The Premier League team of the season… so far

We are halfway through the Premier League season so it’s time we start to make our assumptions as to who will end up earning a place in the PFA Team of the Year come the end of the campaign. Things could all change by May, however, these 11 players have been the league’s top performers in their position thus far. (Formation: 4-3-3)

 

GK – Dean Henderson (Sheffield United)

 

Never could we have imagined that Sheffield United, in their first season back in the top flight since 2007, would come into the new year in eighth place, ahead of the likes of Arsenal and Everton. As a club, Sheffield United have kept an impressive seven clean sheets so far, the same as current champions Manchester City and champions elect Liverpool. Manager Chris Wilder has organised his defence expertly, with Henderson being the man marshalling the back line. The shot-stopper, who is on-loan from Manchester United, has managed 52 saves so far this season and has earned his first senior call up to the England team. With David de Gea looking less convincing than usual this season, Manchester United fans may be wishing they had Henderson guarding their goal instead.

 

 

RB – Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

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Trent Alexander-Arnold scored Liverpool’s fourth goal as they swept Leicester City aside on Boxing Day.

Alexander-Arnold just hasn’t slowed down. The academy graduate has two goals and eight assists to his name so far this season, as well as earning six of Liverpool’s seven clean sheets. He has been part of a team that hasn’t lost a Premier League game in over a year and is inspiring a new generation with his mission to make playing as a “Gary Neville” popular amongst aspiring footballers. A strong shout could be made for Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira, but when you consider that Alexander-Arnold was Liverpool’s most influential player in their 4-0 win over Leicester from right back, you can’t do anything but appreciate the talent.

 

 

CB – Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

 

This was a given, really. Since moving to Liverpool at the end of 2017, Van Dijk has established himself as one of the best centre backs in world football. Van Dijk shares the accolades with Alexander-Arnold, in that he’s been an almost ever-present member of this dominant Liverpool side and has done so well individually, that he finished second only to Lionel Messi in 2019’s Ballon d’Or rankings. It’d be easy to say that Van Dijk is included in this team down to Liverpool’s undefeated start, but even if they had slipped up a couple of times, any fan of the Premier League can tell you he’s the finest defender in the country by a mile.

 

 

CB – Çaglar Söyüncü (Leicester City)

 

One of the surprises of the season has come in the form of Leicester’s replacement for Harry Maguire. Söyüncü has been fantastic since being promoted into the starting team by manager Brendan Rodgers, following Maguire’s £85 million departure to Manchester United in the summer. It’s very rare that a team can sell their best defender, receive a substantial fee for him and improve their defence without signing a replacement. Söyüncü has held everything together at the back this season, allowing a free-scoring Leicester to seriously push for a top four spot come the end of the season. Dominant in the air, Söyüncü has won 73 aerial duels this season, with his only goal being a headed finish. He’s missed just one game so far this season, which shows how crucial he is to Rodgers’ side and will be a key part of their top four challenge this season.

 

LB – Andy Robertson (Liverpool)

 

You can’t have one without the other, right? Like Alexander-Arnold, Robertson has taken it upon himself to make the full back position exciting and has been incredibly successful in doing so. The Scotland captain is one of the most popular players in Liverpool and has been excellent on the pitch, grabbing a goal for himself and setting up his teammates six times so far. His overlapping runs down the left flank have become customary and his wicked deliveries into the box for incoming forwards are near perfect. Despite Leicester left back Ben Chilwell having an excellent campaign in his own right, Robertson just edges him in terms of being the best in his position.

 

 

CM – Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)

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After missing most of last season through injury, Kevin de Bruyne has been Manchester City’s standout player this campaign.

Arguably the best player in the league after Eden Hazard left Chelsea for Real Madrid at the end of last season, De Bruyne has continued to pull the strings in the City midfield this campaign. The Belgian playmaker has had his eye on Thierry Henry’s long-standing assist record for some time and is a good position to get close this season, racking up 12 assists so far. He’s also chipped in with seven goals, scoring a couple of trademark long range rockets in the process. While City haven’t hit the level they’ll have wanted to at this point in the season, De Bruyne has remained one of the most consistent performers in manager Pep Guardiola’s side.

