We're only a handful of games into the 2019/20 Premier League season, but some intriguing storylines are already beginning to take shape.
Established pros are still dominating everything in sight, Chelsea's transfer ban has opened the door for some of their brilliant youngsters to take centre stage, while new arrivals are settling with varying degress of success.
We're having to go by previous achievements when it comes to some of the stars in this list, some of whom are simply new to English football, but for now here's our crack at subjectively ranking the talent in our football's top flight. Form is temporary, after all, and things could change a lot in the months to come...
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101. Dwight McNeil (Burnley)
Burnley aren’t exactly renowned for their prolific youth academy and giving the kids a chance, although it’s not always easy for them to compete in the footballing hotbed that is the north-west.
McNeil is a welcome exception to the rule. The winger broke through last season with a string of dogged performances after Christmas, and has now established himself as an indispensable member of Sean Dyche’s first team aged 19. He’s just made his first England U21s squad (before having to withdraw through injury), and more recognition is sure to follow.
100. Matt Doherty (Wolves)
Wolves’s squad has been heavily renovated since the club was taken over by Chinese investment group Fosun International in July 2016, but Doherty has successfully survived the restructuring.
The defender, who arrived from Bohemians in 2010 for a paltry £75k, has been immovable at right-wing-back since Nuno Espirito Santo took over at the beginning of 2017/18. The Irishman played an integral role as Wolves dominated the Championship, then starred upon their return to the top flight – and subsequently, Europe – with four goals and five assists.
Not bad for a player who was rejected by no fewer than 15 English clubs as a youngster.
98.= Lewis Dunk (Brighton)
Following Brighton’s promotion to the Premier League in 2017, Dunk set himself some hefty goals. “Hopefully I can show what I can do in the Premier League, do enough and follow in Michael Keane’s footsteps and get the [England] call-up,” said the ambitious stopper.
One year on, Dunk’s dream target was realised when he made his Three Lions debut in a friendly against the USA at Wembley. His call-up was testament to a fine debut season in the top flight, which led to widespread reports linking him with big-money moves to both Arsenal and Leicester last summer.
The 27-year-old should develop further under new manager Graham Potter, as the former Swansea boss’s new possession-based style will allow Dunk – in his own words – to “be on the ball more, rather than flinging myself in front of it for 90 minutes”. He’s also pretty good at that.
98.= Shane Duffy (Brighton)
But not as good as his defensive partner, mind. Dunk’s trusted defensive amigo Duffy is often the man for a last-ditch intervention and made more clearances than anyone else in the Premier League last season – four of them off the line. Only one player averaged more blocks per game.
He’s also pretty handy at the other end, too: Duffy got five goals in an ailing Seagulls side, making him their second-highest league scorer.
97. Emiliano Buendia (Norwich)
The 5ft 7in playmaker has started a little slowly in the Premier League, but saved his best display for Norwich’s stunning win over Manchester City in September. Buendia registered 17 assists as the Canaries clinched the Championship title in 2018/19, four of them for Teemu Pukki goals, and added another to his collection in downing Pep Guardiola’ side.
“Play like this against lesser top-flight sides and he will be too hot to handle,” noted the Pinkun post-match.
96. Josh King (Bournemouth)
When King signed for the Cherries at the beginning of 2016/17 on a free transfer, expectations were tempered. Before his move, the Norwegian – who began his career at Manchester United without playing a league game – had stuttered through a series of loan spells and failed to make much of an impact following a permanent transfer to Blackburn Rovers.
Suffice to say, then, that the 16 goals he struck in his first Premier League season were unexpected. King has continued to make valuable contributions for Eddie Howe’s side since his emphatic inaugural campaign, usually from his second striker berth. The 27-year-old falls a little short creatively, but is among the top flight’s most dangerous attackers nevertheless.
95. Tom Heaton (Aston Villa)
Last season, Joe Hart and Heaton played exactly the same number of games for Burnley – but come May, there was little doubt about who the Clarets’ undisputed No.1 was. During the second half of the season when Heaton was in the nets following injury, Burnley conceded 14 fewer goals.
This period of the campaign also coincided with an upturn in form for Dyche’s side, who lost only seven of their last 19 games to ensure their Premier League survival. Heaton was terrific, and subsequently earned himself an £8m move to promoted Aston Villa.
Burnley’s loss is Villa’s gain. The last time Heaton was between the sticks for a newly promoted side, in 2016/17, the 33-year-old made more saves than any other Premier League keeper.
94. Nathan Redmond (Southampton)
Redmond didn’t miss a single Premier League game for the Saints last season, and remains among their most important players. He’s sometimes criticised for lacking consistency, but the Englishman can still count Pep Guardiola among his list of admirers.
In 2017, the Manchester City boss was effusive in his praise for Redmond and didn’t even wait for the 25-year-old to leave the pitch before angrily complimenting him in a bizarre exchange. “Last season he destroyed us here,” Guardiola began, defending his on-pitch outburst. “I didn’t know him last season, I realised how good he is.”
93. Declan Rice (West Ham)
Rice is only 20 but already a firm favourite of England manager Gareth Southgate thanks to his tidy play in possession and assuredness beyond his years.
Last season, the Hammers youngster registered a pass-completion rate of over 86%, but also averaged three tackles per game and is already bettering that figure so far in 2019/20. There’s still work to do, but Rice has all the makings of an excellent all-rounder.
92. Moise Kean (Everton)
Everton capitalised on Juventus’ desire to trim their overpopulated squad this summer by agreeing a cut-price deal for Italy international Kean. The 19-year-old arrived in the Premier League with 11 Serie A goals to his name (at a brilliant rate, too), and potentially provides Marco Silva with a long-term solution to the Toffees’ weakness up front.
He’s yet to establish himself as a first-choice starter at Goodison Park, but that should come in time: Kean is well suited to England’s quicker pace and should have no issues adapting to his new surroundings.
But don’t just take our word for it. “I am excited,” said Jose Mourinho earlier this season, before adding that he was a “little surprised” Juventus had let the Champions League’s first 21st-century-born player go. Only time will tell if the decision will come back to bite the Old Lady.
91. Rui Patricio (Wolves)
Replacing the popular John Ruddy at the beginning of last season wasn’t going to be easy, but Patricio was always expected to do it with relatively little fuss. He missed just 90 minutes of action all campaign, and in doing so the vastly experienced Portugal international established himself as one of the best shot-stoppers in the league.
