And thus, the most hectic Premier League season in recent memory came to an end on May 28. Despite the tight schedule caused by the Qatar World Cup 2022, many players performed well. But, who were the best players in each position? There has already been much discussion about it and that is likely to continue in the coming days. Here's THE WEEK's Premier League team of the season:
Goalkeeper: Nick Pope, Newcastle United and England
Manchester United's David de Gea finished with the most clean sheets and Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale was excellent for most of the season, but Alisson (Liverpool) and Pope were both better all-round. For example, Pope had more than double the high claims and more than thrice the sweeper clearances as golden glove winner de Gea.
Between Alisson and Pope, the Brazilian had more saves, but that is a result of the Liverpool defence being below par. Alisson is vastly superior with the ball at his feet and he did not make a single error leading to a goal—Pope made one. However, Pope outperformed Alisson between the sticks and commanded his area more—higher save success rate, two penalty saves to one, and more punch-outs, high claims and throw-outs. Most interestingly, Pope edged out Alisson, who is among the best sweeper-keepers in the world, in sweeper clearances.
Right-back: Kieran Trippier, Newcastle United and England
Manchester City's Kyle Walker played significantly fewer minutes than the Newcastle United captain. Manchester United's right-backs Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot were both good at different phases during the season and they shared the role. So, the only player who can really be compared with Trippier is Arsenal's Ben White.
White had two goals to Trippier's one and Trippier had seven assists to White's five. Trippier created four times more big chances than White and put in six times more crosses. Defensively, Trippier had more blocks, interceptions and tackles won. He even won more aerial battles than the taller, centre-back-turned-right-back.
Centre-backs: William Saliba, Arsenal and France; Sven Botman, Newcastle United and the Netherlands
The best performing centre-backs this season included City's Rúben Dias, Arsenal's William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães, Newcastle's Sven Botman and Fabian Schär, United duo Raphaël Varane and Lisandro Martínez, and Brighton and Hove Albion captain Lewis Dunk. Notably, City's Nathan Aké impressed at centre-back and left-back. Dias was City's most impressive centre-back. Though he did not hit the heights of 2020-2021, he is, arguably, the best centre-back in the league at the moment. But, Dias played 400 minutes fewer than Saliba and 1,000 minutes fewer than Botman.
Saliba, 22, has been with Arsenal since 2019, but this was his debut campaign for the Gunners—he was loaned out thrice. He was a rock at the back for most of the season and Arsenal's title challenge fell away after his injury in March. Apart from defensive actions, he had a pass completion rate of over 90 per cent, scored twice and assisted one goal. Botman was an absolute colossus for Newcastle in his first year in England. His pass completion rate was good at more than 85 per cent and he was dispossessed only twice (Dias was dispossessed four times).
Left-back: Luke Shaw, Manchester United and England
Aké, as mentioned above, deputised capably at left-back, but he did not play enough games in the position to be considered. Oleksandr Zinchenko was key in Arsenal's title bid and Pervis Estupiñán was impressive at both ends for Brighton. But, Shaw was at his absolute best for United, except for a horrible performance in the 7-0 demolition by Liverpool. Both Shaw and Estupiñán outperformed Zinchenko in key parameters. For instance, they both created seven big chances compared with two by Zinchenko and had more blocks, interceptions and tackles won.
Between Shaw and Estupiñán, the Ecuadorean had more assists, through balls and crosses, but he was also dispossessed 29 times—Shaw was only dispossessed eight times. But, this could be because Estupiñán attempted to be more direct. Overall, he edged out Shaw in terms of attacking contribution. Defensively, Shaw came out on top with more blocks, tackles won, clearances and headed clearances, and aerial duels won. Therefore, because Shaw's attacking contribution was close to Estupiñán's and his defensive numbers were better, he has to start in the team of the season.
Defensive midfield: Rodri, Manchester City and Spain
The most obvious contender for Rodri's position was United's Casemiro. The great Brazilian was magnificent, except a few average games and a below par performance in the aforementioned 7-0 loss. Arsenal's Thomas Partey was good before a dip late in the season and Bruno Guimarães (Newcastle) and Moisés Caicedo (Brighton) were consistently good. West Ham's Declan Rice finished the season strong.
