On The Ball with Mark Wheat: Let's Build Our BPL All-Star Team

by Mark Wheat

Yaya Toure of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester City at Selhurst Park.
Yaya Toure of Manchester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Manchester City at Selhurst Park. (Getty Images via BBC Sport Facebook page)

On the Ball with Mark Wheat is a Monday feature on The Current that celebrates the connections between music and soccer, with an eye to the past weekend's results. Listen this Monday at 4 p.m. (note special time this week) as Mark plays the music selection of the week.

I have no more adjectives to describe this season in the Barclays Premier League. It is simply beyond words. The results of the two big games involving the Top 3 contenders went the exact way it should to create the most tension, especially for us "neutrals"! At the halfway mark of the season, I picked City to win it and I'll stand by that for the run in, but I wouldn't put any money on anyone, it could literally go three ways!

On Sunday, City did what champions are supposed to do — nonchalantly brush aside their lowly opponents, which they did with aplomb versus Crystal Palace. And they contain my player of the season, Yaya Touré or "Toure Yaya" as his shirt says. He was, again, brilliant in the middle of the park for City. The run he made to score his goal was breathtaking, and he had another where he ran down the sideline, a Bale-like sprint of half the pitch, and was controlled enough to put over a good cross that wasn't met by a colleague. It's obvious that his players like him and he is the literal heart of the team. This season though it's his scoring record, 18, which has eclipsed all other midfield players. And they are often goal of the week contenders like this weekend's.

Crystal Palace v Manchester City highlights, via NBC Sports:

But the performance of the weekend, and perhaps in the circumstances the whole season so far, must be Chelsea's win at Anfield. Going into that famous intimidating atmosphere with Liverpool confident — nay, rampant — would be a daunting task at the best of times … but this is not these for The Blues if we read the ongoing story of Jose's blues. Plagued by injuries and suspensions and the forthcoming ECL Semi, Mourinho had set the stage for his second eleven with youth-team players on the bench. Desperation from the great one, as if just staying in this game would be beyond them. Coming away with a 2-0 victory is nothing short of miraculous. I still don't know how they did it. Of course they stood back and defended, but this is the most dangerous offense in the league right now and what else should be expected?! But something seemed off for Liverpool, it was just one of those days. Their talisman, tellingly, made the mistake that basically cost the game: Steven Gerrard slipping over to let in Ba who coolly put it through the keeper's legs. As we said last week, teams are influenced by their manager's ego, too, and the way it is sized up by opponents. Brendan Rodgers must be a shoo-in for manager of the year, whatever happens surely, but he is famous for being mentored by Jose at Chelsea. There were warm hugs all round before and after the game on the touchline, but one can't help feeling that the spoils went to the master. Reassuring for us old geezers!

Liverpool v Chelsea highlights, via NBC Sports:

Speaking of managers' egos … Old Trafford was a very special scene on Saturday, even for you outsiders or haters, right? A guy who was a fan as a kid, grew up through their system and played more games and won more trophies than anyone, ever, anywhere before, has his first game as manager at home in front of a crowd who want to believe that the romance of the situation will be reflected on the pitch and … WAM! 4-0 win, BOOM! It, after a slow start, was ignited by another great Rooney moment, a blistering shot from outside the box. He's the talisman of this team, and from then on, they rallied to slam home their advantage in a playing style that they haven't produced all season long. It was literally like a flashback to the good old days. Good onya, Giggsy!!

Manchester United v Norwich City highlights, via NBC Sports:

So … talking about which players are the best — the end of the season is only two weeks away, so let's try to put together our OTB All Star team of the season. Begin thinking about your eleven and post a comment this week about the first one on your team sheet; who do you build the team around? As suggested above, mine would be Yaya, he's been the captain of my Fantasy team all season. Again he was Man of the Match this week, even when at times he looked labored in his gait, as though he was carrying his recent injury, but those two runs suggested that he was the fastest on the field! There is no more physically strong and creative passer and scorer in the league.

The Player's Association in England announced their team of the year today, and he's on it.

And perhaps MORE impressively, he has been named in the ESPN World XI, along with his teammate Aguero, the only two from the BPL!?!

Speaking of World Cup, let's start to get ready for that with our friends in the band HAIM, who have come out as supporters of the USA World Cup squad, donning their shirts in a Nike ad. Their dad was an Israeli soccer player!

They've also just been used by our friends at Target in a commercial that I'm sure is one of the reasons I'm getting more requests for this song lately than any other, "Forever" from HAIM's recent Days Are Gone;

Let's try to put together our On The Ball Readers' All-Star team of the season! Begin thinking about your eleven and post a comment this week about the first one on your team sheet; who do you build the team around? Put your player pick in the comments section below; let's make a team together!

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  • On The Ball with Mark Wheat: Down to the Crunch As this week's On The Ball goes to press, Liverpool are five points clear at the top, Chelsea suffered a defeat that kept one drain-circling club's hopes afloat, and rumors are swirling about the future of Manchester United manager David Moyes.
  • On The Ball with Mark Wheat: Lots of Drama A look at the drama in the FA Cup semifinals, plus a lot of drama at Anfield as Liverpool secure a big win at the top of the table (and perhaps one player was doing a bit of acting, too). Meanwhile, Mark makes a music pick from local lads Heiruspecs.
  • On The Ball with Mark Wheat: Much Merriment on Merseyside! Mark Wheat looks at the bright prospects for Liverpool after another big win by the Reds at the weekend, plus a celebration of Leicester City's promotion and an interview excerpt from Janelle Monae, courtesy The Guardian.

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