Christmas is here and tis truly the season to be jolly but what better gift for fans of the Premier League than a combined XI at the half-mark of the 2017-18 season?
After 19 rounds played, one team has bossed over the English top-flight in an unforeseen manner and understandably their players dominate The Statesman’s selection, but there are a few noteworthy inclusions from a side that have punched above their weight as well.
The Premier League’s best XI, in a 4-2-3-1 formation:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Manchester United)
City custodian Ederson may have him beat in terms of goals conceded (12-15) and clean-sheets (12-10), but David de Gea has been the outstanding goalkeeper of the Premier League so far.
The Real Madrid target is second only to Lukasz Fabianski of Swansea in saves made (76-70), which just goes on to prove that in spite of Jose Mourinho’s pragmatic style, the Red Devils owe a lot to their flying Spaniard.
Despite having an ever-changing back-four (or three) in front of him, de Gea has used his hands, feet and just about every other body part to keep the opposition at bay and his highlight reel from the Arsenal game (where he made an gobsmacking 14 saves) alone was enough to warrant an inclusion.
Honourable mentions: Ederson (Manchester City) and Nick Pope (Burnley)
Left-back: Stephen Ward (Burnley)
Sean Dyche’s Burnley have been the story of the season, barring the runaway leaders of course, and a major reason why the Clarets are contending for the European spots has been their stingy defence.
The 32-year-old Ward isn’t the flashiest defender around, but he’s been part of an impressive unit that have conceded just 15 goals in 19 games. Considering they lost 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur on Matchday 19, their stats look even more impressive.
With just one goal and one assist, Ward may not produce too many exhilarating moments, but the Irishman will get the job done and he would have been on most teams’ shopping lists had he not been on the wrong side of 30.
Honourable mentions: Sead Kolasinac (Arsenal) and Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)
Centre back: James Tarkowski (Burnley)
The second Clarets defender to feature in our XI and perhaps the finest of their back-four.
Currently serving a three-match ban for violent conduct, the 25-year-old has stepped up in style after Michael Keane departed for Everton.
Again, had Burnley not shipped three against Spurs, their defensive record would have been even more impressive.
As it stands, however, Tarkowski and co have proven to be tough nuts to crack and if the 6’3 Englishman can avoid these unnecessary suspensions, don’t be surprised if Burnley keep going towards the business end of the season.
Honourable mentions: Phil Jones (Manchester United) and Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Centre back: Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
With John Stones in serious form, one had to fear for Nicolas Otamendi in what was a make-or-break season for the uncompromising Argentine.
After 19 games played, the 29-year-old has definitely made it while his more fancied team-mates (Stones and Vincent Kompany) have struggled with injuries to emerge as one of the first names on Pep Guardiola’s team-sheet.
Four goals and an assist in 18 games (Otamendi was rested for one match) just goes on to prove that despite not being the tallest, the six-feet tall Otamendi is definitely a player who makes a difference on either end of the pitch.
Honourable mentions: Chris Smalling (Manchester United) and Ben Mee (Burnley)
Right-back: Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Margins in the Premier League are extremely fine and while there was little to separate the Manchester clubs’ right-backs, City’s £50 million-recruit edges out United’s Ecuadorian by a whisker.
The 27-year-old has always been blessed with a bountiful of physical attributes, but under Pep Guardiola, has started to get weed out the inconsistencies that prevented him from being considered elite.
A tally of four assists may not seem exceptional, but considering the fact that Walker is nearly unbeatable one-on-one and has been a crucial part of the league’s best defence makes him a sure-shot for this XI.
Honourable mentions: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) and Matthew Lowton (Burnley)
Defensive midfield: Fernandinho (Manchester City)
With all the hype surrounding Nemanja Matic’s transfer from Chelsea to Manchester United, Ferandinho’s contributions were overshadowed by the hulking Serbian’s, especially till the time United were neck-and-neck with their derby rivals.
However, as the dust has settled, there seems to be one winner this season and no man has done a better job of protecting his defence than Fernadinho.
At 32, he may not have many top-flight seasons left in him, but the combative Brazilian is sure making them count.
Considering he’s a defensive midfielder, goals is not a yardstick, but the veteran has chipped in with two strikes to suggest he’s not a mug with the ball either.
Honourable mentions: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) and N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Central midfield: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
The best player in the Premier League?
At this stage, despite having a multitude of standout talents all around the English top-flight, it would certainly seem so.
The 26-year-old has a tally of six goals and eight assists so far, but the Belgian is a proper all-round player who dominates games on a weekly basis.
The ambipedal is no prima donna, for he runs his lung out in a bid to track back each time the Citizens lose the ball and it’s not a stretch to say that without him, Pep Guardiola’s side wouldn’t be nearly as untouchable as they are now.
Honourable mentions: Paul Pogba (Manchester United) and Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)
Left wing: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
The Premier League’s joint-highest scorer, Mo Salah has been akin to a phoenix rising from the ashes.
After a disastrous stint with Chelsea not so long ago, there were plenty of doubts over Salah’s ability to cope with the hustle bustle of the English top-flight.
Fifteen goals and three assists later, the Reds winger has sent all his critics scurrying for cover.
While Jurgen Klopp’s men will not be challenging for the title this year, if they can keep their wing wizard fit, they still stand a chance of making the top-four at least.
Honourable mentions: Leroy Sane (Manchester City) and Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Central attacking midfield: David Silva (Manchester City)
‘El Mago’, boosted by the sensational form of his Manchester City team-mates, has enjoyed a renaissance this season.
Yes, it’s easy to accumulate a hefty goals + assists tally (eight and five, respectively) in a side as dominant as Manchester City, but one must remember that competition for starting spots is immense in any top team and the fact that Silva has started 17 games belies his importance.
Of late, the diminutive Spaniard has been founding the winner in tight games, just to prove he’s no stat-padder and he continues to unlock stubborn defences with his deft craft.
Honourable mentions: Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) and Wayne Rooney (Everton)
Right wing: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Had it not been for Salah, Sterling would easily have been the standout winger of the season. Taking in teammate Leroy Sane’s fine form, that’s no mean feat.
Sterling, under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage has come into his own in 2017, finishing chances with aplomb he would have missed not so long ago.
Still only 23, the sky is the limit for the jet-heeled Englishman and considering his propensity to score late goals, he’s a no-brainer selection.
Honourable mentions: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City) and Richarlison (Watford)
Centre forward: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
In today’s day and age, when the old-fashioned No.9 seems to be dying out, Tottenham Hotspur’s main man is going strong and continues to plunder goals like nobody’s business.
Level with Salah at the top of the charts with 15 strikes, the ‘one-season wonder’ has been the lone bright spot for the Lilywhites in a largely-disappointing Premier League campaign.
Clearly relishing competing with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Romelu Lukaku, Alvaro Morata apart from the aforementioned Salah, the 24-year-old continues to plug away, despite the majority of his teammates blowing hot and cold.
Honourable mentions: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) and Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)