Jim White

January’s bargain basement XI

Jim White

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Now that's over, we can look forward. And we know what comes in January...

A lot of moaning and whining by the managers of top clubs that the mid-winter transfer window offers no value for money; that the best players are not tempted to leave the best clubs; that only those who can offer Champions League fixtures in the spring will bring in the best, who, in any case, were they attracted from the best clubs, would be cup-tied.

This usually — at least on Merseyside - prefaces the signing of some stub-toed hacker for an inordinate sum of money just as the window slams shut.

But maybe that is because the managers of top clubs are looking in the wrong places. Perhaps if they scouted nearer to home they could find themselves a bargain.

Just to help them along the way, here is an XI constructed entirely of players from outside the top six which, if put together, would surely be contenders for a Champions League berth.

Perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Andre Villas-Boas, Harry Redknapp and Kenny Dalglish should remember the old sci-fi adage: they are out there. All you need to do is ask…

Playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, how about this for a team. And don't tell me any of them would not make the move if it was on offer.

Goalkeeper - Michel Vorm (Swansea)

His uncanny knack of saving penalties will be of less interest to top clubs (after all, according to Messrs McCarthy, Hodgson, Martinez et al, they never have any awarded against them) than his record of clean sheets. Eight so far this season is largely the reason Swansea have defied gravity in their first Premier League season.

Back four - Phil Bardsley (Sunderland)

Arguably the weak link in this side, due to a striking shortage of decent full backs in the Premier League (hence the recent excitement about Micah Richards). The Scottish international is nonetheless quick, powerful and blessed with substantial self-belief.

Chris Samba (Blackburn)

The only surprise is that he is still where he is and not giving some resolve, power and injury-proof resistance to Spurs's back line.

Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle)

Take note Vilas Boas, this is what David Luiz would look like if he could defend.

Leighton Baines (Everton)

Were Ashley Cole not around, the Everton stalwart would be the proud possessor of 50 international caps. And how Arsenal could do with a left back of his class.

Defensive midfield - Jack Rodwell (Everton)

Fabio Capello may have come late to the party, but everyone else was celebrating his potential years ago. Linked regularly with Manchester United, Sir Alex has never been in more urgent need of following the advice of his back page prompters.

Alejandro Faurlin (QPR)

Now that the ownership issues have been settled (he appears to be the property of Rangers) the Argentine can be celebrated for his play rather than vilified for the manner of his transfer. Revelling in the Premier League, Liverpool would be laughing all the way to the top five if they could arrange a swap with Jordan Henderson.

Attacking midfield - Matthew Etherington (Stoke)

Joey Barton apart (and his attractiveness to the top six was demonstrated in the summer) few people put in as accurate a cross as the Stoke man. And, given his hobbies, he could always use his slice of a transfer fee.

Cheick Tiote (Newcastle)

The man on whom Alan Pardew's well-being depends: keep hold of him this January and the spring will be a happy time. Allow the owners to cash in, Andy Carroll-style, on his prowess and freefall could follow.

Chris Brunt (WBA)

Another with the accuracy in his boots that could bring profit to better strikers. Fernando Torres, for instance, must look on and wonder why no-one passes to him like the Ulsterman could.

Forward - Demba Ba (Newcastle)

Pardew's summer steal has seen his value rise inordinately in the autumn. Everyone needs a goalscorer, and the former West Ham man has suddenly proved he is one.

Subs: Tim Krul (Newcastle), Phil Jagileka (Everton), Leon Britton (Swansea), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Charles N'Zogbia (Aston Villa), Darren Bent (Aston Villa)

Not that the managers of top clubs concern themselves with such things, but there is only one problem with such a squad: the dearth of English players.

The drought, it seems, extends even into the lower reaches of the Premier League.

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