Finest XI, worst signings, greatest younger gamers and extra

Finest XI, worst signings, greatest younger gamers and extra

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti, Liverpool’s Diogo Jota and the Spurs duo of Son-Heung Min and Harry Kane all stand out in numerous midseason rankings. Football4cast Illustration

The top of Tuesday’s Chelsea-Leicester City match on Tuesday marked the rough midway point of the 2020-21 Premier League season. With the coronavirus still looming large, it has been a fraught and mostly crowd-free affair, one that has produced a pretty tight race: five teams are currently within five points of the league lead, we’ve had nine different teams occupying first place at one time or another, and 10 are within five points of a Champions League slot. But to commemorate what we’ve seen so far, let’s hand out some midseason awards, from best player to worst summer signing.

Note: because teams have played anywhere between 16 (Aston Villa) and 19 games (10 teams) due to postponements, any mention below of what place a team is in reference to per-game totals, not overall totals.

Jump to: Best player | Best manager | Best goal | Best game | Disappointing XI | Worst signing | Best signing | Best young player


Player of the season

5. Son Heung-Min, Tottenham Hotspur. You know it’s been a good year for attackers when Son can produce a pace of 24 goals and 12 assists … as the second-best attacker on his own team. That he’s scored 12 goals on just 34 shots is incredible: the other six players with double-digit goals so far have averaged 57 shots between them.

4. Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester City. We take the 29-year-old Belgian for granted at this point. His finishing touch has been a bit off — his 57 shots have produced 8.4 xG, but only three goals — but his passing is as good as ever: he’s second in the league with 10 assists and third with 51 chances created (assists + key passes, i.e., the pass before a shot attempt).

3. Jack Grealish, Aston Villa. While Son’s primary contribution has come in putting the ball in the net, Grealish has thrived at setting up shots for others. His 55 chances created are the most in the league, and seven of them have become assists. He’s also scored five times and is winning 62% of his duels, the most among attackers with 1,000-plus touches.

2. Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United. United look like legitimate contenders in January for the first time since what, 2013? Fernandes is the primary reason. He’s on pace for 22 goals and 14 assists, and while half of his goals are penalties, he’s still the creative engine of the third-best scoring unit in the league. Since signing him at the end of last year’s January transfer window, United have lost just three times in league play and have generated more points than anyone else.

1. Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur. At times in recent seasons, Kane looked like he was playing with an added weight on his back, the steady stream of minutes and key matches putting serious mileage on the odometer. But an injury layoff, combined with the coronavirus stoppage, seemed to give him back his legs. The 27-year old is on pace for an incredible 24 goals and 22 assists this season; he’d never dished more than seven assists in a season, and he’s already up to 11. His partnership with Son has given Spurs a two-man offense good enough to keep them in the league’s top five despite a lack of a steady Plan B.

Harry Kane has been sensational for Tottenham this season, even by his own lofty standards. Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images

Manager of the season

3. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United. United began the league season slowly and bombed out of the Champions League with three losses in its last four matches. But despite these early setbacks, Solskjaer has connected well with the squad and guided it on a hell of a run: the Red Devils have pulled 30 points from their last 12 league matches and reached the halfway point in first place.

2. Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City. An injury to defensive midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, plus the sale of fullback Ben Chilwell to Chelsea, prompted Rodgers to take a more cautious approach early this season. But despite young players playing increasing roles, the Foxes have taken 20 points from their last nine matches and remain a stubborn third overall, averaging two points per game. Not that it needs to be said at this point, but Rodgers is a really, really good manager.

1. Carlo Ancelotti, Everton. Ancelotti has won Champions Leagues and guided many of the richest clubs in the world. Everton is not poor by any means, but he’s dealing with fewer talent advantages than he’s used to, and he’s still producing.

The Toffees were seeming like a flash in the pan, winning their first four league matches, but then just one of their next seven. But they beat Chelsea, Leicester City and Arsenal consecutively in December, and despite star addition James Rodriguez’s form sliding a bit from his early brilliance, Everton keeps cranking out points. They’re on pace for 70+ points for the first time since 2014.

