The Top 11 Players From the 2019-2020 British Premier League
Date: May 5, 2020
Read Time: 4-6 Minutes
An Enthralling Season Cut Short
The season may have been cut short, but there was still plenty of good drama and skill to entertain us during the 2019-20 British Premier League.
With this season bringing fresh faces like Bruno Fernandes and Christian Pulisic to the mix, there was plenty to be excited about. And although Liverpool seemed to be a tier above the rest over 3/4ths of the season, consistent football from Man City and Leicester, as well as flashes of brilliance from Manchester United and Chelsea and even newcomers like Sheffield, provided ample entertainment. Add the drama of a global pandemic and ceaseless coaching upheavals at Tottenham, Everton, and Arsenal, and you have an eyebrow raising year.
But out of all that we witnessed during the first 29 or so games of the season, which 11 players were the ABSOLUTE best performers? That is, if you had to pick just one player at each position on the field – from any team in the league – who would you pick?
Although the outcomes of these selections are usually based on the individual biases that ardent fans of the game are sure to have, I’ve tried to keep by picks as facts-based as possible. As an American, I have no “true-bred” loyalties to any team, so I consider myself more of a passive (but equally enthralled) observer.
If you don’t agree, I hope at least you’re entertained.
Top Starting XI: 2019-20 British Premier League
GK: Alisson Becker
Ok, so there were 2-3 goalkeepers I could have picked. I thought Ben Foster for Watford had a great year despite his team’s shortcomings, and Kasper Schmeichel was also impressive for Leicester. Rui Patricio for the Wolves had his moments, too. However, other big names like De Gea and Ederson seemed a bit off from the past few years — as did Hugo Lloris at Tottenham and Pickford at Everton.
2019-20 Premier League Clean Sheets
As for Alisson, despite one or two mishaps, he has been a transformational keeper for a Liverpool side that was hindered in the past by glaring mistakes from Mignolet and Karius (poor Karius). When you examine all his seasonal performances and factor in goalkeeping prowess, technical ability, and overall athleticism, I think Alisson is deserving of the #1 spot.
Alisson Becker Player Highlights
With 12 clean sheets and 9 more wins than any other team, coupled with some incredible saves and even an assist, Alisson showed why he is the go-to goalkeeper for club and country. His quality control and foot skills, combined with core goalkeeping and athletic versatility, show why Liverpool splashed the cash to replace Mignolet and Karius. In 2020, Alisson was above all the rest.
LB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
While Manchester United as a whole were far from what their fanbase would have wanted them to be, there were certain players who I thought still shone brightly. Bruno Fernandez was one, and Wan Bissaka was another. Even with other left backs like Robertson at Liverpool having incredible years, Bissaka separated himself from the pack with stellar defensive play and some incredible moves during counterattacks.
2019-20 Premier League Tackles
Although not always the most gifted technically, the 22-years old Bissaka uses his 6’0+ frame and lightning quick pace to physically assert his presence on the back line and during breakaways. Few wingers or strikers can match his speed, and his long legs are perfect for the sliding tackles he’s become known for down the line. With 100 tackles to his name and a 70% win-ratio in 1v1s during the 2020 season, Bissaka was a dominating figure and he deserves the #1 left back spot.
Wan-Bissaka Player Highlights
CB: Virgil Van Dijk
Hopefully even the most stalwart Liverpool opposition can agree that Virgil deserves a “best centerback in the league” (if not the world) ranking. He’s an absolute monster. His transfer from Southampton to Liverpool two years ago has reinvigorated Liverpool’s once-shaky backline and helped drive them to two successive Champions League Finals. His efforts were also key in Liverpool’s all-but-secured Premier League Title this year.
Van Dijk Player Highlights
Van Dijk was 27-1 in appearances this season, with 4 goals and an assist. He was also a finalist for the Ballon D’or in 2019 – an almost unheard of accomplishment for a defender. In 2020, Van Dijk won over 75% of his 200 aerial battles and 75% of his 1v1s. He also saw Liverpool achieve 12 clean sheets, which makes for one clean sheet in every two games. It’s all quite impressive for a defender who, at the age of 28, is just now hitting his peak form. If he keeps this up, he’ll be back on the list next year.
