At the time of writing, the Premier League is basically at the halfway point in the season. Most teams have played 19 games and only a handful of other teams needing one to two games to reach the halfway point.
Due to the congested schedule and the late start, this is has been an unprecedented season. No team has truly staked a claim on the title. This has brought a lot of unpredictability to the games on display. Although it’s been a wacky season, to say the least, some standout performers have been a joy to watch over the past four months. Based on performances, stats, and consistency here is the current best line-up of the Premier League thus far.
Premier League Best Line-Up at Halfway Stage
Premier League Top Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez
Last season, Martinez was known as Arsenal’s stud back-up goalkeeper. This season, he’s been Aston Villa‘s Mr Reliable between the sticks. He bet on himself and made the move to Villa last summer and is now part of one of the Premier League’s most exciting sides. As things stand, Villa have played the least amount of games (16) in the Premier League. However, Martinez is the goalkeeper with the second most clean sheets with eight, behind Ederson with ten.
Martinez is brilliant and was crucial to Villa’s great form during the Christmas period where they won three games, drew two, and kept four clean sheets. Statistically, Martinez has the highest post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed per 90 minutes at +.36, according to fbref.com. In layman’s terms, this means the higher the number the more likely the keeper is to save a shot on goal, Martinez is the leader in this statistic.
Best Line-Up Full-Backs: Joao Cancelo & Andrew Robertson
Joao Cancelo is slightly tricky to pin down in one specific position. The former Juventus man has played in various positions this season. He’s occupied both right and left-back slots as well as playing in midfield a few times for Pep Guardiola. However, wherever he’s played this season, he’s been exceptional. Last season was a rocky first season in the Premier League but this campaign has been completely different.
In the attacking phase of the game, Cancelo has all the attributes to be a top-class player for many years to come. He’s the perfect Guardiola player due to his versatility and attacking minded nature. In the past, Cancelo has been criticised for being a pedestrian in defence, but even his defending has improved tremendously this season. According to whoscored.com, Cancelo has averaged a combined 3.8 tackles and interceptions per game this season. If he can keep it up, he will be one of Manchester City‘s best players as they push for a title this campaign.
At left-back, it’s hard to look past Andy Robertson. It’s a myth to think he’s having a poor season due to Liverpool’s overall defensive struggles with the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez due to injury. Robertson has six goal involvements already this season. He’s also still one of Liverpool’s key threats in the attacking third due to his excellent crossing ability.
It’s a testament to the incredible reputation the Scot has built over the last three years to think that he’s having a down year despite his consistently great numbers. Liverpool are struggling due to their standards but one could imagine how much poorer they’d look without their loudmouth, brash ace of a left-back slotted in defence.
Best Line-Up Central Defender Honourable Mentions
This set of positions will have a few snubs, therefore it’s important to include some honourable mentions. First and foremost, John Stones is currently playing out of his skin. This is the £50 million defender that Manchester City would hope Stones would grow into. However, the Englishman has only played ten games in the league this season. Therefore the sample size is too small to include him in the best line-up. If he keeps it up through the end of the season he will surely be one of the first names on the teamsheet for Gareth Southgate at the Euros this summer.
Central Defenders: Ruben Dias & Thiago Silva
Dias is a hot prospect but nobody thought he would slot in so seamlessly for Guardiola’s Manchester City. The youngster has all the necessary attributes. He’s comfortable in possession, smooth on the ball, and plays like a cultured defender at the young age of 23. It’s refreshing to see a young player like him play so calmly and not make any rash decisions when put under pressure. City’s defensive woes from last season have been completely fixed with Dias alongside Stones at the back.
Speaking of defensive woes, Chelsea were a mess at the back last season. The Blues are struggling in form at the moment but one thing Frank Lampard managed to fix is the leaky defence. One of the biggest reasons for this fix is the inclusion of 36-year-old Thiago Silva slotting in at the back. As mentioned earlier, Zouma has had a great season and the inclusion of Ben Chilwell and Edouard Mendy have also fixed a lot of problems for Chelsea. However, Silva is quite clearly the leader of the defence.
After what was a horrible league debut against West Bromwich Albion, Silva bounced back. He’s proved to everyone why he is considered by many to be one of the best defenders of the 2010s. Silva is no spring chicken but he still has the smarts to frustrate opposition forwards. Furthermore, the Brazilian is great with his feet. He’s one of the Blues’ most progressive passers and plays a vital role in jumpstarting attacks from deep.
Midfielder Three in Premier League Best Line-Up
A Premier League best line-up can’t be discussed without the inclusion of Bruno Fernandes. The former Sporting Lisbon man is part of a side that’s mounting a surprise title challenge that wouldn’t be possible without his contributions. He currently has 18 goal contributions from midfield. Five of his goal have come from the spot but that shouldn’t take away from his outstanding ability that has floored the Manchester United faithful and made them believe again.
Alongside Fernandes, filling a ‘Guardiola-Esque’ double attacking midfield slot has to be Kevin De Bruyne. De Bruyne started a little slowly at first but has already climbed up to 13 goal contributions for the season. The Belgian is undeniably a generational player at this point, his performances over the past few years has to put his name with other playmaking greats, and this season is no different.
Due to the attack-minded midfield that was chosen, a defensive wall is needed to protect the back four. The standout choice for this position is Tottenham Hotspur‘s Pierre Emile Hojbjerg. The Dane has been Jose Mourinho’s go-to guy in defensive midfield and for good reason too. He’s an absolute rock and is proving to be one of the standout signings of the season. According to Fbref.com, Hojbjerg has won more tackles than any other player so far this season. When it comes down to how Mourinho wants his team to play, Hojbjerg is vital to anchoring the double pivot that is deployed in front of the back four. He might not win headlines like other players but his performances have undoubtedly been outstanding.
The Front Three
In the number nine position, there’s only one answer so it’s best to get it out of the way now. Harry Kane is already in double figures for goals and assists and is on track to having a career year. Kane is probably leading the race for the PFA Player of the Year award which makes his inclusion up top as the easiest of the bunch. When speaking of Kane’s performances, one must talk about Son Heung-min, who is the Robin to Kane’s Batman. Son is up to 18 goal involvements in as many games.
Similar to Kane, Son is on track to have a career year. He’ll surely shatter his previous best 21 goal involvements in one domestic campaign that he set last season. Son has played mainly on the left-wing this season but can easily be put on the right to accommodate for the final player in this Premier League line-up.
Jack Grealish has been close to flawless this season for Villa. This line-up would not be complete without him. He’s playing with so much confidence and flair at the moment. These are qualities that aren’t usually associated with English players but Grealish is the major exception. Dean Smith has given Grealish a free-role on the left. This allows him to get central and even pull the strings from a number ten spot.
Grealish has 13 goal involvements in 16 games. According to fotmob.com, Grealish currently has the league’s third most successful dribble rate, the fourth most big chances created, and the most key passes per game. It’s been a dazzling season thus far for the 25-year-old.