The Hard Tackle takes a look at some of the best performing wingers from the recently concluded 2018/19 edition of the Premier League.
No team since Arsenal in 2003/04 have been able to call their season a perfect one, let alone Manchester City who retained their Premier League crown. City triumphed in what was one of the tightest of battles with Liverpool which went down to the wire. While its been a prolific season for the men in blue, especially their attackers, they did have better counterparts from the Red side of Merseyside.
It is not unusual for wide men to have a more prolific campaign than seasoned strikers, but having so many flourishing this season was phenomenal. The likes of Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane, so adept at fighting for the golden boot, took somewhat of a back seat as the likes of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shared the prize.
Further, it brings us to the debate as to who were the best among those playing at the top of their game. There indeed were plenty of contenders in the first place. However, it is important to note that many of these players played in different positions through the course of the season.
Take, Manchester City’s player of the season, Bernardo Silva, who played half his games in central midfield. Or Aubameyang, who played many games from the left, although his role was that of a center forward in his golden boot winning season. Eden Hazard too played a handful of games as a No.9, but he makes the cut for our top five stars on the wings this season, owing to its his natural position.
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There could have been a place for Tottenham’s Heung-min Son, Manchester United duo Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. The other player who was sensational in the position, Alexis Sanchez endured a miserable season, so he is certainly out of the running.
Those players, including Son, did not make the cut not because they were terrible, but there were better players this season. So who makes the cut? Liverpool duo Salah and Mane certainly do; joined by Chelsea’s Hazard and Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling along with Bournemouth star Ryan Fraser, who had a sensational season out wide.
So here we are to find out who takes THT’s winger of the season accolade.
Eden Hazard [Chelsea]
Eden Hazard and Chelsea have gone through an indifferent season. The appointment of Maurizio Sarri as manager last summer, who went on the tamper with the positions of many players in this Chelsea squad, left Hazard alone to do what he does best. The Belgian had another terrific season, with his regularity among the goalscorers and assist-makers a proof of his class.
Hazard was awarded the playmaker award for the season for his 15 assists. On the goalscoring side, Hazard was also Chelsea’s top scorer with 16 strikes in the Premier League. His brilliance both in scoring and providing makes him one of the top performers this season, and it sure helped his club finish among the top three at the end of the season.
Hazard was also credited with collecting more points for his team than any other player, and the joint most in the Premier League alongside Arsenal’s Aubameyang. Hazard, being the seasoned Premier League star he is, showed a different style to his game this season. But was he the best wide man in the Premier League during the 2018-19 season?
Ryan Fraser [AFC Bournemouth]
Ryan Fraser might look like a surprise choice given there were other formidable names left out of our top five list. But Fraser is here on pure merit and his performances this season for Bournemouth haven’t gone unnoticed. Fraser finished the season with 14 assists, only one behind Hazard, although he created 28 big chances, the most this season, 10 more than the Chelsea star, his closest rival in this context.
Fraser showed total commitment to Bournemouth’s cause, playing in all of their 38 league games this season. Alongside his 14 assists, Fraser also scored 7 goals during the season and should be thankful to the likes of Calum Wilson for being a good target man for the Scotland International’s accurate crosses.
Ryan Fraser has now provided more assists in the Premier League this season (14) than any other player.
The Playmaker Award is in sight. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/h9inetORej
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 4, 2019
With only a year left on his current Bournemouth deal, Fraser could be playing for one of the top six sides when next season starts. But his contributions this season have been crucial from a personal point of view, but he would have liked his club to have finished better than the 14th spot they took. So it is for you to decide if the smallest player in the Premier League deserves to be the best winger of the past season.
Sadio Mane [Liverpool]
No Liverpool player won more points for their side than Sadio Mane from his customary left-sided attacking position. Mane has been a crucial player for Jurgen Klopp’s side, and if last season was anything significant, Mane indeed came to life this time out. Not as flashy in scoring his goals as fellow teammate Salah, but he came to the party late on, especially when Salah was not scoring goals for many games.
Mane’s goals gave Liverpool their rhythm when others were misfiring. He secured them the crucial points when needed. Mane’s 22 goals were his best ever haul in the League personally, and he quite deservedly shared the Golden Boot with Salah and Aubameyang when the season finished.
Mane, however, could not replicate his goalscoring form into being a creator of goals. With only 2 assists during the season, Mane’s importance was only felt when scoring goals. However, merely by the fewer assists, his crucial contributions that took Liverpool to just one point behind Manchester City cannot be disregarded. Do you think, Mane was the League’s best winger in the past season?
9 – Sadio Mane has now scored the opening goal of the game on nine separate occasions in the Premier League, the joint-most of any player this season alongside Mohamed Salah. Tone.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 12, 2019
Mohamed Salah [Liverpool]
Salah scored the same number of goals as Mane with 22 strikes in the League and four in the Champions League taking his tally to 26 for the season. Comparing the same to his first season at Anfield its less than half the 44 goals he scored back then. However, due to his goals, Liverpool were able to mount a significant challenge for the Premier League title, although they just felt short.
While Salah’s goals were as important to those of Mane’s, it is his assist numbers that show the difference in his performances. Salah endured harsh criticisms this season for going several games without scoring, during which time his assist numbers were steady and undermined continuously by his critics.
Salah’s presence from the right side of attack has been pivotal to Liverpool’s season, and he makes it into our list for the best wide man of this season. Was the Egyptian’s tally of 22 goals and 11 assists enough to pip his other rivals to the accolade? Your vote could decide.
Raheem Sterling [Manchester City]
The 2017-18 season, Sterling came on to the fore with his last-minute strikes, and by the end of the season, his contributions seemed more important than anyone else’s. This season it was a different scenario for the England International. He might have scored one goal less than last season, but all those 17 goals he scored kept City on top of the tightest title race we have seen in years.
Raheem Sterling has now been directly involved in 40 goals across all competitions this season:
• 51 games
• 25 goals
• 15 assists
A season worthy of three trophies. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/CFP0cfDY5W
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 18, 2019
It could be said that Raheem Sterling finally showed the man he can be with his displays; not just with the goals, but with his all-round displays. Those performances earned him the right to be in another race, that is the player of the season race, which he eventually lost out to Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk.
Consider everything, his contribution scoring the 17 goals or his 12 assists this season, Sterling gave City a formidable option from wide areas and was always a nightmare for defenders. He certainly would be high on any polling lists for the top performer and sure makes it to ours for the best wide man of the past season. Will your vote go for him over the others on the list?
Who do you think was the best winger or wide forward in the 2018-19 Premier League season? Let us know in the poll below.