As the season reaches its mid-point over the festive period and the turn of the year, it is time to look back on what has been the most unpredictable of seasons thus far. With champions Chelsea unrecognisably poor and Leicester City top at Christmas, no-one could have predicted what has happened so far.
But amongst the drama and unpredictability, there have been more than a few stand-out performers this season. So, here’s my team of the season so far:
GK: Jack Butland – The Stoke stopper has enjoyed a fabulous campaign so far, making the most saves this season in the Premier League (74). He has kept eight clean sheets and has been relied on massively by Mark Hughes’ men this term, brilliantly replacing Asmir Begovic.
RCB: Toby Alderweireld – After a hugely impressive opening Premier League season at Southampton, Tottenham snapped up the Belgian international for a hefty fee. But he has proved his worth, forming a formidable partnership with Jan Vertonghen at the heart of the Spurs back line. Alderweireld has helped Tottenham to have the best defensive record in the league so far this term.
CB: Scott Dann – Under Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace have climbed into the Top 6 and have proved to be very difficult to beat this season. A large part of that is down to centre-back Dann who has really upped his game this season, alongside Damien Delaney. Some have even tipped the 28-year-old for an England call up.
LCB: Chris Smalling – It has been a very difficult season so far for Louis Van Gaal and for Manchester United. But one glimmer of hope has been the form of centre-half Chris Smalling. Despite some injuries meaning that he has missed numerous games, when he has played United’s defence look much more organised and solid. Smalling has the most clean sheets in the entire league so far this season with 10 and he will be looking to continue this form to earn a starting spot at Euro 2016.
RM: Riyad Mahrez – WOW. What a season the Algerian winger is having for high-flying Leicester. Mahrez has scored 13 goals and notched up 7 assists and has arguably been the best player in the Premier League so far this season. With pace, skills and a wizardry left-foot, he has left defenders for dead over and over again. Leicester will be desperate to keep hold of this gem, even if Europe’s biggest clubs come calling.
CM: N’Golo Kanté – Finding a replacement for the inspirational Esteban Cambiasso was never going to be an easy job for Leicester City after the instrumental role the Argentine veteran played last season in the Greatest Escape. However, Claudio Ranieri signed Kanté and Swiss captain Gökhan Inler to fill the gap. Alongside the very impressive Danny Drinkwater, the 5’6” Frenchman has been absolutely superb, coming in with the most interceptions and second on the list of tackles at the mid-point stage. A brilliant signing, possibly the best of the summer.
LM: Marko Arnautović – Stoke have brought in a number of big names over the last couple of transfer windows but it is one of their more long-term players who has shone the most. The fiery Austrian has calmed down a bit since his transfer from Werder Bremen in 2013 and has concentrated on his football. He works very hard, is skilful and his eye for goal is reinforced with a venomous strike. His role in a front four with Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Bojan Krkić has seen some nickname Mark Hughes’ side as ‘Stokealona.’
CAM: Mesut Özil – After his big money move from Real Madrid, Özil has never quite hit the heights many Arsenal fans have expected. There has never been any doubt in his ability, though, and the German World Cup winner has been in sublime form this season, accumulating 16 assists already this season for the Gunners, closing in on Thierry Henry’s record of 20. His vision and execution is unbelievable at times and the German can expect to be in with a very good chance of winning the PFA Player of the Season award this year.
RS: Odion Ighalo – Many expected Watford to really struggle this season, myself included, and to be relegated immediately back down to the Championship. However, the Hornets have surprised many with some brilliant performances, especially from their deadly strike force of Ighalo and captain Troy Deeney. The pair complement each other so well and the former has bagged himself 14 goals already, a Watford record in the Premier League. Chico Flores will be desperate to keep hold of the Nigerian as some bigger names will surely want to capture the man who scored 30 league goals in 2015, the most in English league football.
ST: Romelu Lukaku – The big Belgian has improved constantly throughout his time in England after Chelsea snapped him up from Anderlecht. After a series of loan spells, Everton splashed the cash on Lukaku and it is starting to look like a real bargain now. Lukaku is the joint top-scorer in the league so far this term and will be looking to capture the golden boot for sure. But will Everton resist if Europe’s elite can offer Champions League football?
LS: Jamie Vardy – The fantasy story of Jamie Vardy is a truly remarkable one. Playing non-league football just four years ago, Leicester paid a record £1m for Vardy who has improved no end. After getting an England call-up at the end of last season, Vardy has racked up 15 league goals this term, level with Lukaku. Vardy grabbed the headlines with his goal against Manchester United in November, which was the 11thconsecutive Premier League game he had scored in, surpassing Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record. Jamie Vardy is certainly having a party, but can the Foxes keep hold of their talisman?