World Soccer Draft 2011: The Squads, Part II

Welcome to the second part of our World Soccer Draft – the squads! Today, we look at the starting XIs of the third and fourth drafters, Fayyaz Mujtaba and Neal Malone. Each writer will provide his formation and a summary of why he believes his team is the best of the bunch.

Neal Malone

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Picks (in order): Cristiano Ronaldo (#3), Yaya Toure (#14), Samir Nasri (#19), Gerard Pique (#30), Xabi Alonso (#35), Marcelo (#46), Marek Hamsik (#51), Edinson Cavani (#62), Iker Casillas (#67), Gregory van der Wiel (#78), Brede Hangeland (#83), Pedro (#94), Raul Albiol (#99), Raul Meireles (#110)

Subs: Pedro, Albiol, Meireles

THE GOAL
My goal coming into this draft was simple – put players in positions in which they
can thrive. It seems obvious, I know, but when you take players and begin deploying
them at unfamiliar positions that aren’t tailored to their skill sets, it creates confusion
and sloppiness in the team. In an effort to avoid that, I kept my draft philosophy at an
elementary level, selecting and placing each player in my lineup at a position based on
their most prominent strengths. Eliminating the experimentation will make it easier for
my squad to play solid team football.

THE BREAKDOWN
Here is my player-by-player analysis, explaining what I like about each draft selection
and how they’re going to fit into my formation and team strategy. The players are listed
in the order in which they were selected and the asterisks indicate that a player will be
a starter on my team…

*Cristiano Ronaldo, Right Wing (Real Madrid and Portugal)
Coming off an incredible season bursting at the seams with goals, Ronaldo was
the easy choice for the third overall pick in the draft. This season’s 54-goal scorer
demonstrates creativity, mind-blowing technical ability, and presents opposing teams
with nightmare-ish problems when it comes to defending set pieces.

I’ve chosen to deploy Ronaldo on the right wing, a side at which he has previously
flourished. His pace and dribbling skills keep defenders guessing, and he has proven to
be very effective in multiple ways on the outside. He is extremely dangerous when he
cuts inside to shoot from distance, and there isn’t much of a drop-off when he decides to
go the other way and take the ball down the flank to put a dangerous cross into the box.
He should be very comfortable under my manager, Jose Mourinho (duh…).

*Yaya Toure, Defensive Midfielder (Manchester City and Ivory Coast)
Being the English-soccer fanatic that I am, Yaya Toure really stuck in my mind in
the wake of the 2010-2011 EPL campaign. A strong defender and a beast of a man,
Toure has always had my admiration for his defensive abilities, however, it was his
contributions to the Manchester City attack in big games this season that really caught
my eye. When looking for a rock in the defensive midfield who can occasionally thrive
going forward, Toure was my man.

Despite the blossoming of his offensive game, I’ve chosen to deploy Toure in a defensive
midfield role where he is most effective and comfortable. The Ivorian has superior
tackling abilities and maintains an important degree of composure when under
pressure.

*Samir Nasri, Left Wing (Arsenal and France)
Talk about an exciting youngster. Nasri has wowed Europe in the past year with
an impressive level of individual skills. A versatile, attack-minded midfielder, Nasri
combines creativity with strong technical abilities to serve as a constant threat to
opposing defenses. Nasri also displays excellent finishing abilities and remains a
constant threat when it comes to crossing the ball into the box.

Although Nasri could play in the middle behind my lone striker, Cavani, I believe he is
best served on the left wing. His position on the left side has just as much to do with his
abilities on that side as it does with the fact that Ronaldo is so good on the right. Nasri
is an exciting prospect on the wing with the combination of offensive players on this
squad.

*Gerard Pique, Center Back (Barcelona and Spain)
Unless you’re a Vidic-lover (which I kind of am), you think Gerard Pique when you think
center back. A consistent performer who tackles very well, Pique is someone you can
rely on to anchor your defense. Because having a solid center back(s) seems to be one of
the game’s ultimate necessities these days, I knew I had to reserve Pique early.

You know, there really isn’t much to say about where I’ll be deploying him or how I’ll be
using him. It’s fairly obvious that his height and physicality will be a much-needed asset
in my team’s central defense.

