The Draft Society: Team of the Season
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/7956236f/Emiliano-Martinez
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/33887998/Edouard-Mendy
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/bd6351cd/Joao-Cancelo
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/fdf3cb77/Vladimir-Coufal
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/9e525177/Aaron-Wan-Bissaka
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/1265a93a/Reece-James
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/9c94165b/Luke-Shaw
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/31c69ef1/Ruben-Dias
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/d8931174/Harry-Maguire
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/132a82f1/Wesley-Fofana
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)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/15ea812b/James-Tarkowski
WhoScored Rating: 7.05 (43rd)
SofaScore Rating: 7.11 (42nd)
This was a selection from The Chaps, but you know what? Tarkowski deserves this pick. His average rating for the last four seasons, according to WhoScored: 7.22, 7.11, 7.19, and 7.05. He’s played 138 games in that time and you could make a strong case that he’s been the key piece (Sean Dyche aside) in keeping Burnley in the Premier League each of those seasons. In what may even be considered a down season for the centre back, he’s still been more dominant in the air than all bar four players. If this guy were playing at any other club in the country, he’d have 22 caps for England as opposed to just the 2. Here’s hoping he goes to Euro 2021 (I wouldn’t put my money on it though).
1/7: Jonny Evans (Leicester City)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/f8fcd2a5/Jonny-Evans
WhoScored Rating: 6.87 (89th)
SofaScore Rating: 6.97 (103rd)
Okay so if the Fofana pick was a bit left field, then this one’s not even in the ballpark. But again, maybe this is a case of noticing his impact when he’s not available. Like the last three games where they’ve conceded 7 goals – 4 of which were to the mighty attacking force of Newcastle United. In fact, of the 9 games Evans has missed this season, Leicester have kept just 1 clean sheet and conceded 14 goals. Maybe Murph was on to something.
6/7: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/507c7bdf/Bruno-Fernandes
WhoScored Rating: 7.43 (4th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.56 (4th)
Yep, that’s right. It was me that stopped Bruno getting a full house. And I stand by it. I have my penalty taker in Harry Kane, why would I need that diving, moaning, cheating midfielder? Okay, that’s a little (/a lot) harsh. Bruno is incredible. But he’s not better than KDB, and I personally think Mount has had a better season. And as much as I admire Totti’s all out attacking formation, I personally wanted some semblance of defensive ability in the middle of the park. Which meant Bruno was left out. Sorry everyone. I will die on this hill.
5/7: Mason Mount (Chelsea)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/9674002f/Mason-Mount
WhoScored Rating: 7.36 (5th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.42 (7th)
You’ve got to love football fans. Frank Lampard plays Mount every minute of every game and we put it down to a bias, father-son relationship. Thomas Tuchel does the same and suddenly Mount is the Premier League’s answer to Andres Iniesta. I must admit, I was a little guilty of that. But I’m happy to be proven wrong. What a player Mason Mount is, and without all the theatrics of certain other players too. He’s in the 97th percentile for shot-creating actions according to FBRef and has similarly ridiculous numbers for all the other stats that you want from your creative midfielder. The question is, can he get any better next season?
3/7: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/e46012d4/Kevin-De-Bruyne
WhoScored Rating: 7.56 (3rd)
SofaScore Rating: 7.71 (1st)
Kevin De Bruyne has started 22 Premier League games. I repeat, Kevin De Bruyne has started 22 Premier League games. This is enough to warrant selection. He has one fewer assist than Bruno ’37 game’ Fernandes. Here’s a list of stats that he’s in the 99th percentile for: non-penalty goals/90, shots/90, assists/90, expected assists/90, shot-creating actions/90, touches in the attacking penalty area/90, progressive passes received/90. And there’s a bunch of others in which he’s in “just” the 97th or 98th percentile. KDB for the team who won the league. He has the highest average rating according to SofaScore and the third highest according to WhoScored. Oh, and one other thing. HE IS THE BEST F***ING PLAYER IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE.
