Chimbonda edges out Finnan in team of year

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The Independent Football

Pascal Chimbonda's inclusion in the Professional Footballers' Association's Premiership team of the year raised a few eyebrows - especially as the likes of Steve Finnan and Gary Neville missed out.

But the French defender is enjoying a stellar first season in the Premiership for Wigan, and even though the official ratings system places the Liverpool right-back Finnan a whisker ahead of Chimbonda, there is barely anything in it.

The Actim Index's team of the season so far has Finnan at right-back rather than Chimbonda, but to emphasise Wigan's impressive debut season, the Latics midfielder Jimmy Bullard makes the best XI of the campaign so far. He is 10th of all players in the Premiership's Actim standings, and bettered only by the overall leader, Frank Lampard, in the ranking of midfield players, and Bullard has achieved that status thanks to a fine week.

He was highly impressive against Aston Villa last week, scoring in the 3-2 win, and then unfortunate to finish on the losing side at Fulham on Monday night. He was a £275,000 signing from Peterborough three years ago and has proved well worth the money, while West Ham United are regretting the day they let him leave for London Road.

Bullard was recruited from non-League Gravesend as a 20-year-old in 1999, but he failed to make the grade at Upton Park. Chimbonda was another bargain buy by the Wigan manager, Paul Jewell, recruited from the French club Bastia for an undisclosed fee, said to be in the region of £500,000.

While Chimbonda was duly recognised by his fellow professionals, Bullard and Tottenham Hotspur's Michael Carrick lost out, even though they make the Actim team of leading performers. Chelsea's Joe Cole and Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo receive the PFA vote for the All-Star XI, even though they stand 26th and 54th respectively according to Actim.

His peers voted Wayne Rooney into their team, but Actim indicates that his Manchester United strike partner, Ruud van Nistelrooy, has been far more effective this season.

Thierry Henry features in both sides, as do the Chelsea trio of John Terry, William Gallas and Lampard, plus the Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, who was named PFA Player of the Year on Sunday.

The official Premiership statistics are produced through a system which gives each player a score according to the effectiveness of their performances, rather than a tally of goals, assists or saves.

Former professionals report live from the grounds and the final rating is reached via a mathematical formula. Goals, shots on target, corners, fouls, offsides, passes, tackles, blocks and clearances are all taken into consideration and each player adds to his points total with every game.

Jewell, meanwhile, suspects that the likely demise of his side's European dream may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The Latics can still snatch a Uefa Cup place but they lost ground with the defeat by Fulham and their remote chances of qualifying look even bleaker now.

But given their remarkable first season in the Premiership they will have few complaints at missing out, with Jewell more interested in bringing stability.

"We've had a fantastic season. People are talking about Europe but maybe a club of our size, which is in its first season in the Premiership, is not ready for Europe," he said. "We've come a long, long way and if it happens it will be fantastic. But in my opinion the most important thing is to build on the platform we've got and try to be stronger next season.

"We need to strengthen in every area. We are always looking to sign better players - I'm no different to any other manager in that respect. If I get offered a better centre-half I'll be interested in him. We've been looking for a while now to improve for next season."

PFA Premiership Team of the Year: Given (Newcastle), Chimbonda (Wigan), Terry (Chelsea), Carragher (Liverpool), Gallas (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Lampard (Chelsea), J Cole (Chelsea), Ronaldo (Manchester United), Henry (Arsenal), Rooney (Manchester United).

Actim Index Team of the Season (as of 25 April): Van der Sar (Manchester United), Finnan (Liverpool), Gallas (Chelsea), Terry (Chelsea), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Carrick (Tottenham), Gerrard (Liverpool), Bullard (Wigan), Lampard (Chelsea), Henry (Arsenal), Van Nistelrooy (Manchester United).

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