One week remains of the English Premier Division season with enough games played and bits and bobs sorted to now announce my ‘team of the campaign’. No, it’s not Manchester City, dominant champions for the third successive year, but an amalgamation of all things great from the best of the EPL over the last ten months, it maybe a sky blue heavy XI you’re about to see, but this team represents all those who impressed me, from top to bottom and back with a valid reasoning for my selections too.
Whilst City players may feature heavily because they have been easily the best in the league, I’ll be sparing a thought in selection for the likes of Arsenal, Newcastle, even Fulham, Brentford, Brighton, Bournemouth, all who have punched above their weight.
Nottingham Forest confirmed survival on Saturday by beating the gunners to crown the citizens their second championship defence, that leaves Everton, Leeds and Leicester fighting for survival, only one of which will stay up, Southampton already on a whimper, gone.
Manchester United and Liverpool have blew hot and cold all season long, Tottenham and Chelsea you could say have blown so much cold air they have now frozen into a floating iceberg awaiting rescue of a new Manager ahead… Of the rest, Aston Villa can hold heads up high with Unai Emery one of the Managers of the season, Crystal Palace, Wolves and West Ham all surviving scares to comfortably, eventually fend off relegation threat from those below, other than City, and United, who won the Carabao Cup at Wembley against Newcastle and soon have an FA Cup final against their cross town rivals (who they hope to stop doing the treble), West Ham could in actual fact be the only other top flight English club to win silverware this season, they take on Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final, looking for a first trophy in 43 years.
But you know all that… What you don’t know, is who I’m picking in my eleven… so without further ado… Let’s start with the shape… Playing it safe with 4-3-3.
Goalkeeper: Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
When he moved to Arsenal in 2021 he may have raised eyebrows but he’s since been a huge part of the clubs improving DNA under Mikel Arteta. A real winner, his acrobatics and antics have helped keep his side within touching distance of City, his distribution up there with the best in the division. Near misses… Nick Pope, David Raya, Emi Martinez.
Right Back: Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United)
Fabulous since signing for the Geordies from Atletico Madrid, he has taken on the captaincy and has incredible goal involvement for a full back, only bettered in his position by Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool. Unlike TAA, Trips can defend, which is often why he’s chosen as his international Manager Gareth Southgate’s go too at full back, a real competitor and leader enjoying his responsibility with the toon. Near misses… Ben White, Aaron Hickey, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Left Back: Nathan Ake (Manchester City)
It’s not even his position, but Pep as he does so well, has tinkered with an average centre half to turn him into a top left sided full back, now Dutchman Ake can cover three or four various roles for the ever-evolving philosophy which keeps the wheels moving at City, he’s been immense when asked to do a job and is one of the divisions most improved defenders in recent times. Near misses… Oleksandr Zinchenko, Dan Burn, Pervis Estupinian, Luke Shaw.
Centre Back: Sven Botman (Newcastle United)
His first season in the Premier League and he’s been the rock alongside Fabian Schar that has seen Newcastle concede less than everyone, bar Manchester City. His signing under the radar from Lille where he won a Ligue 1 championship has lifted the United defence to a solid and formidable back line that is often unrewarding for opposition attacks. Near misses… Ruben Dias, Lisandro Martinez, Lewis Dunk, Gabriel.
Centre Back: William Saliba (Arsenal)
Blamed by many as the reason Arsenal failed to go on and win the title, since injury of Saliba the Gunners faltered to second spot, with him they were immense defensively and assured with the marshalling by the Frenchman alongside Gabriel, that for long periods in the season had even their most reluctant supporter ‘believing’. Near misses… John Stones, Ben Mee, Craig Dawson, Manuel Akanji, Tyrone Mings.
Centre Midfield: Casemiro (Manchester United)
Came with a big reputation and didn’t disappoint. A proven World Class holding midfielder who allows others to benefit by his off ball work, breaking up the play, starting new builds, even getting on the end of crosses to head home unlikely winners. The signing probably propelled United from another under-achieving season to one that ended with promise, that with ten Hag at the helm and with Casemiro fuelling the engine room, with one or two additions next season, the Red Devils could be serious contenders. Near misses… Granit Xhaka, Bruno Guimares, Rodri, Moises Caicedo, Romeo Lavia.
Centre Midfield: Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton & Hove Albion)
What a year it’s been for the Argentine world cup winner. An immense player for Brighton his workrate and ability on the ball look now to get him a move to even bigger and better things ahead. With the likes of Liverpool now knocking at the door it could be a lucrative summer for Mac Allister who’s been one of the division’s most consistent performers. Near misses… Ilkay Gundogan, Palinha, Pierre Emil Hojberg.
Centre Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Without question one of the best right foots in the game, he has been one of the reasons for Manchester City dominance in recent years and his consistent levels of performance keeps his club at the top of the tree, his sixteen assists way and above the nearest competitor. Near misses… Martin Odegaard, Eberechi Eze, Michael Oliseh, Morgan Gibbs-White.
Right Forward: Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
Brilliant all season long and is adding goals, assists and quality in possession to the hard work he shows off the ball, the talisman for Arsenal and a player who not only makes things happen but who can get timely goals when needed. An essential piece in Gareth Southgate’s international jigsaw in recent times, a pivotal ploy in Mikel Arteta’s gunners attack. Near misses… Mo Salah, Brennan Johnson, Riyad Mahrez.
Left Forward: Jack Grealish (Manchester City)
Has evolved into a frighteningly good footballer under Pep Guardiola, now knows when to play it simple, his runs with elegance draw attention from defenders who often result in foul play just to stop him, even when doing nothing, he can take opponents out of the game, a super intelligent footballer who’s added qualities thanks to his Manager that he probably thought he never had. Near misses… Gabriel Martinelli, Marcus Rashford, Kaoru Mitoma.
Centre Forward: Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
Quite possibly the most complete centre forward ever to grace the Premier League. Pace, power, predatory goal scoring prowess, in abundance. He’s lifted Manchester City to another level of previous eras set by Sergio Aguero, he’s been the man, the firepower, the net bulger that has single handily contributed to a record 52 goals (so far). Harry Kane for example has 28 league goals and in other years would be head and shoulders the top scorer in the division, Erling Haaland has 36 and counting, his blonde locks flowing, the perfect advert for a shampoo commercial with such syncomatic tag line to his own personal achievement. Near misses… Harry Kane, Callum Wilson, Ollie Watkins, Ivan Toney, Aleksandar Mitrovic.