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Sturridge and Gerrard in best Prem XI

Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard are in the PL's best XI, according to statistics and Patrice Evra is the only Man United player included.

Last Updated: 21/11/13 at 15:38 Post Comment   

Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard: Named in Best Prem XI so far

Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard: Named in Best Prem XI so far

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But do the stats tell the correct story?

Nobody is going to win a player of the season award for 11 games' worth of performances in the November of a new season, but that doesn't stop us from constantly assessing the fortunes of each and every player throughout the campaign. Arsenal lead Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table and it is those teams that provide the core to WhoScored.com's Team of the Season so far, based on their statistically calculated rating system.

The talk of Hugo Lloris being allowed to play on after suffering a nasty head injury at Everton a few weeks ago detracted from another impressive display and another clean sheet for the Frenchman. His total of seven is the most of all goalkeepers, without which Tottenham would plain and simply not find themselves anywhere near the seventh place they currently occupy. Lloris comes off his line with a great deal of confidence, making 10 punches and coming out to sweep up behind the defence on 12 occasions, which are vital in a Spurs team that play a high line. When he was missing against Newcastle, 42-year-old Brad Friedel was slow to come out, Loïc Remy pounced and Newcastle profited. Few other players are quite so key to their side as Lloris and that has been clear this season.

Making up central defence are Southampton's Dejan Lovren and West Ham's Winston Reid. Saints have conceded just five goals this season and new signing Lovren has been vital to that, winning 73.5% of the aerial battles he has been involved in and winning back possession 29 times in the defensive third of the pitch. Both of these sides to his game have been key to the south coast club's success in preventing opponents from getting shots away; only two teams have conceded fewer shots than Southampton (9.6 per game).

Reid, too, has shown fantastic reading of the game, with his 28 interceptions second only to Swansea's Chico (29) of all centre-backs this season, while his colossal 88 clearances show a positional sense and determination that is up there with the best in the Premier League. It is telling that West Ham conceded three goals at Norwich, including their first of the campaign from open play, when Reid was missing for the first time through injury.

Mathieu Debuchy has been in fine form this season, garnering three man-of-the-match awards on his way to an average rating of 7.51. A goal against rivals Sunderland will have won over any remaining Newcastle fans that needed persuading, while he is sure to add to his one assist given that he has created 10 chances already despite a defensive berth. His performances have been sufficient to warrant a place in the France team and he could play a huge part for a Newcastle side hoping to continue to climb the table.

Patrice Evra has been a consistent performer for Manchester United since 2006, but his displays have arguably improved this season, perhaps in light of rumoured interest from his new manager in Leighton Baines. Most impressive of his games this season was against Arsenal last time out, when he stifled the threat of in-form Aaron Ramsey and overlapping full-back Bacary Sagna with a man-of-the-match display in which he made six tackles and 11 clearances.

That was, however, an off-day for Ramsey, who has undeniably been the league's most impressive player this season, his performances worthy of an average rating of 8.02. Prior to this season, he was seen as something of a hindrance to Arsenal, who won 48% of the league games Ramsey started in the last two seasons, compared to 68% without him. The contrast this season could not be greater, with the Welshman the top-scoring midfielder in the league (six goals), joint first overall for assists (four) and top of the tackling charts (53). His volleyed strike in the 2-0 win over Liverpool encapsulated the confidence he now exudes.

Alongside him in central midfield is Steven Gerrard, who joins Ramsey on four assists, having created more chances (29) than any other player in the Premier League. The Liverpool captain is now well into into his 34th year and has adapted his game accordingly; he doesn't get forward quite like he used to, scoring only two penalties, but his passing remains up there with the best in England. In spite of his deep-lying position, no player has put a team-mate through on goal more times than him (five), quite the feat for a player in his role.

There have not been many right-sided midfielders to stand out this season, but Andros Townsend has done enough to win a place in the England squad and inspired the team to qualification for the World Cup. He is lacking in end-product, having failed to provide a single assist, and scoring only one goal, when a cross evaded everyone and found its way into the net. From 45 shots, a solitary goal isn't good enough. He misses the target all too often, and usually from distance, but the regularity with which he shoots means that he also tests the keeper too. In fact, only Sergio Aguero and Daniel Sturridge have hit the target more times (18 each) than Townsend (15). That he hasn't yet scored (on purpose) is not reason enough to criticise him. He often looks Spurs' best attacking outlet and remains threatening even if goals and assists remain lacking.

David Silva, on the other flank, has been Manchester City's best player in a slow start to the season. Injury has restricted him to only seven appearances, but he has contributed three goals and three more assists; his rate of one of either every 1.16 appearances is amongst the best in the top flight, and City will be vastly improved with him now fit and available.

Up front, Daniel Sturridge and Olivier Giroud lead the line after fantastic starts to the season. Luis Suárez has been nigh on unstoppable when he has played, but his superior rating over only six matches is deemed inferior by WhoScored to the ratings of Giroud (7.75) and Sturridge (7.59) over 11 appearances. That is, the latter duo have performed not quite as well as Suarez but having done so over 83.3% more matches, they deserve greater credit. When that difference is reduced as the season progresses, if the players continue to perform at this level, the Uruguayan will eventually work his way into the Team of the Season.

For now, however, the Liverpool and Arsenal strikers maintain spots in the best XI, with Sturridge's eight goals more than Crystal Palace have managed overall (six). He played the lone striker role brilliantly in Suárez's absence and they have formed a formidable partnership since his return. Sturridge has developed into so much more than just a goalscorer, dropping deep to link play increasingly often, allowing space for runners from midfield to exploit Gerrard's aforementioned through balls. Interestingly too, Sturridge ranks only one behind his captain for completed through ball (four), laying on 11 chances for teammates as well as having 39 shots of his own.

Giroud, meanwhile, has dropped off somewhat since scoring in each of Arsenal's first four league games of the season, netting only once in his last 692 minutes of action. However, his team play has remained consistent, with the French forward matching Gerrard and Ramsey for assists (four). He seems to win something from just about any ball played up to him from deep; his first touch is impeccable, while he is strong enough to win headers, doing so 5.1 times per game this season, or at least pressure a defender into an error. When receiving the ball with his back to goal he often plays it simple, laying off to a teammate more times (72) than any other player in the Premier League, and often attempts ambitious flicks, which can be frustrating but also sometimes result in the kind of wondergoal Jack Wilshere scored against Norwich earlier this season.

Alistair Tweedale - follow him on Twitter here

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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may well get slated by other United fans for this, but out of the three contenders, I'd far prefer Liverpool to win the title. Yes some elements of their fanbase can be a bit OTT, yes they're our biggest rivals and yes it will make our poor season feel even more like the end of an era (Fergie's gone, Liverpool are back on top). However I just have to applaud Brendan Rodgers and the way he's turned Liverpool around in just a couple of seasons. It...

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