Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton & Hove Albion slideshow

Wembley united to pay tribute to Ray Wilkins during the FA Cup Final, as two of his former clubs battled it out for the domestic season's last piece of silverware. Wilkins, who played for Chelsea and Manchester United in a distinguished career, died of a heart attack last month at the age of 61. Wilkins wore the No.8 shirt for both clubs and Wembley was the scene of one of his most celebrated goals - a curling shot from distance for United against Brighton in the 1983 FA Cup final. There were banners at both the red and blue ends of Wembley to honour Wilkins, who won 84 England caps. In a nod to his shirt number both sets of supporters sang 'there's only one Ray Wilkins' in the eighth minute of the final. There was also a tribute to the man known as 'Butch' in the matchday programme. The England midfielder also won the Cup three times as a coach at Chelsea, including alongside Carlo Ancelotti as part of a domestic Double in 2010. His family were invited to spend the day in Wembley's Royal Box with widow Jackie presenting the trophy to the winning captain. Wilkins' son Ross said: “The FA invited us into the Royal Box. It is an amazing thing to do. It will be an extremely emotional day, given the teams and history, but to effectively hold it in Dad’s memory is unreal. Ray Wilkins scored a stunning goal for Man Utd in the 1983 final Credit: Getty Images “It is one of the biggest sporting events globally but it will be doubled with emotion and I think that will probably take over. That mum is being allowed to present the trophy is just phenomenal. It is a lovely gesture from the FA.” In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, former Chelsea manager Eddie McCreadie recalled handing Wilkins the Chelsea armband at the age of 18. “Butch was a player I wanted to rebuild the team around,” said McGreadie. “I remember when I told him he was to be my captain, him saying to me: ‘You think I can do it?’ I never had a moment’s doubt.” A Chelsea legends XI played an exhibition match in Wilkins' memory against an Inter legends team at Stamford Bridge on Friday night.
Wembley pays tribute to Ray Wilkins as Chelsea and Manchester United fans unite
Wembley united to pay tribute to Ray Wilkins during the FA Cup Final, as two of his former clubs battled it out for the domestic season's last piece of silverware. Wilkins, who played for Chelsea and Manchester United in a distinguished career, died of a heart attack last month at the age of 61. Wilkins wore the No.8 shirt for both clubs and Wembley was the scene of one of his most celebrated goals - a curling shot from distance for United against Brighton in the 1983 FA Cup final. There were banners at both the red and blue ends of Wembley to honour Wilkins, who won 84 England caps. In a nod to his shirt number both sets of supporters sang 'there's only one Ray Wilkins' in the eighth minute of the final. There was also a tribute to the man known as 'Butch' in the matchday programme. The England midfielder also won the Cup three times as a coach at Chelsea, including alongside Carlo Ancelotti as part of a domestic Double in 2010. His family were invited to spend the day in Wembley's Royal Box with widow Jackie presenting the trophy to the winning captain. Wilkins' son Ross said: “The FA invited us into the Royal Box. It is an amazing thing to do. It will be an extremely emotional day, given the teams and history, but to effectively hold it in Dad’s memory is unreal. Ray Wilkins scored a stunning goal for Man Utd in the 1983 final Credit: Getty Images “It is one of the biggest sporting events globally but it will be doubled with emotion and I think that will probably take over. That mum is being allowed to present the trophy is just phenomenal. It is a lovely gesture from the FA.” In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, former Chelsea manager Eddie McCreadie recalled handing Wilkins the Chelsea armband at the age of 18. “Butch was a player I wanted to rebuild the team around,” said McGreadie. “I remember when I told him he was to be my captain, him saying to me: ‘You think I can do it?’ I never had a moment’s doubt.” A Chelsea legends XI played an exhibition match in Wilkins' memory against an Inter legends team at Stamford Bridge on Friday night.
