Premier League 2020-21 – Most Underrated XI

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Victor Onoh picks his ‘Underrated XI’ of the Premier League season.

The premier league season is finally over, with Manchester City being crowned well deserved champions, and roadside neighbors Manchester United finishing second. Liverpool remarkably finished third despite their shaky season, and Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea rounded up the Champions League spots in fourth place. Leicester and West Ham stumbled back towards Europa League spots after promising campaigns, while Gareth Bale’s late brace on the final day secured Tottenham’s qualification for the first-round play-off of the newly introduced Europa Conference League. Arsenal meanwhile missed out on Europe for the first time in 26 years, after finishing 8th in the league. At the bottom end of the table, Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United dropped to the Championship, after each suffering from barren runs at different stages of the season.

After the season that was, we pick our ‘Underrated XI’ for the 2020-21 season, in contrast to the PFA Team of the Year, and our Team of the Season.

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Starting in goal, it has to be the Aston Villa shot stopper – Emiliano Martinez. He was simply incredible for the Villains, after his astute summer signing from Arsenal. He kept 15 clean sheets in the league with only Ederson (19) and Edouard Mendy (16) accumulating more. His exquisite passing ability and shot stopping are two of the main reasons for Aston Villa’s significant rise up the table in 2020-21, and he certainly deserves his spot in the Underrated XI.

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At right back is Chelsea’s youngster, Reece James. At 20 years of age the right back has electric pace and good crossing ability, coupled with solid strength and defensive ability. James proved to be one of the best right backs in the league this season, even becoming a regular name for Gareth Southgate’s England. Having contributed to 25 games for the Chelsea first team this season notching a goal and two assists during this period. Having a tackle success of 71% and a passing accuracy of 89%, the youngster showed his value not only in one position but in multiple, with the swag of a seasoned pro. His contribution to Chelsea’s first team earned them a top four finish, an FA Cup Final and a Champion’s League Final.

centre back: wesley fofana
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Leicester City new boy Wesley Fofana proved to everyone why he is one of the best young centre-backs in Europe, in his first season in the Premier League. He was absolutely immaculate in his first season in England averaging over 3 tackles + interceptions per game, and acting at the heart of everything good for the Foxes in their stellar defense. His positional awareness is beyond his years, and he oozes class out from the back with his passing and distribution. It was a fantastic first season for Wesley Fofana, and shows so much promise for what he could achieve in the future.

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The second center-back in the team is none other than Manchester United captain and England vice-captain – Harry Maguire. A lot was said off the pitch about Harry Maguire in Greece earlier in the summer and all seemed gloomy, but on the pitch, it started to become a very different conversation as United climbed up to second and stayed there throughout the season. Maguire played like a true leader and showed why he was bought for such a high (record-breaking) price. His impact showed even more in recent weeks after his ankle injury against Aston Villa, with the team dropping several points in his absence.

left back: aaron cresswell
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At left back is West Ham United’s Aaron Creswell, who enjoyed a stellar season with the Hammers as they clinched European football for the first time since 2015-16. The 31-year-old contributed 7 assists to the cause, the highest by a defender in the league this season. Even when deployed as a left-center-back in a back three, Cresswell showed his quality and showcased why he’s more than just a solid crosser of the ball. His defensive side of the game was much improved this time around, a true marker of a man now into his thirties. But despite the age, Aaron Cresswell looked as lively as ever, helping West Ham to Europa League football.

central midfield: tomas soucek
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Arguably West Ham’s best player this season, Tomas Soucek contributed 10 goals and 1 assist this season, most of which were with his head. He formed a solid partnership alongside Declan Rice, helping the Hammers drastically improve in defense and climb up the table. His attitude and professionalism also stood out, with the side seemingly lifting their spirits whenever he was in the team.

central midfield: youri tielemans
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Slowly becoming not so underrated anymore, Youri Tielemans enjoyed his best season since joining the Foxes, scoring 6 goals and notching 3 assists, while dictating the tempo in midfield each and every game. His ability to create line-breaking passes stands out in particular and he even stepped up at vital moments, such as his outstanding FA Cup Final goal. Perhaps most impressively, Tielemans continued to dominate the midfield at crucial stages of the season, even when his partner Wilfred Ndidi was out or dropped to centre-back.

right wing: raphinha
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Raphinha impressed massively this season after being a relatively unknown name at the start of the season. Coming into the league for the first time at a mid-table Leeds United team and fitting the style of play so immensely well is nothing short of impressive, and that’s not to mention his 6 goals and 9 assists. His pace, trickery and creative impetus was a huge driving force in Leeds’ impressive top-half finish, and many top clubs might have their eye on securing the signature of the Brazilian in the near future.

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Matheus Pereira was one of the only bright sparks of a relegated team, racking up an impressive 11 goals and 6 assists. He showed his immense quality even in a relegated team, particularly in the second half of the season as West Brom’s form picked up under a slightly more attack-minded approach from Sam Allardyce. Pereira will almost certainly be on the move this summer, it’s just a question of where.

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A certain shoe-in for the Team of the Year half-way through the season, Jack Grealish suffered through an injury in the second-half and subsequently became underrated. With his undeniable ability on the ball, Grealish almost single-handedly led Villa’s charge toward European football, and they only fell off the pace following his injury. He was the most fouled player in the league, and contributed 6 goals with 10 assists. Effortlessly gliding away from opponents and creating chances from all kinds of situations, the Villa captain also impressed with his leadership, leading a relegation-threatened Aston Villa of last season to never be in danger in 2020-21.

striker: patrick bamford
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Rounding up the team’s attack is former failed Chelsea player Patrick Bamford, who shot Leeds up into the top-half this season. Before the season began, many had doubts over whether or not Bamford could score at the highest level. He silenced those doubters with an astonishing return of 17 goals and 7 assists over the course of the season. But it wasn’t just his goals. Bamford’s movement and ability on the ball was quite impressive, always putting in a shift for his team and showing everyone why he belongs in the Premier League.

So there it is! Victor Onoh’s Underrated XI for the 2020-21 season. Comment below who makes your Underrated XI and be sure to check out our Picking the PFA Team of the Year (2020-21). Thanks for reading and see you soon!

You might also enjoy…
-> Marcelo Bielsa – Leeds United – Tactical Analysis (2020-21 Edition)
-> Dean Smith – Aston Villa – Tactical Analysis
-> Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Manchester United – Tactical Analysis


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