2/7: Tomas Soucek (West Ham United)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/6613c819/Tomas-Soucek
WhoScored Rating: 7.31 (9th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.13 (34th)
Signing of the season? He must be up there. Like with Fofana, I wanted to find a space for a West Ham player in this 11, but I genuinely think he’s in the reckoning regardless. Particularly if you’re looking for a defensive option in the heart of the midfield. That said, Soucek is the very definition of box-to-box, and 9 goals – admittedly many from set pieces – attests to that. He’ll want to add to just the one assist, but West Ham fans will tell you how important he’s been to their season. The fact that he’s played 90 minutes in all but one game (where he played just the 88) says it all.
2/7: Youri Tielemans (Leicester City)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/56f7a928/Youri-Tielemans
WhoScored Rating: 7.08 (28th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.14 (32nd)
The F.A. Cup hero gets a spot in two TDS writers’ teams and it’s easy to see why. Tielemans has played 3,268 minutes for the Foxes – the next highest outfielder is Jamie Vardy with 2,756. Like Soucek, he’s contributed at both ends of the pitch, leading his team in progressive passes (205, compared to the next highest – Timothy Castagne – with 98) and pressures (478, compared to the next highest – Wilfred Ndidi – with 469). Most importantly, he’s stepped up when (former?) key man James Maddison went missing through injury and form.
1/7: Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/819b3158/Ilkay-Gundogan
WhoScored Rating: 7.29 (10th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.36 (8th)
When Kevin De Bruyne went down with a hamstring injury on January 21, City were second in the league, two points off United (though admittedly with a game in hand). The title looked like it could go to the wire. Then Gundogan stepped up. Six goals in five games – including braces in the thrashings of Liverpool and Tottenham – allowed City to take a stranglehold on the league, and ultimately sew it up by early April. He’d actually been in good form prior to that, scoring a further five goals between December 15 and January 20, but it was this purpliest of purple patches that had some people calling for him to be crowned player of the year.
1/7: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Tottenham Hotspur)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/8b04d6c1/Pierre-Hojbjerg
WhoScored Rating: 6.97 (60th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.00 (88th)
Only six players have played every single minute of the Premier League this season, and four of them are goalkeepers. Hojbjerg joins James Ward-Prowse as the only outfielders to have achieved this supremely impressive feat. But being an ever-present at Southampton or West Ham is one thing. Being an ever-present in the calamitous, burning wreckage of a club like Tottenham is something else entirely. That alone warrants a Team of the Season vote. He’s also been pretty damn good, rarely giving the ball away (88.5% pass success) and sitting in the 90th percentile for tackles per game. If only everything else wasn’t falling apart around him.
1/7: Rodri (Manchester City)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/6434f10d/Rodri
WhoScored Rating: 7.18 (18th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.29 (11th)
Our final centre midfielder is City’s Rodri, who has become an integral part of Pep’s title winning side. No outfielder has started more league games for City than the Spaniard and he’s been a rock in front of that defence. He is probably the closest thing the Premier League has had to Sergio Busquets, and that’s not a lazy comparison based on nationality. His ability to break up play – both legally and illegally – is second to none, and his distribution is exceptional. Only Andrew Robertson has completed more passes than his 2,453 this season, and nobody has done so more often when being pressured (400, compared to 360 for Tomas Soucek in 2nd). This latter stat probably shows why Pep rates him so highly.
5/7: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/e342ad68/Mohamed-Salah
WhoScored Rating: 7.08 (30th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.18 (21st)
Goals win games, and based on that, you can’t argue with the selection of the man tied for top spot in the race for the golden boot. Does he deserve to be here though? Remove the penalties and he’s tied for second on 16 with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Son Heung-Min. And his goals per shot is just 0.14 – below 50(!) other players. Of all the people nominated for this Team of the Season, I didn’t think it would be Mohamed Salah – the fastest player to score 100 top-fight goals in Liverpool’s history – that I’d struggle to find impressive stats for. But if you don’t consider putting the ball into the back of the net, then I’m not sure he’s actually up there in any. Good job scoring goals is quite important then.
