Here we go folks, it’s that time of year again. That time when debates rage on Twitter, Facebook and Sky Sports panels filled with pundits so fuming at the prospect of somebody being in the best XI simply because they scored one goal more than some other bloke. This is what The Saint’s sport team has come up with and, remember everybody, we’re all here for a good time – it’s an XI that will never play together, and all comes down to individual opinions.
GK – Nick Pope (Burnley) – No-one would dare call Burnley an exciting team. Their football hardly calls the neutral to attention, with dizzying pace, electrifying skill, and prodigious goalscoring perhaps bottom of the superlatives one would use to label this Burnley side. Nevertheless, one has to admire the immense fortitude and pure dogged stubbornness of their defence, of which Nick Pope is the principle keystone. His remarkable shot-stopping ability has led Burnley to 15 clean sheets, leaving Gareth Southgate with a decision on his hands come the Euros next year, with Pickford looking more dire every second he plays.
RB – Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) – Very few players in the game can control a game of football on their own. Trent Alexander-Arnold finds himself in the unique position of not only being able to do that but doing it from right-back. When we think of players who could single-handedly dictate a game, we likely think of midfield greats like Steven Gerrard, Yaya Toure or indeed Kevin De Bruyne. Liverpool’s 4-0 away win at Leicester this season showcased Trent’s ability to do the same. He’s also the beaten world record for most assists by a defender in a season. Who set the previous record? That would have been Trent last season with twelve assists. His strikes from set-pieces have also allowed him to set his best scoring season yet. He often isn’t mentioned in the same breath as supposed “world-class” youth talents like Jadon Sancho or Erling Haaland. That speaks volumes to how much he has already achieved.
CB – Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City) – Leicester have had another strong season, finishing fifth in the league and just missing out on that Champions League spot. Caglar Soyuncu has been an asset for Leicester’s defence this season, helping them keep 13 clean sheets. Playing almost every game, he even managed to snag a goal in their 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace. He began his footballing career as a striker, but an injury led him to swap to the defensive role that we see him feature in today. He has been integral in Leicester’s success this season, making him an easy choice for the team of the season.
CB – Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – It’s easy to run out of superlatives to describe the Dutchman. For Van Dijk, it was simply business as usual as he maintained his imperious presence at the heart of the Liverpool defence and subsequent status, arguably, as the best defender in the world. For all the deserved plaudits that will correctly go Jurgen Klopp’s way, much of Liverpool’s recent success was acquiring Van Dijk in January of 2018. Although the Reds tailed off slightly after securing the Premier League, it’s often easy to forget just how good Van Dijk is simply because he’s so consistent. He also chipped in with five premier league goals including a crucial opener against Manchester United back in January. It would be no surprise to see him in best XI’s for years to come.
LB – Andy Robertson (Liverpool) – “When you get going, boy do you run,” said Oxlade-Chamberlain of his teammate in a recent Liverpool promotional video for MG’s new electric car. It’s probably no surprise to everybody to see Alexander-Arnold’s counterpart on the opposite side of this fantasy XI. The Scotland captain bombing up and down Liverpool’s left-hand side has been one of the most common sights of the season. With two premier league goals and twelve assists (one more than his tally last year), Robertson, or Robbo to the fans and indeed his teammates, has become a fan-favourite for his never say die attitude. His running of the full length of the pitch in the final ten minutes of last week’s game to provide an assist epitomised his game and indeed why he is beloved by so many at Liverpool and in his country.
CM – Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) – “You watch the game; you don’t see Busquets. You watch Busquets, you see the whole game.” These immortal words, uttered by Spain coach Vicente del Bosque about Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets, could equally apply to Jordan Henderson this season. His importance in this Liverpool side is unquestionable, and they can often look rudderless without their captain in the side. His transformation from an oft-maligned back-passer to a key playmaker and ball-winner under Jürgen Klopp is astonishing, and his winning of the FWA Footballer of the Year award is welcome recognition of his talent and skill. If anyone ever questions the importance of a football captain, show them Jordan Henderson.
CM – Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City) – For Kevin De Bruyne, the stats speak for themselves. Twenty assists, 13 goals. No player comes close to matching his goal contributions this season. Indeed, other than Thierry Henry, no player has ever matched that number of assists in a single Premier League season. His chemistry with the likes of Sterling, Aguero, Mahrez, and Jesus has left City’s attack the most dangerous in the league, and only a lacklustre defence has kept them from really making a title challenge this season. He is truly the axle around which the entire City attack turns, and he will undoubtedly be a vital figure when they play Real Madrid in August. De Bruyne remains City’s lynchpin, as is likely to remain so for years to come. It would be no surprise to see him pick up the PFA Player of the Year award when it is announced.
CM – Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) – Despite having only joined Manchester United at the end of January this year, he’s proven himself to be an integral part of their strong performances since the restart. Despite only playing 14 games this season, he’s earned himself a whopping eight goals alongside seven assists. In the final match of the season, Fernandes opened the scoring with a penalty on the seventy-first minute in a game United would go on to win and secure their place in the top four and a spot in the Champions League next season, where Fernandes can continue to showcase his goal scoring and playmaking abilities.
RW – Raul Jimenez – Wolves have had yet another great run this season, much of which has been down to the ability of striker Raul Jimenez who scored 17 goals this season in 38 appearances, putting him in the top half of the golden boot standings. Not only can Jimenez score goals, but he creates them too, with six assists this season, as well as creating 13 big chances throughout the season. He’s been involved in 35 goals this season, an impressive number that only the likes of Mohamed Salah can match and has played over 3000 minutes this season, the second most played by a forward behind Crystal Palace’s Wilfred Zaha. A striker who plays so much and consistently scores and create chances, he had to feature in our team of the season.
ST – Danny Ings (Southampton) – Finishing just behind Vardy for the golden boot this season, Southampton’s Danny Ings has had a great run this season after multiple long-term injuries throughout his career. With 22 goals in only 38 appearances, it was a no brainer that Ings would feature up front in this year’s team of the season. He’s also made nearly 700 passes this season and has two assists under his belt he has clearly been essential for Southampton’s strong performances this season. As well as this, Ings also boasts an incredible work-rate and was crucial to the sides turnaround after their 9-0 home defeat to Leicester.
LW – Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Mane’s stats – 18 goals and 7 assists – while obviously impressive, don’t fully reflect his remarkable influence and importance in this title winning Liverpool side. The £34 million Liverpool paid Southampton to secure his talents continues to look one of the bargains of the century, and a real masterstroke by Swabian sensation Jürgen Klopp. His link-up with Andy Robertson is also one of the side’s, and indeed the leagues, most dangerous attacking combinations. Mane’s work-rate and tireless nature account for countless numbers of Liverpool’s wins this season, and without him it is difficult to see them performing to such a high standard.
Manager – Chris Wilder – There was almost no competition when it came to deciding on our manager of the season. Although Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool side made history by managing to secure their first ever premier league title, the fact they missed out on the FA cup and Champions League played its part in our decision-making here. So, we had to give the job to Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder. A newly promoted team, not even Championship winners, Sheffield United did a tremendous job this season finishing in the top half of the league (in ninth place) above strong competitors like Everton as well as consistent Premier League teams like Crystal Palace. The real test for Wilder however will come next season when he tries to replicate their strong season and maybe even aim for European football.