The Premier League has been completely unpredictable this season, with some of the most unexpected results shaping the current standings. In fact, for teams like Chelsea FC and Leicester City, the tables seem to have completely turned.
Due to this topsy-turvy nature of the league this season, a number of players have been the surprise performers of this season, which makes our team of the season look quite odd. We at TheHardTackle believe that a 4-3-3 formation was required to best suit the best performers XI that we simply needed to pick. So let’s dive straight into it. Here’s our Premier League team of the season so far.
Jack Butland (Goalkeeper, Stoke City)
Generally it is no surprise when someone says that a goalkeeper from Stoke is doing well. However, the Potters have been different this season. There has been a lot of emphasis on clean, attractive football. One thing that remains constant for them is the fact that they do not leak cheap goals. Jack Butland has taken over his responsibilities at the back quite well, and has made this list ahead of more renowned custodians like Petr Cech and Joe Hart, both of whom have the same number of clean sheets as the 22-year-old.
However it is the number of saves that Butland has made, that allows him to run away with the cake. The Englishman has made more saves (74) than any other goalkeeper this season, and this is what drives him ahead of the big names like Cech and Hart, into the best goalkeeper slot.
Aleksandar Kolarov (Left Back, Manchester City)
While their defence has let them down on more than one occasion this season, Aleksandar Kolarov has been one of the few defenders who have performed well for the Citizens, bombing down the left flank to overlap with Raheem Sterling, who still seems to be adjusting to life in Manchester. With 1.6 crosses per game, the Serbian international has been a constant threat for his opponents. With a hammer of a shot on his left foot, Kolarov is also a great threat from set pieces.
In fact, Kolarov already has two goals to his name, with two shots from the penalty area. In his last league match against long-time league leaders Leicester City, Kolarov nearly neutralised the threat otherwise posed by Riyad Mahrez, by bombing up the flank as many times as possible. Consequently, Mahrez was forced to track back in defence, which took him out of the game in most of Leicester City’s counter attacks.
Scott Dann (Centre Back, Crystal Palace)
Crystal Palace are flying high this season, and Scott Dann has been one of their biggest success stories so far. In fact, they have the second best defence in the league so far, and Dann is an absolute pillar at the heart of it. Dann has blocked 23 shots, made 29 interceptions, cleared the ball an incredible 102 times, and also has an 80 per cent success rate in his tackles.
However, it is not just the defence that the Englishman has been great at. He has in fact, also contributed to Palace while going forward. A total of three goals and one assist is an incredible record for any centre back in the entire season, let alone the fact that Dann required just half the season to reach these numbers.
Laurent Koscielny (Centre Back, Arsenal FC)
The Gunners are on the top of the table, and not by virtue of alphabetical order. The introduction of Petr Cech seems to have boosted the Arsenal FC defence greatly, and although he himself narrowly missed out on our best XI, the calmness that he brings to the table seems to have helped at least one of his teammates to raise his performance in the strong backline.
The action-packed Frenchman is very well complemented by his German partner in crime Per Mertesacker. This has helped him make a total of 27 blocks (shots, crosses and passes), 87 clearances, and 61 interceptions. Koscielny is also a great threat from the set pieces, and has scored two goals so far.
H ctor Beller n (Right Back, Arsenal FC)
Koscielny’s 20-year-old teammate H ctor Beller n has been a revelation for Arsenal FC this season, raising the bar of his won performance in the strong Arsenal FC back four. The young Spaniard is not that much of a threat on the goal himself, but has been a constant menace for his opponents down the right flank, getting two assists to his name.
With the Euro 2016 right around the corner, Beller n is really knocking hard on the gates of the Spanish national side, and although he has already been called up once, the 20-year-old is yet to play an international game. The fact that the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta and Nacho are struggling with their respective teams Chelsea FC and Real Madrid, means that Beller n is in with a good chance to make the Spanish team.
Riyad Mahrez (Midfield, Leicester City)
He cost one-fifth of Michu! He cost two weeks of James Milner’s wages! He cost 111 times less than Fernando Torres! These are stats that fans and pundits have been marvelling at on Twitter. Being one of the finds of the season, Riyad Mahrez has set the Premier League on fire. Nobody had expected much from this Algerian winger, but he has the pace, the trickery, and the cutting edge that has taken Leicester City to the fancier end of the table.
