The season has been a blur in a good way. NO, in a great way. The season is having one of the greatest photo finish at the top of the table. The race to finish in top 4 has been equally fascinating among the three London giants and Manchester United. The untouchable red giant of the ‘80’s has risen again from the dust to become the underdog everyone wants to root for except Gary Neville and Manchester City to no ones shock is the Thanos of our footballing universe.
The season has been a showcase of more than two teams battling it out to their last teardrop. The individual performances have been extraordinary across the board from top to bottom, except Fulham. Let’s face it they were utter trash. The definitive list of top players in 2018-19 season:
25. JAMES MADDISON - LEICESTER CITY
Leicester City paid an undisclosed fee in the range of 20 million pound for an unproven commodity at the top level. Coming from Norwich City, Maddison has been an above average replacement to Riyad Mahrez in Fox colors. He had a tough few months during the festive months but consistently improved through the season. Maddion’s set piece capability adds another dimension to his nascent career and bright future.
24. JAN VERTONGHEN - TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS
Vertonghen has been the symbol of consistent production under Pochettino. He is the leader of Champions League semi final bound Spurs team. Vertonghen is astute at reading the game and has one of the best tackling success rates in the league. In Tottenham’s system, every offensive play starts with Vertonghen’s passing skill. The 31 year old Belgian center back is in the upper echelon of stars in English Premier League as proven in 2018-19.
23. JOAO MOUTINHO - WOLVERHAMPTON
The 5 million pound transfer from Monaco was the steal of the summer. In Nuno Espirito Santo’s electric counter attacking football, Moutinho provided the calm. He has been exceptional as the holding midfielder seating in front of the back-line. Moutinho has been insanely accurate with his ball placement all through the season. Joao Moutinho was the poor man’s late career Xavi this season. That doesn’t sound like a compliment to the naysayers but tell any football fan and they will give you a ‘woah’!
22. JAMIE VARDY - LEICESTER CITY
Vardy has been one of the best pure striker in the premier league over the last 4 years. Vardy’s agility and speed on and off the ball is unparalleled. He has amassed 16 goals this season after being unleashed to his past threat after Brendan Rodgers took over Leicester reigns.
21. AARON WAN BISSAKA - CRYSTAL PALACE
He is already one of the best full back in the league at the age of 20 years old. Bissaka’s speed has often helped him negate his lack of experience. His talent is currently getting overshadowed behind the stacked English right backs like Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander Arnold. Manchester United look interested in making him their next 40 million pound addition. Bissaka’s impressive aerial presence along with his capability to translate seamlessly between defense and offense will make him one of the hottest property this off season.
20. FERNANDINHO - MANCHESTER CITY
The Manchester City team of 2019 is one of the greatest English Premier League squad ever assembled. Fernandinho has showcased a clinic at the holding midfield position in 2018-19 season in line with Sergio Busquets from 2010, N’golo Kante from 2015 and Claude Makelele from 2005. Fernandinho is the key to unleashing Citizen’s offensive fireworks under Guardiola. His work rate, interception ratio and succesful tackling is uncontested in EPL and the fact that he is getting up in age will be concern for City’s front office. If Manchester City pulls of the treble, Fernandinho’s name should be mentioned front and center.
19. ALEXANDER LACAZETTE - ARSENAL
Has Lacazette brought the promise he showed in France? No. That shouldn’t take anything away from a very productive season as the front man of the Gunners alongside Aubameyang under Unai Emery. The season started with Emery sacrificing Lacazette as a starter to accommodate his system but his consistent performance off the bench made it difficult to keep him out of the starting XI. Lacazette’s hold up play with his back towards the goal has helped Aubameyang chase the golden boot.
18. CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN - TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS
Eriksen didn’t have the quality of season he would have hoped to achieve post world cup but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t good. Eriksen is still atop the list of men with assists. His ball control and ability to control the speed of the game makes him one of the pivotal part of 2019 Spurs team. His vision on the pitch is synonymous to David Beckham from the past. He is one of the most potent attacking midfielder in the league right now. I call him the poor man’s Xabi Alonso.
17. GYLFI SIGURDSSON - EVERTON
What happened to Everton in 2019? The answer is something terribly wrong happened. The only bright spot alongwith an up and down Richarlison season has been the consistent push towards excellence from Sigurdsson. Like the whole Everton squad, Sigurdsson has been inconsistent but his highs have been really high and impressive. The set pieces from him have been top notch this season. Sigurdsson has compiled 13 goals and 5 assists in a lackluster and disappointing season from the toffees. It only emphasizes the high expectation from Gylfi Sigurdsson.
