Which Premier League club would have the best 5-a-side team?
Harry Howes | 1 April 2020
We’ve taken a look at how the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City would get on
We all miss football. And having an unforeseen mid-season break has inevitably led to us dreaming up fantasy scenarios.
Nobody knows if and when the Premier League season will finish. But we also don’t know which Premier League manager would come out on top in a Royal Rumble or which Premier League mascot would win in a race.
But it’s fun to imagine, right? So we’ve had a think about which Premier League team would field the best team in a 5-a-side scenario.
Like real life 5-a-side, they’ll need to adjust to new rules, including no slide tackling and no overhead height.
So, will it reflect the current table? Or will some players find it difficult to adjust to bouncing it off the walls, playing with a flat ball or having to wear a bib soaked in other people’s sweat?
THE TOP TEAMS
Line-up: Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah
Based on this season, Liverpool comfortably have the best squad. They’re 25 points clear at the top and are on track to win their first title in 30 years. The only selection headache Jurgen Klopp would have is narrowing his squad down to just five players.
Alisson goes without saying, having established himself among the world’s best goalkeepers in recent season. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch Liverpool boast arguably the best front three in football.
But would that make them too top heavy? Potentially for some teams, but not in Liverpool’s case. Mane, Firmino and Salah would have no trouble in tracking back with their endless energy. Besides, even if they did leak goals they’d still comfortably outscore most opponents.
Virgil van Dijk has transformed the Reds since joining but perhaps controversially, he’d only make Liverpool’s bench in 5-a-side. With no overhead height allowed, his imposing presence would be wasted and the defensive duties could be served by Alexander-Arnold, who offers more of a threat with his passing, running and goal threat.
Line-up: Ederson, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Sergio Agüero
Unlike we’ve seen this season, City would compete Liverpool in a small-sided game. While Ederson’s ability with his feet would have little impact, he’s still an excellent shot stopper and his distribution from his hands would be an asset, while Rodri would slot in to be the defensive enforcer at the back.
De Bruyne would continue to dominate the game, calmly playing through balls to the prolific Aguero. The Argentinian can finish from anywhere, while Bernardo’s ability to weave in and out of opponents, as well as his proclivity to finding space, puts him ahead of Raheem Sterling in the pecking order.
Line-up: David De Gea, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial
Despite their struggles in the Premier League in recent seasons, United would be a force to be reckoned with at 5-a-side. De Gea’s powers may be waning but his reflexes are second to none when it comes to getting low and blocking shots with his feet.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka would have been a shoo-in but we’ve taken away his main strength with no slide tackling. Positions change so often in small games, with teams often adopting a ‘follow your man’ approach, so the presence of an out-and-out defender isn’t always needed. Pogba and Fernandes pulling the strings behind a rampant and skilful frontline of Rashford and Martial would be a nightmare for most opponents.
For argument’s sake we’ve assumed everybody is fully fit and ordinarily Tottenham would have a strong squad with the likes of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli. But Jose Mourinho would inevitably sit them all on the edge of their box, limiting their threat.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have a squad full of attacking talent. But their lack of defensive-minded players would see them continue to ship countless goals and even at 5-a-side, they’d still find a way to down tools and get their manager sacked.
Line-up: Rui Patricio, Matt Doherty, Ruben Neves, Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez
Following another impressive season, Wolves ae chasing a place in the Champions League and they’d continue their form into the cage. Rui Patricio is a force in goal and in Doherty at the back they have both a competent defender and a regular goalscorer.
Neves would control the game in the middle, scoring long-range screamers for fun and regularly putting chances on a plate for Raul Jimenez. And few players are dispossessing Traore when he’s in full force.
Line-up: Vicente Guiata, Luka Milivojevic, Patrick van Aanholt, Wilfried Zaha, Jordan Ayew
Love him or loathe him, Zaha is near enough the perfect 5-a-side player. He knows every trick in the book and can twist his way past most defenders, he’s strong, quick and he can finish with both feet.
Zaha would happily dance through most teams on his own but luckily he links up almost telepathically with Van Aanholt and Ayew, whose pace and finishing ability make them threats in their own right. Meanwhile, Milivojevic can sweep up at the back and ping in efforts from range.
Line-up: Ben Foster, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Ismaila Sarr, Gerard Deulofeu, Troy Deeney
Watford? Really? It may be a bit left field given they’re fighting for survival. But they’re improved dramatically since Nigel Pearson took charge and, like Palace, they’ve got tricky, skilful players such as Deulofeu and Sarr who are invaluable at 5-a-side.
Doucoure is a Rolls Royce of a midfielder on his day and will put a shift in at the back, while Deeney’s strength up top will create plenty of chances on a small pitch. Plus, Pearson’s presence on the other side of the fence will likely intimidate most referees into awarding soft penalties.
Leicester are enjoying a fairytale season but their game plan relies a lot on Jamie Vardy’s pace in behind on the break, which is less effective on a smaller pitch.
Meanwhile, Sheffield United’s impressive campaign is unlikely to be replicated at 5-a-side. Chris Wilder’s side are organised but with no goalscorer or a standout player to dribble them out of tricky situations, they’d struggle to adapt.
Aston Villa could surprise a few with the likes of Jack Grealish and John McGinn, while Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron would be useful 5-a-side assets for Newcastle.