But, it was always between Rodri and Casemiro. The goal contributions are similar, but Casemiro edged the goal-contribution-to-matches ratio. Casemiro missed two big chances while Rodri missed four. Rodri's passing stats are better, but that is expected as City are a far better team at this stage. Though the more than 10 per cent difference in pass completion is still impressive (Rodri's is 90-plus). Casemiro had more through balls, crosses and was dispossessed less. The Brazilian's defensive numbers are better—he is required to do more at United. But, notably, Rodri won more aerial duels. The Spaniard made one error leading to a goal; Casemiro made none. On the whole, stats favour Casemiro. But, they do not tell the complete story in football. Casemiro made more mistakes than Rodri (losing the ball in dangerous areas, getting passes wrong).
Rodri was vital to the way City played and his presence let the team control games. There is no doubt that Casemiro could have done even better in a stronger team. But, Rodri's imperious season was just about enough to see off Casemiro's challenge.
Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City and Belgium; Martin Ødegaard, Arsenal and Norway
Right-wing: Bukayo Saka, Arsenal and England
Miguel Almirón had a great season for Newcastle, but the fight for the right-wing berth had to be between Saka and Liverpool's Mohamed Salah. They had the same number of assists, but Salah had one more assist and five more goals in a sub par Liverpool team. He created more big chances than the young Englishman and played more through balls. But, the Egyptian missed 20 big chances against Saka's three. Saka also put in almost five times the crosses and was dispossessed less. His defensive stats, too, were better than Salah's and therefore, overall, he is the right choice for the right flank.
Striker: Erling Haaland, Manchester City and Norway
This one was not as obvious as Haaland's record-breaking season would suggest. No one else really stood a chance, of course, but, England captain Harry Kane deserves a very honourable mention. Haaland's goal contribution was in the 40s; Kane's was in the 30s. But, the Norwegian missed 28 big chances (Kane missed 12). Kane created more big chances, played more through balls and crossed more. Though he was also dispossessed more than double the number of times Haaland was. Given that neither Haaland nor City spent much time defending, it is no surprise that Kane's defensive numbers are better.
Overall, Kane's individual brilliance in a subpar Tottenham Hotspur team was never going to be enough to dislodge City's spearhead from a team of the season.
Left-wing: Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal and Brazil
There were a few good performers from the left flank. The most prominent among them were United's Marcus Rashford, Martinelli, Brighton's Kaoru Mitoma and City's Jack Grealish. Rashford and Martinelli hit 20 goal contributions. Grealish and Mitoma had just over half of that. Mitoma's defensive contribution was higher than the other tree and only Grealish held on to the ball better. But, his end product was not at the same level as the others. Rashford had a remarkable season and was the most in-form winger in the league for a period following the World Cup break. But, since that purple patch ended, he struggled to have a similar level of influence. His team play and defensive work are particular weaknesses and he missed 22 big chances; Martinelli missed six, Grealish two and Mitoma 12. Therefore, the selection for the left-wing had to be between Grealish and Martinelli.
Most of Martinelli's attacking numbers are higher than Grealish's—crosses are more than double—and as mentioned above, big chances missed is also close. Big chances created is almost at par and so are the defensive numbers. The only area where the Man City man is clearly superior is ball retention—he was dispossessed only around half as much as Martinelli. While this is an important attribute for a creative winger to have, it is not enough to select Grealish over the lively Brazilian.
Alisson, Ben White, Rúben Dias, Pervis Estupiñán, Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes, Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Jack Grealish.
Manager: Pep Guardiola, Manchester City
Mikel Arteta (Arsenal), Erik ten Hag (Manchester United), Eddie Howe (Newcastle United), Roberto De Zerbi (Brighton and Hove Albion), Unai Emery (Aston Villa), Thomas Frank (Brentford), Marco Silva (Fulham), Gary O'Neil (Bournemouth), and Steve Cooper (Nottingham Forest)—a staggering nine coaches exceeded expectations this season. But, there is only one choice to manage the team of the season.