16. PAUL POGBA - MANCHESTER UNITED
Does Paul Pogba earn way to much money and possess way too much quality to be this low in the list? The answer is a resounding yes. All we needed was for Mourinho to play Pogba to his strengths and he would have made the top 10. The first half of the season got wasted in in fighting and defensive dullness from the red devils. Since, the managerial change, Pogba has looked a completely different player racking up 13 goals and 9 assists in the premier league on route to one of his best season as a pro. Next year could be Pogbachamps breakout in England.
15. RYAN FRASER - BOURNEMOUTH
The man is everywhere on the pitch. He has the work rate of a viagra on coffee. In a middle of the path season for the Cherries, Fraser has been outstanding with 7 goals and 11 assists. Arsenal has shown interest in Fraser for next season, which is a testament to his work rate and development in black and red stripes. HIs partnership with Callum Wilson was a sight to behold before everything went wry at the turn of the year.
14. PIERRE EMERICK AUBAMEYANG - ARSENAL
Aubameyang has 19 goals and 5 assists this season. In a seesaw season for Arsenal, Aubameyang has shines more often than not. Auba doesn’t posses the freakish speed he ones used to but he is still a threat of the highest order in World football. The partnership with Lacazette is improving every practice session and the future looks bright on the red side of North London. The challenge will be for Unai Emery to develop a system that fits both his strikers and still lives up to his desire to play counterattacking football.
13. ALISSON - LIVERPOOL
Alisson is the best goalkeeper in the world. He has the best reflexes in the world, his passing is better than many a midfielders in the country. Apart from one stupid decision early into the season, Alisson has been spotless with his decision making and made some of the most important saves in the history of Liverpool Football Club if the league ends with them a top. He has amassed a phenomenal 19 clean sheets with 3 games to go and made the conversation of paying a goalkeeper north of 65 Million pound an afterthought.
12. RAUL JIMENEZ - WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS
Wolverhampton is chasing a spot in Europe. Let that sink in. Raul Jimenez has scored 12 goals already and 8 assists added to that. Raul can play with his back towards the goal as well as take on the defenders from the wing. Raul has been exceptional in front of the goal and delivered to Nuno Espirito’s need over and over again. Jimenez will become the face of Wolves for years to come after his bargain 30 million pound buyout following the successful season as a loanee.
11. ANDREW ROBERTSON - LIVERPOOL
Robertson is already among the elite talents as wing backs in the world. Klopp believes that he isn’t even 75% of where he could be. Given the fact that Robertson is just 25 years old, the proposition of Robertson’s further development is scary for the oppositions. Robertson can run all day long. He is always around the ball and never leaves his wing partner alone. His crosses are deadly with 9 converting to assists this season. Robertson’s drive and work rate rejuvenates the crowd at Anfield and adds the extra dimension to enigma of Liverpool.
10. AYMERIC LAPORTE - MANCHESTER CITY
Laporte is the base to an amazing Pizza along-with Fernandinho. He was an amazing season where he was pivotal in Guardiola’s possession football and his ideology of initiating every offensive move from the backfield. Laporte is very good at reading the game and has the innate quality to defend without tackling the opponents, a quality synonymous to greats like Costacurta and Rio Ferdinand.
9. HARRY KANE - TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS
Harry Kane is not having the best season of his career with all the nagging injuries yet he has scored 17 goals this season.
I believe Harry Kane is a prime candidate for the Ewing Theory. What is Ewing Theory? Famous sports writer Bill Simmons and his friend Dave Cirilli came up with the theory named after legendary Knicks Basketball star Patrick Ewing. The theory explains the situation when teams inexplicably become better after their star player leaves the team for any reason (trade, injury, etc.). Two elements must be present for a situation to be explained by the Ewing Theory 1) The team has a star player who receives a lot of attention but never wins anything, and 2) The star player leaves the team and everybody writes the team off.
If you look at the last week of Spurs, they lost Kane to injury and Spurs arguably managed to pull off the biggest victory in their club history. The fact could be that the system doesn’t suit Kane, Son and Moura/ Alli all at the same time but it is a great theory to shed light upon. That being said, Kane is still an outstanding footballer with every physical ability a high end professional dreams of.