Wembley united to pay tribute to Ray Wilkins during the FA Cup Final, as two of his former clubs battled it out for the domestic season's last piece of silverware. Wilkins, who played for Chelsea and Manchester United in a distinguished career, died of a heart attack last month at the age of 61. Wilkins wore the No.8 shirt for both clubs and Wembley was the scene of one of his most celebrated goals - a curling shot from distance for United against Brighton in the 1983 FA Cup final. There were banners at both the red and blue ends of Wembley to honour Wilkins, who won 84 England caps. In a nod to his shirt number both sets of supporters sang 'there's only one Ray Wilkins' in the eighth minute of the final. There was also a tribute to the man known as 'Butch' in the matchday programme. The England midfielder also won the Cup three times as a coach at Chelsea, including alongside Carlo Ancelotti as part of a domestic Double in 2010. His family were invited to spend the day in Wembley's Royal Box with widow Jackie presenting the trophy to the winning captain. Wilkins' son Ross said: “The FA invited us into the Royal Box. It is an amazing thing to do. It will be an extremely emotional day, given the teams and history, but to effectively hold it in Dad’s memory is unreal. Ray Wilkins scored a stunning goal for Man Utd in the 1983 final Credit: Getty Images “It is one of the biggest sporting events globally but it will be doubled with emotion and I think that will probably take over. That mum is being allowed to present the trophy is just phenomenal. It is a lovely gesture from the FA.” In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, former Chelsea manager Eddie McCreadie recalled handing Wilkins the Chelsea armband at the age of 18. “Butch was a player I wanted to rebuild the team around,” said McGreadie. “I remember when I told him he was to be my captain, him saying to me: ‘You think I can do it?’ I never had a moment’s doubt.” A Chelsea legends XI played an exhibition match in Wilkins' memory against an Inter legends team at Stamford Bridge on Friday night.
Wembley pays tribute to Ray Wilkins as Chelsea and Manchester United fans unite
Wembley united to pay tribute to Ray Wilkins during the FA Cup Final, as two of his former clubs battled it out for the domestic season's last piece of silverware. Wilkins, who played for Chelsea and Manchester United in a distinguished career, died of a heart attack last month at the age of 61. Wilkins wore the No.8 shirt for both clubs and Wembley was the scene of one of his most celebrated goals - a curling shot from distance for United against Brighton in the 1983 FA Cup final. There were banners at both the red and blue ends of Wembley to honour Wilkins, who won 84 England caps. In a nod to his shirt number both sets of supporters sang 'there's only one Ray Wilkins' in the eighth minute of the final. There was also a tribute to the man known as 'Butch' in the matchday programme. The England midfielder also won the Cup three times as a coach at Chelsea, including alongside Carlo Ancelotti as part of a domestic Double in 2010. His family were invited to spend the day in Wembley's Royal Box with widow Jackie presenting the trophy to the winning captain. Wilkins' son Ross said: “The FA invited us into the Royal Box. It is an amazing thing to do. It will be an extremely emotional day, given the teams and history, but to effectively hold it in Dad’s memory is unreal. Ray Wilkins scored a stunning goal for Man Utd in the 1983 final Credit: Getty Images “It is one of the biggest sporting events globally but it will be doubled with emotion and I think that will probably take over. That mum is being allowed to present the trophy is just phenomenal. It is a lovely gesture from the FA.” In an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, former Chelsea manager Eddie McCreadie recalled handing Wilkins the Chelsea armband at the age of 18. “Butch was a player I wanted to rebuild the team around,” said McGreadie. “I remember when I told him he was to be my captain, him saying to me: ‘You think I can do it?’ I never had a moment’s doubt.” A Chelsea legends XI played an exhibition match in Wilkins' memory against an Inter legends team at Stamford Bridge on Friday night.
