wrong side XI: defensive center mid

this is part VIII in the “wrong side XI” series, where i’ll be selecting my very own starting eleven, assuming of course that i could choose any player from any team in the world. you can read the rules i’ll be following to make my team selection, and what formation i’ll be squeezing them into, on the first post in the series.

these fine gentleman face off for my defensive midfield starting spot.

You probably thought I had forgotten about these Wrong Side XI posts, didn’t you? Admittedly, I haven’t been cranking out these posts nearly as fast I originally promised. And yet here we are, with summer in the rearview mirror and my summer post series is still dragging on. You can see my excuse on the site’s Facebook page if you’re really interested in hearing the reason for the delay.

Anyway, it’s high time we get back to it, and we’ll do so by narrowing down my selections for defensive midfield. I’m guessing due to the wait I put you all through to get to this point, I you’re probably not interested in a further wait, so let’s dive right into my #5 choice…

chelsea's raul meireles
meireles will at least always bring his own beer, even if it is pbr.

5. Raul Meireles (Liverpool Chelsea)
Portugal international (49 caps)
PFA Fans’ Player of the Year (2010-11)

The originial footy hipster is lucky to still be on this list. You see I originally had planned to finish this series of Wrong Side XI posts over the summer, and thus the players I chose were on my mind at the time. And while Raul is still a top-notch defensive midfielder, I now judge him differently after he forced through a move to Chelsea on transfer deadline day. I find this super annoying as a fan, since it leaves your old team little-to-no time to find a replacement for you. Besides, it’s not like he would care if I had cut him anyway…. stupid hipster.

However, there’s no doubting why Chelsea wanted the boy so much, especially with André Villas-Boas (his former mamanger at Porto) now at the helm. The Portuguese international is versatile in midfield, where he can play on the right, as an attacking mid, or as a deep lying defensive player. On the ball, he tends to be calm and composed, and he has a decent strike rate for a player that tends to hold closer to the backline. He flourished playing behind Lucas and Gerrard in the defensive role at Liverpool, no doubt attracting the attention of his new employers in the process. Once admirer, I now hope he ends up sucking for the blues… stupid hipster.

Roma's Daniele de Rossithe big brazilian is one of my favorites at spurs, and one he’s healthy again, i’m betting he’ll convince you too.

4. Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur)
Brazilian international (7 caps)

Here I go picking another relatively inexperience player, but I don’t give a damn when it comes to Sandro. The Tottenham man is fast becoming one of my favorite players, and even if I’m showing favoritism by including him on this list, I feel confident he’s proven enough over the last year to earn his stripes.

Though Sandro stands in at a modest 6’2″, he appears much bigger than that on the pitch, perhaps due to his long legs. But for a man of his size, he moves almost effortlessly on the pitch. Quick, strong, and — most importantly for a defensive mid — aware of his defensive responsiblities, the Brazilians rapid progression over the last year is a testament to his work ethic both on and off the pitch.

The turning of Sandro becoming a world class player has to be his performances against A.C. Milan last season, where he almost single-handedly shut down Milan’s talented midfield by keeping Seedorf/Robinho from feeding Rossoneri‘s fearsome front line. After bossing in the traditional Brazilian volante role on the biggest stage possible, it’s easy to see why I rate the youngster so highly.

Inter Milan's Esteban Cambiasso
the quiet and dominating game of cambiasso doesn't get near the attention as his shiny head.

3. Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan)
Argentina international (52 caps)

Let’s start my description off with this: Cambiasso is one of the most underrated players in the world. Case in point, Real Madrid allowed the midfielder on a free after they decided to sign Danish Thomas Gravesen (who only went on to play a solitary season for Los Blancos), only for the Argentine to become a linchpin in Inter’s dominant run over the last few years.

But despite all of the success that Inter had during that spell (15 trophies), you would rarely hear the guy’s name brought up during pundit discussions. But that’s mostly because Cambiasso does his job so well that you barely have to notice him. Much in the same way that you rarely noticed Makélélé in his prime, Cambiasso is just a hard runner who get’s things done in the midfield. Without him, dynamic players like Wesley Sneijder would never be able to operate effectively. It will be interesting to see how the Nerazzurri try to replace him in the coming years, seeing how he has a lot of miles on his meter at age 31.

Manchester City's Yaya Toure
the multi-talented yaya is much more versatile than his drug-taking brother, kolo.

2. Yaya Touré (Manchester City)
Ivory Coast international (58 caps)

While leaving Barcelona for Manchester City might seem like it would be a backwards move for just about anyone, Yaya is making a point that it could actually be a positive step in his career. The arrival of the younger Touré brother at Easltands is one of the major reasons that City have improved so dramatically over the last two years.

Originally thought of as solely a defensive midfielder during his Barça days, Yaya has shown that he is skilled enough to play any central midfield position that you could place him in. In City’s sky blues, the Ivorian has dominated playing in the whole behind a central striker (Ex: the FA Cup final and semifinal, where he scored both game-winning goals), as well as playing in a holding role ahead of Gareth Barry or Nigel de Jong.

And though, physically, he’s a beast due to his size and surprising speed (people that tall should not be so fast), I decided to pass on him simply because he seemed a bit of a primadona when he demanded that City make him the highest paid player in the Premier League to leave the Nou Camp.

bastian schweinsteiger of bayern munich
aryan or not, schweinie is the epitome of a german player.

1. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)
German international (90 caps)
FIFA World Cup All-Star Team (2010), Silbernes Lorbeerblatt (2006, 2010)

Just looking at pictures of this guy, and you can’t really think of anything but “enforcer.” I don’t think I’m in the minority when I say that if Bastian would have been born 70 years earlier, he would have been hand-picked to be an SS officer on looks alone… but then again, maybe I am the only one who thinks that.

However, I know that by picking the Bavarian midfielder to play a more defensive role means that I’d be playing him a bit out of position. Though he didn’t really blossom as a player until he was moved to the left wing or in a more advanced midfield role by Felix Maggath in 2005, I think the German’s future lies in a more conservative role. His size, strength and excellent distribution will make him an ideal possession oriented player sitting a bit in front of the back four. With a more advanced center back like David Luiz filling the space just behind him, I would free him up to play a little more offensively than your average defensive midfielder. A risky move for sure, but I think it could be effective.

Schweinsteiger becomes my seventh selection. Surprisingly, he’s the first German I’ve named to my roster, especially considering I started by naming all of my defensive positions.

So, dedicated readers, was seeing Bastian picked worth the long wait? Think I should have selected another, “more defensive” defensive midfielder? As always, feel free to skewer my decisions in the comments.

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