Back on the old blog, the “10 Best Premier League players” list was updated every 6 months. It’s been over a year now though and A LOT has changed, believe me.
Firstly, this is the most talented the Premier League has been in a while. Man City might be dominant, but they might also be the best Premier League team of all time. They certainly have the best manager.
Secondly – and it’s hard for me to admit it – the last list wasn’t very good. Harry Kane was only an honorable mention for starters. Yup, I was one of the skeptical “one season wonder” people. We have all decidedly been proved wrong for the 3rd straight season after his breakout year. *spoilers* he’s on the list.
Lastly, before we get on to the honorable mentions and then the list, let’s preface what exactly we are ranking.
Should we take current form into account? Team fit? Someone like Riyad Mahrez might have top 10 talent, but won’t be able to show it off as well while playing for Leicester. It’s gonna be really simple:
If you had to choose a player to have for the next 365 days, who would it be?
Riyad Mahrez – As mentioned, Mahrez might be a top 10 talent. The 15/16 player of the season has been outstanding again this year. I’m still unsure how he would produce for a top 6 side, it could go either way.
Cesar Azpilicueta – Azpi is super valuable for Chelsea both offensively and defensively. His link with Morata earned Chelsea a lot of points to start the season. As versatile and reliable as anyone in the league.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – One of the newest members of the Premier League, so he has something to prove. If he adjusts and keeps up the pace (figuratively and literally), he can move up into the top 10.
Özil/Eriksen/D.Silva – All 3 are incredibly tough omissions and whoever you prefer has a solid case for the top 10. We have been blessed to have these guys in the Premier League for the past 5+ years.
The Top 10 Players in the Premier League
10. Raheem Sterling
I’m in two minds on this one. On one hand, it’s easy to brush off Sterling as just having a lucky year. He hasn’t consistently showed top 10 level of play and he (still) misses a whole bunch of chances. He’ll likely not be as impressive a year from now, as most things have gone right for him this season.
On the other hand… is he all that much worse than someone like Mo Salah? Salah is obviously better (we’ll get to that), but they both have very similar playing styles and roles for their team. At the start of this year, The Ringer posted a very interesting article, which essentially said that getting huge chances is more important than converting them.
It’s easy to pick on Sterling and after being lauded as England’s finest and slapping that big old £49 million price tag on him, he only got more doubters. He is starting to prove those doubters wrong and I think he will continue to prove that he is more than just a one season wonder.
Having been overshadowed by Sadio Mané last season and Mohamed Salah this season, it’s easy to overlook “Bobby” Firmino. I said before last season that he was Liverpool’s best player, but not many agreed. He’s also not someone with any exceptional abilities, being a jack of all trades, master of none type of player.
He is still hugely important however, not just for Liverpool, but any team that could have him. I agree with Jamie Carragher and Trent Alexander-Arnold saying that Firmino is underrated. He’s not your typical striker, he could be an even better finisher and he’s certainly not the fastest, but he contributes everywhere on the pitch.
His link-up play is key to unlock his teammates’ potential, he’s ferocious in tracking back to win the ball and he has even started to score as much as you’d expect from an out and out striker. Mané wows us with his pace, Salah gets all the attention as the top scorer and we were all drawn to Coutinho’s artistry before he left for Barcelona. Firmino might not have anything to put him in the headlines, but he is a damn good player and it’s about time everyone recognized.
8. N’Golo Kanté
Everyone does recognize N’Golo Kanté’s importance after winning back to back titles with Leicester and Chelsea. His impact is undeniable and the facts back it up. Kanté was injured for 3 games this season and despite seemingly easy matches, Chelsea conceded 4 goals in the 3 matches against Watford, Bournemouth and a Crystal Palace team that hadn’t scored in their 7 matches to start the season.
With Kanté starting however, Chelsea have only conceded 21 goals in 25 games. Chelsea with Kanté would be on pace to concede 32 goals for the whole season, while Chelsea without Kanté would be on pace to concede 50. Sure, it’s an extremely small sample size, but it’s easy to see how important Kanté is to Chelsea.
He masks deficiencies in his backlines like he did with Wes Morgan and Robert Huth with his tackles, decision making and determination. Some games he buries an opposing star player deep in his pocket, which is quite the achievement for someone who is 5’6″. Kanté has mastered the Makélélé role and almost made it a requirement for any Premier League team to have a player like that. Seems like a great article idea..
7. Alexis Sanchez
This is not based on what he has shown for Man Utd so far. It’s still early and he might turn it around, but I just don’t think this is a good fit for Alexis Sanchez.
Mourinho’s has a checkered history of signing wingers. Top class wingers like Arjen Robben (although not technically signed by Mourinho) and Angel Di Maria have produced some of their best seasons under “The Special One”. Recently however, the wingers Mourinho has decided to bring in have struggled. You don’t have to go further than the man Alexis was swapped for, Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Juan Cuadrado similarly flopped under Mourinho in Chelsea and other players have been better elsewhere as well. Fellow Top 10 player Mohamed Salah, Ricardo Quaresma, Amantino Mancini, Shaun Wright-Philips, Andre Schürrle and arguably Pedro haven’t been up to par under Mourinho. Willian was by far Mourinho’s best player in his last as a Chelsea manager, but I’d say he’s been even better under Conte.
