness has been his tendency to abandon the defensive aspect of his game, but he has matured as the campaign progressed and shouldered his responsibilities at the back to add to his usual forward-charging-bundle-of-energy style of play.

Centre-Back: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)

Ferdinand stepped up for United in defence with the grace of a seasoned veteran in a season where United were missing the services of their captain Nemanja Vidic. On top of his top-class performance, he also gelled youngsters like Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Rafael into a tight defensive unit. It was a major bone of contention amongst our team to leave him out of the starting XI.

Midfielder: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Hazard had 10 goals and 11 assists in his debut season in the Premier League. It's not the most impressive, but considering his young age and the tendency for big signings to flop under the pressure of expectations, Hazard did well in a season where false nines and drifting wingers took centre stage.

Midfielder: Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

It's a part of every footballer's career to be gradually let down from playing first team football but Lampard showed no signs of going gently into the sunset with 15 goals from 29 games to become the club's top goalscorer of all time. 

Striker: Michu (Swansea)

Mi-who? Virtually unknown after joining Swansea from Rayo Vallecano, Michu took the league by storm with two goals in Swansea's opening day win over QPR and never looked back to end the season with 18 goals to his name.

Striker: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa)

In a season where Aston Villa struggled to produce any kind of form, Benteke stepped with his haul of 19 league goals - three of which came in the crucial 6-1 win over Sunderland that lifted them out of the relegation zone.

Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson

It's hard to pick any other candidate to be the manager of the season, really. 

To snatch the title back from rivals Manchester City by a country mile in his final season just shows the hunger for success that Ferguson has. The signing of Van Persie in particular was a masterstroke - there were many doubters out there who questioned the value of signing a player with a dubious injury record at that price, but Ferguson knew what his side needed and duly came up with the goods.

It's only fitting that Ferguson bid farewell at the top - the place he occupied for so long during his 26-year reign at Old Trafford.



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