Newcastle United are confident they will not face any sanctions from the Football League despite recording losses of more than £90m on their way to winning the Championship title a year ago. The EFL have confirmed to Telegraph Sport that Newcastle are not under investigation for breaching financial fair play rules at this stage, but the scale of the losses illustrate how vital it was that manager Rafael Benitez led the Magpies to an instant return to the Premier League. Telegraph Sport understands that, had Newcastle not spent only one year in the second tier, they would have had to dramatically cut costs at St James’ Park in order to comply with FFP, with several of the biggest earners put up for sale in order to slash the wage bill. Although Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has been criticised for failing to allow Benitez to spend more money in the last three transfer windows, the figures released by the club make toe-curling reading and offer some context for the reluctance to sanction a more extravagant recruitment policy last season. Newcastle received around £50m in Premier League television money in July last year and another £50m at the end of January, when the winter window was about to shut. Premier League club-by-club review Having made a profit of £900,000 in the year they were relegated from the top flight, Newcastle lost a staggering £90.9m for the financial year that ended with their promotion from the Championship. Ashley, who invested another £15m in the club in the form of an interest-free loan to help cover the cost of relegation, took a huge risk allowing Newcastle to lose so much money, effectively operating a mid-table Premier League wage bill in the second tier. Despite the sale of players like Georgino Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko after losing their top-flight status, which helped enable Benitez to sign 12 new players in 2017, Newcastle’s wage bill rose £37.5m to £112.2m in the Championship. That is the largest wage bill ever recorded in the Championship, while turnover declined by roughly a third from £125.8m to £85.7m. Newcastle’s losses, after tax, were £41.3m, down from a £4.6m profit the previous year. In an official club statement accompanying the filing of the club’s accounts on Friday, managing director Lee Charnley said: “After an, at times, challenging season in the Championship, everyone with the club was delighted when, with two league games remaining, we secured automatic promotion. Newcastle operated a mid-table Premier League wage bill in the second tier Credit: Getty Images “Even taking into consideration the fantastic levels of support during our Championship season, such is the disparity in central broadcasting and commercial revenues between the Premier League and EFL, we are reporting a drop in annual income of almost one third. “An immediate return to the Premier League was vital to restore the financial stability and future prospects of the club. “With the support and backing of the owner we took what was, in essence, a financial gamble on securing immediate promotion. “Statistics show how difficult this has been to achieve in recent times, with only five of the 18 teams relegated over the previous six seasons having come straight back up (one via automatic promotion and four via the play-offs). “We were the only relegated club to achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.” Newcastle’s wage bill in 2016/17 was almost three times that of Brighton and Hove Albion (£40.4m), and close to six times that of Huddersfield Town (£21.7m), the other two promoted sides. The 50 best players in the Premier League 2017/18 However, that figure includes the bonuses paid to players, management and staff, after promotion was secured, which totalled almost £10m. The wage bill sums are also massaged by the fact they include £30m of payments to players no longer involved in the first-team squad, taking them up to the end of their contracts, rather than for the financial year. Although Newcastle received large sums for Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Daryl Janmaat and Florian Thauvin, which eased the financial stress, they are being paid in instalments rather than up front. Ashley, though, has always preferred to pay for players in one lump sum. Newcastle are currently locked in negotiations with manager Benitez over the size of his transfer budget this summer, with the Spaniard increasingly exasperated by the lack of clarity offered to him. The club are also keen to get him to sign a new contract, which he is reluctant to do until he sees proof Ashley is willing to back him in the transfer market this summer after three frustrating windows in which he feels promises made to him were broken.
Newcastle United were on brink of financial catastrophe before promotion back to Premier League
Newcastle United are confident they will not face any sanctions from the Football League despite recording losses of more than £90m on their way to winning the Championship title a year ago. The EFL have confirmed to Telegraph Sport that Newcastle are not under investigation for breaching financial fair play rules at this stage, but the scale of the losses illustrate how vital it was that manager Rafael Benitez led the Magpies to an instant return to the Premier League. Telegraph Sport understands that, had Newcastle not spent only one year in the second tier, they would have had to dramatically cut costs at St James’ Park in order to comply with FFP, with several of the biggest earners put up for sale in order to slash the wage bill. Although Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has been criticised for failing to allow Benitez to spend more money in the last three transfer windows, the figures released by the club make toe-curling reading and offer some context for the reluctance to sanction a more extravagant recruitment policy last season. Newcastle received around £50m in Premier League television money in July last year and another £50m at the end of January, when the winter window was about to shut. Premier League club-by-club review Having made a profit of £900,000 in the year they were relegated from the top flight, Newcastle lost a staggering £90.9m for the financial year that ended with their promotion from the Championship. Ashley, who invested another £15m in the club in the form of an interest-free loan to help cover the cost of relegation, took a huge risk allowing Newcastle to lose so much money, effectively operating a mid-table Premier League wage bill in the second tier. Despite the sale of players like Georgino Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko after losing their top-flight status, which helped enable Benitez to sign 12 new players in 2017, Newcastle’s wage bill rose £37.5m to £112.2m in the Championship. That is the largest wage bill ever recorded in the Championship, while turnover declined by roughly a third from £125.8m to £85.7m. Newcastle’s losses, after tax, were £41.3m, down from a £4.6m profit the previous year. In an official club statement accompanying the filing of the club’s accounts on Friday, managing director Lee Charnley said: “After