Sterling, Mane… Doherty: My Premier League Team of the Season
With the season reaching its end, it’s that time of the campaign when awards are handed out. Whether individual or collective. Whether understandable or the cause of outrage (it’s always both), gongs are handed out.
The PFA Player of the Season nominees have been released, as well as the Young Players list, and the team of the campaign, all of which has resulted in its own level of atrocity. Hence, in keeping with causing backlash and exclamatory remarks, here’s my team of the season:
Goalkeeper: Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham)
Measuring goalkeepers hardly has any straightforward metric, and it’s far from binary. While the shot-stoppers in the lower reaches of the table mostly deal with, well, shot-stopping, the top six goalkeepers have to work more on concentration. The goalkeepers of the top two in the league (Alisson and Ederson) have 18 and 16 clean sheets respectively, while in comparison, Lukasz Fabianski has five.
But that’s by no means the only way of judging a goalkeeper’s performance, just because you have the best defence or defensive record doesn’t necessarily make you best at defending. Alisson and Ederson so far have a combined 117 saves. Fabianski, meanwhile has 133, more than any other ‘keeper. That may also not be the yardstick for measuring the top goalkeeper, but the consistency and impact of the Polish goalkeeper on a less-than defence can’t be overlooked. He’s made just one error that’s led to a goal this season. By contrast, Alisson had made three.
Right-back/Wing-back: Matt Doherty (Wolves)
Honourable mentions to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (very honourable mentions). But Irishman Matt Doherty is arguably the most underrated player in the Premier League. He may have less assists than Alexander-Arnold, less tackles than Wan-Bissaka, and less clean sheets than either of them, but Doherty has managed four goals and four assists this season, alongside 61 tackles and 50 interceptions. Also, he has been very much overlooked.
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Responsible for a defence that has kept 18 league clean sheets, lost just once, and is challenging for the title. But to simply dwell on those stats won’t even come close to doing Virgil van Dijk justice. There’s the fact that he’s a leader in the Liverpool defence, and looks incapable of having a bad game. It also says something about the Dutchman that, for all his defensive prowess this season, he’s only committed 12 fouls.
Centre-back: Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
His form may have gone off the spotlight a bit of late, but there’s no denying the impact Aymeric Laporte has had since joining City in January 2018. With John Stones having been inconsistent, Vincent Kompany inevitably not the Kompany of old, and Nicolas Otamendi not quite an epitome of security, the Frenchman has been the constant in City’s backline. Helped in attaining 14 of the 16 clean sheets amassed so far, Laporte has only committed 20 fouls this season. He’s also managed to help out at the other end, with two goals and two assists. It bothers on absurd that he still doesn’t get a look in French national side.
Left-back/Wing-back: Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
Robertson has looked nigh-on imperious at left-back for Liverpool this season, improving from last season’s impressive showing. 75 tackles for the Scotsman this season, and a continuously tireless display, he also has 11 assists in the league – only three other players have more.
Midfield: Fernandinho (Manchester City)
First off, the bare stats. No City player has made more interceptions, tackles, or won more aerial battles. Only one other City player has made more clearances. But the stats don’t do him justice. Watch Manchester City with him on the pitch, and watch City without him around, quite a different entity – it says a lot that a club can look quite good without a player and yet lack something massive. Watch him run around the entire pitch, rolling in the mud for City, and turning a 4-3-3 into a practical 4-1-5. If he hadn’t missed games in late December, they might wrapped up another league title by now. And, astonishingly, he turns 34 soon.
Midfield: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
If Fernandinho is the most vital cog in City’s wheel, then Bernardo Silva is arguably a close second. It says a lot that City have spent most of their season without their most talented player in Kevin de Bruyne, and have barely missed him, thanks to the Portuguese. Seven goals and seven assists in the league, his defensive and ball-winning contribution is only highlighted in 38 tackles. Just ask Pep Guardiola about him. ‘I love him’, the manager once said.
Midfield: Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
Honourable mention to go to Christian Eriksen’s teammate Moussa Sissoko, who’s had a top season. Eriksen, himself, has seen his form dip of late, but that’s mostly because a thin squad means he’s had to appear in almost every game. Yet, it says a lot he’s still coming up with the goods in this period. The Dane has scored seven times this season, while directly creating a further 12. And he’s still criminally underrated.
Attack: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
He’s improved in leaps and bounds this season, and in the final stretch has arguably become City’s most crucial player. Amidst the public prejudice he’s subjected to, created by the media, Raheem Sterling continues to thrive. 17 goals and 10 assists in the league hardly tells the whole story.
Attack: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
For all the talk surrounding which one of Van Dijk and Sterling should be the player of the year, Sadio Mane has been overlooked. When Liverpool’s fluidity went missing, and the goals from the frontmen dried up a while back, Mane kept plugging away, and continues to do so. Teammate Mohamed Salah has scored more goals, but the Senegalese has arguably bagged the most crucial ones.
Attack: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
For the first time since joining the Premier League in 2011, Sergio Aguero makes the PFA Team of the Year. 19 league goals tell you the number he’s scored, but not how scores them, or how crucial they are. Eight assists highlight how much of an all-round player he continues to be. His importance to City borders on indispensable.
Kunle Ajao63 Posts
Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not