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Our choices for the best performers over the past year.
2020 is finally coming to an end after a long, bizarre and extraordinary – for all the wrong reasons – 12 months.
It’s been a unique year of football. The suspension of the Premier League for a number of months, Liverpool’s first league title in 30 years and the absence of fans in football stadiums made for one of the most peculiar Premier League years in recent memory.
There have also been several key performers over the past year, but which of those make our Premier League team of 2020?
ALISSON – LIVERPOOL
Alisson has proven himself as an indispensable member of the Liverpool squad since joining from Roma in 2018.
The Brazilian’s importance was not only demonstrated as he helped his team to a league title for the first time in 30 years, but also during his absence. Backup keeper Adrian came into the team on several occasions to replace the injured Alisson, but despite his best efforts, he was unable to emulate the latter’s performances.
Known for not only his excellent shot stopping skills, but also his elite distribution among other attributes. He displayed his goalkeeping acumen against Newcastle on Wednesday as he made a number of important saves.
Alisson is still only 28, also, meaning he could continue to dominate for years to come.
Honourable mentions: Emiliano Martínez (Aston Villa/Arsenal), Nick Pope (Burnley).
TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD – LIVERPOOL
Although Alexander-Arnold hasn’t been quite as good this season as he was last thus far, but his worth to the Liverpool squad is still invaluable.
Alexander-Arnold contributed to the 2nd most assists in the league last season, only topped by Kevin De Bruyne. His passing range is undoubtedly one of the best in the league, and inarguably the best in his position.
His performances last year earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year. He was also honoured as PFA Young Player of the Year.
At only 22, Alexander-Arnold has a long and decorated career ahead of him. We could be looking at a Liverpool captain in the making.
Honourable mentions: Tariq Lamptey (Brighton & Hove Albion), João Cancelo (Manchester City).
ANDREW ROBERTSON – LIVERPOOL
Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold make up the best full-back pairing the league so it would be unfair not to include Robertson, especially considering his consistency over the past year.
Robertson put up 12 assists in the league this season on his way to a PFA Team of the Year inclusion. The Scottish international has started this season in a similar vein of form, coming up with 5 assists so far.
Not only is Robertson masterful in his attacking output, he’s also one of the most defensively accomplished left-backs in the league.
He has arguably been Liverpool’s most consistent player this term in a season riddled with injury problems and surprise results – despite sitting 1st in the table.
Honourable mentions: Lucas Digne (Everton), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea, Leicester City).
JAMES TARKOWSKI – BURNLEY
This might come as a strange selection to some, but James Tarkowski has quietly proven himself as one of the best centre-backs in the league over the past few seasons.
Tarkowski joined Burnley in 2016 and has been ever-present since.
Burnley rely very much – maybe overly so – on their defensive quality and Tarkowski, along with his partner Ben Mee, have that in abundance. In fact, no defender has kept more clean sheets in the league this year than Tarkowski.
The centre-back helped Burnley to a respectable 10th place finish last season. Burnley have struggled so far this season but have showed signs of a resurgence in recent weeks.
VIRGIL VAN DIJK – LIVERPOOL
Van Dijk has barely featured in the Premier League this season due to an ACL injury suffered in October. His form before the injury, though, more than warranted an inclusion in this team.
Van Dijk was key in ensuring Liverpool captured the evasive Premier League trophy last season after coming so close in 2018/19.
His performances earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year alongside fellow Liverpool defenders Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Van Dijk has all the attributes of a world-class defenders. His positional awareness, physicality and elite tackling ability make him one of the best defenders in recent memory. He also possess one of the best passing ranges of any centre-back worldwide which compliments Liverpool’s style of play to a tee.
Van Dijk has been sorely missed for Liverpool so far – despite Fabinho filling in capably – and his return will be a massive boost to members of the club and fans alike.
Honourable mentions: Michael Keane (Everton), Fabinho (Liverpool), Çağlar Söyüncü (Leicester City), Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton).
KEVIN DE BRUYNE – MANCHESTER CITY
Kevin De Bruyne arguably had his best season in a Manchester City shirt last season which is no mean feat considering his displays in previous seasons.
De Bruyne won PFA Player’s Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season last term in a spectacular season.
