It’s been a funny old Premier League season hasn’t it.
Spurs were going to win the title until they went full Spurs, Liverpool might end up playing Thursday night football next season and Sam Allardyce is probably going to get a team relegated.
With three-quarters of the 2020/21 season in the books, Mancunian Matters has decided to delve into the wonderful realm of advanced statistics and his own mind to select the Premier League’s ‘Most Complete’ Team Of The Season So Far.
When we say ‘most complete’, we mean selecting a side that can do a bit of everything.
In essence, they can keep the ball neat and tidy on the floor, press relentlessly, but also be a threat from set pieces.
And while we’re paying attention to the stats, it’s important to remember that in football, stats aren’t everything.
Now, let’s all climb aboard the Andy Townsend Tactics Truck and pick a formation.
For the benefit of finding one that provides both a balance whilst also letting us choose players who fit a different skill sets, the formation that will be used for this exercise is 4-3-3.
The stats provided are from FBRef.com.
It’s also important to also set out the criteria that this XI will be judged on.
So without further ado…
The technical ability of goalkeepers has entered into a new era in the last few Premier League seasons.
Keepers are being asked more and more to become a team’s first attacker, building from the back to help teams transition into attack.
Therefore, we will be paying some attention to a keepers ability to play the ball out from the back.
Additionally, shot stopping and number of clean sheets will also play a factor in our selection too.
The criteria between centre-backs and full-backs has been split when it comes to selecting our back four.
Like keepers, centre-backs are also now relied upon to help build from deep to allow teams to control the flow of their attacks.
Therefore, passing accuracy will play a part in judging our centre-halves, alongside goals conceded.
Full-backs nowadays are asked to almost act as another winger, bombing up and down the touchline to provide a numerical mismatch or overlap in attack.
Alongside their traditional defensive duties, full-backs will also be evaluated on assists and chances created.
This is the hardest area of our complete XI to select by far.
While we could go full Garth Crooks and play Harry Kane as a ball winning midfielder, that doesn’t really lend itself to a productive team building exercise.
So, our central centre-midfielder will be a bit more defensively minded, to provide a nice balance in the engine room.
For this specific role, this player will be evaluated heavily on defensive action statistics.
That’s not to suggest however that the other two in our midfield three won’t be exempt from defending – it’s important that this three works as a cohesive unit.
But we’re looking for a bit more of an attacking output from these two and therefore they will be judged on goals, assists, shot creation as well as their ability to press.
It would be easy for us to simply look at goals and assists when it comes to forwards.
After all, the ‘fantasy footballification’ of football means that people are increasingly turning to fantasy rankings to evaluate the effectiveness of attackers in the modern game.
However, defending on the front foot is very much in vogue now.
While pressing numbers this season in the Premier League have dropped due to fixture congestion and the lack of a routine schedule for players, the ability to press effectively high up the pitch is one of the best ways of creating chances.
By playing higher up the field, attackers put defenders under pressure more frequently (unless you’re Steve Bruce…) in the hope that they can force a team into an error.
Therefore, when evaluating out front three, we absolutely need to take into consideration a forwards number of pressure.
And while goals and assists will also factor into our selection, we’re also looking at the number of chances created too to provide some balance across our front-line.
GK – 1) Emiliano MartinezEmbed from Getty Images
Emiliano Martinez might just be the Premier League signing of the season. Signed for £15m from Arsenal in the summer, the Argentine shot stopper has been pivotal in Aston Villa’s surprising season so far.
With Martinez in net, Villa have conceded just 28 goals, giving them the league’s 3rd best defence.
An ace shot stopper, Martinez has the best save percentage in the Premier League at 78.7 per cent, narrowly edging out Manchester City’s Ederson.
Additionally, Martinez has also kept an impressive 14 clean sheets this season too, which ranks 2nd behind only Ederson.
Now, Martinez’ isn’t highly ranked when it comes to passing out from the back (he ranks 12th in pass completion percentage amongst keepers), we don’t think we’ll be asking him to do it too much when you see who we’ve selected at centre-back.
And while clear that Ederson is an excellent build from the back keeper (3rd in pass completion percentage amongst keepers), Martinez’s addition to Villa has been so impressive that we think he’s been the best keeper in the league and therefore he’s our pick between the sticks.
RB – 2) Joao CanceloEmbed from Getty Images
It’s important to remember that Joao Cancelo is so much more than just a defender.
Able to play on both flanks and operate higher up the pitch, Cancelo has often been deployed almost an extra central midfielder in build-up play this season.
This has allowed Manchester City to both control possession and overload an opposition midfield.
Cancelo’s ability to dictate play by coming inside to sit inside as an inverted full-back makes him incredibly unique and therefore that’s why we’ve selected him as our right-back.
CBs – 5) Ruben Dias and 6). John StonesEmbed from Getty Images
Look, we promise this list isn’t all just Manchester City players, but to be honest, we couldn’t not pick Ruben Dias and John Stones.
While Long-ball, route-one football isn’t 100 per cent dead just yet, passing out from the back is the new norm in the Premier League.
When we look at Dias’ passing range, the numbers are quite frankly astonishing. Dias leads the league in both passes completed between 15 to 30 yards (1210) and over 30 yards (372).
As a result of this, Stones’ passing stats suffer but he’s not exactly an unaccomplished passer either, registering a league leading pass completion percentage of 94% (which is .2 per cent higher than Dias…)
Equally, they’re both highly capable defenders too. The two have marshalled a defence that has seen Manchester City concede the fewest goals so far this season (21).
And additionally, Stones seems to have added another element to his game – goal scoring.
