Don’t write off the seasoned vets, people.
It’s 2019 and exponential advances in, well, pretty much everything have seen footballers remain in their physical prime for longer, often leading to elite performance while in their mid-30s. And while the physical condition of some is freakish, there’s no doubt that we will begin to see footballers playing into their late 30s at greater regularity.
Even those who play in the Premier League, generally seen as the most physically demanding league in Europe, are able to perform at an optimal level way beyond the ’30’ threshold.
Despite some slipping a little off the boil this season and some having emerged as late-bloomers, England’s top-flight remains rife with immense over-30 talent.
With that in mind, here’s 90min‘s best Premier League XI for the over-30s category based on the season so far.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Rui Patricio (GK) – While Ederson and Alisson have generally been seen as the best in the division in recent times, Wolves‘ Rui Patricio has proven to be a steady pair of hands since arriving from Sporting CP as part of Nuno Espirito Santo’s Portuguese revolution at Molineux. After eight clean sheets in his debut season, the 31-year-old has three in 13 games thus far as the Euro 2016 winner proves to be one of the Premier League’s finest between the sticks.
Cesar Azpilicueta (RB) – Full-back is undoubtedly the hardest position to pick from with managers often opting for youthfulness down the flanks. For the over-30s, Chelsea’s Azpilicueta has been the most impressive this season, but the Spaniard’s consistency has certainly disappeared from his game. Nevertheless, the 30-year-old, and some, has shown flashes of his fantastic prime on occasions – putting in a tremendous performance away at Ajax, also keeping Raheem Sterling quiet when facing Premier League champions Manchester City.
Chris Basham (CB) – The Sheffield United defender has to get in this side after helping the Blades to the third-best defensive record in the division. While Basham has been stout defensively, the 31-year-old also enjoys getting into the final third – crazy, I know – whether it be creating overloads down the flanks or getting into the box for a cross, Basham loves making a nuisance of himself deep in opposition territory. The genius mind of Chris Wilder, eh?
Jonny Evans (CB) – Typically seen as an average, above average at best, centre-half while at West Brom, Evans has taken his game up to another level for Leicester this season, forming a fantastic partnership with Caglar Soyuncu at the heart of the Foxes backline. Despite so many declining with age, the 31-year-old looks to be getting even better – if he can stay fit.
Erik Pieters (LB) – We weren’t exactly spoilt for choice at left-back so Burnley‘s Erik Pieters is the man who gets the nod. It’s fair to say that the Dutchman hasn’t been great this season, but he has played 11 of the Clarets’ 13 league games and has registered three assists – two coming on the opening day of the season, however. It’s Pieters contribution in the final third that just about separates him from Watford’s Jose Holebas.
Joao Moutinho (CM) – After somewhat struggling at the start of the season, 33-year-old Moutinho has come into his own in recent weeks – putting in a man of the match display in three consecutive Premier League games. The Portuguese international is still such a classy footballer in the middle of the park, possessing passing and set-piece abilities to die for.
James McArthur (CM) – As underrated players go, Crystal Palace‘s James McArthur may well top that list. The 32-year-old is a fine defender while also being a superb ball retainer which helps the Eagles establish some control in most of the games they play. He doesn’t contribute much in the final third, but the Scotsman has been the glue in a Palace side that, despite being 13th, has exceeded some expectations.
David Silva (CM) – He may be in his last season at the Etihad, but David Silva is still producing for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. While the intensity and demanding nature of the division has seen Silva’s minutes dwindle this year, the 33-year-old has remained his ever-creative self – scoring three times and assisting on five occasions. While he has struggled in the ‘big’ games as of late, the longtime City star still looks like he could play at a high-level elsewhere.
Willian (RW) – A player criminally underrated by his own fanbase, Willian has ably stepped up for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea this season, proving himself to be a positive role model for the youngsters coming through. The Brazilian has been a workhorse down the Chelsea right, becoming a key part of Lampard’s side when out of possession. In the final third, the 31-year-old has started brightly – making five goal contributions in the Premier League up to this point.
Jamie Vardy (ST) – Comfortably the easiest choice to make, Vardy is leading the goalscoring charts so far with 12 goals as Leicester have made a flying start to their 2019/20 campaign. The 32-year-old seems to be getting quicker and quicker as he’s continued to be such a threat in transition and anytime the ball is played in behind the opposition backline. Not only does he finish the Foxes’ chances off, but he’s turned into a little bit of a creator himself – registering four assists this season – proving himself to be a key cog in Leicester’s build-up play in the final third.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (LW) – Despite going off the boil in recent weeks, Aubameyang has scored eight goals this season in an Arsenal side that struggles to create chances under Unai Emery. The 30-year-old has improved on his all-round game from last season as he’s become more than just a mere poacher, certainly transforming into a more clinical finisher as well. His leadership abilities also persuaded Emery to give the Gabonese international the captaincy after Granit Xhaka was stripped of the armband.