Everton seemed like a curious choice for Ancelotti given his pedigree, but he’s embraced an ambitious project and the club are better off for it. Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Goal of the season

Is it recency bias? Maybe. But it’s hard to make a case for any other goal we’ve seen now that we’ve seen Tanguy Ndombele’s utterly outlandish back-of-the-foot scoop against Sheffield United from this past weekend.

What’s your favourite half? Is it the shot itself, an ideal arc with excellent weight that someway one-upped what had been a stunning, artistic go from Steven Bergwijn? Is it the truth that Ndombele thought to try the shot in any respect, with no purpose to anticipate success? Is it the truth that, within the final replay angle within the clip above, you’ll be able to see Blades keeper Aaron Ramsdale clearly mutter a phrase that begins with “F” as he realizes the ball is clearly arcing into his internet and there is nothing he can do about it?

The proper reply, after all: all the above. What a aim.


Finest XI

With half of the Premier League’s 20 teams formally on the midpoint of their campaigns, we have seen greater than sufficient to select the superlatives, place by place, to date.

GK: Nick Pope, Burnley. Goalkeeper stats are so loaded with context that it is onerous to know what to make of them, however do that one out: Stats Carry out’s Objectives Prevented class compares the xG of the photographs on your aim to the precise objectives you permit. Pope simply leads the league at +6.Four in the intervening time; he is on tempo for the perfect season on this regard since David de Gea’s +13.7 in 2017-18, however I doubt he’d complain if his Burnley teammates gave him rather less work to do.

RB: Kyle Walker-Peters, Southampton. On this XI, the 23-year-old is the right associate for the roaming Cancelo. He isn’t closely concerned in assault, however he thrives doing Ralph Hasenhuttl’s soiled work: he is second amongst league full-backs (min. 1000 minutes) with 110 ball recoveries, and he is first in each deal with success charge (57%) and fouls dedicated towards him (26). Misplaced within the shuffle a bit at Tottenham Hotspur up to now, he is thriving down south.

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CB: Jannik Vestergaard, Southampton. You need to catch Southampton in transition since you in all probability aren’t going to attain as soon as the Saints have settled in behind the ball on protection. Vestergaard is as answerable for that as anybody: he is gained 68% of his duels and 72% of aerials, which, contemplating he is 6-foot-6, in all probability isn’t surprising. He is a prepared (however not too prepared) tackler, and he is added three set-piece objectives to boot. He is been big, actually and metaphorically, for the overachieving Saints.

CB: Kurt Zouma, Chelsea. Chelsea’s protection ranks sixth in photographs allowed per possession and third in xG per shot, and Zouma has performed a serious position in that — he is one among solely two central defenders (min. 1,000 minutes) to win a minimum of 60% of his tackles, 65% of his duels and 70% of his aerials. However he additionally leads central defenders with 4 objectives, all from corners. That is a hell of a mixture, even when it does not persistently guarantee him a spot in an altogether uncertain Chelsea lineup.

LB: Joao Cancelo, Manchester Metropolis. He is performed left again and proper again. He generated 5 scoring probabilities in two matches on the suitable wing. His go map is likely one of the most … complete you will see.

Pep Guardiola has massaged Metropolis’s identification a bit this yr, making an attempt to shore up weaknesses in transition protection whereas various its assault. Cancelo has been key in each regards.

CM: Mason Mount, Chelsea. Of the 27 primarily “central” midfielders who’ve performed 1000 minutes to this point, Mount has created by far probably the most probabilities (48) and has accomplished probably the most crosses (33) with the second-highest completion charge (39%). He additionally has the second-most photographs on goal (10) regardless of taking most of his photographs outdoors the field. Regardless of all the cash Chelsea spent on attacking expertise this offseason, an excellent portion of their extra profitable assaults have gone by means of this 22-year previous holdover/youth academy product.

