As the 2016/17 season of the English Premier League reaches its halfway point, it is time to name the team of the season so far. The best players were picked using highly scientific methods and are definitely not just the opinions of one person.
In honour of Chelsea being six points clear on top of the table at Christmas, their 3-4-3 formation will be used for the team. It should be noted that quality of performance was prioritised during compilation rather than whether or not players were picked in their actual positions.
Goalkeeper: Tom Heaton (Burnley)
The Premiership is packed to bursting point with quality keepers, with Neuer and Buffon perhaps the only world-class goalies not plying their trade in England. Yet none of the big names have impressed quite so much as the thirty year old Englishman.
His finest moment of the season came when he made eleven saves at Old Trafford as his side somehow kept United from scoring. If Burnley stay up they will owe Heaton a debt of gratitude and it cannot be long before he has supplanted Joe Hart as England’s number one.
Defence: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Virgil Van Dijk (Southampton), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
The dearth of quality defending this season meant selecting even three players was a struggle. Azpilicueta slipped in on account of his unfailing competency in the league’s best defence and Van Dijk has looked the most formidable defender in England.
While Coleman mostly earned his spot largely thanks to his recent equaliser against Arsenal and a stunning off the line clearance in the Merseyside derby, it is a given that he has been consistently excellent all season. There are so few top quality right backs these days, it is important to remember that one of them is an Irishman.
Midfield: Sadio Mané (Liverpool), N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea), Fernandinho (Man City), Adam Lallana (Liverpool)
It is unsurprising that two of Liverpool’s forward thinking midfielders would find their way onto this list. Mané has elevated the team to new heights with his pace and directness, while Lallana has become the centre of a team that once struggled to find a place for him.
Kanté has continued where he left off last season and reached even greater heights. The tireless Frenchman is perhaps the most effective player in the league right now. The frequently underrated Fernandinho, meanwhile, has been the quickest adapter to the Guardiola way.
Forwards: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Diego Costa (Chelsea), Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
How quickly the world forgot the talents of Eden Hazard. His season of poor performances now behind him, he looks every inch the man who was named PFA Player of the Season in 2015. Diego Costa has also left the relative mediocrity of last season behind him and is now the most dangerous forward in the top division.
Yet Sanchez has at times looked better than either, his switch to centre-forward having already yielded twelve goals, as many as Arsenal’s top scorer Giroud managed last season. Take Sanchez out of the team and The Gunners would have been out of the title race by October.
On the bench: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), David Luiz (Chelsea), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Joe Allen (Stoke), Kevin De Bruyne (Man City), Juan Mata (Man Utd) and Sergio Aguero (Man City).