It didn’t take him long to settle in England, and in the end only four Premier League sides conceded fewer goals than Wolves in 2018/19. Patricio has already saved a penalty from Paul Pogba this campaign and has made his return to European competition for Nuno’s side in the Europa League.
90. Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa)
Mings’s arrival on transfer deadline day last January was instrumental in transforming Aston Villa’s fortunes. Dean Smith’s side went on a club-record run of 10 straight wins, rising from 10th to finish the season promoted as play-off winners.
The defender was so impressive that Villa splashed out £20m to make the deal permanent. So far it’s looked like a sensible call: Mings had made such a good start to life back in the top flight that Gareth Southgate called him up for England.
He’s already built a good centre-back partnership with new arrival Bjorn Engels – soothing fears that he might struggle without Axel Tuanzebe, who returned to Manchester United following his loan spell.
89. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle)
Lascelles for England? Since returning to the Premier League in 2017, the ex-Nottingham Forest defender has consistently performed to a high level, yet remains overlooked by Gareth Southgate. The 25-year-old averaged 6.6 clearances per game last season, and also featured in the top 10 for blocks as Newcastle’s defence helped them overachieve again.
The stopper’s leadership is a huge asset to the Magpies. With off-field matters still threatening to affect attendances, Lascelles is often called upon to unite the club – a part he plays admirably. Surely some Three Lions recognition can’t be too far away.
88. Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
Martial is now entering his fourth season at Old Trafford, but has still yet to truly fulfil his potential. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must have thought he’d cracked the conundrum last season, when the Frenchman went on a scoring run of five games. However, it again proved to be an isolated patch of form in what was another ultimately underwhelming season.
Martial has taken the No.9 shirt this campaign following Romelu Lukaku’s departure, and Solskjaer is placing significant faith in the Frenchman as his first-choice striker. The faith was rewarded with two goals and an assist in United’s first three games, before injury struck.
87. Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Frank Lampard was always going to look upon the 20-year-old favourably after a fine loan spell at Derby last season, but the Chelsea boss’s midfield prodigy has fully justified his first-team berth and kicked off the season with three goals in five matches.
Mount has met every challenge in his career so far with aplomb: Vitesse’s player of the year in 2017/18, play-off finalist with Derby in 2018/19 and now already an England international in 2019/20. Young, exciting and he loves the club – everything Lampard wants his Chelsea players to embody.
86. Felipe Anderson (West Ham)
Anderson was not a cheap arrival at the London Stadium last summer for £36m, but immediately played his way into Hammers hearts with a series of irresistible performances.
He finished the season with 10 goals and five assists, operating principally on the left wing where he could drift inside onto his favoured right foot. The 26-year-old pulled the strings for West Ham last campaign, and with Manuel Lanzini back to full fitness we’re expecting sexy back in east London this season.
85. Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City)
Benjamin Mendy may have to content himself with a place on the bench, such has been the form of his replacement Zinchenko. After starting life as an attacking midfielder at Russian outfit Ufa, the Ukrainian has been gradually moved closer to his own goal since being snapped up by City in July 2016 for a modest £1.7m.
Zinchenko’s future appears to remain at full-back for now, but he’s a dangerous one. The 22-year-old registered five assists in all competitions last season, and should have a very bright future at the Etihad if he can continue to develop his defensive capabilities.
84. Jonny Evans (Leicester)
In a transfer market where Harry Maguire costs £80m, his former centre-back partner Evans offers a rare example of value for money. Leicester bought the Northern Ireland international for a cut-price £3.5m form relegated West Brom in summer 2018, and the 31-year-old has proved to be a predictably astute signing.
Evans was an ever-present for the Foxes after Christmas, racking up 28 appearances in all competitions. He arguably enjoyed a better season than Maguire overall, but now has his old colleague’s sizeable shoes to help fill alongside Caglar Soyuncu. Brendan Rodgers would want few others to do it.
83. Tammy Abraham (Chelsea)
The biggest question hanging over Chelsea during the summer was whether Abraham or Olivier Giroud would be leading the line at Stamford Bridge this season. But no more: after a brilliant start to the campaign, it’s Blues academy graduate Abraham who is justifying the No.9 shirt.
The 21-year-old struck 26 goals on loan at Aston Villa last year, and Chelsea’s transfer ban has given Abraham the opportunity he deserves with the club he joined as an under-8. It’s likely that the youth-friendly Frank Lampard would have done so anyway for this Golden Boot dark horse.
82. James Tarkowski (Burnley)
Presumably Sean Dyche has a photograph of Tarkowski on his office wall, such is his standing as the archetypal Clarets poster boy. Strong in the air, good on the ground and an asset in both boxes, Tarkowski combines grit with guile to make him one of the Premier League’s top stoppers.
The England international has comfortably filled the void left by Michael Keane’s departure in 2017, striking up a formidable partnership with the similarly underappreciated Ben Mee. There was talk of the 26-year-old making a similar £40m move to Leicester over the summer, but nothing came to fruition.
Tarkowski comfortably led the league for blocks per game last season, and ranked in the top 10 for aerial duels won and clearances made. Solid.
81. Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham)
Sanchez’s start to 2019/20 has been out of kilter with his previous performances for Spurs. He’s usually a fairly reliable and composed operator in Tottenham’s backline, but the Colombia international’s opening matches have been littered with personal errors.
Against Aston Villa he committed the cardinal sin of being caught out by a straight ball over the top, following a hopeful punt from Tyrone Mings. He also struggled in the north London derby against Arsenal, albeit while playing in the unfamiliar role of right-back. These dodgy displays are likely to be a blip, however, and Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping to see Sanchez back to his domineering best soon. “He’s a beast,” said his manager last season.
80. Martin Dubravka (Newcastle)
Dubravka started his football career as a right-winger – not that you’d be able to tell. The Slovakian has been imperious between the sticks for the Magpies since joining from Sparta Prague on an initial loan in January 2018. He easily led the league for high claims last season, and the 6ft 3in stopper is also competent at playing out from the back.
Dubravka’s form attracted attention from a number of heavy hitters over the summer, but the 30-year-old insisted that his head was never turned. “I was never thinking about leaving,” he told the Newcastle Chronicle before the Magpies’ season opener against Arsenal. “They told me they wanted to see the other keepers playing in pre-season and I accepted that. I have just been training hard. I want to be the best.”
79. Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)
Fraser’s blow-up took everyone by surprise last season. The man who was signed by Eddie Howe when Bournemouth were in League One and had long been an inconsistent bit-part player for the Cherries became pivotal in one of the league’s best offences. The flying Scotsman played every single game of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign, racking up seven goals and 14 assists in the process.
