The 50 best Premier League players of 2018/19
This has been a vintage Premier League season. Two of the finest sides in top-flight history are fighting for the title; four sides are scrapping for the two remaining places in the top four; four more teams have a realistic shot at the final European place; and the last remaining relegation slot hasn't yet been allocated.
Right now, Liverpool and Manchester City matches are must-watch events where the smallest slip-up could cost either side everything. As a result of their excellent campaigns, many of their players feature in the higher echelons of this list – but there's been much more than those two sides to celebrate this term…
50. Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham)
Had you told any Tottenham fan this time last year that Sissoko would be one of their key players in April 2019, you’d have been laughed out of the room. The Frenchman’s Spurs career seemed to be heading nowhere fast 12 months ago, but he’s performed admirably this term and is now a key part of Mauricio Pochettino’s first-team squad.
While not the most technically gifted, Sissoko’s powerful running and tireless work ethic have been assets both offensively and defensively.
49. Shane Duffy (Brighton)
The giant Irishman has been in hot scoring form this season and currently sits second in Brighton’s top-scorers list. You might think that’s not hard in a Seagulls side that’s struggled for goals this year – and you’d be right – but the imposing defender has a valuable weapon from set-pieces and only one central defender in Europe’s top five leagues has scored more (Sergio Ramos, of course).
Duffy has been reliable this season while those around him often haven’t been. If Brighton go down, the 27-year-old surely won’t be going with them.
48. Salomon Rondon (Newcastle)
It’s not easy scoring nine goals in a team as defensive-minded as Newcastle, but the West Brom loanee has done just that in helping to make the Magpies safe with relative ease this term.
It’s no wonder that the Venezuelan striker is held in high regard by Rafael Benitez: if there’s one thing the Newcastle boss respects, it’s hard work and discipline – and Rondon has demonstrated both in good measure this term.
47. Ashley Barnes (Burnley)
Burnley have already scored more goals this season than last, when they finished seventh and qualified for Europe.
Barnes is a big part of that. Sean Dyche’s first cash signing as Clarets manager in 2014 has become a Turf Moor legend, and the striker has scored more Premier League goals for the club than anyone else. Eleven more this season mean he’s Burnley’s joint-top scorer alongside Chris Wood.
46. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)
To describe Doucoure merely as a midfield destroyer would be an unfair summation of his skills. The Frenchman carries the ball beautifully and is adept with either foot, while his surging runs from deep have helped Watford transition to attack in a direct fashion that many teams have struggled to deal with.
Five goals and six assists this term make for a good haul overall, and it’s not difficult to see why the rumours linking him with PSG refuse to go away. He’s made no secret of his desire to move on up soon.
45. Ashley Westwood (Burnley)
Westwood recently turned 29 and he’s still waiting for the respect he deserves. Very few footballers have transitioned overnight from League Two talent to Premier League regular, as he did with Aston Villa in 2012, and he’s closing in on 200 top-flight appearances.
Importantly, he’s still willing and able to develop: once, an efficient but unambitious ball recycler, now he’s often playmaking from deep – vital in a Burnley side that can lack creativity. His pass success rate in 2018/19 is significantly lower than ever before, yet he’s assisted more goals (seven) than in his previous five campaigns combined.
44. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
The Danish dynamo has, by his own high standards, endured something off an underwhelming season. Whether it’s post-World Cup fatigue or the continued uncertainty over his future, Tottenham’s long-time creative lynchpin hasn’t seemed to wave his magic wand with the same regularity as in previous campaigns.
And yet, despite all that, he’s still the Premier League’s second-highest provider of assists, with 12. We did say those standards were high...
43. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester)
No player has won more tackles than the telescopic-limbed Nigerian, who also ranks fourth for interceptions. Leicester were never going to replace N’Golo Kante like for like, but in Ndidi they arguably got the next best thing.
The 22-year-old would likely be at a bigger club if his passing was better – but for now, the Foxes are the ones enjoying his all-action talents. “How he wins the ball is incredible,” said Brendan Rodgers. “[How] he covers the ground, his anticipation of where the ball is going and how he reads it, and the number of counter-attacks he stops.”
42. Matt Doherty (Wolves)
Wolves’s longest-serving outfield player has recovered superbly from an own goal in the second game of the season against Leicester, and his consistency has been a key tenet of Nuno Espirito Santo’s Black Country revolution.
Doherty was rejected by 15 English clubs before Mick McCarthy took a punt in 2010, after he’d impressed for Bohemians in a pre-season friendly against Wolves. It must go down as the best £75,000 that the club has ever spent.
41. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
It’s naive to think that Ramsey could have slunk off to Juventus after half-arsing his final few months at Arsenal, when professional pride is at stake. The Welshman has done more than just turn up.
Instead he’s driven his team, most notably against Newcastle and twice against Spurs, coming off the bench to engineer a comeback win with two magical assists, before scoring at Wembley. He’ll be desperate to sign off on a high with a top-four finish and Europa League triumph.
40. David de Gea (Manchester United)
This has been far from De Gea’s best season at United, but that says more about his previous performances than it does his showings in 2018/19 – matching his extraordinary efforts of last term was always going to be nigh-on impossible.
The Spaniard will have been disappointed with goals conceded against Everton and Manchester City in the last few days, but he’s still rescued his side on several occasions this term. Form is temporary, class is permanent.
39. Declan Rice (West Ham)
What a year it’s been for the West Ham academy graduate. In less than nine months, Rice has become the beating heart of the Hammers' midfield and earned his first England caps as a result.
He still has plenty to improve on, but the now-England international plays the game with greater maturity than your average 20-year-old. Rice distributes the ball with the composure that’s quickly won him a place in Gareth Southgate’s good books.
38. Conor Coady (Wolves)
Liverpool-born Coady has evolved into one of English football’s most consistent operators in his first season as a Premier League regular. Converted from a functional midfielder (and occasional right-back) into a smooth central stopper by Nuno, the 26-year-old Wolves captain looks every inch the polished product at Molineux and will only improve as he approaches his peak.
He was often embarrassed by Luis Suarez in training at Liverpool – “he used to twist me inside out, it was never the happiest of times,” he told the Guardian earlier this season – but Coady is now a star in his own right.
37. Jose Holebas (Watford)
Surely the most entertaining full-back in the Premier League for the neutral. Holebas is now 34, and it will be a great shame if this is the summer that Watford finally opt for fresh blood on the left-hand side of their defence.
Thought he couldn’t beat his totals of two goals, four assists and 14 yellow cards in 2017/18? Three goals, six assists and 11 yellows by late April says you’re wrong.
36. Andre Gomes (Everton)
He may only have one goal and one assist to his name this season, but the Portuguese midfielder’s year-long loan on the blue half of Merseyside has been exactly what both player and club(s) needed.
Gomes has established himself as a first-team regular, Everton have enjoyed a creative and dextrous addition to their midfield and Barcelona have reminded Europe that Gomes is a very good player – just one not quite capable of getting into their own team. If the Toffees can persuade him to stay beyond June 1, the future’s bright.
35. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Zaha spoke publicly of his desire to play at a higher level last week, and it’s hard to blame a player who is regularly spoken of as the best outside the top six. The Ivory Coast international is one of the most entertaining players in the division, and his end product has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of seasons – even if there’s still room for improvement on nine goals and three assists.
A tremendous dribbler who can give even the most sure-footed of full-backs twisted blood, Zaha deserves the chance to test himself on the European stage.
34. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Isn’t it funny when you play a striker as a striker and he starts scoring goals? Rashford isn’t perfect, but the England striker has shown why he deserves regular opportunities through the middle this term with double figures for goals and six more assists in the Premier League.
The 21-year-old was only given sporadic opportunities up top under Jose Mourinho, but netted in six of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first eight Premier League matches after being given a proper run – plus that ice-cold winning penalty at PSG in United’s remarkable last-16 comeback.
33. Dele Alli (Tottenham)
It’s been a frustrating campaign for Spurs’ connoisseur of flair. Recurring injuries have made for a patchy season after a draining summer – but his absence has only accentuated how important the tireless playmaker has become to a Spurs team that can be accused of lacking impetus in the final third.
Dele’s penetrating runs and neat link-up play tie attacks neatly together for Tottenham, and his fitness could prove vital in the final weeks of the season.
32. Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)
Unlike your Bothroyds, Nugents, Ingses and Kevin Davieseses (OK, too far), Wilson deserves to stick around with England. No one outside the top six contributes to a Premier League goal more regularly, and he’s no tap-in merchant.
Whereas at the beginning of 2018 he’d scored the most Premier League goals without assisting one, this season he’s laid on eight goals for his team-mates, to go with 12 of his own; only seven players in the division have created more. One of those is Ryan Fraser, who combines with Wilson so well.
31. Victor Lindelof (Manchester United)
Lindelof struggled in his maiden season at Old Trafford, and many Manchester United fans had written him off ahead of this campaign. The Swede has shown tremendous resilience to bounce back, though, and he’s now widely considered his club’s strongest centre-back.