8. SON HEUNG-MIN - TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS
Son Heung-Min is one of the greatest Asian talent exported west to showcase their talent in the big leagues. Son’s speed is top notch and his finishing capabilities have gone up over the last year. When Harry Kane is not playing, some might argue that the team plays better with Son as their false 9. The FIFA 20 cover personality could become the breakout star next year if his footballing trajectory continues.
7. MOHAMED SALAH - LIVERPOOL
Salah couldn’t live up to his season from last year nevertheless he has already scored 19 goals in premier league and sit atop the golden boot race with Aguero. Opponents planning their game to stop Salah from bursting down the right has given Mane and Firmino more opportunity to shine. He probably scored the goal of the season against Chelsea in gameweek 34 from outside the box thus reminding everyone his potential at any moment in the game. Salah recently made into TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world and rightfully so.
6. SERGIO AGUERO - MANCHESTER CITY
Aguero is moving closer to another golden boot and another clinical season as THE STRIKER of world football. Is Aguero underrated? Even after all the accomplishment in England and having a goal scoring ratio only comparable to a newborns rate of crying and sleeping, Aguero is not celebrated like he should be. We are at that point of Aguero’s career where he should be compared to Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer as the best striker to ever suit up in English football. 2018-19 season has not been any different from production standpoint where he has delivered at every stage of the season.
5. EDEN HAZARD - CHELSEA
Chelsea has been a one man army this year. Eden Hazard and his heroics have become one of the most unstoppable forces in English premier league. Hazard has accumulated 16 goals, 12 assists and been part of a mammoth 49% of goals scored by Chelsea this season. He is arguably the top 3 English premier league player of this decade. His transfer to Real Madrid looks eminent but the magical performances and the genius of Eden Hazard will forever be remembered in English football realms.
4. BERNARDO SILVA - MANCHESTER CITY
God! Bernardo is just 24 years old. He is the player Pep Guardiola’s dreams of or creates in some underground laboratory unbeknownst to FIFA or anti-genetic modification people. Bernardo is skilled, he is immensely smart, highly efficient in possession and could switch between any position in the midfield or wing seamlessly. De Bruyne’s injury and David Silva’s deeper role has helped Bernardo flourish as a winger. Bernardo Silva has easily doubled his value since joining Manchester City and believe he is a 80 million dollar midfielder.
3. SADIO MANE - LIVERPOOL
Mane has been the biggest threat from the high flying offense of Liverpool. That should automatically guarantee a place at the top of any end of the year list or poll. He has been part of 25% of the goals scored by Liverpool this season from interception, key passes, assists till finishing. Mane has played as a right winger, left winger and the point man in the fluent front three structure at Anfield. Mane has been an ever present support at the back alongside Andrew Robertson. Mane tends to miss the easiest of chances from time to time but his intricate ball handling and above average creativity makes up for those more times than not. If Liverpool end the drought, Mane’s 2018-19 season will live in dignity of the loudest Kop cheers.
2. RAHEEM STERLING - MANCHESTER CITY
Sterling is the most improved player in England of the last decade. Pep Guardiola has given birth to the most dangerous English footballer since Paul Gascoigne. Speed is a trait someone can’t learn, you either have it or you don’t. Raheem Sterling was born with it and a whole lot of it. Now he knows how to use it. The greatest news for English football fans is his development as a mature adult into a great humanitarian and ambassador of the sport. The man is still 24 years old and has taken up the pressure of success and inevitability as a Manchester City winger in stride. He has already scored 17 goals and provided 11 assists. In Manchester City’s ever changing line up, Sterling has been a constant. In similar lists, Sterling will also be a constant for years to come.
1. VIRGIL VAN DIJK - LIVERPOOL
Van Dijk is the definition of lock down defending in world football this season. Virgil is the center back Liverpool needed not only as a positional mastermind but as the leader with a voice of calmness and composure. Liverpool has conceded a meager 20 goals this season, knock-on-wood. If Liverpool manages to pull off the coveted double in 2018-19, Virgil Van Dijk might become the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or since Fabio Cannavaro. His added quality as a threat from set pieces has made him a dual threat while his speed to track back and catch up to any player at his huge stature is not even fair to others.
Before Van Dijk joined Liverpool, they were conceding goals at a rate of 1.2 per game. Since the holiness of Virgil embarked upon his greatness as a Red, they have been conceding a healthy 0.6 goals per game. The greatest expenditure of 70 million pound ever.