September 28, 2022

CM: Tomas Soucek (West Ham)

West Ham’s superb campaign deserves to be marked in any team of the season, and who better to represent David Moyes’s powerful counterattacking team than Soucek?

He and Declan Rice held down midfield with remarkable dexterity, allowing the Hammers to sit back for long periods and soak up pressure.

Soucek made more tackles, blocks, and clearances than his midfield partner, and also topped the Premier League charts for most aerial duels (450).

Soucek was lethal in attack, too, scoring 10 goals – the third most among midfielders behind Bruno Fernandes and Gundogan.

West Ham would sit deep, out-muscle opponents in their own third, then score from set-pieces – and Soucek was the dominant force in every stage of the plan.

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  • CM: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

    In raw stats alone, Fernandes’s 18 goals and 11 assists is a brilliant Premier League return, and yet many people consider the Portuguese to be overrated, pointing to the fact nine of those goals were from the penalty spot.

    But Fernandes does so much more than score and assist, and in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s individualistic tactical set-up it is invariably Fernandes hauling United up the pitch and creating chances.

    Per WyScout, he created the second-most chances in the Premier League with 36, played the second most ‘smart passes’ with 91 (“a creative and penetrative pass that attempts to break the opposition’s defensive lines”), the most ‘deep completions’ with 117 (“a non-cross pass that is targeted to the zone within 20 metres of the opponent’s goal”), and the most second assists (the pass before the assist) with seven.

    In other words, he is the best line-breaker and creative passer in the division, constantly piercing through the opponent to get United forward.

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    RW: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)

    Had Grealish not missed 12 games through injury in the second half of the season, he would probably be in line for Player of the Year, but even having missed nearly a third of the campaign he walks into the Team of the Season.

    The Aston Villa captain tops the Premier League charts for key passes (37) and fouls suffered (108), although we do not really need stats to make the argument for his inclusion here.

    Grealish glides effortlessly with the ball, drawing multiple defenders towards him to create huge amounts of space for his team-mates.

    His creative output was remarkable considering how many games he missed, and had he stayed fit for the season then Villa might even have pushed Chelsea all the way for that fourth Champions League spot.

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  • LW: Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

    Son is another player suffering from recency bias, but we should not overlook just how impressive it was to amass 17 goals and 10 assists in a campaign generally deemed a failure by Spurs supporters.

    Perhaps the starkest image of the campaign for Tottenham fans was Son’s emotional interview following the club’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United, the sort of moment that shows just how hard Son was working to cut through the toxicity of Jose Mourinho’s management and drag Spurs into European contention.

    In the end, his form dipped and Gareth Bale made the headlines as Tottenham sneaked into the Europa Conference League.

    But Son’s influence in the early parts of the season – when he scored 10 goals in his first nine games – should not be forgotten, nor should the memory of his extraordinary partnership with Harry Kane through the first half of 2020-21.

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  • ST: Harry Kane (Tottenham)

    Kane’s capacity for self-improvement is Ronaldo-esque. The 27-year-old has always fancied himself as more of a number 10 than a number nine, and under Jose Mourinho he was finally given the freedom to prove that point.

    The results were genuinely astonishing; we need a new word to describe Kane’s quantum ability to be the creator and the finisher simultaneously, not so much a false nine or a nine-and-a-half but a 19: a fusion of both roles.

    He won his third Golden Boot with 23 goals and also topped the charts for assists with 14.

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