Premier League: review and team of the season so far

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As the Premier League season reaches just past the halfway point, we have enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining first half to the campagin, with Jurgen Klopp’s superb unbeaten Liverpool side seven points ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the race for the title. Tottenham Hotspur have also enjoyed an impressive first half to the campaign, with Maurichio Pochettino continuing to show why he was one of the most sought after managers in world football.

Furthermore Chelsea and Arsenal – both under new managers in Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery – are fourth and fifth currently respectively with both continuing to adapt their managers desired style of play. Meanwhile Manchester United, who finished second last season, have struggled for the majority of the first half of the season, resulting in manager Jose Mourinho’s dismissal after criticism of his team’s style of the play while also rumoured to have fallen out with several players and figures within the club. However in recent weeks, under appointed interim manager and former hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they have began to show signs of improvement winning their first three games under the Norweigan playing a fluid, dynamic and compelling brand of football Manchester United are famously associated with, pleasing fans.

In addition there have been two additional managerial casualties so far this season, with Southampton and Fulham choosing to dismiss Mark Hughes and Slavisa Jokanovic respectively, appointing Ralph Hasenhuttl and Claudio Ranieri subsequently. Fellow teams promoted to the Premier League last season, Wolves and Cardiff, have both sustained strong first halves to the campaign showing they are more then equipped to stay in the Premier League, impressing under Nuno Espírito Santo and Neil Warnock respctively.

Having looked at those who have impressed in the opening half of the 2018/19 campaign, I have selected my team of the season so far. These are not necessarily the best eleven players, but they are the best players in each position, creating a formidable XI which would compete against any team in the world.

Goalkeeper: Alisson (Liverpool)

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What a signing Alisson as proven to be for Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp purchased the Brazilian from Roma for approximately £67 million during the summer, replacing Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet, and the Brazilian has made Liverpool number one jersey his own.

Confident with the ball at his feet and while possessing amazing reflexes, Alisson has been an invaluable acquisition and has been a key figure behind Liverpool’s excellent first half of the campaign. The Brazilian has only been beaten eight times this season, and has the most clean sheets in the Premier league this season with twelve, ahead of the likes of Kepa Arrizabalaga, Ederson and Hugo Lloris .

There have been some minor blips, against Leicester City and Manchester United, but neither have been costly and do not undermine the hugely impressive start the Brazilian number one has made at Liverpool.

Honourabe mentions: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea), Lukas Fabianski (West Ham), Neil Etheridge (Cardiff)

Right Back: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

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Cesar Azpilicueta is the type of player every team would love to have in their side. Consistent, dependable and someone who possesses great versatility, comfortable in playing in any position in the backline. Azpilicueta has firmly established himself as an important figure within Chelsea’s defence under a variety of managers and formations ever since his arrival at Stamford Bridge from Marseille in the summer of 2012.

Maurizio Sarri has deployed the Spaniard in his more favoured position at right back since reverting to a back four, abandoning Antonio Conte’s favoured back three, and he has adjusted to his new role seamlessly. Azpilicueta has always been outstanding defensively, but has also shown an additional side to his game, providing to be a greater attacking threat from the right flank. Azipilcueta is not only one of the greatest right backs in the Premier League but within world football, and will continue to be an important and dependable figure under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea.

Honourable mentions: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace), Conor Coady (Wolves), Trent Alexander Arnold (Liverpool)

Centre Back: Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)

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In my opinion, I would consider him as one of the best centre backs on the planet in current form and is the outstanding candidate for the PFA Players’ player of the year award.

Like Allison, Van Dijk has been immense for Liverpool this season. Following a promising start to his career at Anfield after joining in for a world record for for a defender £75 million from Southampton in January, the Dutch centre-back continues to go from strength to strength at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.

Commanding in the air, composed on the ball, great pace and acceleration, Van Dijk’s presence for Liverpool will give opposition forwards nightmares at the prospect of facing him. Some of the best in the league have already failed to get the better of the Dutchman, being made to look completely out of depth. Jordan Henderson may be the armband, but Van Dijk is the key leader within this Liverpool side and will be key to Jurgen Klopp’s ambition of delivering a first league title since 1990.

Honourable mentions: Joe Gomez (Leicester), Willy Boly (Wolves), Lewis Dunk (Brighton)

Centre Back: Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)

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Another January signing coming into his own this season, Aymeric Laporte has been a key figure within Manchester City’s defence so far.

The Frenchman’s composure on the ball is vital for City’s style of play, capable of producing pinpoint passes further forward into the midfielders and attackers, subsequently starting attacks and keeping Pep Guardiola’s side in control of matches.

While Guardiola is fortunate enough to have four excellent centre backs in Laporte, John Stones, Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi, the former Athletic Bilbao is the only of them to play every game so far in the league for the Citizens. He is key to Pep Guardiola’s side and will be someone the Spaniard will hope become a mainstay within the City rearguard for years to come.

Honourable mentions: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea), Nathan Ake (Bournemouth)

Left Back: Andy Robertson (Liverpool)

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The Scotsman has simply been a revelation since his arrival from Hull for a bargain price of £8 million. His excellent pace, delivery and tenacity have made him a real fan favourite at Anfield.