Arsenal interest was mooted, but nothing serious materialised and Fraser stayed put with the club that brought him to England from Aberdeen six years ago. Another strong campaign might make next summer’s conclusion different.
78. Willy Boly (Wolves)
Five-goal humpings against Chelsea aside, Wolves have generally asserted themselves as one of the Premier League’s toughest sides since winning promotion in 2017/18. A fine defensive record in their first campaign back helped them into Europe – and arguably, no stopper was better than Boly in achieving it.
The Frenchman was a coup for Nuno’s side in the Championship, and seamlessly adapted to a higher level as expected. Four goals were an added bonus.
77. John McGinn (Aston Villa)
Aston Villa fans couldn’t wait to see McGinn in the Premier League. It didn’t take him long to make an impact in the top flight either, as the Scotsman celebrated his side’s top-flight return with a fine goal on the opening weekend against Tottenham.
The 24-year-old is a terrific swiss army knife of a player: technically proficient, tenacious and a fine passer who knits together his team’s play. A daft bargain for £3 million.
76. Nick Pope (Burnley)
After missing the entirety of 2018/19 with a dislocated shoulder, Pope has made a terrific return to the Clarets first team. The inconspicuous signing from Charlton in 2011 had previously cut his teeth with a string of loan spells in non-league before Sean Dyche paid just over £1m for his services in 2016.
Pope’s breakout season in 2017/18 earned him a thoroughly deserved place in England’s World Cup squad, and his form since returning from injury has got the 27-year-old back in.
75. Danny Rose (Tottenham)
Rose was reportedly ‘exploring other opportunities’ as recently as July, with the England international left out of the Lilywhites squad that travelled to Hong Kong in pre-season. Fast-forward two months and it’s hard to envisage the left-back leaving Spurs any time soon.
The 29-year-old has started each of Tottenham’s opening fixtures, performing his duties diligently despite receiving little defensive assistance from his side’s narrow midfield. Ben Davies and Ryan Sessegnon will push the England man for a starting spot, but right now he’s the clear first choice for Mauricio Pochettino.
74. James Milner (Liverpool)
Milner surely has access to the fountain of youth. The 33-year-old plays with the same energy and enthusiasm that he demonstrated during his breakthrough at Leeds, and smashed Liverpool’s gruelling pre-season fitness tests once again.
Once an unfashionable player who was viewed reductively as a hard worker, such a perception of Milner has finally been revised. Under Jurgen Klopp’s management, the evergreen Yorkshireman has been deployed in a variety of positions – selfless and ultra-professional as ever.
73. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Pulisic is in for an important season. The boy who grew up next to a chocolate factory has just made the first major move of his career from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea, but it’s unlikely to faze him – what with being his country of 327 million’s shining star since he was a teenager.
Now 20, Pulisic has been looking forward to plying his trade in the Premier League for some time. “It has long been a dream to play in England,” he told FFT this summer (issue 303). “I had a gut feeling that Chelsea was the right choice. It’s pretty cool that Frank will be my coach – and Chelsea have a great squad.” He’s just made it better.
72. Michael Keane (Everton)
Harry Maguire might steal the headlines, but there’s another slab-headed centre-back in the north-west who's equally dominant in the air. Keane initially struggled at Everton but enjoyed a superb 2018/19 under Marco Silva at Goodison Park.
As well as his defensive nous which helped keep the Toffees lean and mean, the 26-year-old demonstrated passing ability that still makes him a favourite of Gareth Southgate’s. The less said about that Kosovo game the better, mind.
71. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester)
Throughout the chaos – good and bad – that has occurred at the King Power Stadium over the last decade, Schmeichel’s presence between the sticks has been a welcome constant. Now in his eighth season with the Foxes following a £1.5m move from Leeds in 2011, the Dane has worked under eight different managers, secured a nomination for FIFA’s goalkeeper of the year, won a Premier League title and played in the Champions League.
Not even the arrival of Danny Ward at the beginning of last season has threatened the 32-year-old’s place in Leicester’s first team. Few goalkeepers demonstrate such consistency.
70. Lucas Moura (Tottenham)
Spurs’ Champions League hero of 2018/19 has been impressive in his supporting role since arriving at Tottenham in January 2018. The 27-year-old bagged 10 goals in the Premier League last term but saved his best performances for Europe, netting a stunning second-half hat-trick against Ajax in the Champions League which ensured the Lilywhites’ progression to an historic final.
“This was the most special and remarkable game of my life,” he told FFT this summer. “A hat-trick in the Champions League semi-final like that is God's gift. I’ll never forget it. It’s in my heart.”
69. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal)
We don’t truly know how good Pepe is yet, but the 24-year-old Ivorian was a standout star of Ligue 1 in 2018/19 and ran Kylian Mbappe close for the league’s player-of-the-season prize. He’s already won his first piece of ‘silverware’ with Arsenal – the lesser-spotted “I Dribbled Past Virgil van Dijk” award, having become the first player to successfully beat the Dutchman in 50 games.
If Unai Emery can hone his developing talent, the Gunners will have a lethal player on their hands.
68. Jordan Pickford (Everton)
England’s No.1 and committed raver Pickford hasn’t missed a second of Premier League action for Everton since joining the club in 2017. The former Sunderland stopper may only measure marginally over 6ft, but he makes up for his lack of stature with incredible reflexes and jumping ability.
Pickford is also renowned for barking instructions at his team-mates, and despite Marco Silva’s attempts to calm him down, the 25-year-old has promised to keep up this side of his game. “Calmness I’ve definitely thought about a lot, but I’ll still be doing all my shouting,” he told Sky Sports. Pray for those TV pitchside microphones.
67. Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal)
Guendouzi has followed up on his breakout 2018/19 season by earning a full call-up to Didier Deschamps’ France squad. Dynamic, creative and boasting composure that defies his tender years, the 20-year-old is already one of Unai Emery’s most trusted operators despite having only stepped up from Ligue 2 level just over a year ago.
Insight into Guendouzi’s burgeoning development could be found in September’s north London derby, where he covered more ground than any other Gunners player in a man-of-the-match display. Here’s the present and future of Arsenal’s midfield.
66. Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham)
Did anyone really see Sissoko transforming into one of the most effective midfielders in the Premier League last season? The long-derided Frenchman, who cost Spurs £30m in summer 2016, finally silenced his critics with a string of star turns at the heart of Mauricio Pochettino’s midfield.
“You have to look forward, try to improve, keep fighting and one day the thing will change,” Sissoko said in an interview with the Guardian. “I never wanted to leave Spurs. I knew that I could have success here.”
65. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)
Long considered one of the most effective operators in the Premier League, Doucoure’s talents were in demand again this summer when Everton came in with a hefty deadline-day bid for the Frenchman. The Toffees’ approach was unsurprisingly rebuffed, as Marco Silva’s plans to reunite the midfielder with his former team-mate Richarlison were thwarted.
Though the Hornets did manage to prevent Doucoure departing this summer, the 26-year-old has made no secret of his ambitions to play at the highest level. “Playing in the Champions League is one of my dreams and a lot of the squad want to do it as well,” he said. “I think I can do it in the next few years.” We think so too.
64. Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham)
Lo Celso is the future of Spurs’ midfield. Although Christian Eriksen didn’t get his move away from north London this summer, the Dane’s days at the club are surely numbered. Lo Celso will likely have to pick up the creative slack when Eriksen departs – but luckily for Mauricio Pochettino, the 23-year-old is more than capable.
The Argentine starred at Real Betis last season, showing off his adeptness at receiving possession in deep areas and driving his team forward (he completed more dribbles than any other Betis player in 2018/19). Lo Celso is also comfortable higher up the pitch, dropping off into pockets of space, and also offers a goal threat – he scored 16 in all competitions last campaign. A cruel early-season injury has hampered his progress.
63. Teemu Pukki (Norwich)
The Pukki party just won’t stop. After scoring 29 Championship goals on his way to the EFL Player of the Year award last campaign, the Finnish hotshot has continued to finish his chances with ruthless efficiency in the top flight.
Pukki was signed on a free transfer in summer 2018, making him one of the finest bargains in second-tier history. If he can keep Norwich up, legendary status awaits at Carrow Road.
62. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)
Grealish’s transformation from fun-loving youngster to Aston Villa’s inspirational skipper has been remarkable. Fined by the club as recently as 2016 for attending a hotel party until the early hours, the 23-year-old has since knuckled down and was rewarded with the captain’s armband by Dean Smith in 2018.
Grealish relished the increased responsibility, and his performances were a key factor in Aston Villa securing promotion to the Premier League – no player in the Championship was as influential after he returned from injury. At this rate, England caps won’t be far away.
61. Manuel Lanzini (West Ham)
After a season ravaged by injury, Lanzini is back and has signed a fresh four-year contract to celebrate. The Argentine is clearly making up for lost time as well, returning to Manuel Pellegrini’s starting XI and showing the craftwork that got him into Argentina’s 2018 World Cup squad.
The 26-year-old is eager to bring his first trophy to the London Stadium this campaign. “It’s difficult, but why not?” he said. “Leicester won the Premier League three years ago. It’s difficult, but we need to believe.”
60. Sebastien Haller (West Ham)
Did Real Madrid sign the wrong Frankfurt front man? While Luka Jovic is struggling to fit in at the Bernabeu, his former Eagles colleague Haller is settling into Premier League life with West Ham nicely. The Frenchman has scored at a promising rate for the Hammers, including an improvised bicycle kick at Watford.
Rangy, strong, mobile and unselfish, Haller is the perfect man to lead the line for Manuel Pellegrini’s side this season. It looks like West Ham have finally broken the curse that stopped them from signing decent strikers for over a decade.
59. Fabian Schar (Newcastle)
The Toon Army absolutely love Schar – quite understandably. In what has been a bleak few seasons for the Magpies, the Switzerland international’s assured performances have offered regular reason for cheer in the north-east.
Schar put in six (official) man-of-the-match performances for Newcastle last season: more than Sergio Aguero, Pierre-Erick Aubameyang and even PFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk. He was a huge reason his side only leaked 48 goals – the joint-7th-best record in the league.
58. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester)
It’s easy to forget that Ndidi is only 22. The Nigerian is closing in on 200 club appearances – four of which came in the Champions League for Leicester, when he was terrific in their knockout matches against Sevilla and Atletico Madrid.
Ndidi’s ball winning has earned him widespread admiration: he led the league for tackles and was also in the top three for interceptions in 2018/19. If the young midfielder can improve his ball retention under Brendan Rodgers, the Foxes might just be batting off higher interest for him.
57. Jorginho (Chelsea)
A scapegoat for Chelsea’s perceived failings last year, but in reality Jorginho is one of the best possession-oriented midfielders in the Premier League. Adept at dribbling his way out of trouble and blessed with sublime vision, the Italy international perhaps didn’t get to show off his full talents under Maurizio Sarri.
New Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is another big Jorginho fan, though, and has lavished praise on his midfielder. “He can change a game, lead a game, own a game from midfield areas,” said the Blues chief. “He’s just a fantastic sportsman who cares deeply.” Aww.
56. Dele Alli (Tottenham)
Alli has never quite reached the lofty heights he soared to in the 2016/17 season. Since that breakout year, when he scored 18 Premier League goals, the Englishman’s numbers have decreased thanks to injury – but he remains a vital player for Mauricio Pochettino.
Tanguy Ndombele’s signing should help Alli return to his former form, providing the 23-year-old with extra defensive cover and allowing him to focus his efforts on the final third.
55. Joel Matip (Liverpool)
This time last year, Matip was barely getting a sniff in Liverpool’s first team. Twelve months on, just try dropping him. Having taken advantage of Dejan Lovren’s patchy form and a long-term injury to Joe Gomez, the 28-year-old has been immovable ever since.
The Cameroon international is now a Champions League winner, and the dependable ally of a seemingly unflappable Virgil van Dijk. "Not a lot of people spoke about the impact Joel had in the last third of the season," Jurgen Klopp said in the summer, when answering a question about Van Dijk. That’s now changing.
54. Nathan Aké (Bournemouth)
Incredibly, Aké hasn’t missed a single Premier League game since joining Bourenmouth permanently in the summer of 2017. The Dutchman collected both the fans’ and players’ player-of-the-season awards in his maiden campaign, rewarding a string of terrific performances under Eddie Howe.
Aké’s all-round defensive capabilities are complemented by his silky ball work, owing to his previous experiences of playing in central midfield. Chelsea made sure to include a buy-back clause in the negotiations that led to the Dutchman heading south, and you wouldn’t be surprised if they triggered it post-transfer ban. Aged 24, he’s exactly the kind of player Frank Lampard would want at Stamford Bridge.
53. Ashley Barnes (Burnley)
It’s about time Barnes got the respect that he deserves. Now in his fifth Premier League season, the striker has performed the difficult task of leading the line for a direct Burnley side – and seemingly improved year on year.