Lindelof was one of a small number of United players who weren’t guilty of underperformance under Jose Mourinho in the first half of the season; he hasn’t been quite as good of late, but the 24-year-old will survive the cull that could be coming at Carrington this summer.
30. Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham)
Life is rarely quiet for Fabianski. His save statistics were excellent at Swansea, but partly expected in a poor team where he was a busy boy. Still, since 2014/15, the Pole’s finishing positions for the most saves in a season read as follows: first, third, fourth, second.
This season he’s top once again, despite having joined a better West Ham team. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have ‘only’ conceded the seventh-most amount of goals this term, which says more about a terrible backline than it does the man behind it. Their season would have been much worse without him.
29. Fabian Schar (Newcastle)
You might reasonably conclude that Rafael Benitez is only interested in central defenders who fulfil the basic needs of tackling and heading, allowing Newcastle to soak up pressure and then play on the counter.
In Switzerland international Schar, however, he’s found a bargain centre-half who can do all of that and then step majestically out of defence into midfield. At £3.5m, he’s been an absolute steal.
28. James Maddison (Leicester)
It was evident from his Premier League debut at Old Trafford that Maddison would be just fine in the top flight. Sure, he’d enjoyed a fine Championship campaign for Norwich – but ultimately, £20m got Leicester an uncapped player with no top-flight experience.
And yet the 22-year-old eased into Premier League life like a seasoned pro, exuding confidence and swagger beyond his years. He’s got results, too: a more difficult middle third of the season has been bookended by a fine start and finish with seven goals and six assists overall, and only one player in Europe has created more chances in 2018/19.
27. Ben Foster (Watford)
Well, this is awkward. Still, putting his recent howler against Arsenal aside, Foster has quietly been one of 2018/19’s best performers between the sticks – frankly, a revelation of a signing for the Hornets.
Some wondered why Watford were bothering to invest in a 35-year-old goalkeeper to replace their 37-year-old goalkeeper, but £2.5m has proved bargainous following a string of fine shot-stopping performances. Watford beat Huddersfield 3-0 in October and Foster was probably their best player.
26. Lucas Digne (Everton)
At first, Everton signing three Barcelona players represented a coup. Then, reports suggested that Barça were delighted to receive £45m for two surplus players while putting loanee Andre Gomes in the shop window.
Now, it’s a coup again: Gomes (our No.36) has impressed and Digne has shone in Everton’s otherwise frustrating season, linking well down the left, putting chances on a plate – three times he’s crossed beautifully for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to head home – and delivering fantastic set-pieces. It’s as if 2010-era Leighton Baines has regenerated.
25. Alisson (Liverpool)
Virgil van Dijk has correctly been viewed as a transformative figure for Liverpool since his move from Southampton, but upgrading Loris Karius for Alisson has been just as significant to the Merseysiders’ title tilt.
The Brazilian can’t take sole credit for the Reds’ incredible defensive record – just 20 goals conceded in 35 matches – but his sharp reflexes and composure in possession have been vital for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
24. David Brooks (Bournemouth)
Brooks has made a seamless step up from Championship to Premier League since swapping Sheffield United for Bournemouth last summer. The Welshman starred on his debut against Cardiff on the opening day and has gone from strength to strength since then, scoring seven goals and setting up another five for Eddie Howe’s charges.
Able to play out wide or in a central role, Brooks’ passing and ball-carrying have been a vital part of the Cherries’ attacking armoury.
23. Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Age may well be catching up with Fernandinho, but City have a weapon that will devastate opposition teams while he can still play at this level. As ever, his unselfish style of play has allowed City’s more talented frontmen to thrive, while his constant probing forces opposition teams to move upfield in an effort to quell his harassment.
Guardiola’s main focus this summer should be finding an adequate replacement for him – which is easier said than done.
22. Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
There aren’t many defenders who could thrive as a centre-half in a back four, a centre-half in a back three, a left-back in a back four and a left wing-back in a back three. Vertonghen can.
The Belgium international is a model of consistency and he’s not let his standards drop in his seventh season at Spurs. Strong in the tackle and an effective distributor from deep, Vertonghen remains one of the league’s leading centre-halves.
21. Raul Jimenez (Wolves)
The 27-year-old forward managed a meagre six goals for Benfica in the Primeira Liga last season – but has already struck double that amount for a Europe-chasing Wolves this season, and added seven assists for good measure. Only one out-and-out striker (Callum Wilson) has more.
