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

Date published: Monday 28th January 2019 3:54

How do you build a ‘perfect’ team? 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 skill-sets, 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 ten of the 23 Premier League games this season…


Criteria: Save percentage

Back in October, Alisson’s save percentage for the season was a quite wondrous 86.4%; that has since dropped to 78.3% but that is still the highest percentage in the Premier League. He is only one of five keepers over the 70% benchmark, with Hugo Lloris, David De Gea (whose numbers have massively improved as the season has progressed), Lukasz Fabianski and Ben Foster making up the rest of that agile quintet.

Who’s bottom? Bournemouth’s Asmir Begovic by some considerable margin. 55.6%, as you were asking. We presume they will soon give Liverpool £20m for Simon Mignolet.


RIGHT-BACK: Ricardo Perreira
Criteria: Key passes and tackles

We still love Aaron Wan-Bissaka – who has been dibbled past just six times of the 86 tackles he has attempted – but the numbers now point to Ricardo Perreira, who creates more chances than the Crystal Palace full-back, while still being very willing to put the boot in. In nine games at full-back in November and December, Perreira made 43 successful tackles. That’s an awful lot.

Here we’re judging him only on his work at right-back, but on January 1 he took the time to be utterly excellent on the left wing too. Show-off.

Of course, Kieran Tripper creates the most chances of any right-back  – more than double the numbers produced by Perreira – but being a full-back is about more than just delivery and terrible penalties.


CENTRE-HALF: John Stones
Criteria: Pass completion

He’s actually the man with the best pass completion rate in the Premier League, pushing Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic into second and his teammate Aymeric Laporte into third. In that impressive 2-1 victory over Liverpool, Stones misplaced just five of his 99 passes, which is a phenomenal record against such excellent opposition. He also made nine clearances in that match, proving that he is more than just a pretty passer these days.

“I think the two of them are very good footballers, very elegant,” said the inelegant Richard Dunne when discussing Stones and Laporte. “And of all the centre-backs we’ve got, they’re Pep’s two signings. They suit the style of football he likes, and they seem to complement each other.”


CENTRE-HALF: Sean Morrison
Criteria: Headers won, clearances

Nobody contests more headers than Sean Morrison, but nobody is any better at winning those headers than Sean Morrison. In a 2-1 defeat against Burnley in September, he won 19 headers. He won another ten in a 0-0 with Huddersfield earlier this month, and was then sorely missed as the Bluebirds somehow lost 3-0 to Newcastle. His burst appendicitis might have robbed Cardiff of their best chance of survival.

Who else ranks highly on these criteria? James Tarkowski, Shane Duffy and Jannik Vestergaard. Who would we actually like in this line-up because he’s brilliant at all of those things? Virgil van Dijk, of course.


LEFT-BACK: Lucas Digne
Criteria: Key passes and tackles

He creates chances at the same rate (2.1 per 90 minutes) as Anthony Martial and Mesut Ozil and comfortably more than any other left-back. But he also backs it up with tackles and has been dribbled past only six times from 51 attempted tackles. Of all the things going wrong at Goodison Park, one of those is not Lucas Digne, who nudges ahead of the very tackley Bernardo of Brighton, Watford’s Jose Holebas and Liverpool’s Andy Robertson.

It’s a shame he was so bloody awful against Millwall in the FA Cup.


Criteria: Tackles, interceptions

There’s a reason PSG want Idrissa Gueye. And there’s a reason Everton absolutely do not want to sell; Gueye is the Premier League’s most voracious tackler, winning the ball 82 times from 102 attempts. That’s sexy. He made nine tackles alone against Southampton last week. The problem? None of his Everton teammates made more than four. He also adds interceptions, making him the most effective defensive midfielder in the Premier League.

Though it is worth noting that Ander Herrera (more than your favourite sh*thouse) is now not too far behind. Oh and Calum Chambers, who has been a revelation in central midfield. Could he be due an England recall?


Criteria: Passes

He does an awful lot of passing. A total of 97.5 passes per 90 minutes, to be exact. And to those who think he never passes forward, we give you this…

So who lies behind Jorginho when it comes to passes? Well, everybody obviously, but coming closest are Jordan Henderson and Granit Xhaka. Now to give Jorginho some players to pass to…


Criteria: Key passes

That Willian has created 55 chances this season but has been credited with just three assists tells you almost everything you need to know about Chelsea’s problems; Gonzalo Higuain cannot play Premier League football quick enough for this Chelsea side. Willian creates chances at a rate of 3.3 per 90 minutes – his highest in the top flight since 2013/14 – which puts him marginally ahead of Eden Hazard, who is being matched stride for stride by Leicester’s James Maddison. And yet Chelsea fans tell you that they need an upgrade on Willian.

For the record, James Ward-Prowse is now creating a barrel-load of chances for Southampton but misses out on the ‘ten starts’ rule. Amazing what a Mark Hughes exit can do for a player.


Criteria: Shots on target and dribbles

The improvement in Paul Pogba’s statistics (five goals and four assists in six Premier League games since Jose Mourinho’s exit) made this pretty much level pegging, but we have gone for Eden Hazard on the tiebreaker of ‘key passes’. And it’s awful difficult to argue with double figures for both goals and assists in the Premier League this season.

So who else comes close apart from Pogba? We give you Mo Salah, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, of course. We truly are blessed in the Premier League right now.


Criteria: Shots on target and key passes

Actually, both Eden Hazard and Willian both beat Mo Salah on these two criteria, but Salah just about edges out James Maddison, whose ‘key passes’ figures are boosted by the set-pieces aimed towards the heads of those massive Leicester centre-halves. This feels right as the Egyptian is well ahead of the competition when it comes to combined Premier League goals and assists. Remember when he was suffering from Second Season Syndrome back in September?


STRIKER: Anthony Martial
Criteria: Conversion rate

It’s all here. Eight goals from 20 shots (excluding blocks). He has not scored in the Premier League in 2019 but he did take his one chance against Arsenal in the FA Cup…

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