Unselfish, hard-working and technically excellent, the 29-year-old has also showcased his penchant for the spectacular – as both West Brom and West Ham found out in 2018.
Barnes scored 12 goals for the Clarets last season and has made a strong start to his 2019/20 campaign. His England opportunity has probably passed now, but the fact he’s in the conversation shows how far he’s come.
52. Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
Jesus had an eventful summer, making up for what was an underwhelming club campaign. The 22-year-old played his part for Brazil as they won the Copa America for the first time since 2007, scoring two goals en route to the title. One of those came in the final – where he was also sent off.
Jesus will be desperate for a similar level of success at the Etihad Stadium this campaign, but needs more playing time. He’s among the league’s finest finishers but only managed eight starts in 2018/19, and Sergio Aguero’s place in the side looks as safe as ever. You don’t envy the Brazilian.
51. Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)
Chelsea’s start to 2019/20 was characterised by dodgy defending, but Frank Lampard knew life would become easier once Rudiger returned from injury. The German only missed five games last season, and was arguably the Blues’ standout player behind a Real Madrid-bound Eden Hazard.
Rudiger was forced off 45 minutes into his return against Wolves as Chelsea ran riot at Molineux, but should be back soon to improve Lampard’s developing side.
50. Victor Lindelof (Manchester United)
After arriving at Manchester United to much fanfare in the summer of 2017, Lindelof endured a torrid first season at Old Trafford. Two high-profile errors in an away loss to Huddersfield epitomised his woes, and some doubted whether the Swede would ever recover.
But nobody worries about that any more. Two seasons on, Lindelof has established himself as a reliable figure at the heart of United’s backline, and forged a promising early-season partnership with Harry Maguire this season.
49. Ben Chilwell (Leicester)
Having properly broken into Leicester’s first team from their academy in the 2016/17 season, Chilwell has since developed rapidly into one of the Premier League’s most exciting full-backs. He’s most impressive in an attacking sense, but has improved the defensive side of his game to make him a viable contender at international level too.
Aged 22, Chilwell looks most likely to establish himself as Gareth Southgate’s long-term first choice at left-back. Frankly, his short-term prospects are looking good too.
48. Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Fernandinho may be 34, but his importance to Manchester City was displayed in full last campaign when the Brazilian’s two-game absence over Christmas coincided with two of his team’s four defeats that season.
Pep Guardiola knew he needed a long-term replacement and duly spent £63m on Rodri, the 23-year-old Spaniard who has since taken Fernandinho’s starting spot at the Etihad. Rest assured, though: the experienced Brazilian would improve every other side in the Premier League right now.
47. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
Tottenham skipper Lloris has remained between the sticks in north London for a seventh consecutive season.
France’s World Cup winner is among the Premier League’s finest shot-stoppers, and though his kicking has always been used as a stick to beat him with, the 32-year-old is more often than not a reliable goalkeeper Spurs proudly count as one of their own.
46. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal)
Ceballos was crowned an Arsenal hero after his star performance against Burnley in the opening month of the campaign, sending Gunners delirious with an outrageous piece of skill that took him away from three Clarets midfielders.
But perhaps it was a tad premature. The 23-year-old Real Madrid loanee hasn’t managed to sustain those high levels since, and Unai Emery will be counting on his compatriot to grow into the season and show off his unquestionable quality. Ceballos is clearly an excellent signing, but being a flat-track bully all year won’t wash.
45. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester)
On pure ability, Mahrez is much higher on this list. In reality, he’s still struggling to assert himself in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City first team.
The Algerian started 14 matches as City romped to another Premier League title, contributing seven goals and four assists after his long-awaited and deserved transfer from Leicester. It’s just a shame he doesn’t get to show off his talents more often.
44. Ricardo Pereira (Leicester)
Ricardo is the archetypal modern full-back: a constant attacking threat down the right who has also improved his defensive discipline since arriving in the East Midlands in summer 2018. The Portugal international made the fourth-most tackles in the Premier League last season, and added six assists for good measure.
With that, Ricardo snagged the Foxes’ player-of-the-year award and should now continue to thrive in Brendan Rodgers’ more attack-minded tactical system. Another strong campaign might turn last summer’s reported interest from Juventus into something more serious.
43. Richarlison (Everton)
Richarlison made a remarkable start in English football at Watford during the 2017/18 season, and his former manager Marco Silva had no hesitation in encouraging Everton to shell out a hefty fee that could rise to £50m one year later.
The 22-year-old Brazilian has since adapted his game from wide man to target man, and netted 13 goals in his debut campaign at Goodison Park. Richarlison can also now add international glory onto his list of accomplishments, having tasted Copa America success in the summer for Brazil. He even scored in the final.
42. Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham)
The signing that Tottenham fans were crying out for. Daniel Levy duly obliged by smashing Spurs’ transfer record to sign the former Lyon midfielder, who looks a ready-made replacement for January departure Mousa Dembele.
The 21-year-old introduced himself to Tottenham fans with a goal and assist from his opening two games of the season, before an early injury halted his promising start. Expect the France international to rise quickly on this list if he can replicate his fine 2018/19 season under Mauricio Pochettino.
41. Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea)
Signed as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper for a whopping £72m last summer, Chelsea’s No.1 has gone some way to demonstrating why the Blues were willing to part with such a mammoth transfer fee. The Spaniard kept 14 clean sheets in the Premier League last season, and also made pivotal saves in the EFL Cup and Europa League semi-final penalty shootout wins against Tottenham and Frankfurt respectively.
He’s still best known for his fall-out with Maurizio Sarri in the League Cup final defeat to Manchester City, however, after refusing to be substituted when he was suffering from cramp.
40. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Rashford has a lot of pressure on him for a 21-year-old. The explosive nature of his breakout in 2016, when he scored braces on both his Europa League and Premier League debuts, set the bar high. As a result, the youngster’s performances tend to be examined with a fine-tooth comb – he’s at Manchester United, after all.
The Wythenshawe-born frontman has been shoved and shunted around United’s frontline as managers have come and gone, but last season achieved a career-best 10 goals and six assists in an otherwise-disappointing campaign for the Reds. To Rashford, it means more. “Say we lose a game; it affects me more than it should because I’m a fan,” he told the Times. “It hurts every day to see where we are now, [compared] to where we’ve been in the past. It makes me more determined to put the club back where they belong.”
39. Joao Moutinho (Wolves)
It wasn’t entirely obvious how Moutinho would fare in the Premier League. He was 31 when Wolves signed him for a paltry £5m, and despite his pedigree as Portugal’s third-highest-capped player of all time, had never played domestic football outside of his home country or France.
