It’s that time of year! In this week’s Tactical Thinker, we asked you to name your PFA Team of the Year, as though you were one of the pros making the difficult selection. After a countless number of responses, we compile the top eleven players as voted by our own stack of pros – you, the readers. Here is our PFA Team of the Year, from the TMS community.
GOALKEEPER: ALISSON BECKEREmbed from Getty Images
In the most scrutinized position on a football pitch, there is very little room for error. Luckily for Alisson, he’s a man of very few mistakes, and an absolute rock at the back for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Alisson always knows when to come out of his goal and sweep in behind, and combines that with an outrageous shot stopping ability found in very few other places in the world. On top of those rarities, Alisson also happens to be one of the best passers, organizers, and commanders around. If looking for a complete goalkeeper, it’s hard to find one better than the Brazilian, particularly this season in the Premier League – where he’s kept 20 clean sheets and conceded just 22 goals all season.
RIGHT BACK: TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLDEmbed from Getty Images
Very few players in the world create as many chances or assist as many goals as Trent Alexander-Arnold…and he’s a full-back. Only his teammate Mohamed Salah has assisted more than his 12 goals this season, but nobody’s made more progressive passes or crosses this season, remaining a constant threat for Klopp’s team. In addition to just being an attacking beast, Trent Alexander-Arnold has quite a few underrated defensive qualities, and remains a key cog in Liverpool’s back-four. Often inverting this season into central areas, the Liverpool legend in the making has even evolved his game this season from being mostly up and down the wing, to getting involved in all kinds of unique ways.
CENTRE BACK: JOEL MATIPEmbed from Getty Images
Virgil Van Dijk may have the best reputation in the league, but his centre-back partner in Joel Matip has had the season of his life, and cannot be overlooked in the Team of the Year. Matip has been key to Liverpool’s stellar possession and build-up, with the 5th most progressive carries in the league (8.62). Going the other way, he’s completed nearly 62% of his tackles (8th highest in the league), and boasts an impressive pressure percentage of nearly 41%. A beast in the air and an ever-present for Liverpool this season, Joel Matip’s role at centre-back has been integral to the Reds’ historic season.
CENTRE BACK: AYMERIC LAPORTEEmbed from Getty Images
One year on from barely playing in the 2020-21 season and having his spot stolen away by John Stones and Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte has once again become the stalwart in City’s back-line. The Frenchman has featured in 32 matches as City prepare to win the title, scoring a career high 4 goals. As one of the best ball-playing-centre-halves on the planet, Laporte has accumulated the highest passing percentage (94.6%), and the highest long passing percentage (88%) in the league. He also ranks first for passes into the final third (another career high 10.1 per 90), and second for progressive carries (11.4 per 90). A remarkably complete defender, Aymeric Laporte has perfectly handled his responsibilities both in and out of possession, for the league’s top team en route to another title.
LEFT BACK: JOAO CANCELOEmbed from Getty Images
Full-backs have become increasingly paramount to modern day tactics, and no one signifies that better than Joao Cancelo. Crucial to City’s plans, Cancelo has completed more progressive carries (10.1 per 90), carries into the final third (3.9), and passes into the penalty area (2.55) than any other player in the league. Posing a major threat in attack, he also ranks first for being the target of the most passes, taking the most touches, and ranks second in progressive passes (7.54) in the league. Out of possession, Cancelo has also been more than up for the task, making a career high 2.52 tackles per 90. Very few players have performed a more important role for their team this season, and contributing to 8 of City’s goals (1 goal + 7 assists) in a title winning season will be a special feeling for the Portuguese play-maker.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: DECLAN RICEEmbed from Getty Images
West Ham may only finish around 7th this season, but Declan Rice has still been one of the very best players in the league. Oozing class at the heart of West Ham’s midfield, Rice ranks second for interceptions (2.74 per 90), and 4th for passes into the final third (6.79 per 90) in the league. A highly skillful player in possession of the football with excellent passing range and vision, Rice perfectly dovetails beside Tomas Soucek in a defensively-minded David Moyes midfield. Making 35 appearances in a taxing season, as the leader in a UEFA Europa League semi-final team, is an impressive feat all on its own, and showcases his irreplaceability for the Hammers.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: KEVIN DE BRUYNEEmbed from Getty Images
The first half of the season may have been dominated by headlines of Salah and Silva, but the second half has been all De Bruyne. The Belgian midfielder has scored a career high 15 Premier League goals this season, adding another 7 assists along the way, for 22 goal contributions in just 29 appearances. This is the part where we remind you that KDB is only a central midfielder / hybrid number-ten. With an xG of just 5.9, De Bruyne’s goals this season have been worldies and remarkably complicated, only further elucidating his brilliance every step of the way. With 5.54 shot-creating-actions per 90 (the most in the league), and a constant ability to take any game by the scruff of the neck, Kevin de Bruyne has had another memorable campaign.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: BERNARDO SILVAEmbed from Getty Images
For the first half of the season, Bernardo Silva was nearly unstoppable, and the key figurehead of an already remarkable Manchester City team. Kevin de Bruyne emerged in the second half of the campaign to steal that crown, but Bernardo has continued his extraordinary heights both in and out of possession in allowing other star-studded individuals to work their magic. Capable of playing as a ‘False 9’, or even as a more reserved, almost defensively-minded midfielder to compliment the movement of Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo has bagged a career high 8 goals this campaign. In addition to his chance creation and 4 assists, the midfield maestro is particularly difficult to stop in possession of the ball – with 10.8 progressive carries and 3.45 carries into the final third per 90 – the third and second most in the league respectively.
