Football Features

How the Premier League 2018/19 Team of the Year would look if ‘big-six’ players were ineligible

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:58, 29 April 2019

As you would expect the recently announced PFA Team of the Year raised a few eyebrows.

There will never be a universal consensus when it comes to compiling the best players in a single XI. Naturally, a couple will be left out. The omission of Eden Hazard, who has been enjoying a stellar campaign for a below-par Chelsea, was the biggest talking point. The inclusion of Paul Pogba was another.

However, it’s worth reminding ourselves that this was put together by the players, if anyone is a good judge it would surely be them…

That aside, this season’s eleven was dominated by two clubs, Manchester City and Liverpool (plus the aforementioned Pogba). Both clubs, duking it out for the Premier League with two matches remaining, had six (City) and four players (Liverpool) respectively.

It’s a further reminder where the concentration of talent lies in England’s top division. But, as some of the ensuing comments showed, there’s more to the ‘big six’ clubs. And that got us thinking.

What would the best XI look like if we didn’t include players from these ‘super clubs’? Of course, there is no single agreed team, everyone will have their own version. Below is ours – and to make it fair, a single club will have a max three players included.

GK: Łukasz Fabiański (West Ham)

Age: 34

Premier League appearances: 36

An ever-present for the Hammers this season after joining from relegated Swansea City last summer, Fabiański has been one of West Ham’s standout performers this season. Given their fragilities, the Polish shot-stopper has been called into action more often than he would have liked, but it’s only another opportunity for him to display his class.

Key stat: No goalkeeper has made more saves from inside the box (93) than Lukasz Fabianski.

RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace)

Age: 21

Premier League appearances: 33

The latest graduate of Crystal Palace’s esteemed youth set-up, Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s rise continues unabated. His stellar performances this season has seen his name linked with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United. It won’t be long before the tenacious right-back makes his senior England debut.

Key stat: No defender has won more tackles (87) than Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

CB: Michael Keane (Everton)

Age: 26

Premier League appearances: 31

Keane’s first season at Goodison Park, following his much-discussed move from Burnley, didn’t go as smoothly as he anticipated. However, under Marco Silva, the former Manchester United academy graduate is starting to fulfil what many envisaged. He’s transformed into a leader and the heartbeat of Everton’s defence.

Key stat: Michael Keane has made 104 headed clearances – most by any Everton player.

CB: Conor Coady (Wolves)

Age: 26

Premier League appearances: 36

Wolves have been this season’s incredible story. The newly-promoted club are on their way to earning the ‘best of the rest’ tagline by finishing in seventh. At the heartbeat of Nuno Espírito Santo’s is their combative Scouse captain Conor Coady whose reputation and status has skyrocketed with each passing month.

Key stat: Conor Coady is one of three outfield players, alongside Ben Mee and Luka Milivojevic, to have so far played every single minute this season.

LB: Lucas Digne (Everton)

Age: 25

Premier League appearances: 33

Arguably one of the signings of this season. For years left-back Leighton Baines was an incredible creative outlet for Everton, his best days are now behind him. Fortunately, a successor has been found. Lucas Digne, unwanted by Barcelona, is that man. Not only is he creating and providing assists but chipping in with the odd goal here and there.

Key stat: Lucas Digne has so far completed the most success crosses from open play (35) in the Premier League this season.

DM: Idrissa Gueye (Everton)

Age: 29

Premier League appearances: 31

Every successful team needs that one player who goes about doing the unwanted job seamless and without fuss. Everton are far from challenging the ‘big boys’ but in Gueye they have such a footballer. There’s a reason why Man Utd were recently associated with the Senegalese enforcer.

Key stat: Idrissa Gueye has completed the most interceptions (68) of any Everton player this season.

CM: James Maddison (Leicester City)

Age: 22

Premier League appearances: 34

So much was said and written about James Maddison during his time at Norwich City. Those lauding the young English central midfielder felt he was more than capable of making the step up to Premier League football. On this showing, they were spot on. He’s been immense for Leicester City, in terms of goals contribution and off the ball work, and there could be another big move on the horizon.

Key stat: James Maddison has created the most chances (97) of any Premier League player this season.

CM: João Moutinho (Wolves)

Age: 32

Premier League appearances: 36

No longer the young Portuguese playmaker coveted by Europe’s elite clubs; João Moutinho, though, retains that exemplary vision creativity that made him a champion in two countries. His partnership with compatriot Ruben Neves at Wolves is one of the best in the Premier League let alone outside the ‘big six’.

Key stat: No player outside the ‘big six’ clubs have successfully completed the most passes in the opposition half (896) than João Moutinho.

RW: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

Age: 26

Premier League appearances: 32

Easily among the best Premier League footballers not playing for one of the ‘big six’ clubs, this season feels like Wilfried Zaha’s final at Selhurst Park, which is his second stint at Crystal Palace following a disappointing period at Manchester United. That being said, he’s now a much better footballer than when he became Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing. A departure this summer will come as a big blow to The Eagles

Key stat: Only Eden Hazard (128) has produced more completed dribbles (103) than Wilfried Zaha.

CF: Raúl Jiménez (Wolves)

Age: 27

Premier League appearances: 36

Not all strikers coming from abroad settle in the Premier League as well and quickly as Raúl Jiménez – the Wolves marksman has in the space of a few months, courtesy of bagging 13 goals in 36 games, forged a reputation that is now keeping defending up and down England’s top division awake.

Key stat: Raúl Jiménez has created the most chances from open play (40) for Wolves this season.

LW: Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)

Age: 25

Premier League appearances: 36

Bournemouth are now Premier League mainstays. It hasn’t been an overwhelming good season, but there have been a few bright spots. For example, Ryan Fraser, who is currently locked in battle with Eden Hazard and Christian Eriksen to be named as this season’s ‘assist king’.

Key stat: No one has registered more Premier League assists than Fraser (13) this season – tied with Eden Hazard.