But fans needn’t have worried: Moutinho (now 33) was exceptional alongside his compatriot Ruben Neves, racking up eight assists for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side as they qualified for the Europa League – a competition he won with Porto in 2010/11. A joy to watch.
38. Youri Tielemans (Leicester)
Getting Tielemans on a six-month loan deal for the second half of 2018/19 was a coup for Leicester, let alone tying him down to a permanent transfer for £40m this summer. The Foxes weren't the only club interested after the Belgian had a hand in seven goals across his 13 Premier League matches at the King Power, but the 22-year-old liked what he’d seen in Brendan Rodgers’ promising side.
Tielemans is now part of an exciting young midfield alongside the likes of Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison and Hamza Choudhury, and Leicester’s bid to crack the top six will depend a lot on him.
37. Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
He may have lost his place in the England squad for September’s European qualifiers, but the versatile Walker remains a fine attacking right-back who helps to keep this terrific Manchester City ticking.
The 29-year-old has improved his positional sense and passing under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, but still manages to terrify opposition full-backs with his pace: a top speed of 22mph in setting up Gabriel Jesus on the opening day was faster than any recorded in the entire 2018/19 season. He’s keeping £60m new signing Joao Cancelo on the bench.
36. Raul Jimenez (Wolves)
A Mexican hotshot with a passion for lucha libre, Jimenez was a surprising revelation of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign. He’d arrived on loan off the back of an underwhelming season at Benfica (six goals in 33 games), but proved to be one of the season’s finest signings with 17 goals in all competitions.
Like Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota before him, Jimenez made an immediate impact. The 28-year-old was directly involved in 45% of his team’s goals as Wolves romped to a surprise seventh-place finish, and then grabbed six to help his side reach the Europa League group stage.
35. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Zaha was heavily linked with moves to Premier League rivals Arsenal and Everton in the summer, and even asked to leave his boyhood club, but the Ivorian didn’t get his wish.
Last season was the 26-year-old’s first 10-goal league haul as Palace avoided the drop, but his overall contributions were essential in the general absence – through injury or otherwise – of strikers at Selhurst Park. What would Roy Hodgson’s side do without him?
34. Ruben Neves (Wolves)
Opposition sides have learned the hard way that giving Neves any space on the edge of your penalty area can be fatal. It doesn’t really matter how far out he is: the Portuguese central midfielder only deals in screamers and will punish you accordingly.
The 22-year-old has scored nine goals from outside the box since joining Wolves in 2017, and Manchester United were his latest victims in August. He doesn’t get too many – Neves’s talents are grounded in pinpoint passing and those raking long balls he loves – but when he does, you’ll remember it.
33. Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Who is the real Pogba? The one who plundered eight goals and assisted two more from Boxing Day to early February? Or the one who meanders around midfield being frustratingly ineffective for an underachieving Manchester United far more than expected?
The truth, as ever, is somewhere in between. The Frenchman hit top form at the perfect time to earn himself a place in the PFA Team of the Season, and ended the campaign with 13 goals and nine assists. You’d love to see him playing further forward, but a player of his undeniable talent should be doing more with what he’s got – wherever he is on the pitch.
32. Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)
Wilson’s start to Premier League life was miserable. In the September of his first top-flight season (2015/16), he ruptured his ACL. The striker returned, eased into life – and then crockrd the ACL on his other knee in February 2017.
But what a return it’s been since. After easing himself through 2017/18 with eight goals in 28 appearances, the 27-year-old was brilliant in 2018/19 – directly involved in around 43% of Bournemouth’s goals, having scored 14 and laid on 10 more.
Wilson made a scoring international debut for England against the USA in November 2018, and will be confident of making England’s Euro 2020 squad. He’s comfortably one of the finest all-round strikers in the Premier League these days, and kicked off the current campaign with three goals in his first five matches.
31. Rodri (Manchester City)
Rodri was a smart acquisition from Atletico Madrid by Pep Guardiola during the summer. Part of City’s struggles last season – which nearly saw them relinquish their Premier League crown to Liverpool – stemmed from a lack of alternative options to Fernandinho, but the 23-year-old Spaniard has eased concerns over a long-term successor.
City didn’t hesitate to trigger his €70m release clause, and the Spain international should soon settle to show Premier League fans what he’s capable of.
30. Georgino Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
Wijnaldum was a mainstay in the Liverpool side which won the Champions League and racked up a record 97 points in the Premier League.
The 28-year-old is arguably one of the top flight’s most underrated players, surrounded by headline-hogging stars who dazzle for Jurgen Klopp’s side on a weekly basis, but it says a lot that the Holland international is virtually undroppable despite facing fierce competition from James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the Reds’ engine room.
29. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United)
After a brilliant debut Premier League season for Crystal Palace in 2018/19, Wan-Bissaka earned a move to Old Trafford for a £50m transfer fee. Arguably, he’s already the second-best right-back in the Premier League – a terrific defender who tackles like a player possessed and is rarely bettered by opposition wide men.
The 21-year-old looks like a solid investment for the Red Devils, and adds to a ludicrous pool of England right-backs that currently includes Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier.
28. Lucas Digne (Everton)
Digne’s career was stagnating before he arrived at Goodison Park in 2018. Restricted to just 12 La Liga appearances for Barcelona, the Frenchman cut his losses and moved to the Premier League – where he was an instant hit with Everton fans.
Bernard’s propensity to drift inside frequently gives Digne an entire left flank to operate down. He made full use of this privilege last campaign, scoring four goals and registering four assists – a haul that could quite easily double this term. Digne’s dead-balls are often a potent weapon. The 26-year-old scored a beautiful trio of free-kicks last season, and was up to similar antics this campaign when curling one in from 30 yards against Lincoln in the EFL Cup.
27. James Maddison (Leicester)
Maddison has swiftly morphed from promising talent to midfield superstar. The 22-year-old arrived at Leicester from Norwich for £20m fresh from winning the Canaries’ player-of-the-season award, and slotted straight into the Foxes’ first team with an eye-catching debut at Old Trafford.
It’s been much of the same ever since. A supremely confident Maddison provides a young Leicester team’s creative impetus, and he carved out more chances for his team-mates than anyone else in the Premier League last term. England call-ups are yet to produce a cap, but the stylish operator seems destined to be a regular for his national team eventually.
26. Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)
Despite Aldeweireld’s contract at Spurs coming to an end next summer, the Belgian is still an important figure in this Tottenham side. It’s a miracle he’s still around in north London, however, after no club triggered his £25m release clause in the summer.
