By Tony Hughes
Arsenal and Leicester players dominate the Monday Night Football’s team of the season so far.
Four of Arsene Wenger’s second-placed side and three from Claudio Ranieri’s pace-setters are selected in the Sky Sports programme’s best eleven of the first half of the 2015-16 campaign.
Mezut Ozil, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin and, more controversially, Alexis Sanchez are named as well as in-form Leicester trio Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante.
Pundits Jamie Carragher and Thierry Henry revealed the team in the studio after covering Arsenal’s impressive 2-1 victory over Manchester City on Monday night, the last Premier League game before Christmas.
To mark a traditional midpoint in the domestic season, the two pundits took stock and agreed on the League’s outstanding performers in seven positions.
Viewers were asked to vote on the remaining four slots and one of the selections proved to be particularly controversial.
Alexis Sanchez, who sat out his side’s win last night with a hamstring injury that will sideline him until next year and was nominated for the XI by Henry, was selected ahead of West Ham playmaker Dimitri Payet.
Although now out with an ankle problem, the 28-year-old Frenchman was instrumental in the Hammers’ superb early form, which included away wins against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.
“That is a joke! Who is voting for that?” asked an incredulous Carragher. “How is he in there, Sanchez? I love him, he’s brilliant player but this season? No.
“I think Payet was brilliant at the start of the season. He’s missed out the last month, six weeks with the injury he had.
“The impact he’s had, goals and assists, but it wasn’t just his numbers but who he’s done it against. He hasn’t just come in and scored against the teams at the bottom, but the big sides too. He was outstanding.”
Team: Butland (Stoke); Bellerin (Arsenal), Smalling (Manchester United), Alderweireld (Tottenham), Monreal (Arsenal); Kante (Leicester), Barkley (Everton); Mahrez (Leicester), Ozil (Arsenal), Sanchez (Arsenal); Vardy (Leicester).
By Tony Hughes