After last week’s announcement of the 2016-17 PFA Premier League Team of the Year and the head-scratching selections of David De Gea and Gary Cahill, it is time that The Mastermind reveals their Premier League Team of the Season. These are the best eleven players from the 2016-17 Premier League season including Player, Young Player and Manager of the Year. Enjoy!
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
Team of the Week Appearances: 2
After a year of poor performance after poor performance, Thibaut Courtois has been the best goalkeeper in the league. Hugo Lloris might have kept more clean sheets and David De Gea might have secured the nod in goal in the PFA Team of the Year, but Courtois definitely has just been so key to Chelsea’s defence this season. Some of the saves he’s pulled off have been incredible, while 13 clean sheets from 31 matches is not bad either. He’s only conceded 0.81 goals per game while 2.04 saves per goal conceded is also an impressive feat. After years of being thought of as just the second or third best goalkeeper in the league behind De Gea and sometimes Lloris, Courtois might just have eclipsed both.
Right Back: Kyle Walker
Team of the Week Appearances: 4
As other Premier League defenders have had ups and downs and haven’t managed to be consistent standouts for their sides, Kyle Walker has been just about as consistent as they come. The Tottenham Hotspur man has had another excellent season, continuing to develop and further his reputation as the league’s best right back. Whether it’s been as part of a back four or as a wing-back, Walker has always performed to his best and has been central to everything good that Spurs have produced in 2016-17. With 5 assists from 29 appearances, no other right back in the league has made as much of a mark as Walker has for Spurs this season. So crucial to Spurs in both attack and defense, Kyle Walker certainly deserves his selection to this PFA Team of the Year and Mauricio Pochettino will do very well to hold onto him this summer.
Centre Back: Cesar Azpilicueta
Team of the Week Appearances: 4
A key member of Chelsea’s incredible back three, Cesar Azpilicueta has arguably been better than any other defender in the Premier League so far this season. Adapting to his new role as a centre half so incredibly well, Azpilicueta never put a foot wrong and illustrated exactly why he is one of the best in the world at 1v1 situations. Despite only making three team of the week appearances, Azpilicueta has starred at centre back, a new position to him and is the only Chelsea player to play every single minute of every single game in the league so far this campaign. In every area of the game the Spanish defender has been excellent so far this season. He has been involved in Chelsea’s attacking play with 19 chances created, 2 assists and 99 successful long ball passes while he has also been brilliant in possession of the ball, completing 2,026 total passes (only Pogba has completed more) with an average accuracy of 88%. On top of that he has also been superb in defense, always winning individual battles, completing 2.1 tackles per game and 2 interceptions per game as the Blues have kept 13 clean sheets. Cesar Azpilicueta has had a magnificent season, adjusting to his new role as a centre half wonderfully well and continues to be so underrated at the back for the Blues.
Centre Back: David Luiz
Team of the Week Appearances: 5
David Luiz has easily been the best defender in the Premier League this season. I was very surprised and even a little disappointed that he wasn’t even on the shortlist for PFA Player of the Year as I think he fully deserves to be considered for the award. Luiz has just been so confident and so improved at the back for Chelsea this season and he’s managed to make a massive impact in both attack and defense for the Blues. Playing the role of the sweeper, the Brazilian has acted as the last line of defense for Conte’s side in 2016-17 so incredibly well and when all else fails, he is still there to clean up the mess. With just six yellow cards and 0 defensive errors since Chelsea moved to a back three, the former PSG man has barely put a foot wrong all season and for a player that was once thought of to be just about the most rash footballer on the planet, he has truly re-branded himself as one of the world’s finest defenders again. David Luiz was by far the best defender in the Premier League this season and was instrumental to Chelsea’s magnificent season regardless of what the final result ends up being.
Left Back: Marcos Alonso
Team of the Week Appearances: 5
Few would have expected Marcos Alonso to have this much of an impact on Chelsea this season. He’s been one of their most important players as they inch closer to becoming champions. Alonso was great for Sunderland a few years ago in helping them avoid relegation, but up until now was by no means considered one of the best left-backs in the world. Now, fantastically he has that reputation and it is in large part down to Antonio Conte’s trust in the Spaniard. The Spanish defender was just so good for Chelsea this season in both attack and defense. He scored 5 goals with 2 assists, more than any other Chelsea defender and also made 2 tackles per game and won 2.4 duels in the air per game. After an incredible season with Chelsea, Marcos Alonso is now one of the best left-backs in the world and absolutely deserved to make the PFA Team of the Year ahead of Danny Rose.
