It’s that time of year when all of us armchair experts sit down and tell you, conclusively, who has been "the best of the best, sir. With honours." Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have had their go, but let’s be honest, we’d much rather see the opinions of Genie and Drafterthoughts. The Athletic’s team of the season? No thanks, I’ll take one from the Chaps. And who cares what <insert name of your local newspaper here> has picked when what really matters is the selections of Murphy, Ryan, and Totti. Oh, and yours truly has also had his say.
For a change, we’re going to keep things in the real world here at The Draft Society – these selections aren’t based on Fantrax draft fantasy points, FP/G, PP90, or any of the other fantasy-related metrics. This is purely “real life”. We made one rule: you can only select players in a position that they’ve played for a decent proportion of this season. So no picking Bukayo Saka at left back because he played there once, or Rodri at centre back because he covered there on the odd occasion. Other than that, it was fair game – pick who you want. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the teams…
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(Note: stats are predominantly taken from FBRef and WhoScored. For referenced percentiles, these are in comparison to positional peers in the Big 5 European Leagues and European competition over the last 365 days, and can be found on each player’s FBRef home page.)
6/7 (6 out of 7 votes): Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)
WhoScored Rating: 7.00 (54th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.18 (19th)
Almost the unanimous choice here is Aston Villa’s Martinez. When Villa paid over £15m for Arsenal’s backup goalkeeper back in September, many people laughed. Fast-forward nine months and you’d be lucky to prise him away from Dean Smith for double that. The Argentinian has played every single minute so far for Villa and is a big reason why the club aren’t fighting relegation like they were a year ago. Only Chelsea and Manchester City have kept more clean sheets than the 15 Martinez has to his name.
1/7: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
WhoScored Rating: 6.57 (218th)
SofaScore Rating: 6.89 (151st)
I’m not saying Murphy’s pick of Mendy was influenced by his supporting of Chelsea, but rumour has it that Willy Cabellero was his second choice here. In fairness, Mendy does seem to have stabilized that Chelsea defence, though I think if I’d been given a chance to follow Kepa I’d have probably looked a decent acquisition too. Six consecutive clean sheets in February against the likes of Atletico Madrid (twice), Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton, and Leeds is actually damn impressive.
3/7: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)
WhoScored Rating: 7.31 (8th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.13 (40th)
Like Gareth Southgate selecting his England squad, we at The Draft Society cannot decide on what to do at right back. The position is without doubt the most contentious, with five separate nominations. Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo got the most nods, and to be fair, as a league champion with two goals, three assists, and the ability to play in more positions than the Championship Manager legend Niclas Alexandersson, I can’t complain too much, despite not picking him myself.
2/7: Vladimir Coufal (West Ham United)
WhoScored Rating: 6.94 (66th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.03 (77th)
West Ham’s Vladimir Coufal will have to settle for a spot on the team of the season bench, which ironically is where he started the season for the Hammers. In fact, if Ryan Fredericks (remember him?) hadn’t got injured in the third game of the season, we may not have got the chance to see everything that the new Czech signing had to offer. Six assists is an impressive haul, tying him for 17th in the league alongside the likes of Bernado Silva, Sadio Mane, and Matheus Pereira. Not bad. Not bad at all.
1/7: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United)
WhoScored Rating: 7.15 (20th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.14 (31st)
Now we’re on to my pick. The right back in the group that actually knows how to tackle, mark, track, and just generally do what his job is to do: defend. Okay, so he doesn’t maraud through the midfield like Cancelo, or whip a ball in like Trent Alexander-Arnold (who, by the way, is a victim of his own insanely high standards, having not received one vote). But he is one hell of a defender. I’ll mention the 2 goals and 4 assists too, because that’s more than what Cancelo has.
1/7: Reece James (Chelsea)
WhoScored Rating: 6.95 (65th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.11 (43rd)
Finally, we have Chelsea’s Reece James – one of the emerging stars of the season. Two seasons ago this man was winning Wigan Athletic’s Player of the Season whilst on loan at the club. Now he’s fairly settled (as settled as you can be in Tuchel’s side anyway) in the Chelsea 11 and in the conversation to be taken to Euro 2021. I seem to recall the Overthinking guys (https://overthinkingfootball.com/) calling this back in the summer. Next year I imagine there’s more than one vote for the youngster.
7/7: Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
WhoScored Rating: 7.03 (47th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.18 (18th)
One of only two unanimous picks in The Draft Society team of the season – top work Luke Shaw. Shaw has had a fantastic season at Manchester United, with only Bruno Fernandes, AWB, Maguire, and Rashford playing more minutes than him. I don’t think many would have predicted that back in September, especially after the signing of Alex Telles. To put a dampener on things, I have to say, I do think the hype is a little much. I fear for England there (and everywhere at the back to be honest). But credit where credit is due. In a league with Andrew Robertson, Lucas Digne, and Ben Chilwell, he’s been the best of them all.
6/7: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
WhoScored Rating: 6.91 (80th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.12 (41st)
Manchester City’s Ruben Dias is the bookies odds-on favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year. I get it because he’s won the league. And if there’s one thing last year – or more precisely, Jordan Henderson’s win last year – taught us, it’s that for some reason, the best player in the league has to come from the best team in the league. Has Ruben Dias been the best centre back this season? Not for me. Has he changed the face of Manchester City – which is not an easy thing for anyone to do, let alone a defender? Absolutely. And I’m okay with it if that’s what warrants the selection.
3/7: Harry Maguire (Manchester United)
WhoScored Rating: 7.04 (44th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.13 (35th)
Mr Underrated is finally getting some deserved praise, at least in these quarters of The Draft Society. Similar to Dias – and most great defenders – I think you notice the importance of Maguire more when he’s not there. He absolutely dominates in the air, winning 4 aerials a game – tied for 7th most in the league. He’s also had four man of the match performances – only Bruno has had more at United this season. He’s not Virgil van Dijk, but (whisper it quietly) …he’s the next best thing.
2/7: Wesley Fofana (Leicester City)
WhoScored Rating: 7.03 (45th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.01 (86th)
A bit of a left field choice here from myself and Ryan, but I think some recognition needs to go Leicester’s way after the season they’ve had…even if it doesn’t end in the Champions League spots. I was the first to think that this signing was one for next season, but after Caglar Soyuncu went down with an abductor tear and missed 17 games, Fofana stepped up and never looked back. What the 20 year old has done in his first season in England is simply sensational. This guy is going to be a big-time player next year.
1/7: James Tarkowski (Burnley)