Football Features

This combined XI of the ‘Other 14’ proves the Premier League is much more than the ‘Big Six’ alone

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 12:15, 21 April 2021 | Updated: 11:06, 15 September 2022

After a volatile and frantic 48 hours, the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ have withdrawn from the proposed Super League.

On Sunday night the football world stood still as news filtered through that a proposed Super League involving 12 of the continent’s most powerful clubs would branch off and form their own competition, sending shockwaves across Europe and shaking the sport’s very foundations to the core.

The bombshell announcement sparked a flood of condemnation and backlash from the wider football community, and after a turbulent few days, the Premier League’s so-called ‘Big Six’ backed out, thus ending the itchy palm project before it ever really got going.

The initial idea was to create a breakaway competition showcasing “the best clubs” and “the best players”, but talent in football is simply not confined to those dozen clubs alone; the Premier League’s ‘Other 14’ would certainly have something to say about that, particularly if you point to the fact that collectively Spurs and Arsenal have dropped points in 24 games to ‘non-Big Six’ teams this season, winning just 21 combined.

Indeed if you look at the Premier League you’ll see incredible players running all the way through the division at every single club. We’ve done just that, in fact, and come up with a combined XI (plus back-ups!) of the best performing Premier League players from outside the ‘Big Six’ clubs.

This ‘Other 14’ XI proves the Premier League is much more than the ‘Big Six’ alone and would certainly give any ‘Super League’ club a run for their money.

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Emiliano Martinez

Age: 28
Club: Aston Villa
Position: Goalkeeper

The colossal Argentine has been brilliant since his move from Arsenal. Martinez has provided Villa with a solid and commanding presence at the back and he’s a major reason why they have 14 clean sheets, the most among ‘non-Big Six’ goalkeepers. In fact, only Man City’s Ederson has more (17).

Honourable mention: Kasper Schmeichel. Leicester’s stopper has also been hugely impressive and has 10 clean sheets this season.

Luke Ayling

Age: 29
Club: Leeds
Position: Right-back

Leeds’ right-back has been sublime all season with more tackles (85) and passes attempted (2,052) than any other ‘non-Big Six’ player. He’s an all-action dynamo that is key to Marcelo Bielsa’s fluid system of play.

Honourable mention: Matty Cash. The Aston Villa right-back has been relentless on the right this season.

Ezri Konsa

Age: 23
Club: Aston Villa
Position: Centre-back

Aston Villa’s great defensive record owes much to young Ezri Konsa as anyone. He has easily looked the equal, or even superior, to his more experienced defensive partner Tyrone Mings. Konsa’s 116 clearances and 72 aerial duels won mark him out as an imposing defender

Honourable mention: Conor Coady. The Wolves skipper excels more in a back three than a two but is so reliable he had to be included.

Wesley Fofana

Age: 20
Club: Leicester
Position: Centre-back

Leicester signed Fofana in the summer and the young Frenchman has been nothing short of a relevation at the back for the Foxes. Fofana’s ability to dominate physically and technically makes him a fearsome defender to overcome despite his tender age.

Honourable mention: Angelo Ogbonna. Before injury troubled the colossal Italian, he was in the running to be West Ham’s ‘Player of the Year’, which is no mean feat in a side consisting of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek. Such was his autumnal form that he even earned a recall to play for Italy.

Lucas Digne

Age: 27
Club: Everton
Position: Left-back

The French left-back has been typically brilliant for Everton. His six assists (five from open play), nine big chances created and 163 crosses allow him to stand out. He has been an absolutely key part of the Everton armoury that has consolidated the club’s position as a European hopeful this campaign.

Honourable mention: Aaron Cresswell. Cresswell has been a man reborn this season, thriving in David Moyes’ system and he has an impressive 43 chances created so far this season.

Declan Rice

Age: 22
Club: West Ham
Position: Defensive midfielder

The ‘Basmati Busquets’, or ‘Basmati Billy Bonds’ for those of a West Ham persuasion, has been utterly phenomenal in midfield all season for Moyes’ boys. He holds the middle with supreme authority, cutting off opponent attacks (58 interceptions) and distributing the ball with liquid ease.

Honourable mention: Tomas Soucek. The joke that Moyes was going to need to sign Marouane Fellaini for West Ham to thrive was sort of proved true as he signed Soucek to play that role. The Czech midfielder is a solid defender and a colossal aerial target with nine goals and a ridiculous 185 aerial duels won (the most in the division).

Wilfred Ndidi

Age: 24
Club: Leicester
Position: Defensive midfielder

Leicester’s Nigerian midfielder oozes class whenever he plays and the Foxes definitely miss him when he doesn’t. Ndidi is a defensive warrior and one of only four ‘non-Big Six’ players to have over 65 tackles and 45 interceptions, despite playing about 1,000 fewer minutes than most because of injury. His presence is phenomenal.

Honourable mention: Yves Bissouma. Brighton’s defensive guru has so much work to do but does it admirably with 85 tackles this season.

Youri Tielemans

Age: 23
Club: Leicester
Position: Central midfielder

When Leicester need to move the ball intelligently into the final third the man they most often look to is Belgium international Youri Tielemans, who has the third-most passes attempted (1,988) among ‘non-Big six’ players, and the most through-balls (10) as well. The playmaker at the heart of the Foxes fabulous season.

Honourable mention: John McGinn. Aston Villa’s warrior in midfield is also a fabulous footballer capable of real elegance and non-stop running.

Harvey Barnes

Age: 23
Club: Leicester
Position: Winger

Barnes has a direct goal involvement of 13 (nine goals and four assists) which is higher than all but one ‘non-Big six’ midfielder. He’s also an absolutely mesmeric footballer who is liquid with the ball at his feet.

Honourable mention: Adama Traore. 185 take-ons attempted, 131 take-ons completed. Nothing more needs to be said.

Jack Grealish

Age: 25
Club: Aston Villa
Position: Attacking midfielder

Captain Jack is an absolute genius. The ‘Solihull Ronaldinho’, he peels in off that left-flank with effortless grace, skill and creativity. With 61 take-ons completed (fifth among ‘non-Big Six’ players) he is an absolute genius, not to mention he has created 75 chances and 14 big chances (both first in that same category), as well as scoring six goals and 10 assists. And more than the numbers and even the grace with which he plays, there’s the leadership, proudly wearing the Villa armband and leading from the front.

Honourable mention: James Maddison. James Maddison is absolutely excellent, a technically superb player capable of impressive feats; his only flaw is that he is not Jack Grealish.

Patrick Bamford

Age: 27
Club: Leeds
Position: Striker

There’s not a single ‘non-Big Six’ player who has scored more goals than Patrick Bamford’s 14. There’s also not a single ‘non-Big Six’ player who has had a bigger direct goal involvement than Bamford’s 21. He has been seriously impressive at the head of Bielsa’s Leeds, leading the line with intelligence and excellence.

Honourable mention: Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Fourteen goals, six with his head. Calvert-Lewin has arrived as a bonafide Premier League stud. ‘Big Dunc’ would be proud.