Well I wanted a new feature this year and, after a long thought process (about a minute or so) I opted for the one that would cause me to get laughed at/yelled at/argued with the most (and guess what? that’s the point). So tell me who I missed, who I should watch out for, and ways to make this more efficient. There is a bit of bias involved and understandably a Thierry Henry could go on there, but let’s just say this is heavily based on statistics for the current month. Winter breaks in Italy/Germany make for a rather England/Spain-centric presence in this month’s rankings.
Samuel Eto’o – Barcelona/Cameroon (F)
No one can argue against Eto’o as the Barca star made his club and country extremely happy in January. Three goals for the club as he fought to stay a couple days longer in Barcelona so as not to lose more ground to La Liga leaders Real Madrid. In doing so, Eto’o contributed three goals in 2 La Liga wins as Barca managed to close the gap marginally. He then reported for international duty and in the opening (and jarring) loss to Egypt, Eto’o provided a consolation brace. The Indomitable Lions then recovered and dispatched of Zambia (5-1) and the Sudan (3-0), with Eto’o providing three more goals and securing the African Nations Cup All-Time Leading Goalscorer title.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United (F)
NINE goals for the 22-year old. It’s hard to believe that only a year and a half ago Ronaldo was almost on his way out of Manchester after a World Cup spat with Wayne Rooney. Not to mention, Ronaldo over the past several years has been oft-criticized for his over-exaggerated play, diving, you name it – he’s been scrutinized for it. January 2008 proved to be the world’s acknowledgment that between him and Kaka there is no one better right now. And 27 goals in 28 games this season proves that…many of them in clutch circumstances. His main victim? Who else but Newcastle…a hat-trick spelled the end for Big Sam but Kevin Keegan hasn’t had much luck either. Goals – 1/5, 1/12 (3), 1/19, 1/27 (2), 1/30 (2)
Emmanuel Adebayor – Arsenal (F)
The powerful Arsenal striker has had one hell of a January (and a lot of it has do with the fact that he has Cesc and Hleb in the midfield feeding him). Eight goals in total – 5 in EPL play and 3 in the domestic cups. Adebayor’s victim of the month was Newcastle. In the span of three days, Adebayor has scored three times against the down and out Magpies, eliminating them from the FA Cup and pushing them further down the EPL table. Arsenal now sits at the top of the standings and look poised to do more damage as long as the Togan’s form continues. Goals: 1/1, 1/12, 1/19 (2), 1/22, 1/26 (2), 1/29
Ariel Ibagaza – Mallorca (MF)
The veteran Argentinian grabbed himself a career-clinching moment with an amazing chip over a sprawling Iker Casillas to knock Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey on January 16th. He also struck a goal in the next round vs. Getafe but Mallorca still crashed out on away goals. Regardless, Mallorca – thanks to Ibagaza and the play of Juan Arango – have secured a spot mid-table after a decent January. By no means is this guy world class, but his play this month warrants a spot in the midfield – check out his chip on Madrid here.
Alessandro Mancini – AS Roma (MF)
The Brazilian stayed put in Rome despite heavy transfer speculation and the Biancorossi went 5-0-1 in the month of January with Mancini leading the charge. The winger provided three game winning goals – vs. Palermo, vs. Sampdoria, and vs. Atalanta (who were on a high after a thrilling defeat of AC Milan in the Coppa Italia). Mancini has been more aggressive this year and demanding of the ball which is why Roma sit 8 points out from Serie A leaders Inter Milan instead of mid-table. Goals: 1/13, 1/16, 1/26, 1/29
Michael Bradley – Heerenveen (MF)
I understand you look around at the players in this team and you say, no way, but no one can argue with the fact that Bradley scored in every Heerenveen game this January. The 20-year old is a main reason at Heerenveen’s heightened form. The Frisians are on a four game win streak and unbeaten in five for the month. Then again, you put Andres Iniesta in Bradley’s position at Heerenveen and maybe he can do the same thing…but maybe not. (Okay there might be a little bit of American bias at work here…) Goals: 1/13, 1/19, 1/23, 1/26 (2)
Shaun Wright-Phillips – Chelsea (MF)
Thanks to injuries early in the season for the Blues, pint-sized Wright-Phillips has seemed to solidify a starting position on the right side. His presence has done more than help as Chelsea went 8-0 this January, determined to keep pace with Manchester United and Arsenal. If he wasn’t scoring goals, he was setting them up and at long last, SW-P is repaying Abrahamovich for his investment in him. Goals: 1/8, 1/12, 1/26
Joleon Lescott – Everton (DF)
Manchester United and Arsenal were contemplating bids for Lescott during the transfer window, but the forward promise of the Toffees kept him firmly entrenched at Goodison Park. Lescott makes this month’s team despite his horrific own goal which fellow January Best XI selection Shaun Wright-Phillips influenced (as he vaulted over Lescott’s back). The former Wolves man put up two big goals against Tottenham and Wigan in Everton’s quest for European football again and a spot in the Big Four.
Ezequiel Garay – Racing Santander (DF)
Racing Santander has surprised the hell out of people this year and one of the biggest reasons for that is this 21-year old Argentinian. Garay already looks as if he’s been playing in La Liga for years as he almost shut down a potent Barcelona attack in Racing’s only loss of January (1-0 vs. Barcelona). The Newell’s Old Boys product also operates as a secret offensive weapon which has produced 9 goals in only 35 games with Santander. Garay has yet to be called back into the Argentina national team set-up after a August 22, 2007 appearance vs. Norway. I think a high-profile move is in the books first.
Rio Ferdinand – Manchester United (DF)
Ferdinand along with Vidic made ManYoo’s January a well-fought one. Rio started all 6 January matches, helping secure 5 shutouts against notable opponents – Portsmouth, Aston Villa, and a 6-0 drubbing of Newcastle (in which he also grabbed himself a goal off the volley). United still sits behind Arsenal in the table with the long-awaited Man Utd/Arsenal EPL match-up coming in April. Fans will get a preview, however, as they face off in the FA Cup this February 16th.
Iker Casillas – Real Madrid (GK)
An inspiring performance against Real Zaragoza has become all too commonplace for Real Madrid’s Casillas that we often forget to praise him for it. Singlehandedly, Casillas kept Real from self-destruction this January as their form dipped noticeably.
Bench (7): Diego Milito – Real Zaragoza (7 goals), Alexandre Pato – AC Milan (4 goals), Tim Howard – Everton (4 shutouts, 4 goals allowed), Barry Ferguson – Rangers (3 goals as Rangers go 5-0 for the month), Anderson Nene – Monaco (4 assists), William Gallas – Arsenal (4 shutouts, despite the 5-1 FA Cup loss to Tottenham)
Ryan and Jeff might want to chime in with their picks in the comments section. As should you…
Filed under: CHI's Best XI, Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Casillas | Tagged: Alessandro Mancini, Ariel Ibagaza, Emmanuel Adebayor, Ezequiel Garay, Joleon Lescott, Michael Bradley, Rio Ferdinand, Samuel Eto'o, Shaun Wright-Phillips |