Premier League XIs: Zola, Zaha and a great Z-team

Date published: Wednesday 8th July 2020 7:44 - Sarah Winterburn


We’ve reached the end of the Alphabet League sides, here’s the Z-Team…


Goalkeeper: Ron-Robert Zieler
A World Cup winner starts in goal for the Z-Team, although Ron-Robert Zieler did little more than keep the German bench warm in 2014. The former Manchester United youngster was Hannover 96’s first-choice keeper at the time of his Brazilian sojourn but made the move to reigning Premier League champions Leicester City at the start of the 2016-17 season. Zieler returned to the Bundesliga after just one year in England spent as a back-up to Kasper Schmeichel at the King Power Stadium. If you fancy a goalkeeper challenge, try naming the former Foxes midfielder eligible for the Z-Team who once had a stint in the nets for the club during a League Cup tie.


Right-back: Pablo Zabaleta
Whilst Zieler was getting comfortable on the sidelines at the Maracana in the 2014 World Cup final, Pablo Zabaleta was on the pitch trying to help Argentina to a seismic World Cup triumph in Brazil. Mario Gotze put an end to that dream but Zabaleta has plenty of club-level honours to make up for his international disappointments. One of the greatest right-backs of the Premier League era, he was part of two title-winning squads whilst at Manchester City and also lifted the FA Cup during a nine-year stay at the Etihad.


Centre-back: Kurt Zouma
Zabaleta’s inclusion means Chelsea right-back David Zappacosta will have to settle for a place on the bench but another familiar face at Stamford Bridge does make the side, with Kurt Zouma the front-runner in the race for a starting spot at centre-back. The French international played a minor role in the Blues’ title-winning triumphs of 2015 and 2017 but he has been a regular in the team under Frank Lampard this season.


Centre-back: Boris Zivkovic
Centre-back could well prove to be a weak area for the Zs in the Alphabet League, with former Croatian international Boris Zivkovic making the side despite his brief and unmemorable stay at Portsmouth back in the early noughties. Some defenders to miss out include Luciano Zavagno, Kamil Zayatte, Ronald Zubar, Ned Zelic and former West Brom player Gianni Zuiverloon.


Left-back: Christian Ziege
German international Christian Ziege arrived in England at the end of the nineties, signing for Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough at the start of the 1999-2000 season. He left the Riverside a year later and played in Liverpool’s historic 2000-01 campaign, although he lost his first-team place at Anfield towards the end of his stay with the Reds and moved south to join Spurs. Another defender with links to White Hart Lane takes a spot on the bench, with former Swiss international Reto Ziegler spending time in north London during the mid-noughties.


Right wing: Wilfried Zaha
Zaha isn’t exactly playing the finest football of his career right now but with him and Pablo Zabaleta on the same flank, the Z-Team boasts one of the strongest right sides in the Alphabet League. Consistently named as one of the best players outside the Big Six, Zaha continues to be the main attraction at Crystal Palace. The Ivorian’s sublime speed and trickery has provided fans at Selhurst Park with plenty of memorable moments over the last decade but even his talents may not be enough to catapult the Zs to the top.


Central midfield: Didier Zokora
A second Ivorian in the side, Didier Zokora is the country’s most capped player of all-time. His three-year spell in the Premier League with Spurs saw him pick up a League Cup medal before he swapped north London for Seville. Another player with over a century of caps gets a spot on the bench, with Greece’s triumphant Euro 2004 captain Theo Zagorakis spending a couple of years in England during the late nineties.


Central midfield: Oleksandr Zinchenko
Manchester City’s auxiliary left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko starts for the Zs in midfield. Pep Guardiola may have a penchant for fitting more attack-minded players into his backline but unfortunately for Z-Team player-manager Gianfranco Zola, he doesn’t have the luxury of such talented midfielders at his disposal. Chinese international Zheng Zhi, Elsad Zverotic, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and former Crystal Palace player Itzik Zohar are the back-up options.


Left wing: Boudewijn Zenden
A hero at Middlesbrough for his match-winning goal in the 2004 League Cup final, Zenden’s powerful, straight-down-the-middle penalty against Bolton Wanderers ensured the trophy went to Teesside for the first time ever. The Dutchman later played for Liverpool and Sunderland, ending his career with 180 appearances in the Premier League. Russian international Yuri Zhirkov is the back-up option at left wing, having spent a forgettable two seasons at Chelsea.


Forward: Gianfranco Zola
Hakim Ziyech will be eligible for the Z-Team next season and will be hoping his stay at Stamford Bridge is far more Zola than Zhirkov. Zola will have the responsibility of managing the Zs and he’ll surely be instructing his players to pass him the ball at every opportunity. The Italian maestro’s unrivalled talent made him one of the Premier League’s most exciting players during his seven-year stay in England and although he left before Chelsea’s most successful era, he remains an iconic figure at the club. Didn’t score many, mind.


Striker: Bobby Zamora
Bobby Zamora completes the Z-Team’s first XI, with 47 goals in 252 Premier League appearances. The former England international starts ahead of giant Serbian striker Nikola Zigic, Ysrael Zuniga and West Ham’s non-scoring Italian, Simone Zaza. Amr Zaki is another option, although Zola may not want to have the recalcitrant Egyptian around to mess with the heads of his fellow Zs.


James Wiles – whose Instagram has a whole load more XIs

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