With two full days in between the first half of the Premier League season and the second, and with no Christmas Eve or Christmas Day football to indulge in, it is time to reflect on the first four-plus months of the campaign. Specifically, it’s time to look back at the individuals who have lit up the season’s first 19 games.
But rather than hand out midseason awards, we’ve decided to be as inclusive as possible. Rather than pick a player of the season – Kevin De Bruyne, duh – or a manager of the season – Pep Guardiola, duh – we’ve followed the American college football model. Welcome to FC Yahoo‘s All-Premier League teams.
We’ve picked out a full first 11 based on 2017-18 season performances to date. But we haven’t stopped there. We’ve picked a full second 11 as well. And then a third. And a fourth.
These are not necessarily the 44 best players in the Premier League. They’re broken down by position, and selected solely based on their play in 19 (or fewer) league matches. Availability matters, so guys like John Stones and Paul Pogba, who would otherwise be first-team candidates, have been bumped down the list.
But there’s nothing scientific about this. It’s purely subjective. So please do tweet your grievances @HenryBushnell, and select your own teams of the half-season. But only after you scrutinize ours first:
There’s a legitimate argument to be made for Ederson above De Gea. We’ll stick with the Spaniard’s acrobatic saves and lightning-quick reactions on the first team, but the Brazilian’s distribution and through-ball sweeping have been a joy to watch. Behind them, Courtois is almost a default pick. Pope has been playing out of his mind. The only keepers who can have any complaints about their exclusions are Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) and Jordan Pickford (Everton).
First team: Cesar Azplicueta (Chelsea), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)
Second team: Kyle Walker (Man City), Phil Jones (Man United), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Sead Kolasinac (Arsenal)
Third team: Hector Bellerin (Arsenal), John Stones (Man City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Fabian Delph (Man City)
Fourth team: Antonio Valencia (Man United), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Ben Mee (Burnley), Ashley Young (Man United)
Right back: Azpilicueta has become the right-sided center back in Antonio Conte’s three-man defense, but we’ll shift him out wide, because he’s by far the best right-sided defender in the league. Behind him, though, there hasn’t been much separation between Walker, Bellerin and Valencia. Joe Gomez would be a sneaky fifth option.
Center back: Man City’s first-choice duo, Otamendi and Stones, have been the two best center backs in the league. But Stones has missed seven games due to injury, so he slips. Tarkowski is more responsible than any other player for Burnley’s surprisingly staunch defense, and has played in every match except Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Spurs.
Jones has been excellent for Man United despite moving parts around him. Maguire has justified his £20 million price tag at Leicester. Vertonghen and Dier have been solid, though not spectacular, for Spurs. Mee has been a rock beside Tarkowski. There should probably be another Chelsea center back on one of the four teams, but neither Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger nor Gary Cahill has started more than 12 games. Another under-the-radar snub is Huddersfield’s Christopher Schindler.
Left back: Alonso, like Azpilicueta, is the clear choice. The options dry up behind him. Kolasinac has impressed in his first season at the Emirates. Delph has been awesome since his conversion from central midfield, but how much of that is City’s awesomeness in general? Young has also re-made himself into a surprisingly reliable left back, and still brings occasional goalscoring prowess, too. Of the players left off, both Ben Davies (Tottenham) and Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) have been decent, but haven’t merited inclusion.
First team: Fernandinho (Man City), Kevin De Bruyne (Man City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Second team: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), David Silva (Man City), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
Third team: Nemanja Matic (Man United), Paul Pogba (Man United), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
Fourth team: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
No. 6: Fernandinho has been one of the unsung heroes of City’s dominance. He’s the key to the counterpress, a huge aid to the center backs, and an enabler for the fullbacks and attackers in front of him. Kante is pretty darn good too, though, and has a first-team case. Matic and Henderson have both been reliable. Dier would be a contender here, but we’ve already put him at center back. Jack Cork, Idrissa Gueye and Granit Xhaka are the top snubs.
No. 8: De Bruyne is a no-doubter, and so is his partner in crime, Silva, on the second team. Pogba, despite only featuring nine times, is more often than not the best player on the field when he does play. Doucoure was excellent for Watford over the first dozen games of the season. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) and Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City) are right on Doucoure’s heels.
No. 10: Hazard isn’t a true attacking midfielder, but he’s been playing centrally, so we’ll slot him in here to accommodate more wingers and strikers below. Coutinho has been his usual delightful self since returning from injury/transfer saga, and narrowly beats Eriksen – more consistent, less productive – to the second team. Ramsey should really be a No. 8, but there aren’t any other particularly deserving 10s. Dele Alli (Tottenham), for example, has been underwhelming. Pascal Gross (Brighton) is the only one who can have complaints. Those who are deserving have probably been included as wingers …
First team: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Man City), Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Second team: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Leroy Sane (Man City), Sergio Aguero (Man City)
Third team: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Romelu Lukaku (Man United)
Fourth team: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Richarlison (Watford), Alvaro Morata (Chelsea)
Right wing: Salah would be the runner-up to De Bruyne for player of the season so far. Ozil hasn’t been quite at the top of his game, but has nonetheless been brilliant. Firmino mostly plays as a No. 9, but can play wide, so we’ll include him here because of the logjam at striker. Zaha has at times singlehandedly led Palace’s resurgence. The top snub here is Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City).
Left wing: Sterling plays on the right, or even centrally at times, but he absolutely has to be on the first team. His goalscoring has been almost as impressive as Salah’s. Sane actually does play on the City left, and is mirroring Sterling’s breakout campaign. Sanchez, despite the drama surrounding his future, has been his usual self. Richarlison, at only 20 years old, has been a consistent attacking-third menace for Watford. He beats out a ton of talented left-sided forwards – Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial (both Man United), Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) and Pedro (Chelsea) – because none of the others has started more than 12 games.
Striker: Kane could break Alan Shearer’s calendar-year goalscoring record on Boxing Day. He’s the undisputed first-team selection. Behind him, there are so many options: Aguero, Lukaku, Morata, Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Wayne Rooney (Everton), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) … not to mention Firmino, who we’ve included as a winger. You could argue the two City strikers deserve to be second and third on the list. But it feels wrong to leave either Lukaku or Morata out entirely; they’ve both acclimated well to their new clubs, despite occasional dry spells. It’s easy to forget how unstoppable Lukaku was for two months.
(“Points” are calculated by awarding four points for a first-team appearance, three for second team, two for third team and one for fourth team)
Manchester City: 11 — 35 points
Manchester United: 7 — 15 points
Chelsea: 6 — 18 points
Arsenal: 5 — 11 points
Liverpool: 4 — 10 points
Tottenham: 4 — 9 points
Burnley: 3 — 6 points
Watford: 2 — 2 points
Leicester City: 1 — 3 points
Crystal Palace: 1 — 1 point
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