Premier League Top XI from 2012-13

11) QPR Shock Chelsea in West London Derby

This result had QPR fans believing that Uncle ‘Arry would work his magic and lead Rangers to the Promised Land of seventeenth place or beyond. When Harry Redknapp took the reins at QPR, they had an abysmal four points from thirteen matches under former manager Mark Hughes. After taking a string of draws and narrow losses to a number of bottom feeders into this match, Redknapp was desperately in need of a signature win, which he got at Stamford Bridge with a scrappy one-nil result. He followed up this massive win with a draw against former club Tottenham at Loftus Road. Unfortunately, despite Tony Fernandes reaching deep into his pockets during the transfer window, all the money would have been better spent sending Harry Redknapp back to school to learn to read and write (but that type of refinement would make things so much less enjoyable for the rest of us come transfer time).

Extra Time: Harry Redknapp guided QPR to twenty-one points in twenty-five premier league matches. Statistically, if he had been in charge all season, he would have earned just under eleven points in those first thirteen matches, leaving QPR level with Wigan, and still destined for the drop.

10) Southampton’s Awe-Inspiring, but Ultimately Heartbreaking Losses at City and Home to United

It is a story every fan loves, the newly promoted squad giving the giants of Manchester a run for their money. This has been arguably one of the most open years for the middle of the table in Premier League history (10 points separated last man standing Sunderland in seventeenth from eighth placed West Brom). As one of those teams, Southampton gave supporters and neutrals alike reasons to believe the talent gap between the behemoth clubs composed of the top of the line pieces from several continents, and supposed bottom feeders using discarded pieces of the former, as well as several unabashed youngsters, was narrowing. Newly promoted Southampton faced the unenviable position of squaring off against both Manchester clubs in the first three weeks of the season. The first match against City took a late equalizer from Edin Dzeko, and later winner from the oft-brilliant, but more recently oft-adrift Samir Nasri. Two weeks later at St. Mary’s, Nigel Adkins’ side took a lead even later into the match, while everyone again dreamed that the Saints could slay the proverbial goliath. Unfortunately, Goliath again wielded his strength in the form of the titillating Robin Van Persie, netting a hat trick (the final two of which came in the last three minutes of regular time and well into stoppage). Both Manchester sides were awarded penalties in these matches, with neither side converting their spot kicks.

Extra time: The Saints did get revenge on City at home later in the season, taking three points in a 3-1 win.

9) Tony Hibbert Scores in Testimonial

Yes, this was a testimonial; yes, it was a friendly; and therefore, will not show up on his official tally, but try and tell any of the 17,000+ Toffee supporters on hand to storm the pitch that their beloved Hibbert scoring his first goal in 308 appearances for Everton was insignificant; Hibbert scored, and they rioted. As an anglophile, I love listening to the commentary, chants, and overall wit that comes with being a fan of the beautiful game. One such endearing example could be seen in the crowd response any time Tony Hibbert touched the ball within sight of the attacking third, with echoes of "shoot!" permeating the pitch at Goodison.

Extra Time: As most Toffee fans know, Hibbert is a lifelong Everton fan, was brought up through their academy, and has only played for the one team his entire career.

8) Swansea City

What a year for Welsh football. The Swans are the first Welsh side to ply their trade in the Premier League since its inception in 1992. Despite losing Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool after he led Swansea to an eleventh place finish in their inaugural season, Michael Laudrup bested him with a ninth place finish this year (despite accruing one less point in the league). Even more impressive was the Swans destroying the hopes and dreams of poor League Two side Brentford in a five-nil drubbing at Wembley. This ensured a Welsh side would compete in the Europa League for the first time ever. Michu was hands down the best buy of the season in the Premier League. He scored eighteen goals in the league and twenty-two overall, for a meager fee of two million pounds. Wales has even more to be excited about this season with Craig Bellamy and Cardiff being promoted from the Championship leading to the first Premier League Welsh Derby.

Extra Time: Michu’s eighteen league goals finished fifth while Robin Van Persie led the way with twenty-six. The price per goal based on transfer fee, saw United pay Van Persie £923,000 per goal, while Swansea shelled out only £111,000 for Michu’s tallies.

7) Peter Odemwingie Tries to Force a Move to into QPR…literally

In one of the most bizarre transfer day sagas I can remember, Peter Odemwingie tried to force a move through from West Bromwich Albion to Queens Park Rangers by driving to Loftus Road, only to be turned away at the gate. At the time of the attempted switch, Odemwingie’s Baggies, although dipping in form, were still legitimate contenders for the final Champions League spot, and had nine more points on January 31, than QPR would finish with at the end of the campaign. The temper tantrum failed to materialize in anything substantial other than a proverbial spanking from West Bromwich and a public apology from Odemwingie.

Extra Time: Turns out QPR should have pulled the trigger on the transfer as Odemwingie would have been the perfect fit at the overpaid, underachieving club. He featured in seven matches following deadline day contributing to the tune of one very solid yellow card in that span.

