So, what’s been going on in the world of the top-flight English football this week? Aside from the footballing authorities considering a February winter break and VAR causing more havoc in the FA Cup, Romelu Lukaku took a moment from chasing his own first touch down the M1 to tweet his idea for an Premier League NBA-style all-star game.
Here’s an idea for you guys… the nba has all-star game! Don’t you guys think we should organise one in the @premierleague.. The north vs the south! And the fans vote… what do you guys think? @premierleague @FA 😏😉
— R.Lukaku Bolingoli9 (@RomeluLukaku9) February 26, 2018
He proposed a North/South split, which culminated in every television, radio and print pundit scrambling for the tactics board to construct their perfect all-star sides.
There’s just one problem. Nearly everyone cherry-picked their teams from Manchester United, City and Liverpool from the north, and Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs from the south. And while that may have yielded the most impressive all-star teams, it’s hardly a fair indicator of the Premier League, is it? In fact, it smacks wholly of “nothing exists outside the top six.”
However, here at Tales, we consider ourselves the beacons of justice in this increasingly bizarre and corrupted realm we call football. So, instead, we’ve picked our all-star elevens to ensure every Premier League team is represented (yes, even you, West Brom).
Luckily, as the fates would have it, the league is roughly split 50-50 North vs South (Leicester and West Brom, you’re honorary northerners). As Champions-elect, we’ve allowed two players from Manchester City to round up our Northern XI and as Champions-incumbent, we’ve allowed two players from Chelsea to round up the Southern XI.
Here we have it: Tales from the Top Flight’s “You Can’t Say Fairer Than This!” Premier League North vs South line-ups.
GK – David De Gea (Manchester United)
It wasn’t likely to be anyone else, was it? Highest number of clean sheets and the best save percentage in the league guarantees his spot in almost any team on the planet. Although, that being said, if there was a side constructed of footballers with immaculate haircuts, Dodgy Dave’s topknot Barnet would keep him firmly in the stands.
RB – Moritz Bauer (Stoke City)
The sprightly Austrian right-back apparently has compatriot Marko Arnautovic to thank for why he ended up in the Potteries. He’s settled in well at full-back where Stoke have begun rolling back the years after discovering he possesses a monstrous long-throw even Rory Delap would be proud of.
CB – Ben Mee (Burnley)
Burnley have one of the best defensive records in the league, chiefly down to captain Ben Mee’s willingness to throw himself at literally everything. Interesting to note, both his acclaimed centre-back partners (Shackell and Keane) have become absolutely shite after moving on, so perhaps unwittingly Ben Mee is the greatest centre-half the modern game has ever known.
CB – Harry Maguire (Leicester City)
He turned up to England duty with a bin bag full of clothes like he was moving into uni halls, and for that we love Harry Maguire. Never mind the fact he’s about eight-feet-tall, never loses a header and scored a last-minute equaliser against Manchester United. England’s remedy to Chris Smalling, Harry is going straight into the side.
LB – Chris Brunt (West Brom)
Let’s just say West Brom should count themselves they have any players in the starting eleven. But club captain Chris Brunt is always willing to give the fabled 110%, even if he – along with most of his team-mates – are having a collective shocker of a season. Least he’s not in the game of stealing taxis…
CM – Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town)
When Australia decided to pump out some more talent, they took one look at Jonjo Shelvey, copied the blueprint and then hammered out all the shit bits. End result: Aaron Mooy. Tenacious, hard-working and deft in possession, he drives Huddersfield forward from midfield and scores the odd screamer to belt.
CM – Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle United)
See: Aaron Mooy. Terrific passer of the ball, tenacious in recovery and the scorer of superb long range goals. The only problem is that medical professionals conducted a series of tests that conclusively proved he legitimately has shit for brains.
CAM – Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Probably the best footballer in the Premier League and definitely the greatest ginger footballer since Paul Scholes. The heartbeat of a team decimating everything in their path, De Bruyne was always going to make the side. Just make sure he puts on the factor 50 when the sun comes out. Seriously – he will melt.
LW – Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton)
Everton have been middling this season, but the Icelander has provided moments of genius in a blue shirt. Being shunted out to the left to accommodate the human barrel Wayne Rooney hasn’t dented his confidence, especially when you replay that sumptuous strike against his former team Swansea. We can watch it all day. All bloody day.
