Over the last week of fixtures in the Premier League fans have had the opportunity to cast a keen eye on the January recruits in England’s top tier, hoping to have unearthed the next N’Golo Kante rather than Eder or Thauvin.
While a handful signed last month have made encouraging starts, however, they will do well to better the performances of a number of those to make their Premier League debuts this season. In this piece WhoScored.com reveal their best XI of players without experience of England’s top-flight ahead of the campaign.
Jack Butland (6.94 rating)
Having made just five Premier League starts ahead of the current season, Butland makes the XI due to the lack of true newcomers between the sticks. The 22-year old’s ability to make the step up at Stoke following the sale of Asmir Begovic has never looked in doubt, earning the third highest rating of all goalkeepers (behind Heurelho Gomes and Petr Cech) having made the most saves in the league (88).
Cedric Soares (7.35 rating)
He may have had a very hairy moment at the end of the game against West Ham at the weekend, but Portuguese full-back Cedric has made an encouraging start to life in the Premier League. Stronger going forwards and at times left out against better opposition or even moved into midfield, the 24-year old also played his part defensively. Soares has started in each of Saints’ last five games without conceding a goal, and has averaged an impressive 3.1 tackles per game.
Virgil van Dijk (7.59 rating)
He might not have convinced every Southampton fan of his ability to effectively replace Toby Alderweireld, but Van Dijk has strung together a number of commendable displays. A nominee for the Premier League player of the month award for January, the former Celtic centre-back has been a near ever-present since his arrival for a side that have kept 11 clean sheets this season. Only defensive partner Fonte (10) and Chris Smalling (12) have helped their side to more from a starting berth.
Nicolas Otamendi (7.44 rating)
Manchester City’s defensive record may not suggest that Nicolas Otamendi has had a strong impact at the club but the Argentine has performed admirably at times in difficult circumstances next to the likes of Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis. The 27-year old showed enough in his time alongside Vincent Kompany that theirs is a partnership of promise if the Belgian can return to fitness. Otamndi ranks first for the club in terms of aerial duels won (3.2), clearances (7.6) and interceptions (3.1) per game.
Christian Fuchs (7.47 rating)
He may have had to bide his time to break into the Leicester side, starting for the first time in October, but experienced Austrian international Fuchs hasn’t looked back since. The 29-year old has shown his quality at both ends, registering a third assist for the season last time out against Manchester City, whilst averaging 3.1 tackles and 3.2 interceptions per game.
N’Golo Kante (7.47 rating)
A player many now consider to be among the best in the division this season, let alone of those to make a move to the Premier League. Kante’s dynamism at the heart of the Leicester midfield has been a joy to behold. With quality on the ball as well as a tireless work rate to break up play, the Frenchman has been a revelation. Ranking first in the league for both tackles and interceptions, with 102 and 103 respectively, the 24-year old will already have attracted a number of high-profile suitors.
Dele Alli (7.33 rating)
Rested at the weekend against Watford, it took Dele Alli just three minutes to make a telling impact from the bench. His inch-perfect cross with the outside of his boot set up Kieran Trippier to score the match winner. That took Alli’s assist tally to five to accompany seven goals. Of all central midfielders, only Ross Barkley (15) has had a direct hand in more goals this season.
Manuel Lanzini (7.26 rating)
While his season has been disrupted by a couple of injury problems West Ham fans have seen enough of Manuel Lanzini in his 14 league appearances to suggest that he will be a key player at the club should they be able to keep him. The 22-year old has not been overawed by the step up to the Premier League and has allowed his technical ability to shine through. With four goals, 2.3 successful dribbles per game and an excellent 88.8% pass accuracy the Argentine looks a real gem.
Dimitri Payet (7.63 rating)
The highest-rated player in this XI having taken to English football with consummate ease, how long West Ham can keep hold of Dimitri Payet will be crucial to their progress under Slaven Bilic. The Frenchman has had a direct hand in ten league goals (six goals, four assists) since an eye-catching move from Marseille, but it’s his ability to open up play in the final third that has been most impressive. An average of 2.5 successful dribbles per game ranks among the top ten players, while 3.7 key passes is second only to Mesut Ozil.
Anthony Martial (7.26 rating)
Having become the most expensive teenager in football history, Anthony Martial has had a lot to live up to. While it’s fair to say he hasn’t fully vindicated his price tag just yet the Frenchman has made a strong start, scoring six goals and registering three assists in the Premier League. Now playing predominantly from the left and cutting inside, the youngster certainly doesn’t lack confidence and has completed the fourth most dribbles (56) in the Premier League.
Troy Deeney (7.22 rating)
Completing the line-up, Troy Deeney takes his spot up front just ahead of teammate Odion Ighalo (7.17 rating) as the only player in the XI not to have made a summer move. The Watford captain would have liked to have matched his strike partner’s exploits in front of goal, scoring just six times by comparison, but in playing the deeper role of the two he has been just as influential. With six assists to his name, more than any other Premier League striker, the unselfish 27-year old has been the perfect foil to Ighalo, winning a massive 6.1 aerial duels per game as well as creating 1.5 chances per outing.