*Xabi Alonso, Defensive Midfielder (Real Madrid and Spain)
Everyone knows a good distributor when you see one, and Xabi Alonso is just that. He
consistently serves as a smart and steady passer through the midfield, but he can also
cut through defenses with creative passes in the attack. Xabi Alonso’s passing abilities
along with his strong tackling and defensive skills led me to view him as an important
grab in the early to middle rounds.

Alonso will serve in the defensive midfield capacity alongside Toure. He’ll be key
in defense, covering back for the forward runs of the outside backs, however, I’ll be
leaning on him even more to get the ball up to the more technical and creative players
such as Nasri, Hamsik, and Ronaldo.

*Marcelo, Left Back (Real Madrid and Brazil)
Some may say I reached a bit here, but Marcelo is an effective, versatile left-sided player
who has proven himself on the most competitive roster in the world. Although he was
a left midfielder under Pellegrini, I was after him more so as a left back. Marcelo has
above average defensive capabilities and has proven to be a dangerous threat going up
the left flank in the attack.

These days, my manager, Mourinho, prefers Marcelo as a left back and I must say, I
do too. He defends well while still managing to join in the attack. With Xabi Alonso as
potential cover, I plan on cutting Marcelo loose up and down the left wing.

*Marek Hamsik, Center Attacking Midfielder (Napoli and Slovakia)
Much like Nasri, Hamsik is an exciting young talent with big-boy numbers. He has
scored an impressive number of goals in Serie A and at 23, is already the captain of
his country’s national team. I really think he’ll continue to progress in the next year,
probably enough so to land at one of the world’s biggest clubs.

Hamsik isn’t much of a winger, making him the ideal player to occupy the center
position in my three-headed monster of an offensive midfield. The middle is where this
creative youngster can combine with Napoli teammate Edinson Cavani to do what they
do in Italy – score a lot of goals.

*Edinson Cavani, Striker (Napoli and Uruguay)
A proven finisher and someone who scores goals at an alarming rate, Cavani is exactly
what I was looking for to fulfill my striker role. At 6’2”, the Uruguayan is physical
enough to hold the ball up, but at the same time, he’s fantastic facing the goal. When
pursuing a striker, one of the main things I look at is average goals per game, and so far
at Napoli, Cavani isn’t that far away from one per league game – pretty impressive.

Because he is really the only natural striker on my team, I’m deploying him just ahead
of Nasri, Hamsik, and Ronaldo, hoping he can hold the ball up to combine with them. I
also see Cavani as a formidable threat in the box due to his size, and when you’re getting
service from Nasri and Ronaldo, that’s clearly not a bad thing.

*Iker Casillas, Goalkeeper (Real Madrid and Spain)
What else can you really say about Casillas? Sure, the argument could be made that he
may not be the consensus number one ‘keeper in the world. The argument that can’t
be made, though, is one that diminishes his superior skills between the pipes. Casillas
is one of the most consistent netminders in the world, and in my opinion, should at the
very least be considered a top-three player at his position. There is a reason why I made
him the second overall goalkeeper taken in the draft.

I plan on using him as my goalkeeper…so yeah. Outside of that, he is a good distributor
of the ball, making him a dangerous catalyst in starting counter-attacks through the
likes of Xabi Alonso, Nasri, and Hamsik.

*Gregory van der Wiel, Right Back (Ajax and Netherlands)
Van der Wiel is a player that is quickly shooting his way up the list of highly-coveted
right backs in the world. Much like Marcelo, he combines speed and attack-mindedness
with sound defending and marking. Ok, I guess I’ll use the highly-cliché NBA/NFL draft
term – he’s got a lot of upside…a lot.

With a player like Yaya Toure or Xabi Alonso available for cover, I envision van der Wiel
moving forward up the flank as much as I do Marcelo on the opposite side. Defensively,
last year’s “Young Player of the Year” winner in the Netherlands brings an intuitive
approach that should really benefit the team.

*Brede Hangeland, Center Back (Fulham and Norway)
I didn’t think anybody else would take him in the draft, but that thought doesn’t suggest
he shouldn’t have been taken. I’m crazy about this guy, and maybe it’s because I watch
more Fulham games than the average soccer fan, but Hangeland is a commanding
center back. At over 6’4”, the Houston-born Norwegian international is a ruthless
defender on one end and one of the most dangerous men you’ll ever find waiting to
head in a set piece on the other end.