The Belgian equalled Thierry Henry’s long-standing record for most assists in a Premier League season as he finished with 20 assists. He also surpassed his career best for most league goals in a season, scoring 13.
Manchester City have failed to live up to their remarkably high standards this season and De Bruyne’s form has also dipped as a result. He is still, however, one of the best players in the league and it’s only a matter of time before he gets back to his best.
BRUNO FERNANDES – MANCHESTER UNITED
Bruno Fernandes only arrived at Manchester United in January but has already established himself as one of the best players at the club, if not the best.
Nobody was quite sure how Fernandes would fare in the Premier League given the jump in quality but he has proved his doubters wrong and has taken to the league like a duck to water.
In fact, Fernandes has contributed to more Premier League goals (32) than any other player in the league, despite missing the first month of the year.
He has completed transformed the fortunes of Manchester United since joining and is very much the focal point of the squad. They currently sit 2nd in the table with much thanks due to the creativity and goalscoring instincts of the Portuguese international.
A Premier League Player of the Season award – as well as other honours – is very much in sight for Bruno Fernandes if he continues his impressive form.
JORDAN HENDERSON – LIVERPOOL
Jordan Henderson should be a shoo-in for any team of the year.
The Liverpool captain’s ability has been called in question numerous times over the year but he has proved his doubters wrong time after time.
Last season he captained his side to their first Premier League title in 30 years. This season the responsibility upon his shoulders has increased tenfold given the absence of several key players and the introduction of numerous youth players into the first team, a pressure which he has taken into his stride.
Henderson received several honours for his performances and leadership last season, including but not limited to; Liverpool Fans’ Player of the Season, FWA Footballer of the Year and an inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year.
Henderson is often underrated by fans but his value to the Liverpool squad and system is immeasurable.
Honourable mentions: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Tottenham Hotspur/Southampton), Tomáš Souček (West Ham United).
MOHAMED SALAH – LIVERPOOL
Currently leading the Premier League scoring chart with 13 goals, Mohamed Salah has had a fine start to the season. The Egyptian needs just 6 more goals to match his total of 19 league goals last season.
Himself, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have formed a potent attack over the years which would be the envy of most – if not all – clubs in world football.
Salah’s direct movement, close control and remarkable finishing is perfect for Liverpool’s system. His finishing is of such high quality that he’s significantly outperforming his expected goals of 8 this season (according to understat).
Reports of Salah’s desire to leave Anfield have been circulating in recent weeks to the dismay of Liverpool fans. No doubt Salah’s departure would be a monumental loss but he remains at Anfield and has shown no signs of unhappiness other than rumours.
Honourable mentions: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United).
HEUNG-MIN SON – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Few footballers have had a more accomplished 2020 than Heung-min Son.
The Tottenham forward has been one of the Premier League’s top performers – particularly this season – over the past year. Not only that, though, he also completed mandatory service for the South Korean military for a period of 3 weeks between April and May, during which he finished in the top 5 over 150 other trainees in basic military training.
He has moulded a formidable partnership with Harry Kane over the course of the season so far. The pair have combined with each other for a total of 32 Premier League goals during their times at Tottenham. For context, that’s just 4 goals off Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard’s record of 36.
In total this season, the pair have combined with each for 12 goals, just 1 goal off equalling the record of 13 set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton during the 1994/95 season.
Son is joint 2nd in the Premier League scoring charts with 11 goals, the same tally as Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jamie Vardy.
Honourable mentions: Sadio Mané (Liverpool), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).
HARRY KANE – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
There are a number of Premier League strikers deserving of an inclusion in this team, namely Jamie Vardy, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Danny Ings. We’ve gone with Harry Kane, though.
Despite suffering an injury which kept him out for months at the start of the season, Kane has managed to rack up the same amount of goal contributions as Jamie Vardy (26).
Kane has proven himself not only as one of the deadliest finishers in the league, but also as one of the best creative outlets. He has by far the most assists to his name this season with 10, his closest competitors in Bruno Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne have 7 to their name respectively.
Tottenham started the season magnificently but have dipped in form over the past few games, collecting just 2 points in their last 4 games.
They’ll be hoping, with the help of Harry Kane among others, for a positive result against Leeds at the weekend to kickstart their 2021.
Honourable mentions: Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Danny Ings (Southampton).