CB: Aymeric Laporte
To be honest, I struggled to pick a 2nd center back to go alongside Van Dijk in this Ultimate 11. Across the rest of the big six clubs, most backlines were surprisingly shaky in 2020. Arsenal’s combinations of Sokratis, Luiz, and Mustafi were deplorable, Chelsea’s Rudiger and Zouma were inconsistent, and Man United struggled despite their big-name signing in Harry Maguire.
From a consistency standpoint, perhaps Johny Evans at Leicester could have been given the nod. But while Manchester City’s struggles at the back were also evident at times, I believe Aymeric Laporte’s appearances were enough to hand him this spot.
Laporte Player Highlights
Despite a recurring knee injury, Laporte has been the one bright spark in City’s backline since Kompany retired and Otamendi has fallen from grace. He’s tall, physical, and skilled on the ball, and has much better decision making at the back than any of his counterparts. Although Fernandinho has done well to transform himself into a centerback from a CDM, Laporte’s physical attributes lend themselves more to the role and he, I believe, is only outdone by Van Dijk when it comes to the best CBs in the league.
RB: Trent Alexander Arnold
Full disclosure, I very nearly put Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira in this spot. But, it would be a disservice not to include either of Liverpool’s outside backs on this list.
Combined, Robertson and Alexander Arnold have been an absolute force, combining for 19 assists and 3 goals. 12 of those assists and 2 of the goals are Arnold’s – he’s been the better of the two backs for Liverpool so far this year and deserving of the #1 RB spot. Of course, he’s still young at the age of 21 and has to mature a bit more before we can consider him at peak form, but having played in 2 champions league finals and all but won the 2020 domestic league, i’ll cut him some slack.
Alexander Arnold Player Highlights
Although Ricardo was ultimately left off of this list, I will also be kind to the Portuguese back and acknowledge his efforts for Leicester. His pace and speed allow him to stick with the fastest players on the pitch, and his commitment to covering for his teammates and also running forward to join the attacks is admirable. Pereira even led the league in tackles this year. However, Arnold’s stellar counterattacking was ultimately enough for me to give him the nod.
LM / LW: Sadio Mane
This is the last Liverpool player I promise… but for a team as dominant as Liverpool was this year, the number of team selections is warranted. A year or two ago, I would have picked Mo Salah above Mane as Liverpool’s top attacking presence. Outside of Liverpool, there’s also been great performances by players like Bernardo Silva and Sterling. But with many prominent wingers not in peak form this year (Leroy Sane’s and Christian Pulisic’s absences are huge here), Mane has outshown the lot with a number of pivotal goals and lightning quick breakaways.
Sadio Mane Player Highlights
After winning African Player of the Year in 2019, Mane has gone on to slot home 14 goals and 7 assists in the 2020 campaign. He has maintained a 50% shot accuracy rate with 60 shots, scored consistently with both feet as well as his head, and has dazzled us with jaw-dropping footskills and incredible volleys. Although competition is tight in the top wingers category, Mane is deserving of this title in 2020.
CM: Jack Grealish
On any of the big 6 teams, Jack Grealish would likely be a regular starter in the midfield.
Playing for Aston Villa, he’s an absolute star and clearly playing at a higher level than most of his teammates. Unsurprisingly, Grealish was the most fouled player in the premier league during 2020, due mainly to his delicate touches in tight situations that inevitably lead to contact. It also doesn’t help that few of his teammates can give him the support he needs, which leads to most defenses doubling or even triple-teaming him. Still, Grealish has managed 7 goals and 6 assists in the 2020 season, and is widely considered to be a top candidate for England’s national squad in the upcoming Euro competition (now scheduled for 2021).
