2015-16 Premier League Team of the Year

pl trophyHere is The Football Lab’s Premier League eleven for the 2015-16 season. This blog makes four changes to the PFA’s Team of the Year, with Heurelho Gomes, Kyle Walker, Virgil Van Dijk and James Milner coming in…

Goalkeeper – Heurelho Gomes

Gomes’ displays make him arguably Watford’s best ever goalkeeper. His highlights include a heroic display to preserve a 1-0 win at Sunderland, key saves from Ivanovic and Costa against Chelsea and most recently, stopping two Berahino penalties versus West Brom. David De Gea is the most popular choice and has had another impressive season, yet a lot of his clean sheets have come against teams playing for a draw against Manchester United. Gomes has kept only two fewer shut-outs whilst coming under more pressure.

Right-back – Kyle Walker

In the past, Walker has been criticized for defensive frailty, but this season he has made 81 interceptions, more than any other Tottenham player. With the team more reliable at the back, the 25-year-old has been able to contribute to the team’s pressing game and attack confidently, creating 28 chances this term. Walker scored an own goal at Old Trafford on the opening day, but he has grown from that experience to become an asset for title-chasing Spurs.

Centre-back – Toby Alderweireld

The development of the aforementioned Walker has much to do with Alderweireld’s arrival. The Belgian came into a leaky back-line last summer, but has had a transformative effect on Tottenham’s defensive play, the team conceding just 46 goals in the 56 matches he has started. Alderweireld’s strength, composure and reading of the game makes him the most complete centre-back in the Premier League.

Centre-back – Virgil Van Dijk

Many will question the omission of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, who deserve credit for their performances since the turn of the year. However, Leicester had only kept one clean sheet until mid-November and the duo rely a lot on their aerial ability, which suggests they may not do quite as well in a different system. This blog argues that a better-rounded centre-back is Van Dijk, one of the most underrated players in the Premier League. The Dutchman has the pace and power to deal with physical strikers but he can also defend with composure when needed. Van Dijk’s consistency has been the key to the Saints’ solid season.

Left-back – Christian Fuchs

Fuchs has put in some strong, all-round performances for Leicester. Captain of the Austrian national side, the 30-year-old is a model professional and never stops working for the team’s cause. He allies his great attitude with the physique to defend against crosses and the quality to deliver them, helping the former Schalke 04 man gain a respectable four assists. Not bad for a free transfer.

Central midfield – N’Golo Kante

This blog would argue Kante has been the best player in the Premier League this season. The Frenchman’s low height of 5ft 7in gives him the mobility to get around the pitch with ease, yet he retains the incredible power needed to win 4.5 tackles per game, more than any other player. Whenever the 25-year-old wins the ball, he plays it forward quickly and that is partly why Leicester have been so effective in the transitional phases of play. Don’t be fooled by the lack of goals, Kante is pivotal to Leicester’s play.

Central midfield – Dele Alli

Benefiting from the midfield muscle provided by Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele, Alli has been given the licence to press further up the pitch and provide support for Kane. As well as providing 10 goals and nine assists, the former MK Dons man makes 2.2 tackles per game and 1.8 interceptions, a rare contribution for an attack-minded midfielder. Alli’s quality and tenacity make him one of the most exciting midfielders in Europe – but never mind that, what about his miss against Stoke?

Central midfield – James Milner

Milner was hyped up as a 16-year-old at Leeds, but he has since been unfairly undervalued for the majority of his career. He has made 2.5 tackles per game this season and possesses great stamina, yet he is much more than the monotonous workhorse he is perceived to be. The Liverpool midfielder has played 2.2 key passes per game, the seventh highest number in the Premier League, and gained 11 assists, joint-third with David Silva and Riyad Mahrez. For a player often used in a disciplined midfield role, Milner is more technically accomplished than given credit for.

Right wing – Riyad Mahrez

Mahrez has directly contributed to 28 of his team’s goals and has been the chief magician in Leicester’s industrious side. Likely to become a Premier League title winner just two and a half years after leaving second tier French side Le Havre, the 25-year-old has now caught the attention of elite European clubs. Whether he will be good enough to perform alongside the very best in the world, one season cannot reveal. Either way, Mahrez has had an excellent season and is rightly seen as the most technically-gifted player in the Premier League.

Left wing – Dimitri Payet

The Football Lab gives the ‘signing of the season’ accolade to Alderweireld, but Dimitri Payet has had a similarly transformative effect on a London side, albeit in a different role. The Frenchman’s blistering pace gives West Ham a threat on the counter-attack, evident ever since the opening day 2-0 win at Arsenal. The 29-year-old’s end product is evidenced by the fact he has scored nine goals and has played 3.8 key passes per game, the second highest number in the Premier League. The very presence of a high-calibre player such as Payet will help West Ham attract yet more quality in the summer.

Striker – Harry Kane

Kane has everything a team could want from a centre-forward. He harries defences, he is strong in the air, he holds the ball up for midfielders, he is a good passer and above all, he is a clinical finisher. The 22-year-old has destroyed any suggestions that he may be a 14/15 one-season wonder with 30 goals for Spurs and England this term. Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero have both looked excellent at times this season, but Kane’s consistency since October gives him the edge.

Manager – Claudio Ranieri

Managers are under constant pressure in the modern game and often take the bulk of the criticism when results do not go well. When discussing Leicester’s success however, Ranieri’s influence can be slightly underestimated. As well as getting the midfield disciplined and attacking players full of confidence, the Italian has also kept the whole team relaxed off the field, despite the extremity of what Leicester are on the cusp of achieving. Slaven Bilic and Mauricio Pochettino have done very well at their respective clubs, but Leicester’s achievements this season are on a different level to what anybody ever thought possible. Bravo, Claudio.