CM: Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester Metropolis. Positive, De Bruyne performs a majority of his minutes in additional of an attacking midfield position, however he is equally harmful in each — he has averaged 0.67 assists per 90 in attacking midfield and 0.63 in central midfield, and his go completion charge is larger from the latter position. So we’re squeezing him in right here. And anyway, this team’s much more enjoyable with each him and Fernandes in it.

RW: Mo Salah, Liverpool. He did not fairly match into the highest 5 gamers checklist above, however he is nonetheless been the perfect right-winger within the league. He and the Reds’ assault have fallen right into a little bit of a funk, however he is nonetheless on tempo to prime 25 objectives for the primary time since 2017-18.

Bruno Fernandes has been a driving pressure for Man United whereas Solskjaer remains to be determining the suitable stability and personnel in assault. Marc Atkins/Getty Photographs

CAM: Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United. United is near the league lead, and Fernandes leads United in touches, probabilities, assists, crosses tried and accomplished, objectives, photographs and ball recoveries within the attacking third. He is the United assault.

LW: Jack Grealish, Aston Villa. It is actually pick-your-flavor right here. In order for you extra of a creator, it is Grealish. For those who want perhaps a bit extra ending with a team that already options Mount, de Bruyne and Fernandes, then perhaps you go along with Son. Cannot go incorrect both method.

CF: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur. Fingers crossed that we get a full, injury-free season from Kane and Son, simply to see the numbers they’re able to producing. Up to now: 24 objectives and 17 assists mixed in simply 18 matches. Loopy.

Second XI/Honorable Mentions

GK: Alphonse Areola, Fulham RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Manchester United CB: John Stones, Manchester Metropolis CB: Harry Maguire, Manchester United LB: Ben Chilwell, Chelsea DM: Wilfred Ndidi, Leicester Metropolis CM: James Ward-Prowse, Southampton CM: Ilkay Gundogan, Manchester Metropolis RW: James Rodriguez, Everton CF: Jamie Vardy, Leicester Metropolis LW: Son Heung-Min, Tottenham Hotspur


Match of the season

Few season debuts find yourself being a wonderfully correct preview of every thing to return, however that is precisely what Liverpool 4-Three Leeds United was. Liverpool’s Salah netted a hat trick, paving the way in which for his present scoring lead. Liverpool suffered a few mind-blowing defensive glitches, which outlined the early season for mainly each heavy-possession, vulnerable-to-counter-attacks-rich-team within the sport.

Most of all, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds proved prepared to permit numerous scoring probabilities within the title of making numerous their very own. They adopted this match with a 4-3 win over Fulham, and so they’ve each scored 5+ objectives twice and allowed 4+ 4 occasions. Their knife’s-edge fashion might make them a risk to steal a Europa League slot late within the season… or it might result in a month-long stoop that offers them relegation nervousness. Both method, it is onerous to take your eyes off of them, and that is been true from the opening kick.


Most disappointing XI

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Mark Ogden seems to be at Football4cast FC’s checklist of the worst Premier League transfers to date this season.

Not every thing will be great and completely dwell as much as expectations, after all, so we must always in all probability cowl a number of the extra disappointing performances within the league as nicely.

GK: Jordan Pickford, Everton. England’s first-choice keeper has rebounded from a woeful begin, however mentioned begin remains to be affecting his season-long numbers. That Objectives Prevented measure referenced above? He was at minus-4.1 9 matches into the season. (He is at plus-2.Eight since.)

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool. Once more, that is about expectations. TAA has nonetheless produced the third-most probabilities of any fullback (24) and the fourth-most ball recoveries (98). He is nonetheless fairly good, clearly, however he is failing to clear the bar he set for himself final yr: his taking pictures stats are down, and he is gone from averaging 2.5 probabilities created per 90 to 1.7. He’ll bounce again, however Liverpool would very a lot respect it if that occurred shortly.