Defensive Midfield: N’Golo Kante
Team of the Week Appearances: 4
Despite making less tackles and interceptions per game than he managed with Leicester last season, Kante has arguably been even better this season for Chelsea. Even in games where Chelsea haven’t been dominant, Kante has, and so he was integral to helping them grind out some seriously impressive results in 2016-17. Also there’s a reason as to why he hasn’t made as many tackles or interceptions this season. Chelsea have simply kept more possession of the ball than Leicester ever managed to in 2015-16. He hasn’t made as many tackles or interceptions, because he hasn’t been required to do so at quite the same rapid rate in 2016-17. When he’s been required to do the kind of ball-winning that he demonstrated with Ranieri’s side last year, he’s done so brilliantly well, even making a single-match league leading tally of 14 tackles against Liverpool in February. The Frenchman’s role in Antonio Conte’s infrangible Chelsea unit just can’t be understated and it’s hard to imagine they would have made this kind of an impact on the 2016-17 Premier League season without him in central midfield. Kante is one of the best players in the league, had possibly his best season ever as a footballer and is now the 2016-17 PFA Player of the Year.
Right Wing: Sadio Mane
Team of the Week Appearances: 8
While Alexis Sanchez has moaned, whined and thrown hissy fits at being substituted in games, Sadio Mane has garnered the respect of his fellow professionals for just going about his business and scoring goal after goal, game after game. Loaded with pace and power, Mane has been Liverpool’s star and standout player this season and when he isn’t in the team, Klopp’s system aren’t the same. After picking up an injury in the Merseyside derby, he’ll end the season with 13 goals and 5 assists from 27 matches this season, a highly respectable tally in all regards. But it’s not just about the goals for the Senegalese winger. He’s been a constant source of energy for Liverpool and while helping out at both ends of the pitch has not only made Firmino and Coutinho better but Nathaniel Clyne as well! For me it wasn’t even a question that Sadio Mane deserved his selection to the Team of the Year. But in the closing weeks leading up to the announcement, I was worried that his injury troubles and Alexis Sanchez’s reputation as being a far superior player would lead to the Senegalese winger missing out. Luckily, Sadio Mane features in both the PFA and The Mastermind’s Team of the Year.
Attacking Midfield: Dele Alli
Team of the Week Appearances: 8
For a 21-year old to do what Dele Alli has done in his Spurs career so far is just incredible. Like the PFA, I don’t care how quiet Dele Alli was in the first half of the season because in the second half he has been absolutely immense and has been just scoring for fun as Spurs continue to challenge for the title. The Spurs man has scored 16 goals with 5 assists in 32 appearances so far this season and stands alone as the top scoring midfielder in the league. Still only 21 years old, there was never going to be any other option to partner N’Golo Kante in central midfield in anyone’s Team of the Year. He’s been unbelievable this season and hasn’t just established himself as one of the Premier League’s best players but as one of the best players in the world of football.
Left Wing: Eden Hazard
Team of the Week Appearances: 9
What more needs to be said about Eden Hazard that hasn’t already been discussed? The Chelsea man has been arguably this season’s standout star and has bounced back brilliantly from a lackluster campaign in 2015-16. It’s not as though 14 goals with 5 assists is his best tally of his career, but the Belgian has played some of his best football this year and for a player considered to be a little inconsistent, all he needs is one more goal to make this his best goal scoring season in a Chelsea shirt. Beyond that, he’s led Chelsea in a number of games this season. Games in which they have been fully in control like a 5-0 thumping of Everton and games in which he has been required to step up to the plate and grind out a result for his side like both matches against Manchester City and that magnificent performance against Arsenal. After a season in which he began to lose supporters, Eden Hazard has truly re-established himself as one of the world’s finest footballers and some might argue was unlucky to miss out on the PFA Player of the Year award to his equally amazing teammate N’Golo Kante.
Striker: Harry Kane
Team of the Week Appearances: 7
This season Harry Kane has established himself as one of the best footballers in the world and if he stays in England, looks destined to become one of the leagues greatest ever strikers. With six games still left to go for Spurs in 2016-17, Harry Kane has already scored 69 Premier League goals in 100 appearances, the same tally as Luis Suarez who was given 990 more minutes of playing time when he was with Liverpool. What Kane has managed to do this season is remarkable. He’s had to come back from an ankle injury not once but on two occasions this season and both times has bounced back incredibly well to continue to be in the fight for the Golden Boot. He’s still only 23, but this is now his third season in a row scoring 20+ goals in the league, something he only shares in common with Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Ruud Van Nilsterooy. But Harry Kane is just so much more than just about the goals. He links up with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen incredibly well, he creates a ton of chances for his teammates to score and he always works hard in every area of the pitch. He’s not just a complete striker, he’s a complete player, and at the age of 23 it won’t be too long before we start to talk about Harry Kane in the same breath as some of the all-time Premier League greats.