an, at times, challenging season in the Championship, everyone with the club was delighted when, with two league games remaining, we secured automatic promotion. Newcastle operated a mid-table Premier League wage bill in the second tier Credit: Getty Images “Even taking into consideration the fantastic levels of support during our Championship season, such is the disparity in central broadcasting and commercial revenues between the Premier League and EFL, we are reporting a drop in annual income of almost one third. “An immediate return to the Premier League was vital to restore the financial stability and future prospects of the club. “With the support and backing of the owner we took what was, in essence, a financial gamble on securing immediate promotion. “Statistics show how difficult this has been to achieve in recent times, with only five of the 18 teams relegated over the previous six seasons having come straight back up (one via automatic promotion and four via the play-offs). “We were the only relegated club to achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.” Newcastle’s wage bill in 2016/17 was almost three times that of Brighton and Hove Albion (£40.4m), and close to six times that of Huddersfield Town (£21.7m), the other two promoted sides. The 50 best players in the Premier League 2017/18 However, that figure includes the bonuses paid to players, management and staff, after promotion was secured, which totalled almost £10m. The wage bill sums are also massaged by the fact they include £30m of payments to players no longer involved in the first-team squad, taking them up to the end of their contracts, rather than for the financial year. Although Newcastle received large sums for Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Daryl Janmaat and Florian Thauvin, which eased the financial stress, they are being paid in instalments rather than up front. Ashley, though, has always preferred to pay for players in one lump sum. Newcastle are currently locked in negotiations with manager Benitez over the size of his transfer budget this summer, with the Spaniard increasingly exasperated by the lack of clarity offered to him. The club are also keen to get him to sign a new contract, which he is reluctant to do until he sees proof Ashley is willing to back him in the transfer market this summer after three frustrating windows in which he feels promises made to him were broken.
Newcastle United are confident they will not face any sanctions from the Football League despite recording losses of more than £90m on their way to winning the Championship title a year ago. The EFL have confirmed to Telegraph Sport that Newcastle are not under investigation for breaching financial fair play rules at this stage, but the scale of the losses illustrate how vital it was that manager Rafael Benitez led the Magpies to an instant return to the Premier League. Telegraph Sport understands that, had Newcastle not spent only one year in the second tier, they would have had to dramatically cut costs at St James’ Park in order to comply with FFP, with several of the biggest earners put up for sale in order to slash the wage bill. Although Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has been criticised for failing to allow Benitez to spend more money in the last three transfer windows, the figures released by the club make toe-curling reading and offer some context for the reluctance to sanction a more extravagant recruitment policy last season. Newcastle received around £50m in Premier League television money in July last year and another £50m at the end of January, when the winter window was about to shut. Premier League club-by-club review Having made a profit of £900,000 in the year they were relegated from the top flight, Newcastle lost a staggering £90.9m for the financial year that ended with their promotion from the Championship. Ashley, who invested another £15m in the club in the form of an interest-free loan to help cover the cost of relegation, took a huge risk allowing Newcastle to lose so much money, effectively operating a mid-table Premier League wage bill in the second tier. Despite the sale of players like Georgino Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko after losing their top-flight status, which helped enable Benitez to sign 12 new players in 2017, Newcastle’s wage bill rose £37.5m to £112.2m in the Championship. That is the largest wage bill ever recorded in the Championship, while turnover declined by roughly a third from £125.8m to £85.7m. Newcastle’s losses, after tax, were £41.3m, down from a £4.6m profit the previous year. In an official club statement accompanying the filing of the club’s accounts on Friday, managing director Lee Charnley said: “After an, at times, challenging season in the Championship, everyone with the club was delighted when, with two league games remaining, we secured automatic promotion. Newcastle operated a mid-table Premier League wage bill in the second tier Credit: Getty Images “Even taking into consideration the fantastic levels of support during our Championship season, such is the disparity in central broadcasting and commercial revenues between the Premier League and EFL, we are reporting a drop in annual income of almost one third. “An immediate return to the Premier League was vital to restore the financial stability and future prospects of the club. “With the support and backing of the owner we took what was, in essence, a financial gamble on securing immediate promotion. “Statistics show how difficult this has been to achieve in recent times, with only five of the 18 teams relegated over the previous six seasons having come straight back up (one via automatic promotion and four via the play-offs). “We were the only relegated club to achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.” Newcastle’s wage bill in 2016/17 was almost three times that of Brighton and Hove Albion (£40.4m), and close to six times that of Huddersfield Town (£21.7m), the other two promoted sides. The 50 best players in the Premier League 2017/18 However, that figure includes the bonuses paid to players, management and staff, after promotion was secured, which totalled almost £10m. The wage bill sums are also massaged by the fact they include £30m of payments to players no longer involved in the first-team squad, taking them up to the end of their contracts, rather than for the financial year. Although Newcastle received large sums for Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Daryl Janmaat and Florian Thauvin, which eased the financial stress, they are being paid in instalments rather than up front. Ashley, though, has always preferred to pay for players in one lump sum. Newcastle are currently locked in negotiations with manager Benitez over the size of his transfer budget this summer, with the Spaniard increasingly exasperated by the lack of clarity offered to him. The club are also keen to get him to sign a new contract, which he is reluctant to do until he sees proof Ashley is willing to back him in the transfer market this summer after three frustrating windows in which he feels promises made to him were broken.