It might be a bit of recency bias with Alexis after a struggling start, but I’ll put him at #7. He was 3rd on my list about a year ago as Arsenal’s saviour. All 6 guys in front of him are pretty talented in their own right and Alexis needs to step up and be more like Di Maria and Robben to warrant a higher spot.
6. Eden Hazard
Speaking of wingers who struggled under Mourinho. Eden Hazard is also lower on my list than previously. It might just be me being burnt by Hazard in FPL, like many others, but I don’t feel as strongly about Hazard’s spot in the top 3 anymore.
This might very well change. In terms of raw talent, I think Hazard is a top 3 Premier League player, but taking the next 365 days in consideration, I feel like there are 5 players I’d take ahead of him.
It speaks to the quality of the league at the moment, with several stars taking a leap and becoming better players. Hazard is the best player on the reigning champions and has basically determined Chelsea’s offensive success in ever since he came to England. On his day, he’s unstoppable, possibly the best in the league, but I’d love to see him play even more consistently well to get into the top 3.
5. Harry Kane
The perennial top scorer of the Premier League certainly deserves a place on the list and he makes my top 5. Some Englishmen might take offence to that and feel like he’s at least top 3, if not the best player in the league, but I disagree with that.
Still, I’ll admit to have been wrong on Kane before, as I’ve never allowed myself to truly believe that he is a world class striker. But let it be known; Harry Kane is a world class striker. It’s not even questionable at this point, currently being the top scorer in the Premier League, like he has been the two previous seasons.
Kane has by far the most shots on target this season, only rivaled by the next man on the list and he gets to huge chances as well. The last match against Crystal Palace was a perfect example of how Harry Kane operates, getting 3-4 huge chances and finally scoring the winner. He is a striker’s striker and he’s English. Any anglophile loves that. He still has a way to go in terms of setting up others though, which keeps him 5th.
4. Mohamed Salah
Is Mohamed Salah the player of the season? He very well could be. Liverpool are having a fantastic season and the player who deserves and gets the most credit for that, is Mohamed Salah.
The pacy Egyptian has taken the Premier League by storm and is a true contender for Harry Kane in the top scorer race. His speed has been the key to unlock opposing defences for Klopp’s Liverpool and Salah manages to get to at least 1 huge chance every game it feels like.
Sadly he misses quite a few of them, the most, according to Premier League’s official site, 19 in total. But scoring 23 goals and producing at least a goal or assist in all but four of the matches where he has played more than an hour is outstanding. 8 assists in total, 10 if you count them the FPL way which is the biggest distinction between him and Kane who only has 1.
3. David de Gea
Man Utd’s only world class player according to Gary Neville. I don’t agree, putting Alexis Sanchez on the list and also heavily considering Paul Pogba, but De Gea has definitely been their most important player this season. Where would Man Utd have been without him? Not in the Champions League. Not this year, not next.
De Gea has proved to be the best goalkeeper in the world over the years, but he has still managed to take a giant leap forward this season. Mostly because of his giant leaping ability. His reaction saves and long reach saved 12 shots on target in their win against Arsenal, a Premier League best. With any other goalkeeper, Man Utd lose that game.
There’s really not much more De Gea could have done this season. He might have had a mistake or two a couple weeks back, but besides that, he has been flawless and even done the little extra. A lot. You’d have to expect some regression to the mean, but Man Utd have the best possible GK they could have and they better do everything to keep hold off him. Turn off your fax machines!
2. Sergio Aguero
85 minutes per goal. The best in the league. Aguero has been just as unstoppable as his team whenever he has played this season and he’d be the top scorer if it wasn’t for Gabriel Jesus taking some of his playing time.
Just like De Gea, he has been in the league since 2011 and they’ve been the two best players in that time frame. Aguero produced world class displays since day one however and it doesn’t look like he’s stopping any time soon. Even amid rumours about a potential rift with Pep Guardiola and talks of Aguero not feeling respected enough by his boss, he has been in fine form.
What stopped me from putting him #1 last time was some silly decisions, picking up stupid red cards out of anger and missing key games. He has been staying out of trouble this year and only missed games due to an unlucky cab driver in Amsterdam in the middle of the season. It’s not often you get to say that. Still, he’s not number 1 this time either, because the best player in the Premier League is:
1. Kevin de Bruyne
No single player has amazed me the way KdB has this season. His 14 assists are not only the most in the league, but they are the best assists you’ll find anywhere. De Bruyne completely dominates games and he plays in all of them. 60+ minutes in every single one of them. This is a Guardiola led team, rotation is always a worry for FPL managers, not with this guy.
He even tackles markedly different roles. Whether you want him out wide, behind the striker, in central midfield or like last game, taking over for the injured Fernandinho, de Bruyne has you covered. He has been switching between an attacking and a deep lying playmaking role with David Silva all season and could have had a lot more goals and assists if he consistently played as a #10.
He’s #1 in my books though, as the player best equipped to handle the forthcoming 365 days.