Left back had previously been a real position of difficulty at Liverpool, with Alberto Moreno proving to be a defensive liability leading to Jurgen Klopp having to depend on James Milner full in the position at times but Robertson has made the issue a thing of the past.

Having made the most tackles for Liverpool this season with 37, while contributing three assists too, mean his strong defensive skills and pinpoint crossing from wide areas mark him out as a full back who ticks all the boxes in modern day football.

Honourable mentions: Lucas Digne (Everton), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea), Ben Chilwell (Leicester)

Centre Midfield: Lucas Torreira (Arsenal)

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The diminutive Uruguayan has quickly established himself as a fan favourite at the Emirates with his all-actions displays and tenacious tackling following his summer arrival from Sampdoria. Since the departure of Gilberto Silva in 2008, Arsenal have been without a specialist holding midfielder capable of providing genuine protection to the back four and cutting out opposition attacks.

But in Torreira, they have a player who fullfills this criteria and will be am important figure in Unai Emery’s plans in making this Gunners side capable of competing at the top of the Premier League. Although short in stature, the Uruguayan is fearless and displays the sort of determination and commitment that endears fans and has proved to be a superb addition for Arsenal.

Honourable Mentions: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford), Declan Rice (West Ham)

Centre Midfield: David Silva (Manchester City)

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Incredibly, the Spaniard seems to improve with every Premier League campaign, with the little magician at his sublime best for much of the opening half of the campaign, with Silva’s superb technical ability, excellent touch and fantastic vision a privilege for any football fan to witness.

It is astonishing to consider that despite joining the Citizens in 2010 from Valencia and being someone who will undoubtedly go down as one of the best players to ever wear the City shirt and perhaps grace the Premier League, Silva has never been in contention for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award. If he maintains the form he has shown so far this season, surely this will change and will be key in Pep Guardiola’s hopes of retaining the Premier League and obtaining the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and an elusive first Champions League title for City

Honourable mentions: James Madison (Leicester), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)

Centre Midfield: Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)

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Now regarded as one of the finest playmakers in European football, Eriksen has once again been at the heart of Spurs’ fine start to the campaign. The Danish talisman is a wonderfully talented footballer, capable of dictating and controlling the game while able of producing exquisite passes and moments of sheer quality.

He leads the way for his side with seven assists, second to only Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraserin the league who has eight, and has been instrumental in some of Spurs’ most impressive performances this season, most notably their dominant victory over Chelsea at Wembley in November.

His last minute winner against Burnley recently was also symbolic of both him Mauricio Pochettino’s side. The willingness and desire to commit and persevere but a decisive, ruthless instinct in key moments. Spurs, with Eriksen being a catalyst in their dynamic style of play delivering both goals and assists, have shown they are more than capable of competing with Liverpool and Manchester City for the title this season.

Honourable Mentions: Dele Alli (Tottenham), James Milner (Liverpool), Victor Camarasa (Cardiff)

Right Winger: Mohammed Salah (Liverpool)

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One of the biggest questions coming into this season was whether Mohammed Salah could replicate his unbelievable goalscoring form of last year in his first season at Liverpool. After a slightly quiet start by his own incredibly standards, with a persistent shoulder injury picked up in the Champions League final last season affecting him in the early stages of the season, the Egyptian has well and truly picked up the pace and has returned to the devastating form that terrorised opposition defences in his first year at Anfield.

Salah is both Liverpool’s top scorer in the league with 12 and highest assist maker with 6, and provides that devastating clinical edge whenever he steps on to the field, often being utilised up front by Jurgen Klopp this season. If the Reds are to claim their first title in over two decades, Salah is absolutely pivotal to their hopes.

Honourable mentions: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Left Winger: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

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Where would Chelsea be without Eden Hazard? It is always unfair to label someone as a one man team, but Chelsea often inevitably look up to their world class number ten to conjure up a piece of genius within a match. Following his appointment as manager of Chelsea, replacing Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri’s Blues have been far more dynamic going forward with their Belgian superstar relied upon for his goals, assists and moments of sheer brilliance.

With both Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata misfiring in front of goal this season, Sarri has deployed Hazard as a false nine in recent weeks and has reaped rich rewards. The 27-year-old has fired in ten goals in the Premier League this season, whilst also underlining his more creative side with nine assists, with his 19 goal contributions the highest of any in the division.

Real Madrid continue to be linked with a move for Hazard, and if Los Blancos are to succeed in their attempts to lure him to the Santiago Bernabeu, then the Premier League will have lost one of the finest and most technically gifted players in world football.

Honourable mentions: Song Heung Min (Tottenham), Leroy Sane (Manchester City),  Felipe Anderson (West Ham)

Centre Forward: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

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The Premier League’s top scorer this season with 13, the former Borussia Dortmund star has enjoyed a stellar 2018, scoring 23 goals and assisting seven since his arrival in the Premier League after joining from the Bundesliga giants in January. Aubameyang finished off the second half of the previous Premier League season with aplomb before continuing to pick up from where he left off this campaign.

The 29-year-old has been in scintillating form this campaign for the Gunners, forming a potent partnership with and French International Alexandre Lacazatte, something many thought would be problematic given Unai Emery’s preference of playing one central striker. If Arsenal are to return to the Champions League next year, then Aubameyang’s goals are going to be critical.

Honourable mentions: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Richarlison (Everton), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

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