Newcastle United were on brink of financial catastrophe before promotion back to Premier League
Newcastle United are confident they will not face any sanctions from the Football League despite recording losses of more than £90m on their way to winning the Championship title a year ago. The EFL have confirmed to Telegraph Sport that Newcastle are not under investigation for breaching financial fair play rules at this stage, but the scale of the losses illustrate how vital it was that manager Rafael Benitez led the Magpies to an instant return to the Premier League. Telegraph Sport understands that, had Newcastle not spent only one year in the second tier, they would have had to dramatically cut costs at St James’ Park in order to comply with FFP, with several of the biggest earners put up for sale in order to slash the wage bill. Although Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has been criticised for failing to allow Benitez to spend more money in the last three transfer windows, the figures released by the club make toe-curling reading and offer some context for the reluctance to sanction a more extravagant recruitment policy last season. Newcastle received around £50m in Premier League television money in July last year and another £50m at the end of January, when the winter window was about to shut. Premier League club-by-club review Having made a profit of £900,000 in the year they were relegated from the top flight, Newcastle lost a staggering £90.9m for the financial year that ended with their promotion from the Championship. Ashley, who invested another £15m in the club in the form of an interest-free loan to help cover the cost of relegation, took a huge risk allowing Newcastle to lose so much money, effectively operating a mid-table Premier League wage bill in the second tier. Despite the sale of players like Georgino Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko after losing their top-flight status, which helped enable Benitez to sign 12 new players in 2017, Newcastle’s wage bill rose £37.5m to £112.2m in the Championship. That is the largest wage bill ever recorded in the Championship, while turnover declined by roughly a third from £125.8m to £85.7m. Newcastle’s losses, after tax, were £41.3m, down from a £4.6m profit the previous year. In an official club statement accompanying the filing of the club’s accounts on Friday, managing director Lee Charnley said: “After an, at times, challenging season in the Championship, everyone with the club was delighted when, with two league games remaining, we secured automatic promotion. Newcastle operated a mid-table Premier League wage bill in the second tier Credit: Getty Images “Even taking into consideration the fantastic levels of support during our Championship season, such is the disparity in central broadcasting and commercial revenues between the Premier League and EFL, we are reporting a drop in annual income of almost one third. “An immediate return to the Premier League was vital to restore the financial stability and future prospects of the club. “With the support and backing of the owner we took what was, in essence, a financial gamble on securing immediate promotion. “Statistics show how difficult this has been to achieve in recent times, with only five of the 18 teams relegated over the previous six seasons having come straight back up (one via automatic promotion and four via the play-offs). “We were the only relegated club to achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.” Newcastle’s wage bill in 2016/17 was almost three times that of Brighton and Hove Albion (£40.4m), and close to six times that of Huddersfield Town (£21.7m), the other two promoted sides. The 50 best players in the Premier League 2017/18 However, that figure includes the bonuses paid to players, management and staff, after promotion was secured, which totalled almost £10m. The wage bill sums are also massaged by the fact they include £30m of payments to players no longer involved in the first-team squad, taking them up to the end of their contracts, rather than for the financial year. Although Newcastle received large sums for Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Daryl Janmaat and Florian Thauvin, which eased the financial stress, they are being paid in instalments rather than up front. Ashley, though, has always preferred to pay for players in one lump sum. Newcastle are currently locked in negotiations with manager Benitez over the size of his transfer budget this summer, with the Spaniard increasingly exasperated by the lack of clarity offered to him. The club are also keen to get him to sign a new contract, which he is reluctant to do until he sees proof Ashley is willing to back him in the transfer market this summer after three frustrating windows in which he feels promises made to him were broken.
