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Merseyside XI: Everton and Liverpool FC's team of 2012

by Richard Buxton. Published Fri 28 Dec 2012 11:13, last updated: 28/12/12

Most will remember 2012 as the year the Olympics came to London but on Merseyside, it was one to savour for football aficionados with Liverpool and Everton in close competition in both the Premier League and the FA Cup. Here, we look at the city's outstanding players of the year.

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

It has hardly been a vintage year for goalkeepers on Merseyside. Both Pepe Reina and Howard have, by their own high standards, been poor in between the sticks. And though Brad Jones has excelled as Anfield's understudy, a lack of regular action sees Howard take the number one jersey.

Right-back: Glen Johnson

Defence may be considered the best form of attack but, not so long ago, it seemed that Johnson was capable of one but not the other for Liverpool. Infrequent stints at left-back, largely out of necessity, have turned the England international an accomplished all-round defender.

Centre-backs: Daniel Agger and Phil Jagielka

A case of 'what if' has lingered over Agger's Liverpool career, largely due to injuries as well as the preference of one-time manager Roy Hodgson. But last season showed what the Denmark international can offer as he enjoyed his longest injury-free spell that was reflected in a strong partnership with Martin Skrtel, who narrowly misses out on selection, not to mention an extended run of the classy performances that have become commonplace during his six years at Anfield.

John Terry's departure from the England fold has allowed Jagielka to announce his arrival on the international scene by rekindling his understanding with former Everton team mate Joleon Lescott. But it is merely a continuation of the 30-year-old's impressive form at club level, where his leadership qualities and never-say-die attitude typifies the Blues' solid back line.

Left-back: Leighton Baines

Another to benefit from the dwindling stock of the Chelsea old guard, Baines is proving more than competent successor to the mild-mannered and never controversial Ashley Cole for the Three Lions. His regular source of goals and chance creation has seen him hailed by some as the Premier League's best left-back and kept Everton in the hunt for European qualification this season.

Right-wing: Raheem Sterling

Liverpool always knew Sterling was destined to reach the very top despite an unrealistic level of expectancy from the Anfield faithful when he was sent on in the death throes of Kenny Dalglish's reign out of sheer desperation. This season, however, the diminutive winger has already become one of the Reds' shining lights. And with his first senior England outing last month, the 18-year-old's ability to weave through opponents with ease will be a regular sight for years to come.

Central midfielders: Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini

Lucas Leiva's extended lay-off has allowed Everton counterpart Gibson to step out of the shadows, and his talismanic qualities have yet to elude him as the midfielder is yet to finish a game on the losing side since his arrival. His prolonged absence at the start of the season was sorely felt at the heart of the Blues' midfield but has since restored stability in front of the back four of late, which proved key in the late win over Tottenham earlier this month.

Few would have envisaged Fellaini would emerge as one of the outstanding candidates of the current Premier League campaign, but the midfielder has always possessed that quality. Criticisms of his physical style in his early days at Everton threatened to overshadow his true potential yet the hair-raising Belgian has used his stature to his advantage and has become the key driving force off the shoulder of Nikica Jelavic.

Left-wing: Steven Pienaar

Moyes often credits Everton's resurgent form since the turn of the year to his captures in the transfer market but seasoned Goodison match goers would contest that it was actually the return of Pienaar, not Landon Donovan, who 'started it all off'. Leaving Merseyside a year prior was a wrench for the South African but he returned from Spurs far better than any could have imagined. Admittedly he tailed off in mid-September but has since returned to form.

Strikers: Nikica Jelavic and Luis Suarez

If anything epitomised the 2011/12 campaign on Merseyside, it was a tale of two strikers.

How Liverpool would have loved to draft in Jelavic to alleviate their goal drought. The Croatian's one-touch finishes between January and May were devastating and, whisper it, reminiscent of some of Anfield's finest marksmen. This season, however, defenders are wiser to Jelavic but the lone striker has learned to add variety to his game, often drifting into wide positions to create goal scoring opportunities rather than prosper from them.

If 2011 had been an annus horribilis for Suarez, this year was in danger of becoming the never-ending hangover as his insistence on continually dredging up his racism row with Patrice Evra threatened to characterise his Liverpool career. But since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers, the Uruguayan has shown signs of recapturing his early Anfield performances and has shouldered the burden of being the club's only recognised senior striker until the transfer window reopens next month.



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"Well said Darren but just to show there is no bias here, Reina must've been bad if Howard gets in ahead of him." Steve1985, Merseyside around 1 year, 11 months ago

"Mirralas has been way ahead of Sterling on the right wing, A case of trying to balance things up a bit instead of being 100% Honest - COYB !" Darren Cowzer, Dublin Ireland around 1 year, 11 months ago

 
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