Trent Alexander-Arnold shouldn’t be having a foul season for Liverpool, however contemplating his significance to what the Reds do, he must regain kind and quick in the event that they’re to defend their league crown. CLIVE BRUNSKILL/POOL/AFP through Getty Photographs

CB: John Egan, Sheffield United. The Blades’ woeful begin (19 matches, 5 factors) has been pushed primarily by a total lack of ability to attain. However whilst they struggled in that division final season, they nonetheless had a sturdy protection to rely on. This yr, not a lot. Egan has gone from successful 63% of his aerials to 55%, from 42% of his tackles to 34% and from 61% of his duels all the way down to 53%. Opponents are taking the third-most photographs per possession, and Egan’s not stopping as a lot of them.

CB: Branislav Ivanovic, West Bromwich Albion. The 36-year-old former Chelsea star was introduced in to assist hold the again line sturdy and arranged, and whereas expectations weren’t excessive, wherever the bar was he isn’t clearing it.

LB: Ben Davies, Tottenham Hotspur. Davies was perhaps the perfect fullback within the league in 2017-18, producing two objectives and 6 assists amongst 47 probabilities created. However he is been trying to find his previous self since returning this time final yr from a critical ankle damage. Within the final calendar yr, he is created 14 probabilities and no objectives. He is principally high-quality defensively and principally high-quality total, however “high-quality” is disappointing in comparison with two or three years in the past.

CM: Mateo Kovacic, Chelsea. In his first two seasons in Chelsea blue, the Croatian midfielder averaged 1.Three probabilities created and seven.Zero ball recoveries per 90. Whereas Mount has accomplished nicely, Kovacic has struggled to seek out his place on this new lineup and is averaging simply 0.9 probabilities and 5.Zero ball recoveries. He is mixing into the surroundings a bit.

2 Associated

CM: Joao Moutinho, Wolves. Moutinho has been so essential to the identification of Nuno Espirito Santo’s squad because it carved out a distinct segment within the higher half of the Premier League, and it is onerous to think about him when it comes to disappointment. However his manufacturing has trailed off dramatically this season: after averaging 81 probabilities created and 256 ball recoveries in his first two seasons in Wolverhampton, the 34-year previous is on tempo for less than 40 probabilities and about 170 ball recoveries this yr.

CM: Kai Havertz, Chelsea. The most costly signing of Chelsea’s prolific offseason was additionally probably the most complicated. The Blues had already added Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech to their deep set of attackers after they introduced the 21-year previous Havertz in, and Frank Lampard has bounced him between central midfield, attacking midfield and the suitable wing in an try and discover a position for him. And after scoring 17 objectives within the Bundesliga final yr, he has only one after 19 league video games.

RW: Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal. It has been a double-disappointment of kinds for the 25-year previous — after producing 22 objectives and 11 assists for Lille in 2018-19, he managed solely 5 and 6 for the Gunners final season. He is additionally did not in any method earn Mikel Arteta’s belief, and a yr after coming to London for an $88 million transfer price, he is scored twice with no assists in beneath 500 minutes.

Kai Havertz, left, and Timo Werner haven’t hit the bottom operating since becoming a member of Chelsea final summer time, which is a priority contemplating how a lot was anticipated. Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC through Getty Photographs

CF: Timo Werner, Chelsea. The 24-year-old scored 28 objectives with 53 probabilities created for RB Leipzig final season, serving to to steer the membership to the Champions League semifinals. That Chelsea was capable of purchase him for beneath $60 million felt like a steal. However Lampard has deployed him primarily as a left winger — he was a centre-forward throughout his greatest RBL seasons — and as with a lot of the Chelsea assault, issues have not actually clicked but. He is obtained simply 4 objectives and 4 assists this yr.

