Top Five New Premier League Partnerships, featuring United & Liverpool hotshots
Football is a team game, and even as individuals like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi steal the headlines and break records time and time again, they still require ten others behind and around them in order to showcase their extraordinary talent.
Similarly, most teams are built around partnerships all over the pitch, whether in the supposedly more important central areas or down the flanks where two-on-ones are a constant facet of the game. These are then the top 5 new outfield partnerships for this season.
Jan Vertonghen & Toby Alderweireld – Tottenham Hotspur
Communication is key in central defensive partnerships. As both hail from Belgium, language should not be a problem. Toby Alderweireld may be the newcomer to the Spurs backline, but he is no stranger to the Premier League having spent last season on loan at Southampton. Vertonghen is a seasoned professional at White Hart Lane, and vice-captain of the team behind goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Even though this new defensive partnership plays for the same country, Alderweireld is usually deployed at right-back, as Manchester City star Vincent Kompany is the undoubted leader in Belgium’s central defence. Vertonghen would have been deployed on the other flank for Belgium had it not been for a season-long injury to former Arsenal man Thomas Vermaelen, currently starring for FC Barcelona.
With the long-serving Vertonghen having to suffer through calamitous defensive partners like Younes Kaboul, Vlad Chiriches and Federico Fazio in recent seasons, he will be mightily relieved to have his countryman alongside him. The duo can now continue where they left off from their Ajax days and form a formidable telepathic relationship. Along with the world-class Lloris behind them, Spurs should be on course to significantly improve upon their defensive record.
Jordan Henderson & James Milner – Liverpool
With the departure of a legend, in comes a former title rival in the form of experienced pro James Milner. To that end, there will only be a slight adjustment required for new skipper Jordan Henderson. Though the former Sunderland man will now be the undoubted leader of this new Liverpool side, Henderson will be able to rely upon the old head of Milner to guide him and the team through the post Steven Gerrard era.
The England internationals have similar qualities. Both are highly energetic and hardworking, and both have history of playing in wide areas before. Now, the duo have to find a way to dominate central midfield, and provide the platform for those ahead to have the freedom to create.
Basically, both Henderson and Milner are pure central midfielders. They are neither offensive nor defensive specialists. They will have to work in tandem to pick their opportunities to drive forward from midfield or sit deep when required. If the duo can do so, they will form a successful partnership; if they don’t succeed, Reds fans will still know they will have one of the hardest working midfields in the land.
Branislav Ivanovic & Pedro Rodriguez – Chelsea
The arrival of the former Barcelona winger will likely see Willian move into a No.10 position. Pedro Rodriguez can play on either flank, but with Player of the Year Eden Hazard occupying the left side spot, the World Cup winning man will almost certainly be deployed on the right flank. Behind Pedro is new Chelsea vice-captain Branislav Ivanovic.
On paper, the duo can form a lethal yet defensively solid right hand side for the Blues. The new Spanish winger is capable enough to hug the touchline and swing in dangerous crosses, with Ivanovic rushing into the penalty area to add numbers to any Chelsea attack. Conversely, Pedro’s forte is making diagonal runs into the penalty box, from out to in, allowing the Serbia right-back overlapping and crossing from the byline.
Both are able to mix their game up, which would add a measure of unpredictability to the Chelsea right flank. On the flip side, Pedro has the tenacity to track back and keep his shape whenever the Blues is under pressure, and he will be tasked with doubling up with Ivanovic whenever the Blues is no the back foot. Together, the potential for a deep chemistry between the two experienced campaigners is one Blues fans will hope comes to fruition sooner rather than later.
Luke Shaw & Memphis – Manchester United
The former Southampton trainee suffered a difficult first season at Old Trafford, even having his manager brand him as overweight. This time around, Luke Shaw has managed to recover the form from his Saints days, and is starting to look like the buccaneering left-back United fans would like to see.
In front of him is the new man from PSV Eindhoven. Memphis managed 20-odd goals in Holland last season, prompting his move to England, and is capable of nailing down the left wing position for years to come. The Netherlands international is famed for cutting in and launching powerful drives at goal, and should dovetail well with the overlapping Shaw hugging the left touchline.
Shaw will be tasked to draw opposition right-backs away, so as to provide the necessary space needed for Memphis to work his magic. The duo are still very young and both have much potential, and if they continue on their current upward trajectory, United could have two world beaters on one flank for the best part of the next decade.
Jamie Vardy & Shinji Okazaki – Leicester City
This partnership choice may be a little left-field, but they could be the overlooked striking duo that sends Leicester City into the top half of the table this season. Jamie Vardy’s exploits from last season is well-known, with England call-ups and a competitive international start just rewards for his industrious displays during Leicester’s fight against the drop earlier this calendar year.
Alongside him will be Japanese international Shinji Okazaki, signed from German side Mainz. Okazaki is in a similar mould to Vardy. Diminutive, full of pace and very direct. The Japanese is a slightly more clinical finisher than Vardy, as the English international prefers to run down the channels.
Vardy and Okazaki will be key as the spearhead of Leicester attacks. They will be required to defend from the front, harrying opposition defenders while being the first to react to turnover of plays and counter-attacks. Their pace will worry opposition managers, who will likely sit slightly deeper to prevent getting caught out by the duo.
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