Alternative Team of the Year
No, not Burnley. Sean Dyche’s side have enjoyed an excellent season, but it was no surprise to see the PFA Team of the Year formed entirely of players who had hoped to challenge for the title at the start of 2017-18.
Yet while the gap between the top five and the rest cannot be ignored, there are plenty further down the division who deserve recognition as the campaign reaches its conclusion. In this slideshow, we’ve picked an alternative Team of the Year (in a 3-4-3 formation) using only one star per club.
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
It says much about Manchester United's season that they have underwhelmed despite being on course for their finest finish since Fergie-time. Despite the attacking arsenal at his disposal, Jose Mourinho can once again be most thankful to a goalkeeper who arrived seven seasons ago and was initially criticised as an aerially-suspect waste of money.
As April ticked into May, United had conceded more shots per game than Arsenal, Watford and Huddersfield, but David De Gea's consistency has been surpassed only by his penchant for making match-defining saves – particularly those in December's 3-1 victory at Arsenal. A haul of 21 clean sheets from 33 appearances says everything about his quality.
Defender: Jamaal Lascelles
In the absence of much creative cutting edge, Newcastle have relied upon a resilient defence: the seventh-tightest in the top flight. Much of the credit for that can go to Rafa Benitez, but he can't cross the white line and is dependent upon his players.
The backline improved after the January arrival of goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, but before then it didn’t feature a single established Premier League performer. Lascelles has stepped up admirably, though, with his leadership and maturity playing a big part in the Magpies’ flight to comfortable survival.
Defender: Alfie Mawson
Shorn of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente, Swansea were arguably always going to struggle for goals this season – and so it has proved: at the time of writing, no Premier League team has scored less often.
Lucky for them, then, that nine teams have conceded more. Although in the case of Alfie Mawson, it may be more judgement than luck. Mawson is not only the key figure in that defence, he’s also been Swansea's finest performer overall. Strong in the air and comfortable in possession, the ex-Barnsley man has emerged as the Welsh outfit’s on-field leader.
Defender: James Tarkowski
When Burnley sold Michael Keane – beyond Sean Dyche, perhaps their most important figure as they successfully avoided relegation last season – it was widely felt that a return to the Championship had become almost inevitable. Yet the Clarets have once again exceeded expectations and require just one more point to qualify for the Europa League.
While Keane's reputation has suffered at Everton, Tarkowski has convincingly replaced him and been equally important in the division's fourth-strongest defence. He could be rewarded with a place in England’s World Cup squad this summer.
Midfielder: Christian Eriksen
Tottenham's talented midfielder has excelled so much that he’s arguably outshone even Harry Kane, the scorer of 37 goals in all competitions this term. Eriksen's extraordinary vision and abilities have long been recognised, but even though he’d already become one of Spurs' key figures, this is the season in which he’s truly fulfilled his potential.
The 26-year-old has demonstrated the desire and consistency which has elevated his masterful technique – culminating in 10 goals and as many assists so far in 2017-18.
Midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne
Given he’s been the most influential footballer in the division's most convincing, title-winning team, De Bruyne can count himself unfortunate not to have been crowned Player of the Year by either the PFA or the FWA. At least the Belgian can console himself with his Premier League winner’s medal.
His form before Christmas was particularly impressive, with De Bruyne playing a starring role in crucial victories over Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham. Eight goals and 15 assists is a superb return, but the former Wolfsburg man’s contribution goes far beyond the headline numbers.
Midfielder: Aaron Ramsey
Unless Arsenal win the Europa League, Ramsey may just represent the success story of their season. Jack Wilshere's re-emergence has also been a positive, but the Welshman’s sense of timing and 10 goals – particularly since Alexis Sanchez's departure – have made him the Gunners’ standout performer in Arsene Wenger's final season.
Often deployed out wide in previous campaigns, Ramsey has become more central to the Arsenal cause from his favoured midfield position in 2017-18.
Midfielder: Marcos Alonso
Few would blame Antonio Conte for Chelsea's failings this season, but it perhaps shouldn’t be overlooked that much of the Italian's unhappiness stems from their inability to recruit Alex Sandro last summer – despite Alonso excelling throughout 2016-17.
The Spaniard has been one of the few Blues to maintain the standards he set when Chelsea secured the title 12 months ago, continuing to enhance his reputation as a masterful set-piece taker and developing the crucial ability to score important goals.
Forward: Mohamed Salah
The PFA and FWA Player of the Year was unquestionably the signing of last summer. His £34m arrival at Liverpool from Roma was generally met with indifference – incredibly, because it felt like a lot of money in those pre-Neymar days. Hindsight tells us otherwise.
Salah has equalled the Premier League goals record in a 38-game season with his 31 strikes, with the Golden Boot now well within his sights. The Egypt international has been so good that some are even beginning to talk about him as a potential Ballon d’Or winner.
Forward: Jamie Vardy
The striker's remarkable volley against West Brom in April, with his less-favoured left foot after a lofted Riyad Mahrez pass, was arguably the finest goal of a career that has produced numerous important finishes. A delightful strike against Tottenham earlier in the campaign also evidenced a subtler side of Vardy’s skill set.
The England international has netted 17 league goals in a turbulent season for the Foxes, with only four players currently above him in the scoring charts.
Forward: Wilfried Zaha
Without Zaha, Palace would have surely been relegated. Instead, with his creativity and goal threat up front, the Eagles have gradually climbed clear of the bottom three and now look destined for a mid-table finish.
Christian Benteke has struggled hugely this season and provided only three Premier League goals, meaning Zaha has regularly filled the void as a striker. Thankfully for Roy Hodgson he hasn’t disappointed, netting four goals in Palace’s last seven games and adding another two assists for good measure.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.