This week we’re starting a new holiday tradition: Our Greatest Hits. Since we don’t have anything new for you, we’ll be reposting what we consider some of our own favorite pieces that we’ve written over the year, not just whatever got the largest number of page views, but the ones that we enjoyed writing or that we just felt deserved a second shot at earning some of the Internet’s eyeballs.
We end on one of our greatest group efforts, the World Soccer Draft. Eight drafters selected their own teams of the world’s best players, then we set out to debate which squad was best. Here are our top 3 finishers, and you can look here for links to the other teams and to our other WSD content.
To be honest, we spent approximately 10 seconds discussing Adams’ forwards. Everyone agreed the Tevez-Eto’o combination would be pretty badass. Likewise the defense. Adams surprised some by grabbing a center back, Thiago Silva, with his first round pick, but the move was backed up by several drafters who consider the Brazilian well worth it.
Dani Alves may have single-handedly destroyed Maicon’s claim to the title of world’s greatest right back, but he’s still a fantastic player, and looks dangerous opposite the still somehow underrated Baines.
It was the midfield that we spent the majority of our time on. Hazard found praise, and no one objected to Cazorla, who’s a good support player for the other attackers. But the issue of the central midfield was a snag; we needed to be convinced the pairing of Ozil and Boateng could work.
Some didn’t think Ozil would be as successful in a deeper role than his accustomed CAM at Madrid and for Germany, but the bigger worry was whether he’d contribute anything defensively. If not, that would leave Boateng to do the dirty work by himself, a role he played for Portsmouth but not last season in Milan. Adams countered that not all formations required a designated holding presence, but the forward-leaning tendencies of the pair made some feel he’d be vulnerable to getting played around in the middle or on the counter.
What they said
Ogo–”I love the left side, has a real Lizarazu-Zidane feel to it for me.”
Eric--”Forwards are great, and would be fun to see play together. More than any of the other front lines, I can envision how this one would work.”
Neal--”I mean i really think the only thing this team needs to be careful of is defending the attack through the central midfield.”
Ogo–“It’s too deep for him [Ozil] in my opinion. He could, but lacks the tackling ability and marking ability to do so effectively.”
Wes–”Also, I think Thiago Silva is massively overrated. Easily one of the worst centerbacks picked (he was kidding. Maybe.).”
11 very talented guys set out in an interesting formation. The formation was perhaps a bit too interesting, as the debate over Eric’s team was one of the most heated and dense debates. For starters, he sets out Alexis Sanchez in a somewhat unfamiliar trequartista role. He’s a good dribbler, yes, but can he distribute the ball well enough for a central attacking mid? While that question was never resolved, Eric was quick to point out that in a midfield with Xavi, there will be no lack of distribution. Hulk is a player more accustomed to wing play, but if he is given license to roam, as the formation seems to imply, he would be very dangerous along with David Villa.
After singing the praises of Arturo Vidal and Xavi, the conversation moved along to the second sticking point of the line-up, Alex Song. In response to the comment that Song has never been a player to impress (while consistent and tidy, not a wow player), Eric pointed out that he was named in the African Cup of Nations best XI two times in a row. While some drafters wondered aloud if Coentrao and Dani Alves’s runs forwards might leave the back two exposed, Eric demonstrated that Song would fall back into a back three should that ever happen. And with two consistent centerbacks in Hummels and Kompany, the majority of individuals seemed to think that the defensive aspect of the XI would not be an issue.
After touching briefly on Hugo Lloris (good shot stopper, experience on the big stage, etc.) and the substitutes (Carvalho good, Rossi great, Afellay good), the conversation moved on to another team. With a series of tactically interesting and incisive picks, Eric’s 4-3-1-2 formation certainly merited at top two finish in the World Soccer Draft debate. While all the names on the pitch were recognizable, Eric’s formation was one of the most difficult to imagine in practice, to a potentially baffling degree for any voters. Nonetheless, put those players out on the pitch together, watch out world.
What they said
The Good: Ogo–”The stats speak so little to what Vidal brings to a team. That’s what I like about him, he gives balance to rest of midfield.”
Adams–”I think your centerbacks are both strong choices, as are your fullbacks.”
Josh–”Yeah, I love your defensive line. Hummels has been tested.”
The Bad: Ogo–”Midfield is fantastic except for Song. I have same issues with him as I had with Essien in Wes’ lineup.”
Stefan–”I second Adams on Hulk playing on the wing. I think he’d be more useful in a more lateral positioning, but yeah as long as he’s got licence to roam he’s gonna be devastating.”
Adams–”My conception of Lloris, is he’s an excellent shot stopper, but for me personally I like for a keeper to be well-rounded, which he is not necessarily.”
The Ugly: Ogo–”What do you mean Kompany’s not proven, Wes!”
Up and down, sideways, forwards, backwards and any other prepositional phrase you can think of, Neal’s team was considered the soundest. He employed a user-friendly 4-2-3-1 system, with consistent performers in roles designed to get the best out of them. Starting up top, he has Uruguayan sensation Edison Cavani on the heels of a breakout season with Napoli. The man put in 33 goals in 47 starts (including Europe) last season, in his first season with a new team. Very impressive. And he won’t even be the most pressing concern to your typical back four, with part-time hair gel model Cristiano Ronaldo storming up the flank on the right side. Longtime Football Manager sweetheart Marek Hamsik and Man City target Samir Nasri round out a top four with dizzying amounts of creativity. Like most teams in the draft, this one won’t have any problems scoring goals.
Our drafters spent little to no time parsing the merits of the offensive half–the defensive section provided most of the substantive bits of debate. For starters, questions were raised over who would be responsible out of Yaya Toure and Xabi Alonso for moving the ball from defense into offense, Alonso being more of a long ball artist and Toure being potentially clumsy with the ball at his feet. However, given Yaya’s offensive successes at Man City last season, it was determined that he would be competent at worse at providing the crucial offense/defense link. Alonso could then focus on providing cover for the back four.
After declaring the midfield and forwards sufficiently creative and consistent enough to beat most teams, the conversation turned to the back four. Van der Weil, Pique, Marcelo–fair enough. But what was Brede Hangeland doing there, a few drafters asked? Neal pointed out that Hangeland had been nothing if not consistent for Fulham over the past few years, and, while being a physical and dominating presence, also provides a legitimate goal threat off of corners. While true, the question of his lack of experience in international big time competitions was a worry. The conversation closed with a light hearted argument over whether this was a criteria that need be considered. When the voting came around, Neal was the winner.
The general feeling afterwards was that, all-around, Neal didn’t make a bad draft choice. The team was balanced offensively and defensively, and placed in a formation that has seen success on the international stage.
What they said
The Good: Ogo–“Here’s what I think. Yaya should carry the ball forward and set up the offense Xabi Alonso plays the water-carrier role that he was born to play and this lineup is a donedeal.com.”
Wes–”But yeah, all in all very solid lineup.”
Eric–”Well, in his defense, you’ve got to think Yaya’s not exactly going to be pressed hard with all that firepower in front of him.”
The Bad: Eric–”I have no doubts that Hangeland is a good player, but I don’t think he’s on that level with the elite center backs.”
Ogo–”Who is carrying the ball in MID? Who is responsible for moving ball forward?”
The Ugly: Adams–“I dont know who your goalkeeper [Iker Casillas] is though, so that might be a weakness.”