With 13 goals and seven assists already this season, Mahrez has been one of the key figures in manager Claudio Ranieri’s setup this season. What is more astounding is the fact that Mahrez has also tracked back quite often, to help out in defence.
Ross Barkley (Midfield, Everton FC)
The England international has come into his own this season, playing a huge part in Everton’s midfield. While defence has been a bit of a mess for the Toffies, Barkley has been the main creator in the midfield, playing 845 short passes so far this season. It is because of his vision that the likes of Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku have come unto their own this season.
Barkley plays 1.8 key passes every game, and this is something that the Everton forwards are feeding off of very well. Apart from that, the 22-year-old has also scored six goals and provided eight assists, in a bid to push his team up the table. More of such performances in this season could mean a big-money move for the England international in the summer.
Mesut zil (Midfield, Arsenal FC)
Yet another Gunner makes it to the team of the season so far, but the inclusion of zil on this list is no surprise. The German international had come into a lot of criticism last season after his move from Real Madrid. However, he seems to have adjusted to English football, and has started to churn out the stellar performances that made him a star in the Spanish capital.
zil leads the assists chart in the Premier League so far, having set up 16 goals. His nearest competitors on this table are Gerard Deulofeu, Kevin De Bruyne, and Ross Barkley, all of whom have set up exactly half the number of goals as zil, at eight. This speaks volumes about the kind of performances that the Germany international has been churning out. He has especially been crucial to the Gunners in the absence of other big names like Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla.
Odion Ighalo (Forward, Watford FC)
It is rather unfair that Ighalo has made this list without his strike partner Troy Deeney, but that is testament to this lethal strike partnership where Ighalo runs away with the accolades, while Deeney sits back in support. His exploits with Watford have also earned him call-ups from the Nigerian national side. Many of the top clubs are also said to be interested in signing the prolific striker, who likes to bully the defenders.
Technically, with 14 goals and five assists, Ighalo has been involved in as many goals (19) as the more talked-about strikers like Jamie Vardy or Romelu Lukaku, and this has propelled Watford to the top half of the table. Having made 18 tackles and 10 interceptions, Ighalo also helps Watford to press the ball high up the pitch, which allows them to break the counter quite often.
Romelu Lukaku (Forward, Everton FC)
. The herculean Everton striker has been phenomenal this season, and seems to have left his miserable Chelsea FC days behind him. The Belgian international is on fire at Goodison park, and is so far the joint top-scorer of the Premier League, with 15 goals to his name. While the Everton defence has not been that great, it is Lukaku who has churned out stellar performances this season with the help of Barkley and Deulofeu.
However, they lie 11th on the table currently, and look like they would need more goals from Lukaku to push their way to the more fancied European spots.
Jamie Vardy (Forward, Leicester City)
The story of this Leicester City man has been phenomenal, as he was languishing in non-league football, not more than half a decade back. From the muddy fields of Fleetwood Town, to earning two Player of the Month awards, and topping the goalscorers chart in the Premier League, it has been a great journey for Vardy, and this is something that has captured the imagination of all the fans.
Vardy has some competition for the golden boot though, with Lukaku having scored exactly the same number of goals (15), and having made exactly the same number of assists (four), so far this season. However, with Leicester City still contending for the Premier League title, the 28-year-old Englishman would likely be instrumental in their success.
Manager: Claudio Ranieri (Leicester City)
While some of the big names have flopped (Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho), Claudio Ranieri has been exceptional with the Leicester City squad this season. He has brought back the 4-4-2 system, and used it to great effect, standing toe-to-toe with the big boys in the league. They have slipped to the second spot in the Premier League, but are still in with a great chance to win it, as they are level on points with Arsenal FC, who are currently occupying the top spot.
However, January 2016 will be a great challenge for Ranieri. With the performances of Vardy and Mahrez, a number of clubs would be trying to sign the duo, and Leicester needs to ward off these vultures in order to keep their team intact. Also, Ranieri needs to make some quality signings to give some depth to his squad, in order to keep up their title challenge.