Up until this season, the England defender had not scored a Premier League goal for Manchester City since his arrival at the club in 2016. This season he’s scored four alone!
These two are as complete a pairing as it comes and they’re an easy choice for our two centre-backs.
LB – 3) Aaron CresswellEmbed from Getty Images
This team is selected on a balance of strong statistics alongside a need for team balance – in short, we want a team that could do a bit of everything.
West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell might be the most interesting selection in this team.
Playing every single minute of Premier League action so far this season, West Ham have only conceded 32 goals this season, whilst also keeping 10 clean sheets.
And while defensive stability and consistency is part of the reason for his selection, Cresswell actually earns his spot in the XI because of his dead-ball accuracy.
This season, Cresswell has created 31 dead-ball passes that have led to shots, with only Chelsea’s Mason Mount completing more. To put it simply, he’s got a wand of a left foot.
And with seven assists to his name this season, 1st amongst Premier League defenders, Cresswell is our dead-ball specialist (sorry James Ward-Prowse). Every team needs one!
CM – 4) Pierre Emile-HojbjergEmbed from Getty Images
This was a really tough call. In fact, it might have been the toughest decision to make out of the entire team.
Hojbjerg narrowly edges out N’golo Kante and Declan Rice to claim our defensive midfielder spot.
When it comes to applying pressure in the defensive and middle thirds of the pitch, Hojbjerg ranks 1st (236) and 2rd (277) respectively.
Additionally, Hojbjerg also ranks 1st (tied with Mason Mount) when it comes to successful pressures (162), which FBRef defines as ‘the number of times a squad gained possession within five seconds of applying pressure).
Hojbjerg also ranks 1st when it comes to tackles that won a team possession too (65), which by far and away leads the league. For perspective, Rodri was 2nd with 53, Kante was 3rd with 50 and Rice was 4th with 49.
Additionally, we’ve also got to factor in that Hojbjerg is a bit of a radge too, something we rate highly when it comes to a defensive midfielder!
CM – 8) Kevin De BruyneEmbed from Getty Images
We’ll keep this selection short and sweet.
Despite missing six league games this season, De Bruyne ranks 3rd in shot creating actions (126) and 4th in goal creating actions.
And these rankings are backed up by the number of assists De Bruyne has produced this season too, with the Belgian topping the charts for midfield assists with 11.
It also doesn’t hurt that De Bruyne has scored five goals this year too. In fact, if anything, that number might be a little disappointing given his quality on the ball.
De Bruyne’s ability is unquestioned and the stats back it up. He’s the best player on the best team in the Premier League and he’s an easy selection in our ‘most complete’ XI.
CM – 10) Bruno FernandesEmbed from Getty Images
Where would Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Manchester United be without Bruno Fernandes.
We suspect that Solskjær might have been handed his p45 by now without him…
Like De Bruyne, Fernandes ranks highly when it comes to both shot and goal creating actions. He leads the league in both with 138 and 22 respectively.
With 16 goals and 10 assists to his name this season, it’s clear that Fernandes is one of the Premier League’s best attacking options.
But one thing that perhaps goes unnoticed is his pressing ability. When it comes to pressures in the middle and final third, Fernandes ranks 4th (266) and 3rd (197).
In fact, when it comes to total pressures, Fernandes is second in the entire league which is quite impressive for a player who has played plenty of minutes this season.
And also, while we’re on the topic of interesting niche statistics, Fernandes is also pretty pressure resistant too, with the midfielder ranking 3rd (246) in passes played while under pressure from an opponent.
Oh and since he’s scored eight penalties this year, he’s also our designated spot kick taker too.
RW – 11) Mohamed SalahEmbed from Getty Images
While Liverpool might have struggled so far this season, Mo Salah’s ability to put the ball in the back of the net hasn’t.
The Egyptian forward is the league’s top scorer with 17 goals so far this season.
When it comes to defending from the front, Salah is one of the best in the league ranking 2nd in final third pressures (228), one behind Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins.
And while Salah’s all round chance creation statistics are pretty low in comparison to the two other forwards, we’re banking on his ability to stick the ball in the back of the net.
ST – 9) Harry KaneEmbed from Getty Images
Equally comfortable at dropping deeper to link play and provide assists whilst also being capable of unleashing superb strikes from distance, Kane was the first name on the team sheet.
With 16 goals (second only to Salah) and 13 assists (1st), Kane leads the Premier League this season in goal involvements.
Now, if we were going to knock Kane, we could find fault with his pressing numbers. When it comes to pressures in the attacking third, Kane ranks 18th per FBRef with 131 pressures.
To put that into perspective, Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins leads the league with 229.
But realistically, you’re not picking Kane on pressing statistics are you. You’re picking him to put the ball in the net.
To put it simply, Kane is perhaps the most complete striker in world football and he walks into this side.
LW – 7) Jack GrealishEmbed from Getty Images
Jack Grealish is creative. Like, REALLY creative.
And while you could just use your own two eyes to figure this out, we’ve decided to just reel off some bullet points to illustrate this irrefutable take.
- 2nd in shot creating actions (134)
- 2nd in shot creating actions per 90 (6.1)
- 1st in live passes that led to a shot (102)
- 2nd in goal creating actions (23)
- 1st in goal creating actions per 90 (0.91)
- 4th in assists (10)
- 1st in progressive carries (275)
- 2nd in key passes (76)
- 1st in completed live passes that led to a shot (102)
Oh, and did we mention that Grealish ranks this high all while missing (as of the 18th of March) his LAST FIVE GAMES. Grealish walks into our left-wing spot.