 

 

CM – Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea)

 

In a strange, transitional season, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has trusted the youngsters and his faith has been paid off, with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori becoming well established within the starting eleven. However, Mateo Kovacic has been the Blues’ best player this season and they have looked significantly worse off whenever he hasn’t started. During the Croatian midfielder’s first season at the Bridge, many fans weren’t convinced due to his lack of goals or assists. Even now, he rarely contributes to his team’s goalscoring exploits, assisting only three times and scoring just once. But Kovacic offers something different altogether. He’ll receive the ball from the deeper-lying Jorginho and drive at the opposition defence, using quick feet and silky skill to get further forward. His ball retention is fantastic, recovering the ball 111 times so far this season. Kovacic’s presence in Lampard’s midfield trio is absolutely crucial if the Blues are to finish in the top four this year.

 

 

CM – James Maddison (Leicester City)

 

James Maddison caught the attention last season through his positive play in both attacking and defensive senses. He offered as much in his own half as he did in the opposing half. However, this season, he’s been grabbing headlines as Brendan Rodgers has moulded him into one of the most promising playmakers in the country. Maddison has almost equalled his goal tally of last season (seven), being one goal shy in 16 less games and while he may share the same number of assists as Kovacic, he’s been completing more passes per match than he was last season, showing increased involvement for the 23-year-old this season. Maddison also has the ability to take a game into his own hands – an example of this can be found at Stamford Bridge in the second game of the season, where he scored the equaliser and provided his teammates with numerous chances to earn all three points. One of the most exciting players in the league, he’ll be keen to continue his excellent form at Leicester – if they can keep a hold of him, that is.

 

 

 

RW – Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

 

For a 25-year-old, it’s strange to think that this is Raheem Sterling’s ninth season in the Premier League. Granted, his first season consisted of three substitute appearances but still, he’s been playing at the top level for near enough a decade. The most impressive thing about Sterling is that he’s gotten better every single year, with his time spent under manager Pep Guardiola transforming him into a truly world class player. This year, Sterling is on track to have the highest scoring season of his career – the winger has scored 11 times in 20 appearances, equating to more than a goal every other game. As his team’s top scorer (Sergio Agüero is on 10 goals), Guardiola will be looking to Sterling to lead the challenge if City are to get anywhere near Liverpool come the end of the season.

 

 

LW – Sadio Mané (Liverpool)

 

A fairly obvious inclusion and a very realistic guess for the end of season team of the year, Mané has been as excellent as ever this season. Having registered eight assists so far this season, he has already well surpassed last season’s tally of three, showing that Liverpool’s goal scorers have been more diverse this season. That being said, Mané himself has netted 11 times so far, half of last season’s impressive tally of 22 goals. Arguably the best player across Liverpool’s front three, Mané has already played a huge part in Liverpool’s title bid and, should the trophy end up at Anfield, he could well be considered as one of the best players at the club in modern times.

 

 

ST – Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

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Leicester CIty’s Jamie Vardy is on track for a 30-goal season at the age of 33.

It doesn’t make much sense but, by a considerable margin, a 33-year-old striker has been the most prolific goalscorer in the Premier League this season. Yet, here we are. Jamie Vardy has always been a very good striker and when it was revealed that Brendan Rodgers planned to build his Leicester team around the Englishman, many expected a decent return. However, I don’t even think Vardy himself could have predicted this. 17 goals in 19 games and he came close to breaking the record that he set in Leicester’s 2015/16 season for scoring in consecutive games. Without Vardy’s goals, Leicester would be in a much worse position compared to where they are now and if they hope to finish in the top four, they’ll need Vardy to continue scoring the way he has been.

 

 

 

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