Alderweireld’s partnership with countryman Jan Vertonghen remains one of the most formidable defensive duos in the Premier League, and helped Spurs leak the joint-third-fewest goals last season.
25. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s best buddy might not score quite any many goals as his Gabonese colleague, but the Frenchman is a more rounded footballer who assisted 10 goals for Arsenal last campaign while contributing 13 of his own.
The 28-year-old’s dribbling, hold-up play and finishing make Unai Emery’s side a force to be reckoned with at home and on the continent, and Lacazette will be depended upon to help his side bring Champions League football back in 2020.
24. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
He’s not fashionable for fans to love, but Liverpool captain Henderson is an essential part of this Liverpool side pushing a remarkable Manchester City all the way. The 29-year-old has improved hugely under Jurgen Klopp’s management, filling the shoes of former captain Steven Gerrard brilliantly.
The former Sunderland man is also a key figure of Gareth Southgate’s England side, and currently keeping younger prospects like Harry Winks, Mason Mount and James Maddison out of the starting line-up with consistent high-level performances for club and country.
23. Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
The 32-year-old Vardy is now entering his sixth Premier League season, but shows no signs of slowing down. The former England international hit 18 goals last season, despite admitting that he struggled to perform in Claude Puel’s conservative tactical system which led to Brendan Rodgers’ arrival in February.
Since the Northern Irishman took over, Vardy has returned to his electric best. He’ll struggle to get close to his remarkable 24-goal haul of 2015/16, but 78 in 147 appearances over the last four-and-a-bit campaigns is some going.
22. David Silva (Manchester City)
The Spaniard is now in his final season as a Manchester City player, having announced this summer that his 10th year at the Etihad would be a fitting way to call it a day.
Yet despite being 33, Silva remains one of the best midfielders in the Premier League – and certainly one of its all-time greats. Prodding, poking, finding gaps that don’t exist: few are capable of doing it better than the man they call Merlin.
21. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
Eriksen was desperate for Real Madrid or Barcelona to come calling in the summer, but neither did and the creative Dane will be a Tottenham player until January at least. His contract expires this summer, and Daniel Levy would be loathe to lose him for nothing.
It’s hard to escape the fact that Mauricio Pochettino’s side are simply much better with Eriksen in their team, however. The Denmark international can be accused of going missing in some of Spurs’ bigger games, but there are few better creative talents in the top flight – Eriksen has managed 10+ assists in the last four seasons.
New arrival Giovani Lo Celso may represent Spurs’ long-term future, but for now they’d better enjoy Eriksen’s midfield talents while they can.
20. Harry Maguire (Manchester United)
After two impressive seasons at Leicester, not to mention a headline-grabbing 2018 World Cup with England, Maguire finally got the big move he craved in joining Manchester United for a world record fee of £80m in summer 2019.
Maguire stands above his peers (often literally) thanks to his comfort in possession and ability to start attacks from deep, but the 26-year-old is also a terrific and domineering defender who should solve a long-standing problem at Old Trafford. He’s a huge asset from set-pieces at either end, too – you don't get a nickname like ‘Slabhead’ for nothing – and will play a huge role as United look to re-establish themselves among Europe’s elite.
19. Ederson (Manchester City)
A solid shot-stopper, comfortable with the ball at his feet but with an ability to punt a football very, very far upfield: Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson is one of the top all-round goalkeepers in the world right now.
Despite not having the same on-field impact as other Manchester City players, the 26-year-old is still one of the most important men for Pep Guardiola’s team. His tidy distribution from deep is crucial to how City play, and it’s difficult to see him being ousted from between the sticks in Manchester for a long time indeed.
18. Fabinho (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder was a terrific acquisition for Jurgen Klopp’s side last season, and the 25-year-old played a huge part in the Reds’ Champions League-winning season. Fabinho’s height is a useful asset for Liverpool, while his defensive solidity and neat play in possession help the star names ahead of him thrive.
Gary Neville recently hailed him as the Premier League’s finest defensive midfielder, saying: “He doesn’t sit back in games. These holding midfield players who just play horizontally, passing sideways, shuttling across, but Fabinho plays vertically as well. I think the best holding midfield players aren’t just people who basically shuffle across and make it look simple, they also step into the game.”
17. Son Hueng-min (Tottenham)
Son had a memorable 2018/19, registering 12 league goals and seven assists – his best ever numbers for Spurs, despite missing several matches through international duty. His most significant achievement was winning the Asian Games with South Korea, earning Son and his team-mates exemption from military service.
Not only is that terrific for the Spurs talisman’s quiff, it’s also a huge relief for Mauricio Pochettino. Son’s direct nature and consistent quality – just rewatch that volley against Crystal Palace – make him incredibly difficult to replace on the Tottenham High Road.
16. David de Gea (Manchester United)
Ederson and Allison are relatively new kids on the block when it comes to the finest Premier League goalkeepers, but they have some way to go to match De Gea’s levels of consistency.
Manchester United have been heavily indebted to their Spaniard’s athleticism since Alex Ferguson retired – it speaks volumes that he was their player of the year in four of the five season that followed the Scot’s departure. De Gea’s 2018/19 wasn’t so hot, but he’s allowed a blip. Tying him down to a new contract was United’s best business of the summer.
15. Allison (Liverpool)
Football fans gasped at the £66m record fee (well, briefly) for Roma’s goalkeeper just over a year ago, then quickly forgot about their misgivings when they saw him play. After a ropy start when his Flatley footwork got him into trouble, Alisson settled in behind the league’s meanest defence.
The ghosts of former goalkeeping calamities were laid to rest as Alisson became only the fifth goalkeeper in Premier League history to record 20 clean sheets in a season – finishing on 21 overall and beating Pepe Reina’s club record of 20 en route.
Liverpool’s No.1 is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, and it’s not hard to understand why Reds are desperate to have him back.
14. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
It speaks to Bernardo’s dazzling quality that he managed to stand out in a Manchester City side that claimed its second straight league title, with the Premier League’s second-highest points total of all time last season.
The Portugal international made more appearances than any other City player, stepping beautifully into central midfield when key man Kevin De Bruyne was sidelined through injury. “He enjoys every training session and game. I love him, it's simple like that,” beamed his manager in May.
13. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
Scotland international Robertson has been nothing short of a revelation at Anfield. The left-back racked up 11 Premier League assists in tandem with Trent Alexander-Arnold last season, causing Jose Mourinho to remark after one of his final Manchester United games: “I’m still tired just looking at him.”