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Mikel Arteta has worked as a coach, but never as the main man Credit: Getty Images Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for club's to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment and aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Mikel Arteta Arsenal manager: The case for and against
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Mikel Arteta has worked as a coach, but never as the main man Credit: Getty Images Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for club's to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment and aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Mikel Arteta Arsenal manager: The case for and against
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Mikel Arteta Arsenal manager: The case for and against
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Mikel Arteta Arsenal manager: The case for and against
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Mikel Arteta Arsenal manager: The case for and against
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Mikel Arteta Arsenal manager: The case for and against
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
Mikel Arteta Arsenal manager: The case for and against
Arsenal are edging closer to appointing former captain Mikel Arteta as their new head coach, a decision bound to cause consternation, intrigue or excitement depending on your disposition. The cold reality of England's third-biggest club appointing a man who has never managed a competitive game is quite extraordinary, following Arsène Wenger who sat in the Arsenal dugout 1,235 times. So are Arsenal making a brave decision that will inject youthful zeal and fresh ideas into a stale environment, or an unambitious appointment that risks deepening divides in the fan-base and prolonging a spell away from Europe's top table? The passing of time will decide, but for now let's examine both sides of the argument. The case for Arteta How much of a risk really is it? The Premier League table is stratified by wealth, which is worrying for the competition's health but reassuring for Arsenal and Arteta who have a safety net beneath them. In 2017-18, Arsenal won four of 19 away games yet still finished nine points clear of seventh-placed Burnley. The league's dynamic changes every season, but things would have to go spectacularly badly for Arsenal to finish any lower than sixth. The embarrassing away form also means there is vast room for improvement and potentially easy gains. If Arteta is of sufficient competence to guide Arsenal to victory at Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Newcastle and West Ham, then there is a 14-point improvement straight away. Those points would take Arsenal to 77, which last season would have had them level with 3rd-placed Spurs. Arsenal's away form leaved the new manager with plenty of scope for improvement Credit: Getty Images Given the weakness of the Premier League's non-existent middle class, and the attacking players at Arsenal's disposal, such a points tally should be within Arteta's reach. For all of Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino's excellent work, they have benefited from starting at a low base and a feeling that Liverpool and Spurs are ascendant. In a strange way, years of consistently finishing in the top four denied Arsenal the chance to experience a similar resurgence. Now they can. He does not need to 'manage' Arsenal Ivan Gazidis and his allies have spent the last few years painstakingly prising the levers of control from Wenger's grip, often met with resistance from Arsenal's former manager. Head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, former Barcelona director Raul Sanllehi, contract guru Huss Fahmy and director of high performance Darren Burgess were hired to spread power and responsibility throughout the club, where once it resided in the hands of one man. It would make little sense therefore, to hire a manger who will challenge this new reality. For years, Arsenal's behaviour and actions (or lack of) l have sent out a message to managers: 'Come to Arsenal, be well-paid in one of the world's great cities, and we'll let you do as you please until the fans stop turning up'. Sven Mislintat will lead Arsenal's summer recruitment Credit: Webgrab The powers that be will be keen to change that message, making clear that the head coach is subordinate to them. Hiring a combative manager who wants as much power as possible could be a recipe for civil war. Four or five key individuals have replaced Wenger, Arteta just needs to coach, motivate and select the first-team. Arteta is not a one-club 'yes' man Arteta has strong affiliations with Arsenal but it is by no means institutionalised. Educated at Barcelona's La Masia, he went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and Everton, playing under managers as varied as Alex McLeish and Luis Fernandez. Arteta was offered the chance of a youth-level job at Arsenal, but took the decision to leave and further his education at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. Staying in the warm bath of London Colney would have been the easier option. It is an eclectic football grounding that means while Arteta 'knows the club', he should have enough perspective to see Arsenal's weaknesses. He was also offered a position on Pochettino's coaching staff at Spurs. These are not typical job offers for recently retired pros, so it is fair to assume Arteta is not Joe Average. People talk in football, and they are saying good things about him. The genius of Pep Guardiola: Eight things he has done to make Man City so frighteningly good No more Groundhog Season Apathy eventually did for for Wenger, with Arsenal season ticket holders deciding to leave seats empty in their thousands. The lack of a league title, poor performances and soft defending were all tangible reasons for them to be disgruntled. More damaging however, was the sense that Arsenal were always crashing in the same car to use a David