It’s no surprise that the West Midlands club have exercised the clause in Jimenez’s loan deal to land him permanently. His performances this year make him worth every penny of the £30m Wolves have paid for his services.
20. Martin Dubravka (Newcastle)
Only six clubs have conceded fewer goals than Newcastle this season – five of the current top six that aren't called 'Manchester United', plus Wolves. Rafael Benitez has been hailed for turning gravel into gold working under Mike Ashley, but his current goalkeeper may just be the best deal of the lot – around €5m for one of the Premier League's most rounded glovesmen.
Dubravka has been terrific once again for the Magpies this season, having initially thrilled the St James' Park faithful after joining on loan in January 2018. He was named player of the year by the North East Football Writers' Association as a result, and has continued his fine form for a Newcastle side still punching above their weight in this division.
19. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace)
Eighteen months ago, few Crystal Palace fans had heard of Wan-Bissaka. Drafted into the first team in emergency circumstances, the former winger impressed in his first few outings at right-back last term, but he’s taken his game to another level in 2018/19.
Tall and rangy, the 21-year-old is a superb one-on-one defender who regularly uses his long legs to pluck the ball away from opposition wingers. “I was kind of shocked by how good he was,” said Wilfried Zaha after facing Wan-Bissaka in training for the first time.
18. Ben Chilwell (Leicester)
In 2014, England had such strength and depth at left-back that they omitted a world-class player from their World Cup squad. Four years later, their World Cup left-back was Ashley Young: 32 and right-footed.
Chilwell capitalised on this power vacuum as if it was an out-of-position opponent, becoming England’s first choice through consistently excellent performances at Leicester. The 22-year-old can stretch teams with his pace but, unlike many modern full-backs, he defends patiently and loves an aerial battle too.
17. Etienne Capoue (Watford)
Watford’s central midfield partnership of Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure has been one of the surprise successes of the season. But while Doucoure has licence to drive forward, Capoue is the holding midfielder that gives Javi Gracia’s team the perfect balance.
No Watford player has made more tackles, and no player in the Premier League has made more interceptions. He is a rock, and has finally shown the levels of consistency that Hornets fans have craved.
16. Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)
The Cherries’ battle rat started the season as if powered by 8,000 volts, scoring five goals and providing a further nine assists by Christmas. Things have been a little harder since the turn of the year, but the Scot’s goal and two assists in Bournemouth’s recent 5-0 destruction of south coast rivals Brighton was proof that the 25-year-old back is to his jinking, darting best.
Maintain that form and one of the Premier League’s bigger boys – Arsenal, if you believe the tabloids – could soon indulge in some Cherrie picking. Sorry.
15. Joao Moutinho (Wolves)
Moutinho doesn’t generate the same headlines as Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota or midfield partner Ruben Neves, but he’s been Wolves’ standout performer this year. The Portuguese metronome sets the tempo for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, distributing the ball crisply and setting his team on the attack.
Slight of build, 5ft 7in and 32 years of age, Moutinho isn’t exactly a physical specimen. Yet with his level of intelligence and technical ability, it doesn’t matter one iota.
14. Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
It’s almost as though all that was needed was a manager who wanted to play one of the world’s best players to his strengths, isn’t it? Even with Manchester United’s recent dip in form, Pogba looks a different player to the one who laboured through matches in the Jose Mourinho era.
He’s contributed 26 goals in all competitions in 2018/19 – the best single season of his career – and in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, finally has a coach who really believes in his attacking talents. Next year he has to dominate from start to finish.
13. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal)
Lacazette’s haul of 13 goals this season is solid rather than spectacular. The former Lyon man brings so much more to the table, though, and it’s his touch, movement and link-up play that have most impressed this campaign.
Lacazette has certainly become a much more rounded centre-forward since moving to north London, with a return of eight assists evidence of his ability to effectively combine with team-mates.
12. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Aubameyang hasn’t always been an automatic pick in Unai Emery’s starting XI, which is remarkable given his goalscoring prowess.
If he does have a tendency to miss presentable chances, that’s overshadowed by his 38 goals and assists in 46 league games since his arrival – 19 of those strikes coming this season in a Golden Boot-chasing year. Emery’s next challenge is to perfect an attacking strategy that contains both him and Lacazette.
11. Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
A corking season for Tottenham’s South Korean talisman, who has battled international commitments like no other player this term and come through the other side shining. Harry Kane hasn’t always been available this term, but Son has stepped up in his absence. The former missed five games across January and February; Son played in four of those and scored in each.