RW – Mohammed Salah (Liverpool)
Is there anything he can’t do? The Egyptian Messi has been a revelation on Merseyside, bedazzling left-backs with his swivel hips, blistering pace and precise finishing. 31 goals already this term has equalled Luis Suarez’s best hall. We’d pay good money (well, maybe a quid or two) to see him in a foot-race against Hector Bellerín.
ST – Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
The second representative for the almost-guaranteed champions, Sergio Aguero is enjoying yet another record-breaking season, despite Pep Guardiola’s innate hatred for centre-forwards. The diminutive Argentine has become City’s all-time scorer, notched his first ever cup final goal and is set to pick up his third Premier League winner’s medal. Not bad at all.
GK – Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea)
Much-maligned during his time at Arsenal for his failure to catch even the common cold, the Polish shot-stopper is a much more solid bet these days. Relegation-threatened Swansea would be facing the drop square in the face were it not for Fabianski marshalling his goal like a cat on acid.
RB – Cedric Soares (Southampton)
One of the few top talents at Saints who hasn’t been snatched by Liverpool (yet), the Portuguese right-back is a swash-buckling marauder who loves to defend as much as he loves to attack. Quite why he hasn’t been picked up by one of the top six is something of a mystery.
CB – Lewis Dunk (Brighton and Hove Albion)
Achieving the boyhood dream of playing for his hometown club, Dunk’s been at Brighton so long he’s registered appearances in League One, the Championship and the Premier League – and all by the tender age of 26. Did spend half a season at Bristol City back in 2013/14 but decided he couldn’t hack the cider.
CB – Simon Francis (Bournemouth)
Another South Coast stalwart, and another centre-half who’s played across three divisions for the same club, Francis never actually seems to age. For about ten years he’s looked the same rugged, dependable brick shithouse that would headbutt the post if it saved his side a goal. Proper footballer.
LB – Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)
The first of two Chelsea representatives, the Spanish wing-back takes his position on sheer consistency alone. A dream for fantasy football fans across the land, Alonso chalks up a heady mix of clean sheets, assists and goals thanks to that delightful left foot of his.
CM – Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford)
Watford are a strange entity: decent one week, absolute shite the next, but among it all, the French midfielder has been a constant performer. Emerging at Renne by way of Granada, Doucouré loves to ply at his trade at struggling top flight teams and Watford is the perfect home for him. Big fish, small pond.
CM – Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace)
After Mile Jedinak departed, Crystal Palace needed to replenish their customary midfield bruiser of eastern European descent and plucked the towering Serb from Olympiacos. However, what they also got was an astute passer of the ball and a dead ball specialist. Now captain in Scott Dann’s absence, Milivojevic is a fan favourite at Selhurst Park.
CAM – Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Loathed by Gary Neville (“Just look at him walking!”) and the brunt of every Arsenal fan’s ire when things go awry, the talismanic German is a real marmite figure. When on song, he’s majestic, with his laser-guided passing and ability to exploit space on the pitch. When he’s sulking, you may as well have a broom in the number 10 role.
LW – Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Anyone who reckons Hazard isn’t world class needs to have a look at themselves. The diminutive Belgian possesses supreme close control, a superb eye for a pass and can make an entire back four look daft with just a few deft feints. He’s been Chelsea’s best player for years and is surely bound to end up at Real Madrid at some point to replace Ronaldo.
RW – Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)
Any side managed by post-Everton Moyes walks that precarious line between being tough to beat and being utterly devoid of any attacking flair. Fortunately for West Ham, the enigmatic Austrian isn’t in the habit of giving a shite what his manager thinks, so has been in impressive form for the Hammers despite their current predicament. A real handful – both on and off the pitch.
ST – Harry Kane (Tottenham)
“Arise, Sir Harrold of Kaneshire,” is probably what the Queen will say when she knights him to services to football in 20 years’ time, following a career in which the verbally-challenged Spurs striker has scored 459 goals, turned down six approaches from Real Madrid and boasts a single League Cup medal to his name. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best striker in the Premier League.
Well, it was his idea after all, so we suppose he has to have some sort of role.