I think Hangeland can combine with Pique for a Bash Brothers-like defensive core,
making my team’s goal a very hard place to get to. Also, with free kick specialists like
Ronaldo and Nasri, I wouldn’t rule out an unusually high goal total for Hangeland.

Pedro, Striker/Winger (Barcelona and Spain)
Raul Albiol, Defensive Midfielder/Outside Back (Real Madrid and Spain)
Raul Meireles, Defensive Midfielder/Winger (Liverpool and Portugal)
When looking at bench players, I was looking for versatility. For the most part, each
member of this trio can play several different positions. Pedro can easily come in as a
winger or central attacking midfielder, but he could also relieve Cavani atop the team’s
formation. Pedro has continued to improve his form over the last two years, and it
culminated with a goal in this year’s Champions League Final.

The duo of Rauls, Albiol and Meireles, epitomize what I’m looking for off the bench. If I
need a defender or defensive midfielder for extra cover, I could call on Albiol. If I needed
a defensive midfielder or winger who could sneak forward as necessary, Meireles would
be my choice. Each player provides my coach, Mourinho, with incredible flexibility.

Jose Mourinho, Manager (Real Madrid)
When choosing a manager, it was hard to go against a man of such pedigree and success
like Mourinho. He may be outspoken, he may by slimy, who knows he may be just plain
crazy, but he knows his football. The fact that he has won so many titles isn’t the only
reason why I wanted him to lead my team, though.

When you look at my 14-man roster, the only player that hasn’t played in a Mourinho-
managed country is Gregory van der Wiel. With this in mind, I think Mourinho’s
knowledge of the Spanish, Italian, and English leagues make him the perfect person to
lead this group of players. Not only does he know a lot about my players’ leagues and
teams, he has had tremendous success in each of the countries that house them.

Lastly, the 4-2-3-1 formation I’ve chosen to play isn’t far off from what he has done in
the past with the likes of Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid. Take out a few minor
changes here and there, and you’ll find a system he could really coach well.

Fayyaz Mujtaba

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa

Picks (in order): Wesley Sneijder (#4), Luis Suarez (#13), Gareth Bale (#20), Michel Bastos (#29), Javier Pastore (#36), Jack Wilshire (#45), David Luiz (#52), Ever Banega (#61), Michael Dawson (#68), Bacary Sagna (#77), Joe Hart (#84), Javier Hernandez (#93), Romelu Lukaku (#100), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (#109)

Subs: Ibrahimovic, Lukaku, Hernandez

Rationale:  The 4-5-1 will have a fluid attack with the hope of Bale, Sneijder, and Pastore supporting the starting striker in attack and with very little defensive responsibilities.  While Bale would stick to the wing on the left, Pastore would be less of a winger and instead be an attacking mid cutting in from the right.  Sneijder would be the center attacking mid, but would be given a free roaming role to do what he wants because he’s the man.  Luiz Suarez would be the starting forward because of his ability not just to score (81 goals in 110 games for Ajax), but also his creative talents.  Barca has shown you don’t need a large target man in a formation with a single forward if the attacking players are technically capable enough to create and move into open positions, so the hope is that this team can replicate some of that in attack.  All the attacking mids and forwards have shown they can score, so the scoring burden would be shared between them.  In cases where an out-and-out striker is needed with pace and ability, I could put Javier Hernandez in, and when a plan-b target man is necessary, I could put Lukaku in.

The two central midfielders, Jack Wilshere and Ever Banega, would be more defensively minded but they also have the ability to pass and surge forward when needed.  One of the two would always stay back depending on the situation and they would alternate in making runs.  The two central defenders would be David Luiz and Michael Dawson while the wing-backs would be Michel Bastos on the left and Bacary Sagna on the right.  The left wing would be interesting because Bastos and Bale could constantly switch positions in midfield and defence since they both have experience in those positions.  On the right, Sagna would make runs as Pastore cuts inside.  The keeper, Joe Hart, would be a good shot stopper in the back.

Looking good, gents. Alright folks, that wraps up the third and fourth World XIs, but there are still four left to go! Tune in tomorrow when we look at squads 4 and 5, provided by Adams Sibley and Ogo Sylla. See you then! As always, follow us on Twitter @O87Minutes for updates on this week’s draft.

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3 Responses to World Soccer Draft 2011: The Squads, Part II

  1. Pingback: World Soccer Draft Order | The Other 87

  2. Pingback: World Soccer Draft Order | The Other 87

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