Twelve goals and six assists in 29 Premier League appearances make for a fine haul that Son must feel he could have added to without such a busy year of globetrotting.
10. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
The rampaging Scotsman has barely paused for breath since establishing himself as Liverpool’s first-choice left-back halfway through last season. His driving runs and whipped crosses have added an extra dimension to the Reds’ attack, and he’s defended pretty well too.
Robertson’s tireless running makes him the perfect full-back for a Jurgen Klopp side. The Scot has even chipped in with nine assists – more than any other defender in the division.
9. Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
If the French centre-back is fit, he plays – it’s that simple in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City machine. It took Laporte half a season to settle after his January 2018 move from Athletic Bilbao, but the 24-year-old is now arguably City’s most important player after Fernandinho.
Ice-cool in possession, he dictates play from the back and reads the game superbly, seldom having to actually tackle anyone. His continued absence from Didier Deschamps’ France squad – regardless of a perceived lack of integration – remains a mystery.
8. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
This won’t end up being Kane’s best goalscoring season – unless he recovers from injury for Spurs’ final game against Everton and blasts in 14 – but in a season beset by injury, fatigue and his club not playing a proper home game until April, he still led the line superbly until his (near-certainly) season-ending injury against Manchester City.
Missing out on scoring the first goal at Spurs’ new home will stick in his craw, as will being denied the chance to score the first hat-trick, but what might sting most could be the possibility of being denied the chance to lead his team into a Champions League final. It’s not an opportunity that’s likely to come around too often...
7. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Salah’s form may not be on the same level as last season, but that’s to be expected after the injury in last year’s Champions League final, quickly followed by a summer at the World Cup. Plus the fact he broke a Premier League record, for crying out loud.
And yet Salah is still the top flight’s joint-top scorer this season with 19 goals, while he’s contributed seven assists too. He might not be quite as good as last season’s Mo Salah, but he’s still a lot better than nearly everyone else.
6. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
For all the goals, plaudits, trophies and a better goals-per-game ratio than Alan Shearer, the sense remains that the Argentine is underrated in this country. Aguero has seldom even been in contention for either PFA or FWA Player of the Year awards, yet is possibly the best striker in Premier League history.
This season has been another cracker; one in which he has pushed Gabriel Jesus further out of contention and made a mockery of suggestions that he lacked the technical quality to survive in Pep Guardiola’s system. Who needs experts, eh?
5. Sadio Mané (Liverpool)
Outshining Mohamed Salah is no easy task, but Mané has managed to do exactly that this term. A haul of 18 goals is impressive enough, but the fact that almost half of those (eight) have been the first of the game further underlines the Senegal international’s importance to the cause.
As well as his speed and intensity, Mane is an intelligent mover and a powerful finisher. Most pleasingly for Jurgen Klopp, he has the quality of a luxury player without being a luxury at all.
4. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
A joy to watch on his day, Hazard is arguably the most important player to his team in the entire division. One of the best dribblers in world football, the Belgium international is increasingly decisive in the final third: he’s already equalled his best ever goalscoring season in England with 16, while no one has provided more than his 13 assists.
Without Hazard, Chelsea would have fallen out of the top-four race long ago. It will be difficult for anyone to fill his giant shoes should he depart this summer.
3. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
The Manchester City forward is finally getting the kind of credit he deserves – both as a player and a man. If last term was his breakout year as consistent goal threat – if such a thing exists – this season has cemented his status as one of the most deadly frontmen in world football.
His 17 goals and 10 assists have put him hot on the heels of last season’s haul of 18 and 11 respectively, and you wouldn’t bet against him surpassing both of those figures in the remaining fixtures.
2. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
With Kevin De Bruyne injured and David Silva playing a slightly deeper role, Manchester City needed a creative midfielder to step into the breach. Easier said than done: one was arguably their best player in a record-breaking season; the other perhaps their greatest of all time.
And yet they found one in ‘winger’ Bernardo, whose tireless work rate, constant movement and supreme dribbling has made him the unlikely star of City’s season. It’s no wonder that Pep Guardiola holds him so dear to his heart. “I love him,” declared the Catalan.
1. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
An imperious performer who has transformed Liverpool from top-four contenders to title challengers. Van Dijk was excellent in his first half-season at the club in 2017/18, but he’s taken his game to another level this term and looks set to be rewarded with the PFA Player of the Year award.
Strong in the air, composed on the ball and a masterful reader of the game, Van Dijk has everything you’d want in a modern-day centre-half. Liverpool conceded 1.2 goals a game before Van Dijk’s arrival last term. This season, it’s 0.6.
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