2019/20 Premier League Team Of The Season (Pre-postponement)
Goalkeeper: Vicente Guaita (Crystal Palace)
Goalkeeper actually ended up being one of the hardest positions to pick this year. There were four contenders: Vicente Guaita, Bernd Leno, Dean Henderson and Martin Dubravka. I should also say here, because there are some who are picking him, that Alisson was never really an option for me. While he is the best keeper in the Premier League, he is already threatened less than most who play in his position, and then on top of that he only had 20 starts (two of which he didn’t even complete) in 2019/20. Anyway, after much deliberation I went with Guaita who had an excellent season for Crystal Palace. The Spaniard recorded 88 saves, putting him around the top 5 mark, and 9 clean sheets, just 2 short of 1st place Nick Pope. Interestingly Guaita is clear of all other goalkeepers in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season when it comes to the ‘Goals Prevented’ stat according to Opta’s ‘Expected Goals on Target’ figures. His total of 9.6 is followed by Dubravka on 8.7 with the next Premier League keeper being Henderson coming in at 7.2. I see Guaita going under the radar a lot outside of Crystal Palace circles but he takes my first spot in the 2019/20 Team of the Season.
Right Back: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
This is the first of 6 Liverpool players to make the eleven this year, and the first indisputable selection. The current format for Young Player of the Year (23 or under when the season starts) is very flawed in my view but for what it’s worth Alexander-Arnold is my clear winner in that category this year. His 16 ‘big chances created’ and 12 assists can both only be bettered by Kevin De Bruyne. A pretty remarkable accomplishment playing from right back. I would concede there are some question marks around his defensive qualities, especially when compared to his attacking capabilities, but they tend to be overblown as he had a solid season on the defensive side for Liverpool. This was one the positions where there was an easy choice of the best player in the position matching who had the best season in the position, but I did want to give a mention to Ricardo Pereira who had another great year in Leicester’s defence.
Centre Back: Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City)
Speaking of Leicester defenders, I have Caglar Soyuncu down as the second best centre back for this Premier League campaign. After going back and forth between him and his teammate Jonny Evans for this pick, I stuck with Soyuncu who was phenomenal right from the outset in 2019/20. Honestly I have been quite surprised with the success of the Leicester defence this season. 28 goals conceded gives them the third best record behind Sheffield United (25) and Liverpool (21) with Soyuncu and Evan’s complimentary partnership at the back being a big reason for that. Such was the quality of Soyuncu’s first season as a starter at Leicester that he completely mitigated the departure of Harry Maguire, not just in the defensive aspects of the game but also in his ability in possession to take the ball forwards out of defence.
Centre Back: Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)
The best centre back in the Premier League in 2019/20 was clearly Virgil Van Dijk for the second consecutive season. Over the past couple of years he has been performing at a level we have rarely ever seen from centre backs in the Premier League as he combines his elite defensive skill set with remarkable physical attributes. As if that wasn’t enough he has been able to translate his aerial dominance to the other end of the field where he has contributed with 4 goals. That makes him Liverpool’s top scorer outside of their front 3. Unfortunately this season I think Van Dijk has been under appreciated to an extent after setting the expectations for this level of performance in 2018/19. One more thing I wanted to add on the centre backs is some people have been selecting Joe Gomez as their partner alongside Van Dijk. For me however he never really came into consideration because he has only 14 league starts. That’s less than half of Liverpool’s games.
Left Back: Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
Rounding out the back line is another Liverpool player and another easy pick. Andy Robertson is still without doubt the best left back in the Premier League and demonstrated that in 2019/20. While he can no longer keep up with the offensive production of teammate Alexander-Arnold, Robertson’s contribution of 7 assists can be bettered by only 3 players. Going further into his stats, he also has 1 goal (the late equaliser at Villa), 9 big chances created and is part of the best defence in the league with just 21 goals conceded. Similarly to Van Dijk he probably doesn’t quite get the praise his work this season has warranted, but I guess that’s a consequence of Liverpool having so many outstanding performers.
Midfield: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
In my view there are two players whose places in the TOTS midfield are not really debatable. The first of those is Jordan Henderson who has been much improved for Liverpool this season. While he isn’t necessarily in here for his offensive output he still has 3 goals, 5 assists and 8 big chances created, marking a significant step up from 1,3 and 2 in those same categories in 2018/19. Not only has he reached a new standard of performance this year, especially since around December time, but has sustained it in a manner he hasn’t typically been able to in the past. Something else that should be noted is the energy he brings to the Liverpool midfield as well as his range of passing. Perhaps not the most exciting of skills but they have both played a big role in his team’s continued success this year. I know for many Henderson is their Player of the Year but I think that may be because he exceeding expectations unlike any other player in a team that is so far clear at the top of the table. Even within the Liverpool squad I would say there are a few more deserving of that award, still an incredible season for him nonetheless.
Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Moving onto the other nailed on midfield pick, and by my judgement the clear Player of the Year, Kevin De Bruyne is Manchester City’s only representative in my eleven this season. Regardless of City’s drop off in points, De Bruyne has had an incredible comeback season after struggling with injuries in the last campaign. If we look at his stats, 8 goals, 16 assists and 23 big chances created tell the story with his 24 goal involvements being the highest of any player in the Premier League, despite playing in midfield. It can be easy to dismiss what De Bruyne has done in 2019/20 due to Man City being blown away by Liverpool in the title race, but this is one of the best seasons we have seen from a Premier League midfielder. For that reason, among others, he takes a spot in my Team of the Season and is my Premier League Player of the Year.
Midfield: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
This final midfield spot was up there with goalkeeper as one of the hardest to pick. Of the number of strong contenders I chose Jack Grealish who was the standout player for Aston Villa as they returned to the Premier League. When selecting the players for this eleven, something that factors in a lot is how important a player was to their club during the season and that’s definitely something that plays in Grealish’s favour. Not only does he lead Villa players in goals (7) and assists (6) but on top of that his ability to progress Villa attacks as a ball carrier is vital to their build up play. Of the midfielders who missed out Wilfred Ndidi and Mateo Kovacic were the closest to taking this spot. Both had incredible seasons but both saw less minutes in the second half of the season (or at least what we’ve played of it) which makes it hard to justify their inclusion ahead of Grealish who has 26 starts compared to Ndidi’s 20 and Kovacic’s 18. Another player I wanted to give a quick mention to was Fred who has made a huge step up in 2019/20 from his first season at Manchester United and is heading towards the top tier of Premier League midfielders.
Right Wing: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
In 2018/19 selecting the wingers for the Team of the Season was quite tough with there being two exceptional candidates for either side. This year however, they pretty much pick themselves and it is Mohamed Salah who takes this spot on the right side of the attack. Much like the past two seasons Salah was up there with the most productive players in the Premier League, contributing 13 non-penalty goals (NPG), 3 penalty goals, 6 assists and 12 big chances created. Of course it should also be noted that he managed that despite dealing with an ankle issue throughout much of the first half of 2019/20 as well. One last point on Salah is that his performance levels in the past two campaigns shouldn’t be overlooked because they don’t quite match his record breaking first season at Anfield. Similar to the point I made regarding Van Dijk, the narrative around players can often be too strictly tied to expectations and at times this season Salah has fallen victim to that even though he continues to perform at an elite level.
Left Wing: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
The sixth, and final, Liverpool entry into this eleven is Sadio Mane whose 2019/20 season was probably his best yet. Statistically his year has been quite similar to Salah’s as he put up 14 NPG, 7 assists plus 7 big chances created. Truthfully there was no other candidate even close to beating Mane to this spot with Eden Hazard leaving the Premier League, Leroy Sane being absent through injury and Raheem Sterling not matching his standard from 2018/19. That is by no means taking anything away from Mane however, who has been exceptional since all the way back in August. Naturally he has also been one of the front runners for Player of the Year for much of the season, and while he loses out to KDB for me, he’s far from unworthy of the award and you can make a good case for him being the pick of the Liverpool players.
Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Despite Arsenal’s fairly awful 2019/20, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still had himself another quality season which earns him the final spot in this year’s Team of the Season. His 16 NPG is a league high while he also contributed 1 penalty goal, 1 assist and 5 big chances created. To consistently deliver in a team that struggled in the way Arsenal have this season is a credit to Aubameyang’s ability to find goal scoring opportunities for himself, and that’s while playing either as a striker or off the left. Going deeper into Aubameyang’s 17 goals, one stat that stands out is that 5 of those goals are game winners, and remember this is for a team that only has 9 league wins all season. A real testament to the importance of the goals he brings to Arsenal. A quick word on a couple of the strikers that missed out here. Aguero has a remarkable minutes per goal ratio of around 88 minutes with 16 goals but I find it hard to award him this spot as his 17 starts and 1401 minutes are so far short of Aubameyang’s 26 starts and 2305 minutes. As for Jamie Vardy, the other main contender, he is a lot closer in terms of minutes but is behind Aubameyang on NPG, plus we saw a notable drop off in his contribution in the second half of the campaign.