Bowie title. Hope is football fans' oxygen, and Arsenal fans had lost hope that each season would have a different outcome than the last. They knew Wenger like he was one of the family: every catchphrase, substitution, tactical tweak and excuse. Now they have a completely blank canvas facing them, a chance to learn about a new man from scratch with no preconceptions. Staring straight into the unknown is daunting and stressful, but should also be a cause for excitement. No fan will have the right to say they are bored (for a few years at least). Whatever happens, it will be different for Arsenal's fans bored of Arsene Wenger Credit: Reuters He doesn't have to stay for 22 years If hiring Arteta is the wrong decision, results will be poor, it will be embarrassing for Arsenal that they have mis-judged such a key decision and Gazidis could come under significant pressure. But, guess what? Arsenal sack their manager and hire a new one! Who would have thought such a thing was possible? Arsenal have been a unique case for the past decade, having to tread delicately around a manger whose past achievements levitated him to demi-god status. The scenario will never be replicated. Arsenal will appoint multiple managers over the next 22 years, and whether he is a success or a failure, Arteta will be just one of them. The case against Arteta Inexperience The obvious place to start: Arteta has never done the job before, which in most spheres of life would be a considerable handicap. Comparisons with the arrival of an unheralded and unknown Wenger in 1996 are misguided. The 'Arsene Who?" greeting spoke more to English football's insularity than his personal history - Wenger had already managed for more than a decade and taken Monaco to the latter stages of European competition. Parallels with mentor Guardiola or Zinedine Zidane are inaccurate too. Barcelona and Real Madrid's B teams, where both managers cut their teeth for a short time, playing in competitive leagues in Spain's lower divisions. Arteta may have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, but has never (we assume) endured sleepless nights trying to pick an eleven or been held responsible for results. Arteta is bound to make mistakes as he learns his trade, and Arsenal could suffer the consequences. On the other hand, Wenger made his share too. The age of Arsenal's squad Arsenal's players have got it in the neck repeatedly over the past few seasons, called 'pussy-footed', 'cowards' and 'spineless' by notable pundits. They now have a chance to ram those words down their throat by prospering under a new regime. While there are areas that need improvement and renewal, particularly in the back-half of the team, this is a more attractive squad than many think. Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are one quality winger away from being a stellar attacking line-up. All are in the prime of their career. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Had Arsenal managed to tempt Massimiliano Allegri away from Juventus, and made the right moves in the transfer market to strengthen at the back, they could have been very competitive, very quickly. On the balance of probability, that is less likely under Arteta (though by no means impossible). The risk is that Arteta takes two seasons to fully master the job, by which time the last few top-level years of Aubameyang, Özil et al have been wasted. Cue another rebuild, which might be a better time for Arteta to come in and start anew. Keeping up appearances Arsenal's status in European football is not quite diminished, but consecutive seasons in the Europa League does make the badge seem smaller. Results and performances on the grass should be the only thing that counts, but it is increasingly important for clubs to manage 'perception'. Manchester United in the post-Ferguson years have been particularly committed to 'keeping up appearances', lavishing money on high-profile, marketable players and hiring Jose Mourinho. If they were no longer winning titles, United made damn sure they won the PR war and stayed at the top of the news cycle. Another season in the Europa League awaits Arsenal Credit: Getty Images Concerns about Arteta's CV aside, there is a theory that Arsenal need a similar shot in the arm. If you cannot play in the Champions League, a high profile appointment can give the outward appearance that you are still operating at the highest level, or at least striving to do so. Hiring Arteta will feel a little small-time to some fans. The argument is flimsy because results are the only measure, but the feeling Arsenal have 'settled' could linger. Too close to the old regime Arteta only cleared his locker at London Colney in 2016, and as the preferred candidate of chief executive Ivan Gazidis he will be viewed as a 'club man'. Critics charged that Arsenal was too comfortable an environment under Wenger, with a lack of consequences for underperformance and no accountability. There will be scepticism about Arteta's ability to tackle this culture and raise standards. Gazidis spoke of the need to preserve Arsenal's values, and the appointment of Arteta is consistent with that, but some will argue that the values themselves need to change. Mikel Arteta will have to manage some of the players he captained only a few years ago Credit: Getty Images Divisions remain Making decisions to appease fans will prove a ruinous philosophy at any club, but Arsenal will be fully aware of the need to unite supporters after a fractious period. At the very least, they will want to avoid a corrosive appointment that aggravates pre-existing gripes. One should not mistake some of the loudest voices on Twitter as representative of the 60,000 at the Emirates, but appointing Arteta will divide opinion. A quick scan of the digitally active corner of the fan-base shows that many of the most vociferous anti-Wenger voices are also hostile to Arteta. However, if Arsenal win their first 10 matches of the next season such discord will ease and Arteta's name will be sung with vigour. It was ever thus.