Striker: Romelu Lukaku
Team of the Week Appearances: 7
In previous years Romelu Lukaku has often been knocked for being too inconsistent and not stepping up to the plate when Everton have desperately needed him to most. This season, the only talk that has been about Lukaku has been whether he is a star or a superstar! He’s just been that good all season long and with 24 goals and 6 assists from 32 matches, he looks destined to win his first ever golden boot. Heck, if he continues on at the rate that he’s been scoring in recent months, he might even break 30! Despite playing for just the league’s 7th best team, there was never any other option to partner Kane up top in the Premier League Team of the Year and I’ll be absolutely shocked if he is still at Everton next season. Lukaku no longer just has promise and potential, he’s already there, hitting the highest tallies in the biggest league in the world. Whether it’s with Bayern Munich, Chelsea or Man U, Romelu Lukaku is set to become one of the world’s very best strikers.
Formation: 4-1-3-2: Courtois, Walker, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Alonso, Kante, Mane, Alli, Hazard, Kane, Lukaku
Substitutes: Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld, Michael Keane, Ander Herrera, Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Team of the Season Based on Team of the Week Appearances:
(4-3-3): Jordan Pickford (5), Victor Moses (5), David Luiz (5), Michael Keane (4), Marcos Alonso (5), Sadio Mane (8), Dele Alli (8), Eden Hazard (9), Alexis Sanchez (7), Harry Kane (8), Romelu Lukaku (7)
Player of the Year: N’Golo Kante
Would Chelsea have won this Premier League season without Chelsea? Indications by how Leicester have done this season without him indicate that the answer to that is probably not! He’s just so integral to everything Chelsea do in that whenever they lose the ball, he’s always there to win it back, allowing them to constantly keep possession and go on the attack. With 3.5 tackles per game, 2.6 interceptions per game, an 89% passing percentage and 1 goal with 1 assist, Kante’s been the supreme midfielder in the Premier League this season. The Frenchman’s role in Antonio Conte’s infrangible Chelsea unit just can’t be understated and it’s hard to imagine they would have made this kind of an impact on the 2016-17 Premier League season without him in central midfield. Kante is one of the best players in the league, had possibly his best season ever as a footballer and is now the 2016-17 PFA Player of the Year.
Young Player of the Year: Harry Kane
For what Dele Alli has accomplished as a 21-year old is pretty incredible but technically by the rules of the award, Harry Kane is still considered a young player and it’s incredibly fascinating that he’s missed out on winning the award two years in a row now despite being ahead of Alli in the Player of the Year category. It really seems surprising that Kane is still just 23 years of age. He’s scored 20+ goals in the league for three seasons running now and on occasion, he’s even captained Spurs! So perhaps that is the reason why Alli has taken the year two years running now. Nonetheless, Harry Kane has been better over the course of the season than Dele Alli and has been just slightly more influential. As a result he wins The Mastermind‘s award for Young Player of the Year!
Manager of the Year: Antonio Conte
Manager of the Week Awards: 6
With more Manager of the Week awards than anyone else this season in any league across Europe, Antonio Conte has to be The Mastermind’s Manager of the Year! Chelsea completely dominated over nearly every team they played against and instantly after changing to a 3-4-3 in October after that horrible 3-0 loss to Arsenal, the Blues just started to fire on all cylinders and took control of the league with ease. Never allowing any team any space to breathe, Conte’s side were like a pack of wolves, constantly gaining back possession of the ball every time they lost it. He tinkered with the side in stunning ways and everything he did just completely worked to perfection. Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso became two of the best wing-backs in the entire world this season while Cesar Azplicueta was amazing as a right-sided centre half. Pushing the wingers further forward also allowed Chelsea to utilize Pedro and Hazard’s skills to their full advantage while even if they made a mistake Kante and Matic were always there to clean up the mess. He also managed to transform David Luiz into one of the best centre halves in the world in 2016-17 and despite keeping Willian on the bench, has still managed to make him feel like a massive part of the side where every single time the Brazilian steps onto the pitch he makes a massive impact and plays like he’s never been left out at all. The Italian’s 3-4-3 formation was so effective that every single team, even Arsenal, started to try it out, many of whom changed it to their regular formation. His tactics, man-management and ability to drill exactly what he wants into the minds of his players is better than anyone else we have seen since Sir Alex Ferguson. Antonio Conte isn’t just the best manager in the league, he might be the best in the world.
So there it is! The Mastermind‘s Premier League Team of the Season! Make sure to check out our full analysis of the PFA Team of the Year as well. And make sure to follow on Twitter for more right here! See you soon!