Premier League Team of the Year outside the top six

2020 has been a year like no other for the Premier League. Football fans have become accustomed to the ‘new normal’ of empty stadiums across the globe every weekend.

Criteria to qualify for this list include:

  • Performance over the calendar year of 2020.
  • The selected XI must function as a team.
  • Have not played for a top six side any time this calendar year (I’m looking at you, Dean Henderson).
  • Finally, and controversially for this list sake Leicester City have replaced Arsenal in the top six; this is supported by both clubs’ placement at the end of last season as well as the current placement of both sides in the 2020/21 season.

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Goalkeeper – Emi Martinez

Despite originally joining Arsenal in 2010 Martinez failed to make his mark at the club until first-choice Bernd Leno suffered a controversial injury away at Brighton & Hove Albion shortly after football resumed in June. Emi was able to keep three clean sheets in his first three starts while achieving the highest save percentage in the entire division. An FA Cup winners’ medal was the perfect way to end a fairy tale season.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta unfortunately remained unconvinced and was eager to cash in on his second choice shot stopper leading Martinez to take a self-proclaimed “step up” in his career by joining Aston Villa. This swap has proved fruitful for both Emi and the Villains with the Argentine playing a major role in Villa’s superb start to the season by eight clean sheets in the first 15 games.

Left back – Lucas Digne

Digne has been lethal in forward areas this calendar year providing eight assists in only 28 games a fantastic tally bested only by Andy Roberston from the left back position. Both Carlo Ancelotti and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have benefited this calendar year from Lucas’ prowess when either bombing down the left flank or putting a dead ball into the mixer.

Digne’s absence this season has so far affected the Toffees going forward more than at the back with versatile centre back Ben Godfrey covering the left-hand side. This increased defensive solidity has seen Everton conceded 0.7 goals since his injury (down from the 1.5 goals they conceded in his eight games this season) while only scoring one goal per game since his injury (compared to the 2.25 goals scored in Lucas’ first eight games).

Centre back – James Tarkowski

Despite a disappointing start to the 20/21 season Burnley have accumulated the 11th most points in the division this calendar year, a feat which becomes more impressive when realising the club was only able to score 29 times. Tarkwoski’s influence over 2020s sixth best defence cannot be understated playing every minute of the 2019/20 season and after an initial contract dispute he has played every minute since game week four.

A decent passer and dribbler Tarkowski is not necessarily given the credit he deserves but defensive actions is where the centre back truly excels. So far this season Tarkwoski has averaged 2.05 tackles per 90 while maintaining a 60%-win rate against dribbling players. It is clear to see why David Moyes was interested in the Englishman over the summer.

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Centre back – Jannik Vestergaard

After a patchy end to the 2019/20 season the Dane has started this season in the form of his life, even scoring three goals before his untimely injury before the boxing day fixture. Vestergaard has established himself not only as a fantastic ball winner but also an eloquent ball playing centre-back in the model of previous Saints defender Virgil van Dijk. This season Jannik has won 4.32 aerial duels per 90 with an excellent success rate of 75%.

Jannik’s 2.64 tackles and interceptions per 90 show he is amongst the best in the division defensively, but the 46.1 ball carries, and 5.28 progress carries show he is arguably one of the best when on the ball also. The passing ability of the six foot four Dane is shown by his impressive passing accuracy across both medium and long ranges where he has a completion rate of 87.5% and 67.5% respectively.

Right back – Tariq Lamptey

After joining Brighton on deadline day back in January, Chelsea must regret letting such a talented youngster leave for a mere £2.97 million. Tariq has found in Brighton what he was without at Stamford Bridge, a clear path to the first team. The young defenders quality going forward is seen by the 5 G/A he has contributed this calendar year with four G/A coming in only 11 games this season.

Lamptey’s dribbling has stood out with 2.63 successful dribbles amongst the best in the league from right back. Since moving to the Amex, Lamptey’s market value has sored to £16.2 million and with Arsenal and Bayern Munich snooping around Brighton may be forced to cash in on their most prized asset.

Left midfield – Jack Grealish

Possibly the most obvious pick for this entire team, it is interesting to think where Jack may be playing his football if the Hawkeye technology was working when the Villains met Sheffield United. However, after 14 G/A so far this season it is clear to see why the West Midlands club was keen to place an £80 million price tag on their captain’s head. Grealish has built upon an impressive first season by improving on his dribbling, shooting and passing.

So far this season, Jack has 4.2 dribbles per 90 at an impressive success rate of 68% an improvement on his 59.2% last season. Grealish has increased his shots taken this season with a similar % being on target, this increase in shot efficiency has led Grealish to outperform his XG by 1.6. Finally, Grealish’s playmaking ability has improved upon last season leading the Premier League in chances created, this creative spark has proved critical in Villa’s early season success.

Centre midfield – James Ward-Prowse

A Saints academy graduate, Ward-Prowse is on course to have his most prolific season yet already recording 8 G/A this campaign with a total of 10 G/A this calendar year. The box-to-box midfielder is great at not only winning the ball (3.18 tackles/ interception per 90) but linking the defence and attack by passing or carrying the ball.

The Southampton captain is impressive at both short and medium passing with an eye for a switch as well averaging 2.12 per 90 so far this season. James’ ability from a dead ball situation cannot be understated. Eight of the Englishman’s 10 G/A this season have came from dead ball situations benefiting greatly from fellow Saint Jannik Vestegaard’s aerial dominance.

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Centre midfield – Tomas Soucek

A late January loan deal made permanent in the summer, Tomas Soucek has been a revelation in his first year in England with his initial fee of £14.58 million proving a true bargain. This calendar year the former of Slavia Prague captain has operated as an effective ball winner alongside Declan Rice in the West Ham midfield recording 3.8 tackles and interceptions per 90 along 3.02 clearances.

Soucek’s ability to get up and down the pitch for 90 minutes paired with his aerial dominance means the Czech provides a legitimate goal threat.

Right midfield – James Rodriguez

Seeing the seven-time domestic champion and two-time Champions League winner move to Merseyside this summer was a shock, but it showed the pull Carlo Ancelotti still possesses. James has averaged 0.62 G/A – Penalty Kicks this year, the most among right sided players this season.

James operates as an unorthodox right sided player, lacking the pace of a stereotypical winger he operates in half-spaces as more of a playmaker creating 1.04 goal chances per 90 and 4.57 shot creating actions per 90. Another obvious choice for this list, James has one of the best trophy cabinets in the Premier League and this is reflected in his creativity and vision being unmatched by any player outside the top six.

Striker – Danny Ings

After an unsuccessful spell at Liverpool hampered by injury, Ings has resurrected his once promising career. The Saints striker is the 2020 calendar year top goal scorer registering 22 goals while providing a further four assists.

Ings has proven himself not only a lethal finishing (outscoring his XG by 7.5 across the last two seasons) but fantastic at leading the press (pressing opponents 16.7 times per 90 this season with a moderate success rate of 25.1%) in Ralph Hasenhuttel’s exciting team.

Striker – Dominic Calvert-Lewin

No single Everton player has benefited more from the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti than Calvert-Lewin. The legendary Italian boss has helped the young striker become a great goal scorer rather than a scorer of great goals.

This calendar year, Calvert-Lewin has scored with his first touch on 15 out of his 16 leagues goals (while also outscoring his XG 2.7 this season) almost channelling his inner Filippo Inzaghi. Despite his deadly finishing Calvert-Lewin is no mere poacher; instead the forward’s aerial ability allows him to act as a target man producing 1.67 shot creating opportunities and 0.45 goal creating opportunities per 90 this season.

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Jack Farrelly
Jack Farrelly

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