6) Spurs end Twenty-three Year Drought at Old Trafford

Nevermind that Spurs were outplayed for most of the match, they capitalized on the opportunities they needed to in order to secure three points at Old Trafford for the first time since the majority of these players were in diapers. This was the coming out party for Jan (Super Jan) Vertonghen, one of the many talented Belgian players that will surely turn heads and make noise in Brazil next Summer (so long as they can top Croatia or win a playoff), as his deflected shot got Spurs off on the right foot early on. Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey both added goals later in the match that typified their play this season; Bale with a tantalizing run and finish, and Dempsey being in the right place at the right time for a tap in that would be the eventual winner. The defense, including two footballers that weren’t even born the last time Spurs tasted victory over Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad on their home turf, really deserve credit for holding on at the end of this fixture.

Extra time: United accrued 89 points, taking an average of 4.7 points from each of their opponents this season. Spurs were the only side to concede less than three points to the Champions.

5) Suarez Unchained

One of the most enigmatic players in all of football, he has undeniable talent to count him amongst the best in Britain; unfortunately, his behavior is worse than a four year old on a long grocery shopping trip. Countless video highlights document rash challenges that are not only foolish, but dangerous for the careers of the players he goes for. As a player, I understand getting angry in the heat of the moment, and doing something irresponsible, but to repeat the same mistakes time and again is an absolute disgrace. Biting shouldn’t occur in a pre-school classroom let alone two separate top tier league matches. Branislav Ivanovic is as meaty a figure to go after as you will find in the Premier League (despite the fact that he goes down more frequently than a Jenga tower in an earthquake), but these acts are despicable, and have no place in the game.

Extra Time: Luiz Suarez has been banned for a total of 18 matches in his Liverpool tenure, for someone that averages just over a goal every other game, that has denied Liverpool almost ten goals since he has been there. For a team that has not cracked the top five in the last five years, those are very precious tallies.

4) Wigan Athletic Win Team’s First FA Cup and Are Relegated the Next Week

A fairly open encounter from the first whistle, Roberto Mancini’s men looked a slightly more dangerous side, but you really have to commend the Latics for staying in the game. Joel Robles was a force to be reckoned with, he made a number of key saves to keep a beyond impressive clean sheet against the defending (albeit already dethroned) league champions. Ben Watson’s untracked run and immaculate header won Wigan its first FA Cup. In a year where The Football Association is doing all it can to add more luster to this cup competition that has become an afterthought for many top flight managers, they could not have asked for a better match and result. Unfortunately, along with the thrill of this all important victory came the bitter taste of defeat as the magic man himself, Roberto Martinez, failed to pull another Steve McQueen and saw Wigan relegated in a match against Arsenal just days later.

Extra Time: Wigan Athletic are the first ever club to win the FA Cup and be relegated in the same season.

3) Robin Van Persie’s Hat Trick wins United the Title

Robin Van Persie made the switch from Arsenal over the summer, and had an immediate impact with his new squad. He was unstoppable for United in the early going, netting a goal on his first shot, as well as a hat trick in his second career start for the Red Devils. Van Persie scored thirty goals in all competitions this season, including twenty-six to earn him The Golden Boot ahead of Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale, despite having a drought of ten matches without a goal in the middle of the season. It only seemed fitting that Sir Alex Ferguson’s last ever marquee signing net him his second hat trick of the season on the day the United clinched the title. This included in all likelihood the goal of the season, as he volleyed an exquisite forty yard ball from Wayne Rooney past a helpless Brad Guzan.

Extra Time: Robin Van Persie netted an even more impressive thirty goals in the Premier League last season to earn his first Golden Boot.

2) Gareth Bale’s Awards treble.

What can possibly be said of Gareth Bale, other than that the FA will lament that his parents could not have gotten intimate on the other side of the Bristol Channel? No doubt with this unbelievable playmaker in their squad, 1966 would be a one of a few celebrated years for fans of The Three Lions instead of one that hangs hauntingly over their collective heads. Bale’s twenty-one goals in league play and twenty-six in all competitions earned him a shot at the treble for the PFA Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year, and Football Writers Association (FWA) Player of the year award. It was the nature of these goals that truly earned him the right to be deservedly in the company of Cristiano Ronaldo as the only other player to claim all three awards in one season.

Extra Time: Of Bale’s twenty-six goals in all competitions, half of them came in games that Tottenham won by one goal or drew.

1) Sir Alex Ferguson

Possibly the greatest coach of all time called it quits earlier this month following a career that defied logic. In a time where coaches are changed almost as frequently as underwear, it is a shame to see a manager, who has been in charge for all but four months of my life, at the highest level of football, depart. Sir Alex’s tenure at Manchester United saw him take charge of squads that showcased some of the finest talent Europe has seen in the past quarter century. It is one thing to scout and pay for the best players in the world, it is another to take that unit and make it a functional, title winning, unit…just ask Roberto Mancini. Sir Alex Ferguson added thirteen league, five FA Cup, and two Champions League titles to a team that was in the wilderness for twenty years, not unlike the New York Yankees of the late seventies, eighties, and early nineties before Joe Torre. I am in no way a fan of Manchester United, but I challenge any true sports follower to argue with those numbers.

Extra Time: Sir Alex Ferguson’s time in Scotland is often forgotten. He led second division St. Mirren to promotion and a first division title. He also guided Aberdeen to four Scottish League titles, four Scottish Cup Titles, and a European Super Cup title.

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