In the mag: 100 best Premier League players... right now! PLUS Robson, Bilic, World Cup play-offs, Mongolia's Simon Cowell, Battle of Bramall Lane and more
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First a message from our editor, James Andrew:
The teams at the top of the Premier League table may be familiar, but that doesn’t mean this season has been a dud. Personally, it’s the performances of many stars outside the runaway top two that I’ve enjoyed the most.
In this issue, we rank the division’s 100 best players based on their displays this season. Of course, the usual suspects have still shone and make the cut – but this was a chance to honour the likes of West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen, who has really grasped his opportunity to excel in 2021-22. And, as he tells FFT, he owes it all to a Herefordshire potato field.
Joao Cancelo, Fabinho and Wolves’ Max Kilman sit down with us to reflect on similarly superb campaigns so far, but we’ll also be waxing lyrical about standout performers from Leeds, Crystal Palace, Watford, Brighton and more.
Elsewhere, we’re looking ahead to the World Cup play-offs – where unranked minnows the Cook Islands are still in with a shot, and Wales could yet meet Scotland in a dream decider – but sadly back to 1985, and the night Jock Stein died after another crucial match between the two Celtic nations.
Do have your say on the Premier League list using #FFTPL100, and look out for a personal favourite in our next edition: the EFL Top 50. Enjoy...
100 Best Players in the Premier League
Ranking anything is generally a thankless task – but what are FourFourTwo if not gluttons for punishment? In coming up with our list of the finest Premier League stars, we decided it would be fairest to base it entirely on performances this season – after all, there’s no time like the present, and it’s a lot easier than trying to weigh up how good Jadon Sancho is after a challenging start at Old Trafford.
So, we asked some of our finest brains in the business for their opinions, too – those who follow clubs, cover the league widely and have their eyes on the ground. Together, this is what we came up with...
Joao Cancelo loves Pep
He's more than just the perfect Guardiola full-back: the Portuguese is three players in one. Desperate to maintain Manchester City’s dominance, he shares his secrets with FFT …
Fabinho's rude awakening
The Brazilian initially struggled with Jurgen Klopp’s heavy metal football, but he’s now the complete defensive midfielder. Liverpool’s totem tells FFT how he became a world beater…
Jarrod Bowen: FPL king
West Ham’s scintillating wideman has hit the form of his life, making Champions League football a serious prospect. He tells FFT of potato fields and keeping his barber happy
World Cup play-offs: preview
Gareth Bale faces his last chance to feature at a World Cup, while Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon tells us what it's like to have a new lease of life after two agonising years out of the game. Sadly, only one of them can make it to Qatar.
Elsewhere, there's a shock return to the Italy setup for Mario Balotelli, the titchy Cook Islands are still in with a shout where so many big guns aren't, and the DR Congo are aiming to wash out their record of being the worst team in World Cup history. It's on...
The death of Jock Stein
Scotland and Wales could yet meet in a World Cup play-off final if all goes to plan… but they’ve been here before. In the struggle to reach Mexico 86, their crucial final-game decider was settled late on – before leading to the ultimate tragedy
Slaven Bilic answers YOUR questions
Would he do anything differently if he had his time at West Ham again? Why did things not work out at Everton? What was it like leading Croatia to major tournament excitement? And why does he love Iron Maiden so much? There's all that and more.
The Mongolian Simon Cowell
Paul Watson was a downtrodden non-league hopeful aiming for international football, until his proactive punt led to a management gig on the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. It was merely a beginning for the younger brother of comedian Mark: what followed featured angry locals, North Korean TV, ex-cannibals – and suitcases full of cash…
Robert Maxwell, the owner
Derby County’s financial woes are nothing new – in 1984, the Rams were saved by bullish media mogul Robert Maxwell, whose patchwork history left a lot even to his own imagination. What came next featured Johan Cruyff, Manchester United, Elton John… and one very suspicious death
The Battle of Bramall Lane
In this month's Around The Grounds, we take an extended look back at March 2002, when the Football League’s dirtiest game was abandoned after Sheffield United ran out of players. An encounter riddled with filth, rucks and revenge has entered into much-debated mythical legend 20 years on.
There's also a chinwag with Bournemouth's experienced stopper Gary Cahill, columnist Ian Holloway explaining what it's really like to get the sack, the owner-manager in trouble at Nuneaton Borough, and a curious history of Aberdeen: dugout-inventing, Real Madrid-beating, relegation-charmed wonders.
In the Players Lounge...
Les Ferdinand on why he hates Euro 96, Bacary Sagna remembers the day Arsenal fans made him sad, Stewart Downing reveals why Fabio Capello was his favourite England boss, and Bayern Munich legend Giovane Elber explains why he's still not over the 1999 Champions League Final.
In Ukraine, FC Polissya Zhytomyr handed a debut to a new signing – heavyweight boxing champ Oleksandr Usyk.
Meanwhile, we ask Antonio Valencia about the matches that changed his life, bring you news of Uriah Rennie: the novel by its author, ask Jamie O'Hara some silly questions, catch up with Eni Aluko: sporting director of the NWSL's most Hollywood club, and throw our latest challenging quiz your way.
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Joe was the Deputy Editor at FourFourTwo until 2022, having risen through the FFT academy and been on the brand since 2013 in various capacities.
By weekend and frustrating midweek night he is a Leicester City fan, and in 2020 co-wrote the autobiography of former Foxes winger Matt Piper – subsequently listed for both the Telegraph and William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards.