A slightly different article from me but I thought that it might be interesting to look at who, in my opinion, have been the outstanding players of the season, in the form of a Premier League XI. I have selected the fashionable 4-2-3-1 formation, roughly used by the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United; any opinions are welcome and I am sure there will be a few people who disagree with my selection.
GK: Petr Cech.
A tricky position to fill with no goalkeeper really standing out thus far, but with four clean sheets, the highest in the league this season, and with a total of six conceded, the joint fewest with Arsenal, Cech is certainly doing his part for Chelsea. Although he has made the odd mistake a number of outstanding saves notably against Tottenham at the weekend and also against Arsenal have helped his side see off their local rivals, and stand clear at the summit of the league.
LB: Leighton Baines.
A no brainer for me, Baines has been one of the stand out performers in the league this season, and has been influential in the early good form of Everton. With two goals and two assists in seven games he matches the output of Santi Cazorla, and has produced more than the likes of Bale, Gerrard and Dembele. It is therefore no surprise that 46% of Everton’s attacks have come down the left hand side, no other team focuses its attacks more on one area than Everton.
RB: Branislav Ivanovic.
A more difficult decision for who should occupy the RB position. That is not to say that Ivanovic has not been fantastic for Chelsea this season; he has produced some sturdy performances, made more impressive by the fact that he has been without the protection of a winger in front of him. He does seem to have picked up the less than desirable habit of falling very easily under little or no contact which is why I am reluctant to include him, however three goals thus far makes him the highest goal scoring defender in the league, and with an assist to add to that it is hard to argue with results.
Rafael has to be given a mention, some great performances from the young RB have seen him widely praised, however defensively he is often lacking which is why I have not included him.
CB: Jan Vertonghen.
Although he has been deployed as a left back in recent games he is more naturally a centre back and played in the more central position in Tottenham’s early fixtures. Some fantastic performances as both centre back and left back have made him not only one of the best transfers this season but also one of the standout defensive performers in the league. An important and well taken goal against Manchester United and a fantastic last ditch challenge on Torres at the weekend have been particular highlights, but it is his strong defensive performances against Reading and QPR that have marked him out as one of Tottenham’s most important players.
CB: Michael Williamson.
A strange choice yes, and one which will cause controversy, however it is one that can be justified. Williamson put in a man of the match performance against Norwich earlier in the season; this has been followed by hugely impressive performances against Sunderland and Reading. These performances are based on a strong grasp of the fundamental aspects of a centre back’s game. In his five appearances he has managed to win 7 aerial duels per game, second only to Peter Crouch. Williamson has also managed a league high 16.4 clearances per game, 5 clearances per game more than second placed Rio Ferdinand. 1.4 blocked shots per game and a goal line clearance paints the picture of a centre back who can be in the right place at the right time, while firmly protecting his keeper. Newcastle have had a troubled start to the season but in Williamson they have a centre back in fine form.
Centre Mid: Mikel Arteta.
Arteta has flown slightly under the radar this season, with the likes of Cazorla, Podolski, Oxlade Chamberlain and even Wilshire receiving more press time than the Spaniard, however his performances on the park have been second to none from the slightly deeper midfield position. Statistically Arteta is unbelievable, 93.7% pass success rate, second in the league only to Rio Ferdinand but with more than twice as many passes as the English defender. An average of 95.5 passes per game amounts to 764 passes in total, almost one hundred passes more than the second highest passer Yaya Toure. 1.4 key passes per game is a strong contribution but for a player whose role it is to dictate the game, and keep possession safely in the hands of his team he is by far the strongest performer in the league, outperforming the likes of Joe Allen, Mikel and Paul Scholes. He is not just a strong passer - his 4.3 tackles per game is the fourth highest in the league, and with 2.3 interceptions per game his contribution defensively is significant.
Centre Mid: Michu.
A blistering start to the season in which he scored four goals in three games was curtailed slightly with Swansea’s three defeats; however a recent return to form has seen him bag two goals in his last two games, and one man of the match performance in the victory over Wigan at the weekend. A revelation for Swansea this season, and one of the bargains of the transfer window, he certainly deserves his place in the side, and although he has played in a more advanced position on three occasions four of his goals have come from his time in the middle suggesting that this is where he is most effective.
Attacking Mid: Marouane Fellaini.
Fellaini is a player who has had fantastic potential for a number of seasons, and is now starting to show what a threat he can be. The opening game to the season saw him outmuscle and outplay his more revered opposition (Manchester United) and this form has hardly faltered; goals against Swansea and Aston Villa mark his most obvious contributions but with fantastic efforts also against Southampton and Newcastle he stands out in a very strong Everton team.
Attacking Mid: Santi Cazorla.
Arguably the most impressive player in the league, from the first game to the last he has driven Arsenal forward with some exciting football. Two goals and two assists is a solid contribution, but more impressive is his ability to retain possession while remaining a threat. A 90% pass success rate coupled with 3.8 key passes a game (a total of 30 key passes) is a devastating combination which is made more impressive by the sheer quantity of passes he completes. An average of 71 passes per game is significantly higher than the likes of Nasri, Mata, Bale and Silva, with only Nasri managing a higher pass success rate within those players who have managed more than two key passes per game. If Arsenal are to have any success this season Santi will surely be at the heart of it.
Attacking Mid: Juan Mata.
With three goals and a league high five assists in seven games Mata has been the star performer for the league leaders thus far, and his performance against Tottenham has to be one of the best individual performances at this early stage in the season. His movement and passing alongside his much discussed teammates Oscar and Hazard is beginning to click, and opposition are finding it harder and harder to deal with the triumvirate; however Mata continues to outshine and I am sure that the cheers of “there is only Juan” will continue to ring out at Stamford Bridge for the continuation of the season.
ST: Robin Van Persie.
Arguably an easy and obvious selection, however with the likes of Fletcher, Defoe, Ba, Dzeko, and Torres all performing well and scoring goals the decision was not as easy as you would think. With six goals he leads the scoring charts, along with Ba and Michu, however what really makes RVP stand out is his three assists and pass success rate of 82%, showing that the Dutchman is not only a threat in front of goal, but he is also a fantastic asset to the team on the whole.