Selecting a best XI from the Premier League season is only going to provoke arguments, it is such a subjective business. So perhaps this is not necessarily a team of the most gifted players, more like those who have excelled over this very strange and difficult campaign. The kings of the “Ghost Games,” if you like.
In 4-3-2-1 formation, here is a lineup from a commentator who has covered around 50 games this season. Feel free to argue among yourselves, but this team might take some beating.
Kasper Schmeichel | Goalkeeper | Leicester City: Magnificently consistent for 10 years and more than 400 matches for Leicester. He clinched his place in my team after his two stunning saves at Wembley, where he captained the Foxes to an emotional first-ever FA Cup win (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.).
Matty Cash | Defender | Aston Villa: He used to work in a toy shop, but now his day job is even more fun as he’s a fixture for Aston Villa at right-back. The converted winger’s move from Nottingham Forest last summer went under the radar, but Cash’s quick and decisive work in his first Premier League season has caught the eye.
John Stones | Defender | Manchester City: He lost the confidence of coach Pep Guardiola and was out of the reckoning at Manchester City. But he worked hard to get back in and, when the chance came, Stones staged one of the season’s great comeback stories. An elegant presence for the champions who is, barring a big mistake for England, losing that bad habit of overplaying in dangerous areas.
Ruben Dias | Defender | Manchester City: “He plays every game like it’s his last and makes everyone around him better,” Guardiola says of a born leader who has formed a “Wonderwall” at the back with Stones. Dias added vital steel to all that silk at the Etihad Stadium and has proved an instant hit since arriving from Benfica.
Luke Shaw | Defender | Manchester United: Few players have had such a difficult time at Old Trafford, facing public criticism from at least two managers and suffering a broken leg. But Shaw has come through it all to look solid defensively and dangerous going forward, as witnessed by his goal-scoring display in March’s derby win over City.
Kevin De Bruyne | Midfielder | Manchester City: By common consent, the best technical footballer in the Premier League, De Bruyne has added leadership qualities to that brilliant ability to see and execute wonderful passes and crosses. City were not going to argue too much when he renegotiated his contract without using an agent. A good bet that one day, he will be a top coach.
Declan Rice | Midfielder | West Ham United: The biggest reason for West Ham’s challenge for a European place. Rice is quick and alert and, with an old head on young shoulders as he operates in front of the defence, is likely to be a key man in England’s bid to win the European Championship. The Hammers will have to fend off admirers this summer.
Ilkay Gundogan | Midfielder | Manchester City: The man who lives in a neighbouring apartment to his manager in Manchester city centre has been in masterful form and, remarkably, is City’s leading league scorer this season with 13 goals. Prompting, cajoling, linking, creating and scoring, the Germany international has done the lot.
Mason Mount | Attacking midfielder | Chelsea: For the second successive season, he has made more appearances than any other Chelsea player. Mount has the ideal temperament, relishes every game and usually adds dynamism and ideas. Thomas Tuchel left him out of his first selection, but quickly realised that was not the greatest idea.
Bruno Fernandes | Attacking midfielder | Manchester United: Barely a game goes by without him either scoring or making a goal. He rarely plays a square pass, always looks to make something happen and is not frightened to berate teammates who fail to meet his high standards. Fernandes, who has ended his first full season at the club by winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award, is probably United’s most significant signing since Eric Cantona nearly 30 years ago.
Harry Kane | Centre-forward | Tottenham Hotspur: Even playing in a frustrating Spurs team and despite those suspect ankles, the England captain is joint-leading-scorer in the Premier League with 22 goals. He also heads the assists table (13), having added another dimension to his game by dropping deeper to create. Sources have told ESPN that Kane has informed the club he wants out this summer. Nearing 28, he could not be blamed if he decided to move on to a club with more trophy-winning potential.
Substitutes: Emiliano Martinez (goalkeeper, Aston Villa), Wesley Fofana (defender, Leicester), Ezri Konsa (defender, Aston Villa), Ben White (defender, Brighton & Hove Albion), Phil Foden (midfielder, Manchester City), Stuart Dallas (midfielder, Leeds United), Matheus Pereira (midfielder, West Brom), Ollie Watkins (forward, Aston Villa), Marcus Rashford (forward, Manchester United), Mohamed Salah (forward, Liverpool).
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