London team of 2021: Saka, Mount and Rice are certs but does Kane creep in? Our writers pick their XIs

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  • Arsenal
    Arsenal
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Chelsea
    Chelsea
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  • West Ham United
    West Ham United
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  • Declan Rice
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Bukayo Saka
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Antonio Rüdiger
    Antonio Rüdiger
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Antonio Conte
    Antonio Conte
    Italian association football player and manager
 (Standard Sport)
(Standard Sport)

It has been an eventful year for London’s football clubs.

Chelsea won the Champions League, West Ham qualified for the Europa League, Tottenham have endured some painful times but are now brimming with enthusiasm about the future under Antonio Conte, while Arsenal end an up-and-down 12 months in the top four.

Crystal Palace have embarked on an exciting new era under Patrick Vieira and Brentford have been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League.

And there have been plenty of standout performers in the capital.

Jorginho finished third in the Ballon d’Or following a stellar year, Bukayo Saka has emerged a superstar and Declan Rice has taken his game to a new level.

But who makes the team of the year?

Here, our writers have chosen their best London-based XIs of 2021…

3-4-1-2: Mendy; Coufal, Silva, Rudiger; James, Rice, Jorginho, Saka; Mount; Antonio, Kane

Chelsea unsurprising dominate after winning the Champions League in a year when both Arsenal and Tottenham were largely underwhelming.

Edouard Mendy, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger were key elements of Thomas Tuchel’s formidable back line, while Reece James established himself as Europe’s most exciting wing-back.

Jorginho edges out team-mate N’Golo Kante, in part due to his success with European champions Italy. Mason Mount also merits a place at No10 for consistent excellence for club and country.

West Ham were last season’s surprised package and Vladimir Coufal – crowbarred into the back three – Declan Rice and Michail Antonio were their three standout players.

Rice also shone for England at the European Championship.

Bukayo Saka thoroughly deserves a spot for being a shining light for Arsenal and England but will have to deputise at left wing-back, while England captain Harry Kane creeps in, despite his poor start to this season.

3-4-4: Mendy; Christensen, Dawson, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell; Mount, Kane, Saka

My team is heavily populated by Chelsea players – but they did win the Champions League and, up until recent weeks, led the way in the Premier League.

I opted for Christensen ahead of Thiago Silva, just because he was such an unexpected success last season – particularly when covering for Silva.

Rudiger, I believe, has been the best defender in the country over the past 12 months, where as Dawson is just a proper, old-fashioned centre back, who has been so consistent for West Ham.

It was a tough decision to leave out Rice – but Jorginho was a European champion for club and country. He has to get in alongside Kante.

2021 was not a vintage year for Kane, but you cannot argue with his numbers.

4-3-3: Mendy; James, Thiago, Rudiger, Cresswell; Rice, Jorginho, Kante; Saka, Antonio, Mount

Unsurprisingly, given their success, this team is dominated by Chelsea players and they could have had further representation.

Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe was also close to gatecrashing the party and joining his team-mate Bukayo Saka in my XI.

Heung-min Son deserves a mention, while his Tottenham team-mate Harry Kane would’ve been closer if he hadn’t had a poor first half of the season.

Kieran Tierney at Arsenal also pushed Aaron Cresswell for the left-back spot.

A few players have made good claims this season, such as Aaron Ramsdale and Conor Gallagher, but they miss out as they lack a full year’s work to state their case.

3-4-3: Mendy; Rudiger, Silva, Cresswell; James, Rice, Kante, Saka; Mount, Smith Rowe; Antonio

This was perhaps one of the more straightforward London XIs to pick.

It has been a stellar year for both Chelsea and West Ham. Those two clubs make up all but two spots in my side, and could easily have had the lot were it not for some positive progress at Arsenal.

Edouard Mendy was a clear winner in goal, while the fact that the back three isn’t all Chelsea is testament to the form of Aaron Cresswell.

A nod goes to Jesse Lingard, who nearly got in ahead of Emile Smith Rowe, for his stunning and decisive run at West Ham.

4-3-3: Mendy; James; Silva; Pinnock; Cresswell; Rice, Kante, Jorginho; Mount, Saka, Toney

If I was picking this team to actually go out on the pitch, it would probably have eight or nine Chelsea players in it, but I wanted to recognise the achievements of a few different clubs over the past 12 months.

So, Aaron Cresswell and Ethan Pinnock start in my back four and Ivan Toney is up front, edging out Michail Antonio after his Championship record goalscoring tally finally got Brentford over the line and into the Premier League.

Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka have been magnificent for club and country and are the two non-Chelsea players in the capital who’d be nailed on to start if this side was lining up tomorrow.

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