Jack Grealish Player Highlights
It’s true that Grealish might not shine as bright if he were surrounded by a team of superstars – playing alongside De Bruyne and Silva at City or Henderson and Wijnaldum at Liverpool would certainly create a different picture. But given all he’s been able to accomplish at an underwhelming Villa side, it’s fair to rank Grealish as one of the top two midfielders in the league. The only alternative for me would have been if Bruno Fernandes played an entire season at Man United. Had he played like he did after the transfer window all year long, it would have been hard to leave him out.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne
Given the dominating, possession-oriented style of play that Manchester City have become known for under Pep Guardiola, it stands to reason that their most dynamic midfielder would make the list. Both Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva (as well as Gundogan) have been fantastic for city in midfield, but now with Silva starting to age, I think De Bruyne is the runaway favorite.
De Bruyne Player Highlights
As anyone who’s actually watched him play will notice, De Bruyne is almost incapable of misplacing a pass. Whether it’s a crossfield rocket or delicate give-and-go in the box, De Bruyne’s pinpoint accuracy makes him a dangerous distributor going forward. He can also score with both feet and from anywhere on the field – he has 8 goals and 16 assists so far in 2020, and leads the league in assists by a wide margin. Couple his attacking attributes with his incomparable workrate and commitment to tracking back and defending, and De Bruyne is the league’s best midfielder hands down for me in 2020.
RM / RW: Adama Traore
Wolverhampton don’t have the cash to match big-name premier league teams, but they’re still one of my favorite clubs to watch – due largely to the talent on display from Adama Traore. Built as though he were an NFL runningback, the athleticism of Traore is 2nd to none. He breezes past virtually any outside back he wants, and his darting runs down the line to whip in crosses for Raul Jimenez are a staple of the Wolves’ formidable attacking presence.
Traore Player Highlights
In a 1v1 situation (or even a 3v1 situation), you expect Traore to come out on top. And while he only has 4 goals to his name in 2020 and could still improve his technical and defensive capabilities to become a more complete player, there’s no denying the danger he poses going forward. Based on his sheer athleticism and attacking prowess alone, I would put Adama in my starting 11 any day.
ST: Danny Ings
If any of my selections are controversial, this is the one I’d expect to receive the most backlash for.
Danny Ings was all but released from Liverpool two years ago after a string of unfortunate injuries and inconsistent playing time. However, things have been on the rapid come-up for him ever since his move to Southampton.
Of course, competing with the likes of Firmino, Salah, Mane, and Origi isn’t easy, but Danny Ings is a quality striker and his move has magnified the quality he possesses. Playing for a team struggling to avoid relegation, Ings has notched 15 goals, many times from seemingly unscorable situations and scenarios.
Danny Ings Player Highlights
Much like Jack Grealish at Villa, Ings doesn’t get a ton of support from teammates during his attacking efforts, but makes the most of what he’s given and rarely misses an opportunity. If Ings were to leave Southampton and sign with another major club in the next 2-3 years, it would only be what he deserves. He’s a quality striker, and with the proper support, would probably compete for the golden boot during any regular season campaign. Hopefully he can generate more national appearances also, provided his injuries woes are over.
ST: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Without getting too far into the struggles of the London Reds, it’s fair to say that Aubameyang’s time at the club since joining from German side Borussia Dortmund in January 2018 has been tumultuous.
Aubameyang Player Highlights
In just three years, Aubameyang has witnessed three coaching turnovers – from Unai Emery to Ljungberg and now to Arteta. But while Arsenal have been far from their peak form during his time at the club, Aubameyang has been highly prolific nonetheless. He has 50 goals for Arsenal in his last three seasons, with 17 coming during the current campaign. And although he’s had a few gaffes (including a heartbreaking miss that saw Arsenal’s shock Europa League exit), his league play has been stellar. With the proper team evolution under Arteta, Aubameyang should be vying for another Golden Boot award come the 2020-21 campaign.
Although there were plenty of quality players in the Premier League this season, I felt confident in almost all my picks. Selecting a 2nd CB besides Van Dijk was difficult, as was selecting Danny Ings over someone like Aguero or Vardy. Other honorable mentions that didn’t make the final list were James Madison for Leicester and Son Heung-Min for Tottenham. However, having evaluated this season’s stats and after countless hours (and hours) of film, I believe the above 11 were the best at their positions.
Regardless of who is or isn’t in your final list, the 2019-20 campaign was an intriguing season to witness, and even if play can’t resume until next year, here’s to hoping for another glorious season come August!