We’re at that stage of the season now when we recognise the achievements of those we see week in, week out, with the PFA’s nominations for PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year kicking off the debates.
Along with it comes the often much-maligned Team of the Season that, in response, has streams of fans drafting up their own all-star XI. Many are flying about as we speak, which prompts us to give our two cents. Here’s Fresh Football’s Premier League Team of the Season:
Goalkeeper: Tom Heaton, Burnley
It’s on the basis of defensive solidity that Sean Dyche’s side has planned and, more or less, managed to crack their first season back in the Premier League. Tom Heaton’s heroics in between the sticks have certainly played a part in that.
The two-time England international, more fondly remembered for his displays against Liverpool at home and versus Manchester United at Old Trafford, comes 6th in the ongoing race for the Golden Glove, claiming nine clean sheets altogether.
That has seen him top the list of keepers in the bottom half of the table, which, unlike other lauded colleagues such as Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford, has contributed towards Burnley’s mid-table attainment and facilitated our choice for number one.
Right Back: Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur
Among the tightest of choices throughout the XI, the right back slot sees the likes of Kyle Walker go head-to-head with Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia, who’s gone from strength-to-strength under José Mourinho this season.
But for all the improvement from the Ecuadorian, Walker has continued to be a pivotal figure in a side targeting a top two finish, as opposed to scrambling for top four.
The Spurs man pips Valencia on end product, claiming two more assists than Valencia’s modest three, and also averaging 1.15 key passes and 1.33 chances created per game, which is marginally better than his full back counterpart.
Centre Back: David Luiz, Chelsea
Many a critic scoffed at the £30 million spent by Chelsea on the club’s former cult hero, with displays up until early October suggesting they were right to do so. In came Antonio Conte’s characteristic shift to a formation with three central defenders, signalling a straight run for top spot and David Luiz’s rebirth, as a result.
Free to explore his refined technical ability with the comfort of two other centre backs either side of him, Luiz’s maturity has also shun through in a side that’s collected 13 clean sheets thus far and strung together 13 consecutive wins from October to January.
Centre Back: Michael Keane, Burnley
We’ve spoken briefly of the work put in by Burnley in this season’s Premier League and just as focal to the Clarets’ success has been Michael Keane, a mainstay alongside Ben Mee in Dyche’s XI.
The centre back pairing have been virtually inseparable statistically, but the man under the radar has appeared as Burnley’s go-to-guy for defensive interactions, conquering 120 of his aerial duels and winning 60% of all duels in total, which is a 5% increase on what Mee registered.
Such has been his form that the Man United academy graduate has seen his trade recognised by England with his debut cap, meanwhile the likes of Everton reportedly plot a move for the 24-year-old in the summer.
Left Back: Marcos Alonso, Chelsea
Costing the champions-elect a total of £20 million from Fiorentina this summer, Marcos Alonso has done a decent job in allaying fears of his perceived sub-par status in world football.
The Spaniard prides himself on the time he’s spent in Serie A, which bodes well with Conte’s familiarities, whereas the player’s core attributes have seen him become a straight fit into Chelsea’s 3-4-3 formation at wing back.
Five goals and two assists later for the Blues, few left backs in the league have come close to his level of consistency.
Centre Midfield: N’Golo Kanté, Chelsea
To make complete simplicity so hard to ignore takes some doing, yet N’Golo Kanté is already on his second consecutive season of leaving his critics in awe.
No sign of second season syndrome here, with the Frenchman providing a pivotal presence in Chelsea’s two-man midfield and eating up more ground than one could ever deem possible. An easy choice.
Centre Midfield: Adam Lallana, Liverpool
Under the core definition of a central midfielder, there’s a small number of options they may be more popular throughout the masses, but we’re striving to also conjure up a team that also makes some sort of footballing sense.
Adam Lallana is no scrub, however. The Englishman took his time to get going at Anfield, but he’s been among the players to have embraced Jürgen Klopp’s ethos the best in a mixed season for the Reds.
The England international has maintained a high level of performances throughout this season, contributing at both ends of the field, which sees us favour the ex-Southampton midfielder over the likes of Vincent Wanyama, David Silva and a more attacking iteration of Dele Alli, who’ve all hooked in their fair share of plaudits through central areas.
Left Midfielder: Eden Hazard, Chelsea
After a faint 2015/16 campaign, Eden Hazard has remerged as a top bracket Premier League star under Conte, making full use of the free role given to him in a 3-4-3 set-up. The Belgian is a hot favourite for the PFA Player of the Year award, which speaks volumes of our choice.
With seven games of the season to go, Hazard has already equalled his highest scoring seasons of 2013/14 and 2014/15 with 14 goals, three shy of the club’s regular goal-getter Diego Costa, after finding the back of the net against the likes of Man United, Manchester City and Arsenal this season.
Whispers of a switch to Real Madrid have followed suit, which is yet another testament to the qualities displayed by the re-energised Belgian.
Right Midfielder: Sadio Mané, Liverpool
Alongside Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté, Sadio Mané leads the line for signing of the season since arriving for £34 million from Southampton.
Fully engaged with Klopp’s ‘Gegenpressing’, the Senegalese winger has hit the back of the net 13 times and turned in a further six assists, numbers that aren’t too dissimilar to that of Eden Hazard’s. It’s no wonder many were left arguing for the Liverpool man’s presence in the six-man shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award.
Thus far, Liverpool’s dependency on Mané has been clear, winning just twice in eight games without their summer signing, which includes defeating League Two outfit Plymouth Argyle. Such is the importance he holds that the wide man is far too difficult to overlook, even with Alexis Sanchez and Nathan Redmond presenting stellar seasons of their own in the meantime.
Striker: Romelu Lukaku, Everton
He’s a striker that often divides opinion, but time and time again Romelu Lukaku finds himself among a hatful of goals.
The Belgian’s technical ability, although appearing more refined this season, is some way off your traditional top class striker, but his laudable ability to strike gold with frequency may well see the Everton forward claim this season’s Golden Boot.
It’s a feat that can’t be ignored, giving him the edge over Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and many more favoured strikers.
Striker: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
If there’s one player who knows just how to time an appeal for all relevant gongs, that man is Harry Kane. The England international, rather characteristically, started the season slowly with just five non-penalty goals in the first half of the season.
Fast-forward four months and that figure has doubled in his favour, culminating in a late charge to defend his Golden Boot award with 19 goals at this stage of the season.
No period displayed Kane’s string of exemplary performances quite as well as February, scoring six in four games before crowning his work with the Player of the Month award. It’s because of this and many more performances since the turn of the year that Kane has battled his way into our Team of the Year.