The ‘perfect’ Premier League XI of the season so far

How do you build a ‘perfect’ Premier League XI? For some positions, it is obvious: For goalkeepers, it is their ability to save shots; for strikers, it is their ability to score goals. Clearly, the ‘perfect’ team must be well-rounded, one that can repel any attack and score against any opponent.

To create a ‘perfect’ team you must have centre-halves with different skillsets, a passing midfielder partnered with a tackler, two tackling and crossing full-backs, three attacking midfielders who can create, dribble and/or score goals, and a striker capable of finishing any chance. We have it all.

Before we start, players must have started at least 13 Premier League games this season…


Goalkeeper: Ederson (Manchester City)
Criteria: Save percentage

There’s something pleasing about the best team having the best goalkeeper with the best save percentage (80.5%), though we miss the days of Karl Darlow leading this particular pack. Other contenders for this position would be Nick Pope (79.8%), Hugo Lloris (79.3%) and Brighton’s Roberto Sanchez (77.5%). But sod that, what you really want to know about is Alisson (70.4%) and David De Gea (62.9%). Ouch ouch ouch.


Right-back: Vladimir Coufal (West Ham)
Criteria: Key passes and tackles

Only four right-backs tackle more (Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Serge Aurier, Kyle Walker-Peters and Matty Cash) while only one (Trent Alexander-Arnold) creates more chances. Which seems extraordinary considering that we could not even pick Coufal out of a line-up. But the important thing is that he came to West Ham highly recommended by Tomas Soucek, and if he’s good enough for Tomas bloody Soucek, he’s definitely good enough for this utterly ridiculous side.

We suspect Jack Grealish could definitely pick him out of a line-up.


Centre-half: John Stones (Manchester City)
Criteria: Pass completion

Back for Manchester City and presumably soon back for England is 93.8% man Stones. City have conceded just three Premier League goals with him on the pitch this season and one contributing factor is his unerring eye for a pass. He just about keeps Thiago Silva (93.2%) down in second, while Ruben Dias (93%) is also a predictable contender.


Centre-half: Kyle Bartley (West Brom)
Criteria: Headers won, clearances

This is where the whole kit and caboodle falls down, as it turns out that a pretty mediocre defender from possibly the worst team in the Premier League does an awful lot of clearing of the ball (17 in his last two games combined) and a whole lot of winning the ball in the air. But still, he might be just what Stones needs next to him. Take heed, Pep.


Left-back: Solly March (Brighton)
Criteria: Key passes and tackles

“It’s a blow for Solly and it’s a blow for us,” said Graham Potter as he confirmed after the 1-0 win over Liverpool that his favourite utility man (predictably playing at right wing-back in that particular game) would need surgery. We had not quite realised just how much of a blow March’s absence would be, unaware as we were that he creates as many chances as Andrew Robertson but makes more than twice as many tackles. Other contenders for this position are the former shiniest turd that is Luke Shaw and Leeds’ tackling machine Ezgjan Alioski.


Central midfielder: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Criteria: Tackles, interceptions

Still king of all the things. Oriol Romeu may tackle more and Josh Brownhill might be the unlikely king of the interception, but put them together and you get the still-indefatigable Kante, so far restricted to just 32 minutes under Thomas Tuchel in which he did not need to do either as Chelsea just had all of the ball all of the time. It should also be noted that Fred is a contender in this position, which should mean that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can jettison Nemanja Matic and never, ever play the pair of them together again.


Central midfielder: Rodri (Manchester City)
Criteria: Passes

This is not about pass completion but a desire to get on the ball and keep it moving. Rodri is miles ahead of Mateo Kovacic who is miles ahead of Ilkay Gundogan in this position. A partnership with Kante would genuinely be excellent, allying pace and energy with height and composure to win the Premier League at a canter. James Ward-Prowse is the only Englishman anywhere near the top of this list, by the way. And that’s why Gareth Southgate loves him. Well, that and the free-kicks.


Attacking midfielder: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
Criteria: Key passes

Simply an excellent player, edging ahead of Kevin De Bruyne and soaring ahead of Bruno Fernandes on key passes alone. He has matched De Bruyne for assists so far this season (10) though he has played almost 500 more minutes. There has not been a single game this season in which he has failed to create at least one chance for his teammates; he is the difference between a European chase and a relegation battle to this Villa side.


Attacking midfielder: Adama Traore (Wolves)
Criteria: Shots on target and dribbles

No goals and no assists this season, but 5.3 successful dribbles per 90. It’s just what he does.


Attacking midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Criteria: Shots on target and key passes

De Bruyne and Grealish are so far ahead in the key passes stakes that Fernandes could not catch the Belgian even when we factored in his extraordinary goal threat (not just from penalties). De Bruyne averages 3.5 key passes per 90 and even whacks in 1.1 shots on target per game, compared to 2.9 and 1.5 from Fernandes. And at the end of the season, it’s De Bruyne that is likely to emerge as a Premier League champion if not PFA Player of the Year, for which the Portuguese is the current favourite.


Striker: Son Heung-Min
Criteria: Shot conversion

Shush. He might not see himself as a striker but with a 38% shot conversion rate (Harry Kane’s is 22%), who would you want on the end of all those pin-point balls from Grealish and De Bruyne?