LW: PIerre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal. The excellent news: the 31-year-old is coming off of his greatest efficiency of the season producing a brace in a 3-Zero win over Newcastle. The dangerous information: he had solely three objectives earlier than that. After scoring 22 objectives in every of the final two seasons, he is simply barely on tempo for double digits after re-signing with the membership this offseason. He is nonetheless doing higher than his counterpart on the suitable, nonetheless.


Worst signings of the season

5. Jamal Lewis, Newcastle. The Magpies spent an excellent chunk of their transfer finances on this former Norwich Metropolis fullback, however the 22-year-old has but to seek out his area of interest — he is discovered little position in assault, however he has struggled to create disruption on protection both.

4. Timo Werner, Chelsea. It is early in his London tenure, and his observe report is simply too robust for him to not ultimately adapt and thrive. However he hasn’t but.

3. Donny van de Beek, Manchester United. Solskjaer has but to determine what to do with the $42 million signing. The 23-year-old averaged 9 league objectives and 44 probabilities over his final three seasons at Ajax, however he is been relegated primarily to cup play to date and has produced a single aim and two probabilities created in 251 league minutes to this point.

2. Rhian Brewster, Sheffield United. United spent a club-record $28.6 million on the Liverpool prospect. Up to now, it is purchased them 657 minutes, 10 shot makes an attempt and nil league objectives.

1. Kai Havertz, Chelsea. Once more, this felt very very like a “We’ll do it as a result of we will” signing for Chelsea, and Lampard has under no circumstances discovered how or the place to deploy the teenager.


Finest signings of the season

Now again to constructive issues!

5. Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa. After a monstrous 2019-20 marketing campaign for Brentford (26 objectives, albeit in 49 league matches together with the promotion playoff), Watkins has stuffed in nicely up prime for a balanced Villa assault. He is averaging 0.21 xG per shot, and whereas he is been unfortunate to place solely six balls within the internet from 9.1 xG to date, (a) he is nonetheless on tempo for double-digit objectives and (b) nothing in his observe report suggests he is a poor finisher. His conversion numbers will doubtless enhance quickly.

4. Kyle Walker-Peters, Southampton. Southampton acquired top-of-the-line younger fullbacks within the league for $14.6 million. Cannot beat that piece of enterprise.

3. Diogo Jota, Liverpool. Generally your worth is offered most clearly in your absence. Jota felt nearly like a luxurious merchandise when acquired from Wolves, however in all competitions this yr, Liverpool have averaged extra objectives and extra factors when Jota performs than when he does not. Damage has restricted him to only 501 league minutes, however he scored 5 occasions and created six probabilities in that span. It is no shock that the Reds’ drought (one league aim since beating Crystal Palace 7-Zero in mid-December) has coincided with the Portugal attacker’s newest damage.

2. Tomas Soucek, West Ham United. After a strong mortgage audition final yr, West Ham knew what it was getting from Slavia Prague: a positive aerials and duels winner and chaos creator in defensive midfield (6.Eight ball recoveries per 90) and an occasional offensive presence as nicely (5 objectives, seven probabilities) with nice passing contact (71% lengthy go completion charge). West Ham are a very annoying team to play this season, and 25-year-old Soucek has in all probability been their greatest participant.

Rodriguez, in blue, has been a most welcome addition to the Premier League. CLIVE BRUNSKILL/POOL/AFP through Getty Photographs

1. James Rodriguez, Everton. 5 league matches into his Everton profession, James had scored three objectives and created 15 probabilities with three assists. That proved unsustainable, however he stays a catalyst. Regardless of lacking 5 matches, he nonetheless leads the team in probabilities created, anticipated assists and thru balls, and he is drawn the second-most fouls.

Not dangerous for a free transfer.


Younger gamers of the season

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Mark Ogden reacts to Football4cast FC’s greatest younger gamers within the Premier League to date this season.

The Premier League is not probably the most youngster-friendly league on the earth, however there are nonetheless fairly just a few 21-and-under gamers who’re greater than holding their very own.