4/7: Son Heung-Min (Tottenham Hotspur)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/92e7e919/Son-Heung-min
WhoScored Rating: 7.32 (6th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.27 (13th)
Tottenham’s Son scored just one goal in the 14 games between January 13 and April 4, so to be 4th top scored with 17 in total shows you just what a start, and end, the South Korean has had. His 10 assists is also (tied for) 4th most, meaning his total goal involvements is bettered only by Bruno Fernandes and teammate – for now – Harry Kane. Not bad company to keep! He’s been absolutely clinical this year, exceeding his xG by over 6 goals and having an absurd 0.24 shots to goals ratio – only Joe Willock, Edinson Cavani, and Gareth Bale have better. He’s also got to be one of the most likeable players in the league, which in my old age, certainly counts for something.
3/7: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/b0b4fd3e/Jack-Grealish
WhoScored Rating: 7.59 (2nd)
SofaScore Rating: 7.58 (3rd)
Okay, full disclosure: I’m a Villa fan. But I’m actually one of those pessimistic Villa fans that thinks half the team is trash and the other half is erratic at best. Except, that is, when it comes to Jack. I could reel of a list of stats that show, despite the injury that led him to miss 12 games between February and May, he’s been one of the best players in EUROPE let alone the Premier League this season. But simply put, this is the greatest player I’ve ever seen don a Villa shirt in my 33 years supporting the club. And he’s having the season of his life. Let’s also not get mixed up – as we do with KDB – and think he’s hardly featured either. His 2,095 minutes are more than Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, and a host of others who are in the Team of the Season conversation. He makes this 11, end of.
2/7: Raphinha (Leeds United)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/3423f250/Raphael-Dias-Belloli
WhoScored Rating: 7.19 (17th)
SofaScore Rating: 7.13 (33rd)
Newly promoted Leeds United are finishing their comeback season in the top 10 – take a bow Bielsa and your boys. One of the big reasons for this is that man Raphinha, and like with Fofana and Soucek, I personally wanted to find a place to recognise the season that this team has had. In 2,274 minutes he’s scored 6 goals and assisted 8 – not insane numbers, even at Leeds – but he’s also been damn exciting to watch. According to WhoScored he ranks 17th in the league for shots per game, 14th for dribbles per game, and 8th for key passes per game. All of this after a very slow start to his career in Yorkshire in which he had been involved in just one goal by mid-December. This guy gets even better next season.
1/7: Jack Harrison (Leeds United)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/aa849a12/Jack-Harrison
WhoScored Rating: 6.97 (59th)
SofaScore Rating: 6.96 (106th)
Our final winger – at least, that’s where I have him in Totti’s rogue formation – is another Leeds man (or rather, Manchester City man on loan at Leeds), Jack Harrison. The left winger ticks all the boxes for Bielsa, working damn hard without the ball (he’s in the 87th percentile for pressures and 94th percentile for tackles), whilst also being pretty effective going forwards. His 8 goals and 8 assists are career highs – which is crazy when you consider his previous two campaigns have been in a lower division – and Only Patrick Bamford has more goal involvements for Leeds this season. It’s been a fine season for the former New York City man, and he’s been rewarded with a vote in TDS Team of the Season – something fellow wingers/wide forwards Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, and Riyad Mahrez couldn’t get.
7/7: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
FBRef - https://fbref.com/en/players/21a66f6a/Harry-Kane
WhoScored Rating: 7.81 (1st)
SofaScore Rating: 7.66 (2nd)
Manchester City’s Harry Kane has had yet another stellar season, with 22 goals and 13 assists to his name heading into the final match of the season. He’s scored more goals before (he hit 30 back in 2017/18) but he’s never come close to being this productive in assisting, with the 7 he got back in 2016/17 his previous best. To put this into context, two of the all-time greats – David Silva and Cesc Fabregas – only surpassed 13 assists on one occasion each. Kane’s been involved in 55% of Tottenham’s goals this season…can you imagine where they’d be without him? It looks like we’ll find out in 12 month’s time.
So there we have it. The conclusive Team of the 2020-21 Season. It's been a rollercoaster ride like no other. Here's hoping that in 12 months time, we're back after a season of fans, VAR-less incidents, and England as champions of Europe.
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