RIGHT WING: MOHAMED SALAHEmbed from Getty Images
Lately, some people have been talking about Mohamed Salah like he’s fallen off a cliff. Sure, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz have been extraordinary. Even Thiago has been very good. That much is true. But in Harry Kane-esque fashion, no one has scored (23) or assisted (13) more goals than the energetic Egyptian this season in the Premier League. That equates to 1.15 goals + assists per 90, right up there with the very best in the world (Robert Lewandowski ranks just above him at 1.16). Remaining a never-ending threat, Salah has received more progressive passes this season than anyone else (11.9), despite constantly having the most difficult and elaborate of passes thrown his way. A goal-scoring machine, Salah’s also played an integral role in the team’s high press as ever, and has truly left it all on the pitch this season in leading Liverpool’s charge.
STRIKER: CRISTIANO RONALDOEmbed from Getty Images
What can we say? Ronaldo clearly has fans. That much isn’t new. It hasn’t been the greatest seasons for Manchester United since Ronaldo arrived, but at the same time, he’s pulled them out of jail on several occasions – scoring 18 goals in 30 matches. The Portuguese legend has come up clutch when it’s mattered most, breaking all kinds of records to top off an already unbelievable career and legacy in the Prem. We personally would have gone for another midfielder in the form of Rodri here, but there’s no denying that Ronaldo has been one of the best out-and-out goal-scoring centre-forwards in the league this season.
LEFT WING: HEUNG-MIN SONEmbed from Getty Images
Going a bit under the radar this season despite his incredible consistency for Tottenham Hotspur, Heung-Min Son has scored 21 goals with 7 assists to his name in 34 matches this season. The Tottenham man has continued his incredible partnership with Harry Kane to lead Spurs toward a top four charge, even when all seemed unlikely. With the most non-penalty goals, and an incredible goals per shot ratio of 0.27, Son has been on another planet this season – without even getting the recognition for it. Luckily our readers haven’t missed a beat in giving him that recognition.
So there it is! The PFA Team of the Year as selected by you! Be sure to check out more Premier League articles, our Bundesliga Team of the Season, and follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
MORE FROM OUR TACTICAL THINKER SERIES…
Norwich and Watford made 2021-22 a notoriously bad season for the Premier League’s bottom two clubs. Luckily, the fight away from the final relegation spot ended full of entertainment and intrigue, with Everton, Leeds and Burnley battling it out to stay alive. Ultimately, the Clarets would succumb to relegation on the final day, even despite a late push under new management. Now with Burnley, Norwich and Watford heading down to the Championship, we asked you to conjure up the names of the players you think should stay in the Premier League in 2022-23. We received a multitude of responses from our readership, and these were the most common names to hit the board, and the clubs that could be best suited for their signatures.
After the conclusion of the Premier League season and the subsequent relegations of Norwich, Watford and Burnley, we ask you to conjure up the players that you would keep in the Premier League next season. Whether it’s likely to happen or not, we want to know who you would take at your club next season, or who you think would excel at a Premier League team in 2022-23. Answer our latest Tactical Thinker below!
This past weekend, Mohamed Salah claimed the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year, with more individual awards soon to follow. Individual awards are fraught with controversy within a team sport that relies on all eleven players working in tandem, and sometimes fail to acknowledge those that didn’t do the flashy bits on a football pitch, but performed like their lives depended on it week in and week out. On both accounts, that’s what often makes the Team of the Year an intriguing award to follow. When it comes to the PFA Team of the Year, it becomes all the more fascinating to see who the pros themselves had the most difficult time playing against this season, and who they felt deserved to be remembered for their role in making the 2021-22 season special. So with that, we ask you to pick your PFA Team of the Year, if you were one of the pros.
We take a look at the six best (or the six most submitted) young players outside of Europe’s top five leagues, who have been catching the eye in 2021-22. But not only that! We also take a deep dive into the discussion vaults, describing where each of our youngsters could end up next season, both in stylistic fit and reported rumours.
Who is a young player outside of Europe’s top five leagues that has caught your attention this season? If you’d like to expand on your answer, feel free to share where you could see them fitting in if a move were to be made elsewhere.
It’s no secret. Manchester United are struggling defensively right now, despite having very capable players all over the pitch. In David De Gea, they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world. In Lindelof and Maguire, the Red Devils have a defensive pairing that spearheaded one of the league’s sturdiest defensive structures last season, and led a Europa League charge. Ahead of them, they have two defensive warriors in Fred and McTominay, who will never be world beaters, but are very competent in what they offer. Despite that, Ralf Rangnick’s team have conceded 10 goals in their last 5 games, floundering under the German’s style of play. So what’s amiss?
For the past few seasons, the attention on Manchester United’s transfer business has surrounded their inability to sign a world class defensive midfielder. However, with United floundering under Ralf Rangnick’s style of play, greater defensive concerns have been illuminated in the past few months.