Story by Ben Sanders
The 2016/17 edition of the English Premier League was rich with quality players, acquired through the new influx of television rights money, to produce some of the most exciting soccer seen world over. This money helped teams go after even bigger targets and solidify established stars on bigger contracts. Chelsea won the league, Middlesbrough, Hull City and Sunderland were relegated so all that is left to be decided is who should star in the team of the season.
Goal Keeper: David de GeaEmbed from Getty Images
A shot-stopping specialist, David De Gea had another fabulous season between the posts for Manchester United preventing a subpar season from becoming even worse. The Spaniard kept 14 clean sheets and made several acrobatic and reaction saves to keep The Red Devils in the top-six in the division. Without him Man United’s situation could have been much worse.
Center-back: Toby AlderweireldEmbed from Getty Images
Much of Tottenham Hotspur’s success is down to the center-back partnership formed by Belgians Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. Alderweireld once again proved what a solid defender he is, winning 51 percent of duels and only accruing one yellow card all season. He is vital to how the Spurs play as the Belgian missed six games earlier in the season, of which the team dropped points in four and ultimately put the team too far behind Chelsea.
Center-back: Jan VertonghenEmbed from Getty Images
The second Spurs defender to make this list recorded 230 clearances and won 75 percent of his aerial duels. These two stats are important attributes for a defender, as being able to clear danger is the top priority. Vertonghen averages nine defensive actions a game and can start an attack with his 85 percent pass accuracy.
Center-back: César AzpilicuetaEmbed from Getty Images
A left-back by trade, but a center-back in manager Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 formation, César Azpilicueta showed his versatility and defensive solidity this season. Azpilicueta cleared the ball 117 times, 78 of which were headers, won 192 duels and 199 defensive recoveries, no mean feat considering the Spaniard is listed at 5 feet 8 inches tall. He also completed a league-high 2,381 passes.
Right-wingback: Antonio ValenciaEmbed from Getty Images
A converted winger, Antonio Valencia has thrived as a right-sided defensive player over the past couple of seasons. Dependable on defense and more than capable marauding forward, making over-lapping runs and creating chances with his crossing ability. According to the official Premier League website, Valencia did not make a defensive error that lead to conceding a goal and created 32 chances, three of which were successful assists.
Left-wingback: Marcos AlonsoEmbed from Getty Images
A player that failed to leave an impact in his first stint in the Premier League with Bolton and Sunderland rejuvenated his career with Chelsea after a deadline day deal with Italian outfit Fiorentina. A constant threat in attack, he recorded six goals, which is more than world-record transfer fee player Paul Pogba managed, in addition to three assists. Marcos Alonso is a player who did not put up massive defensive numbers, but was solid and consistent on a game-by-game basis.
Defensive Midfielder: N’Golo KantéEmbed from Getty Images
The first player to win back-to-back Premier League titles with two different teams, N’Golo Kanté jumped ship from Leicester City to Chelsea, and once again was a force in midfield. Kanté won the PFA Player of the Year and Football Writers Player of the Year award for the 2016-17 season.
Kante placed in the top five for both interceptions and tackles, tallying 82 and 134 respectively. The Frenchman runs so much during games, terrorizing opposing attackers, his former manager Claudio Ranieri joked about having him batteries in his shorts.
Right-wing: Alexis SánchezEmbed from Getty Images
Alexis Sánchez was just about the only Arsenal player who showed up this season recording 23 goals and 10 assists while being the spark and energy in this seasons Arsenal squad. The passionate Chilean may be on his way to Bayern Munich or Juventus next season and his contribution will sure be missed at The Emirates Stadium.
Left-wing: Eden HazardEmbed from Getty Images
After an unsatisfactory 2015/16 season, Eden Hazard regained his confidence under new manager Antonio Conte and once again displayed why he is such a marvelous talent. Hazard scored 15 goals and created five assists, twisting and turning world-class defenders with relative ease. Part of Chelsea’s success was defending from the front and Hazard contributed 168 recoveries and a 71 percent tackle success rate in addition to his attacking prowess.
Attacking midfielder: Dele AlliEmbed from Getty Images
In the USA, Dele Alli would be unable to order an adult beverage, but despite his age, Alli plays beyond his years. His trademark late runs are attributes legends like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard utilized during their careers. Alli recorded 17 goals and six assists in 2016/17. Alli also improved his demeanor on the field, being less of a nuisance and keeping his emotions to a simmer instead of boiling over. Alli also won PFA Young Player of the Year for his remarkable sophomore Premier League season.
Striker: Harry KaneEmbed from Getty Images
Harry Kane is so good he has scored league-leading 26 goals in 29 games, which is an average of 0.9 goals a game. Kane has recorded this feat despite missing two months to ankle ligament injuries. He is also only the fifth player to record three hattricks in a season, joining the likes of Luis Suarez, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dimitar Berbatov and Alan Shearer, who did it twice, after Kane thumped four past Leicester City last week. A 65 percent shot accuracy doesn’t hurt these numbers either as his dynamic running and positioning give him ample opportunities to shoot on target.
Tom Heaton (GK Burnley), Gylfi Sigurdsson (MID Swansea), Virgil Van Dyk (DEF Southampton), Sadio Mane (MID Liverpool), Phillippe Coutinho (MID Liverpool), Romelu Lukaku (ST Everton), Idrissa Gueye (MID Everton), Victor Wanyama (MID Tottenham Hotspur), Ben Mee (DEF Burnley), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (ST Manchester United), Kevin de Bruyne (MID Manchester City), Christian Eriksen (MID Tottenham) Michail Antonio (MID/DEF West Ham United).
Paul Pogba (MID Manchester United), Sergio Aquero (ST Manchester City), Riyad Mahrez (MID Leicester City).
All stats courtesy of Premier League and stat site Squawka.
Featured image for this post courtesy of contadorharrison.com