Paul Macdonald from Football Critic picks out his Premier League best performing starting XI from 2019/20. See if you agree with the selections.
It's been a long, long season in the Premier League, but luckily the stats have been well kept by our friends at Football Critic - and they've dug deep from the entire season to produce their best starting XI from the season.
Some of the usual suspects and a few surprise inclusions, so let us know what you think of this team assembled here...
Alisson is by some distance the best all-round keeper in the Premier League and most likely in Europe. Untouchable since moving to Liverpool, his arrival has taken the Reds to the next level.
His 0.8 goals conceded per 90 is the joint-best in the division along with City rival Ederson, and the key marker of his importance to Liverpool is how they performed without him via injury or suspension - well, they go out of the Champions League to Atletico Madrid and look a far less secure proposition. Indeed Liverpool conceded in eight of the 10 matches in which Adrian started this season.
Ederson may have three more clean sheets, but he’s also played six games more. Though with United’s David de Gea troubles, and Chelsea’s doubt over Kepa, these two Brazilians are creating a gap between themselves and the rest in terms of completing all the functions of a modern goalkeeper.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold
The role of full-back at the top teams has evolved into something of a playmaker role, where the ability to pass, cross and dribble are almost more important than the ability to defend. In teams who keep the ball at home, like Liverpool, Alexander-Arnold is the best form of defence as he continues to evolve as a player.
Thirteen assists and 17 Big Chances Created places him only behind Kevin De Bruyne in the Premier League. His 10.7 crosses P90 is the most in the division, as is his 12.1 long passes P90. He assumes the role of quarterback from the right flank, has a superb relationship and understanding with Mo Salah and Liverpool’s offensive prowess is fundamentally different without him.
LB: Andrew Robertson
In a disrupted season it’s not been the best one for left-backs; the likes of Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea and Manchester City have consistently rotated, while Leicester’s Ben Chilwell started strongly but talk of a move sent his form very much off the boil.
For utter consistency it has to be Andrew Robertson. Every team needs a player like this, who is somewhat underestimated but continues to produce the goods and Liverpool’s system needs his tireless efforts.
But don’t sleep on his contributions - the third-highest assists behind TAA and De Bruyne (12), with more passes into the final third than his ultra-offensive team-mate.
CB: Virgil van Dijk
What can we say; a generational defender, one who, when he makes mistakes, they become back page news because they happen so rarely. His aberration against Arsenal recently is the only blot on an exceptional, imperious campaign, one in which he solidified his reputation as the finest central defender in the world.
In terms of reading the game and maintaining his composure, he simply has no equal, while his ability to step out with the ball and perform the role of a deep-lying playmaker is just as good. There’s no point in assessing tackles won, or interceptions, because he’s already in such a good position he doesn’t need these attributes. But when the ball is there to be won - his aerial win % and duels win % is better than any other centre-back in the division. He can play, but he can also battle.
CB: Harry Maguire
Joe Gomez only made 22 Premier League starts, while Aymeric Laporte also missed a long stretch through injury, ruling both of those men out, but the much-maligned Harry Maguire has begun to acclimatise to the step-up in standard and expectation of Manchester United.
He’s still far from perfect, and is still prone to mistakes but his overall contribution and leadership shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s in the top 10 in the league for every defensive metric: interceptions, recoveries, aerial win %, duels win %. Maguire is clearly more of a defender than a playmaker at the moment as United establish their tactical set-up, but it’s a presence that they needed and one that will get better with more minutes in red.
He is easy to criticise and can look cumbersome on occasion, but he’s been, at times, a top class defender this season.
MCR: Kevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne is so good because he’s a guy, in a world of ball circulation and ball retention, who is the one willing to attempt something special. And he’s the best midfielder in the world at this current moment because he invariably succeeds in his attempts.
The Belgian has created 34 Big Chances this season - he’s only started 32 matches. That’s a quite bewildering return which is double the second place, team-mate Riyad Mahrez on 17.