Now a Champions League winner, the 25-year-old epitomises the hard running and endless desire of Jurgen Klopp’s breathless Reds side. Arguably one of the league’s most enjoyable players to watch.
12. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
One of the four players to rack up more assists than Robertson last season? Step forward Alexander-Arnold, who is practically redefining the role of a right-back right now with his creative quality.
The England international, still only 20, is a brilliant passer who carves out chances for Liverpool’s fearsome front three all over the pitch. Whether from set-pieces, pinpoint crosses or raking cross-field balls: you name it, Trent’s got it in his repertoire.
Twenty years old. Life is unfair.
11. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
Some sceptics wondered whether signing another striker so soon after the similarly expensive Alexandre Lacazette was a sensible use of the Gunners’ transfer budget, after Aubameyang arrived at the Emirates Stadium for £56m in 2018.
Fortunately for the Gunners, the Gabonese livewire has replicated the scoring form he showcased at Borussia Dortmund, registering 37 goals in 54 Premier League appearances and sharing the Golden Boot in his first full season at the club. Money well spent.
10. Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
Manchester City’s season has been severely dented by a serious knee injury which will keep Laporte out for around six months. It’s got the potential to be a title-crippling blow: the centre-back’s form has been exceptional ever since he arrived from Athletic Club in January 2018, and he’s near-impossible to replace from within.
The stylish left-footed centre-half is adept at playing out from the back, defends with confidence and even pops up with an important goal every so often. He would have been the man to take over defensive leadership responsibilities from Vincent Kompany – but for now he’ll be a helpless onlooker.
9. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
By his own freakishly high standards, last season was somewhat underwhelming for Kane. The England captain only managed 17 goals from 28 appearances, as injuries and constant chatter of fatigue halted his scoring rate. It’s been a fairly sluggish start to 2019/20 too.
But doubt him at your peril. Kane is arguably the best all-round frontman in the Premier League: a fine finisher from all angles, strong in his hold-up play and a leader by example. If he stays fit, another 20-goal campaign is a virtual dead cert.
8. Sadio Mané (Liverpool)
Last season’s joint-top goalscorer in the Premier League has carried on where he left off, scoring four goals in his opening five matches for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
The Senegalese forward’s direct running and link-up play with his Liverpool team-mates makes him one of the most feared forwards in the league – especially if you don’t pass to him, as Mohamed Salah found out at Turf Moor. Don’t be surprised if he manages to go one better and claim the Golden Boot for his own this year.
7. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
“Mo Salah, world class but not every day. Sadio Mané, world class but not every day. Roberto Firmino, world class pretty much every day.”
Hard to find a better endorsement than that – not least when it comes from your own manager. Firmino is the string that links Liverpool’s exciting front three together, dropping deep to give Salah and Mané more space in behind and generally facilitating the excellence around him.
That outrageous cameo against Newcastle was the brilliant Brazilian in a nutshell: selfless, skilful and oh-so-effective.
Roberto Firmino was at his brilliant Brazilian best this afternoon
"You think you'd swap him for Messi or Ronaldo...
...but for what he gives to this football team, there aren't many better!"
His role in Mohamed Salah's goal was just sublime pic.twitter.com/ftdhEdIqVk— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 14, 2019
6. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Aguero has the best minutes-to-goal ratio in Premier League history, having found the net with his 171 strikes every 107 minutes on average.
While the striker is sometimes rotated in Manchester’s City starting line-up with fellow team-mate Gabriel Jesus, the 31-year-old is a clear first choice after adapting brilliantly to Pep Guardiola’s demands. When the Argentine is through one on one, expecting him to score is a safe bet.
Aguero’s elusive movement and finishing precision make him one of the most prolific strikers in English football history. Consistency personified.
5. N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea)
Find a person in the world who doesn’t love N’Golo Kanté. The diminutive Frenchman is a shy and retiring figure off the pitch, but transforms into a ruthless ball-winner on it and has demonstrated his class and consistency with different Premier League champions.
After being given more license to push forward under Maurizio Sarri last campaign, the 28-year-old was also able to display the more technical side of his game in registering four goals and four assists.
A look at his achievements is enough: back-to-back Premier League titles in 2015/16 and 2016/17; PFA Player of the Year; World Cup 2018; Europa League 2018/19.
4. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Anfield’s Egyptian king has also enjoyed a positive start to the current season, scoring four in five matches to take his total up to 58 in 79 league games for the Merseyside club. Salah has also registered a couple of assists in the Premier League, and looks well on course to reach double digits in both categories after narrowly missing out on that feat in 2018/19.
How do you stop him? It doesn’t matter if he cuts inside the defender on his left or bustles down the line to score with his right: Salah usually finds a way. Defenders don’t seem to have an answer.
3. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
After a couple of seasons filled with injury struggles, De Bruyne in back in his usual groove. The Belgian has six assists for Manchester City already this season, and it’s perhaps not surprising that they struggled most (against Norwich) in a game he didn’t start.
Should De Bruyne stay fit, the 28-year-old looks primed for his best season to date at the Etihad Stadium. There’s simply no better passer in the Premier League.
2. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
The England winger is in the form of his life for club and country. Sterling has kicked off 2019/20 with five goals in his opening five league matches, before grabbing two goals and three assists during the September international break with England.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has helped bring Sterling’s positional play to new levels, and the 24-year-old – yes, he’s still only 24 – is now among world football’s greatest goalscorers at the very highest level.
“You look at young players who can be crowned the future best in the world and you still think of Neymar, Mbappe, Salah, and of course Sterling. I look at the moment – and Sterling is winning that race,” said former Barcelona midfielder Xavi this week.
1. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Who else? The towering Dutchman was one of the main reasons why Liverpool recorded 21 clean sheets in 38 Premier League games last season, continuing his transformative effect at Anfield and ending the campaign with Champions League victory to show for it.
No defender has won the Ballon d’Or since 2006, but Van Dijk doesn’t even have a World Cup win behind him for his 1/5 favourite status. He’ll likely win, keeping the Messi-Ronaldo in tatters – and he'll deserve it too.
The 28-year-old instills Reds fans with a long-forgotten sense of confidence at the back, improving those around him and helping full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson thrive further upfield.
As Liverpool fan Matt Ladson put it earlier this week for us: “[There's] laughter when he hits the afterburners and you watch the attacker think: ‘How has he done that?’ Laughter when a shot blasts and he stands still like a mannequin on the training ground to nonchalantly block the attack. Even defending is now enjoyable to watch.”
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