EPL 2016-17: Premier League best XI so far (one per team)
For many people, the PFA awards given out at the end of the season are a joke. Their reasoning behind this is that only players from winning teams stand any chance of winning those awards, while excellent performers from less successful teams are never quite able to make the cut as easily as big-name players from big clubs.
At Sportskeeda, we believe that everyone who takes the pitch in the Premier League is already a success story. Hence, we decided to hash together a team comprising of just one player from a Premier League club. The team we put together is aimed at making the best available squad with an emphasis on fielding the best, most consistent players at each position (irrespective of which team they belong to).
Only players who have appeared in at least 3 matches this season have been considered.
Tom Heaton (Burnley)
This season, the Burnley shotstopper has reinforced the notion that he is currently England’s best hope between the sticks. The 6’1” goalkeeper may not be the biggest player on the pitch always, but he has surpassed himself at the art of shot-stopping this season.
One of the best displays of his lifetime was in a recent Premier League game against Manchester United, in which he kept out a mind-boggling 11 shots on target (out of 37 attempted by United). While the fanfare and media attention is something new about him following his entry to the Premier League, Heaton has always been a very reliable shotstopper and is a pick we selected on the basis of his current form.
Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool)
The Liverpool rightback is a graduate from Soton’s famed academy, as are many of the Premier League’s most notable players. Over the past few seasons, Clyne has staked his claim for a place in the England national team setup with his undying energy and crossing expertise.
While Kyle Walker was one of the best options available for consideration from other clubs, we picked Clyne in the squad for his superior displays over the past 6 months. Clyne has been especially motivated under Klopp. His previous season – his first at Liverpool – was a resounding success, as he played some of the best football of his career.
The fullback’s best asset to his teams is his crossing delivery and his express pace, which he uses to devastating effect in the Liverpool setup. While he does not have spectacular assist and goal statistics to show, any Premier League team would be a better side for his presence in their attacking lineup.
Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)
The senior Belgian international was a revelation in the Premier League last season. He had a major impact on Tottenham’s defence – with his introduction into the setup, Pochettino was able to guide the Spurs to the league’s best defensive record.
While Alderweireld is an imposing physical specimen for any striker to contend with, he is also an assured presence on the ball. The Belgian, who played for Ajax Amsterdam and Atletico Madrid before making his Premier League debut with Southampton, is also a very clean tackler of the ball – he was not handed a single yellow card in all of the 2015-16 Premier League season.
Ashley Williams (Everton)
The Welsh international has had a good start to his Everton career this season, with the Merseysiders placed just 6 points off the Champions League spots and level on points with Manchester United. Williams moved from Swansea City to Everton this summer in search of new pastures, having maxed his potential out with the Swans.
The Welshman, now aged 32, has always been a consistent performer on the Premier League stage. Despite a number of rumours which linked him to bigger Premier League clubs, Williams soldiered on with Swansea, leading them on the road to the solid foundation which they now have as near-permanent members of the League.
Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
Ryan Bertrand is probably the most consistent British leftback to have plied his trade in the Premier League in the last 3-4 seasons. Having made his England debut after a breakout season with Chelsea (whose academy he graduated from), Bertrand secured a loan move to Southampton in the summer of 2014 in a bid to increase his playing time.
That move paid off handsomely, both for him as well as for the Saints. Bertrand used the extra playing time to display his consistency and quality to Roy Hodgson. ‘Woy’ eventually went with other choices for his 2 leftback spots, but Bertrand proved his mettle in exploiting his Southampton opportunity to the full potential.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City)
The Icelander, who is now in his 5th consecutive season in the Premier League, is one of the best long-distance shooters in the game. Sigurdsson began his career in the Premier League with a bang in Swansea’s inaugural Premier League season, scoring 7 goals in 18 appearances to help Swansea stay afloat in the division.
After 2 seasons at Tottenham Hotspur, where he was a tad less successful, Sigurdsson moved back to Swansea under former teammate Garry Monk, who brought him back to the form that helped him raise many an eyebrow in his initial time in the league.
Since then, Sigurdsson has been up there among the most dominant midfielders in the league, and he has played a pivotal role in the numerous upsets that Swansea have caused in this intervening period.
N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
The Chelsea man set the Premier League on fire last season with his incredible energy levels and his ability to close down spaces in midfield in the high-intensity encounters that Leicester entertained Premier League audiences with. The Frenchman had just moved to Leicester in the summer of 2015, and such was his impact that he had possibly the single best introductory season for any player beginning his Premier League career.
Following his success, Kante became a crucial member of France’ squad for their home Euros held this summer. As possibly the most in-form defensive midfielder in the league over the past season or so, Kante almost selects himself as a member of this squad.
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
While there is no dearth of attacking midfielders with incredible playmaking talent in the Premier League, no one in the world is nearly as good as Mesut Ozil when it comes to playing the ball into his link-up striker’s path. Opponents may come and opponents may go, but Ozil’s ability to play his striker in has shone through consistently over the years.
Ozil is easily the most aesthetically pleasing player of our starting XI, and he provides us the much-needed brains and nous at handling the regulation no.10 role. With 8 goals and 19 assists (a figure that is quite close to the league record of 20 assists by Henry), Ozil was one of the prime contenders for the PFA Players’ Player of The Year award last year.
With 9 goals and 5 assists in 23 games this season, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Nor have Arsenal, for whom he is the talisman.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City)
The Kosovo-born Swiss international has been one of the most effective wide forwards in world football for the past several years. After his initial breakthrough with FC Basel, Shaqiri completed a big-money move to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
At Bayern, he was constantly outshone by the likes of Robben and Ribery, who were the world’s most effective winger duo at that time. A move to Inter followed for him, as he went in search of playing time. Without making much of an impact with the Nerazzurri, who were well on their downward spiral by that time, Shaqiri landed a gig in the Premier League for Stoke.
His level of ability and Stoke’s league positions have a significant mismatch between them, but that does not take away anything from the pocket-sized dynamite. Shaqiri can run rings around any defence of the world on his day.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
The Argentine is the highest-scoring player in the Premier League from the time he first moved to City in 2011. This is quite a significant statistic pointing to how Aguero has been the league’s best striker for over 5 seasons now.
The 28-year-old has had many a wonderful moment as City’s best player – none more so than his stoppage-time winner against Queens Park Ranger that won them the league title in 2011-12. ‘Kun’ Aguero is a poacher of the highest quality, and he would grace any team in the world with his presence. Not least, our Premier League XI.
Islam Slimani (Leicester City)
The Algerian international became Leicester City’s record signing this summer, after arriving from Sporting Lisbon for 28 million pounds on transfer deadline day. With his incisive speed, impressive physique and aerial ability, Slimani has dominated duels with centrebacks wherever he has plied his trade in the past.
Slimani has 5 goals from 11 appearances this season (including one for former club Sporting). This comes on the back of last season, in which he scored an impressive haul of 31 goals in 44 appearances in all competitions. With the chance to play a good run of matches in the Champions League for Leicester, Slimani now has the opportunity to stamp his authority among Europe’s elite players.
Substitutes: Steve Mandanda (Crystal Palace), Sebastian Prodl (Watford), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United), Jack Wilshere (Bournemouth), Robert Snodgrass (Hull City), Dimitri Payet (West Ham United)
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