With 34 goals and assists, he is averaging 1.03 non-penalty goal contributions P90, which is bettered in the Premier League only by team-mate Sergio Aguero (1.05).
His huge 9.7 crosses P90 showcases De Bruyne’s prime skill, locating the corridor of uncertainty between defence and goalkeeper and exploiting it ruthlessly. Is he the Player of the Year? Any other season, the answer is probably yes.
Fabinho has been impressive for Liverpool, and Wilfred Ndidi may have outgrown Leicester by now, but Rodri’s role for City is a little underestimated - he answered a problem that needed answered - it wasn’t his fault that City’s other weakness, in defence, wasn’t fixed as well.
Only team-mate Oleksander Zinchenko averages more touches P90 than him in the entirety of the Premier League (104.8), while his 92.6 passess P90 on a completion rate of 93% are truly formidable numbers for a man whose prime role in the team is to reposition the opposition and give the ball to City’s many creative players, something he does with distinction, and he also plays 21.8 passes into the final third P90, something that most attacking midfielders in the division can’t achieve.
Easy for him to slip under the radar with the offensive talent ahead of him and the (lack of) defensive ability behind him, but Rodri has quietly had a quality first season in England and there will definitely be more to come.
MCL: Jordan Henderson
Henderson has landed the Football Writer’s Player of the Year because sometimes a man’s sheer presence in a team means so much more than their relative contributions to the starting XI.
Henderson is quite clearly no slouch in that department, and since Fabinho’s arrival shifted his midfield role he has performed to a level that some critics thought he was incapable of reaching. An intangible asset in many ways, controlling the tempo of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in a way that’s more noticeable when he’s not there than when he is and providing the role of captain which all other players are unilaterally behind.
On occasion the POTY award is given not for statistics but for influence over a great team doing great things, and in that regard Henderson is a prime candidate, one that can’t be left out of this team.
FW: Sadio Mane
Most Liverpool fans would identify Mane as their player of the season, no mean feat considering the number of Reds that make this XI, but he has moved into another dimension this season.
There may have been a case for Mo Salah, but Mane’s 0.59 non-penalty goals P90 exceeds that of his team-mate, while his conversion rate is 23% compared to Salah on 14.
Put simply, Salah has been a touch wasteful at times and perhaps a little too focused on winning the Golden Boot in the latter half of the season, while Mane has been laser-focused on providing wins for his team.
With Roberto Firmino also having a low-key season in front of goal, the onus has fallen on Mane and he has not let his side down.
FW: Danny Ings
22 goals, with just a single penalty, for a team that for the first part of the season at least were fighting for their lives, shines a light on how impressive Ings has been for Southampton.
His 0.67 non-penalty goals P90 is only surpassed by Sergio Aguero, Mason Greenwood and Raheem Sterling for players who have played a minimum of 1,000 league minutes, while his conversion rate of 24% is second only to Jamie Vardy. Indeed Vardy has a valid case to make the team, but his form has levelled off a little in 2020 while Ings has been consistently excellent for Southampton across the season.
His position at the front of the press, harrying defenders and winning the ball back high has led to many goals not only for himself, but for his team-mates. His finishing has been of the highest standard and who knows - barring injuries at Liverpool he could have been contributing to a title victory.
FW: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arsenal simply cannot afford to lose the goals of Aubameyang - he is just too essential to their team, and it’s another fantastic scoring season.
Playing either off the left or through the centre, he’s a constant attacking threat and still a formidable finisher. Of his 22 league goals, a whopping 11 have been decisive, which FootballCritic defines as the goal that changed the match state into the state in which it ended.
This essentially means that Auba scores goals that win Arsenal points - no player in the league has more decisive goals.
There’s been a late run from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, but Aubameyang’s consistent threat across the season ensures he is one of the most feared players in the league. With his Arsenal contract set to expire next summer, it’s a big moment for the club’s future to keep their prized asset.
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