10. Illan Meslier, Leeds. Meslier is probably the most fascinating goalkeeping prospect within the league. The 20-year-old former Lorient keeper is closely concerned within the possession sport and has the perfect completion charge of any beginning keeper, each on lengthy passes and total. He additionally has a fairly low save proportion (68%) and seemingly chooses to parry the ball away on a regular basis as a substitute of holding onto it. However he is additionally solely 20!

9. Ferran Torres, Manchester Metropolis. Acquired from Valencia this previous offseason, the 20-year-old striker is a little bit of a face within the crowd at occasions, however he has three objectives in 590 league minutes and does a strong job of passing and sustaining possession within the attacking third.

8. Curtis Jones, Liverpool. Thrust into midfield motion attributable to accidents, Jones is one among maybe solely two youngsters to carry their very own within the EPL this season. He completes 91% of his passes within the attacking third and has mixed 9 shot makes an attempt with seven probabilities created. He additionally grades nicely on the panache scale, which at all times helps.

7. Wesley Fofana, Leicester. Brendan Rodgers deserves huge credit score for his steerage of a principally younger Leicester roster, however the membership’s entrance workplace retains unearthing glorious kids so as to add to the combination. It is like a real-life Football Supervisor construct. The sturdy, 6-foot-Three Fofana, added from Saint-Etienne in October, is the most recent of the bunch.

Fofana, left, is arguably top-of-the-line center-backs within the Premier League this season and is a giant purpose behind Leicester being within the title race. MICHAEL REGAN/POOL/AFP through Getty Photographs

6. Tariq Lamptey, Brighton. The Chelsea academy product, 20, is busy on the suitable facet of Brighton’s midfield, transitioning the ball nicely from the defensive third upfield and sometimes getting concerned in assault, too (one aim, 10 probabilities created).

5. Callum Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea. Chelsea has too many wingers, and the 20-year-old solely has 413 league minutes due to it. However he is created extra probabilities per 90 than anybody on the team however Mount, he is scored extra continuously than any non-centre-forward, and he is obtained the perfect go completion charge of any attacker within the attacking third. He needs to be enjoying extra.

4. Phil Foden, Manchester Metropolis. That is proper, Foden remains to be solely 20. The midfielder continues to be a protected passer and splendidly correct level-to-level passer, although he hasn’t been fairly as concerned within the attacking section this season. (He is made up for it by scoring twice for England this season.)

3. Bukayo Saka, Arsenal. Arsenal spent some huge cash on gamers over 30 this offseason, however their greatest participant has been a young person. The 19-year previous Saka roams the left midfield between Aubameyang and Kieran Tierney, however he is been in all places within the field, combining 4 league objectives (third on the team) with 21 probabilities created (second) and a pair of.6 anticipated assists (first). Saka and 20-year-old Emile Smith Rowe are offering a smidgen of optimism for the Gunners in a irritating season.

2. Reece James, Chelsea. Contemplating what number of excellent left-wingers there are within the Premier League, enjoying right-back is a fairly fraught place. But the 21-year-old academy product has performed it principally nicely, exhibiting the velocity to maintain up whereas successful 72% of his aerials and 55% of his duels. He is additionally contributed a aim and 17 probabilities in assault. Very, very well-rounded.

1. Pedro Neto, Wolves. Attacker Raul Jimenez stays out after struggling a fractured cranium in November (yikes), Joao Moutinho is all of the sudden exhibiting his age, and costly younger transfer Fabio Silva has been as inconsistent as you’d anticipate an 18-year-old to be. However in Neto, Wolves have a dang star on the left wing. He leads the team in go completion charge (89%), probabilities created (37), assists (3), crosses (123), go makes an attempt within the attacking third (279) … and likewise objectives (4) and shot makes an attempt (35). Inside the league, solely Grealish has created extra probabilities from the left wing, and solely Grealish and Manchester Metropolis’s Raheem Sterling have extra anticipated assists.

Oh, and he scored on his Portugal debut in November, too! And he does not flip 21 for one more month-and-a-half!



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