One need only have listened to Jose Mourinho’s damning appraisal of Manchester United’s dismal 1-0 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion late last month to understand why few things will have heartened the manager this week as much as Romelu Lukaku’s return to training. “For 10 months I get asked ‘Why always Lukaku? Why always Lukaku?” Mourinho said. “‘That guy doesn’t have a chance to start, the other one is on the bench’. You know why now.” United’s attack has been toothless since Lukaku suffered an ankle injury against Arsenal three weeks ago and, having seen his side score just once in their final three Premier League outings over that period, Mourinho will be more than a little relieved to have the Belgium striker back for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday evening. Lukaku’s debut season at Old Trafford following his £75 million move from Everton has not been without its own difficulties but, after goalkeeper David De Gea, he has been United’s best performer. Antonio Conte, for one, will not want a reminder at Wembley of what he missed out on last summer when Lukaku snubbed Chelsea for United. “He’s had a massive season,” Andrew Cole, the former United striker, said. “He’s not had the opportunity to have much rest, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being injured and then moving on [to Los Angeles Galaxy], so this season he’s done really well, in a team that doesn’t create many chances. To get 27 goals, whether from a half-chance or a full chance, is brilliant.” How Lukaku is becoming a more selfless player Man Unite'd reliance on Lukaku Lukaku played in all bar four of United’s 38 league games with the team scoring half as many goals on average when he did not play and winning only half of their matches without the Belgian compared to 67.6 per cent when he led the line. Mourinho simply does not have the same trust in either Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford, both of whom failed to advance their case for a Cup final place in Lukaku’s absence. Yet for all Mourinho’s faith in Lukaku, it has not always been shared elsewhere. After a blistering start when he scored 11 times in 10 games, Lukaku managed just four in his next 20 and came in for considerable criticism from former United players, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes, for dropping too deep and a reluctance to play off the shoulder of defenders. Ferdinand was uncompromising after United’s 2-0 defeat away to Spurs in January when he claimed Harry Kane, the Tottenham striker, gave Lukaku a lesson in how to play centre-forward and it was a similar story after the goalless draw at Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 exit. Lukaku lost possession repeatedly and Ferdinand and Scholes criticised the striker’s poor first touch, struggles to hold the ball up and the adverse effect that had on United’s attempts to play on the counter-attack. Andy Cole, who scored 121 goals for Manchester United, believes Lukaku can add to his goal tally if he gets in behind defenders more Credit: Getty Images For all his goals this season, Cole would certainly like to see Lukaku running in behind defenders more. “I still don’t believe, when I watch him play, that he’s actually playing to his strengths,” he said. “If you look at the way he played at Everton, to the way he plays now, it’s totally different. If he starts taking advantage of what he has as an athlete - his strength and power – and starts running in behind and stretching teams, you’ll get even more out of him.” In Lukaku’s defence, he is creating more. He has claimed more assists (seven) this term than ever before, his delivery from wide areas has been very good and his work ethic has shamed some team-mates. United have also lacked fluency going forward but Cole believes Lukaku could plunder a goals tally closer to Mohamed Salah’s 44 at Liverpool if he modified his game. “I think the onus is on the team as well as him because as a centre-forward you have to make that move to show your team mates that you are prepared to go in there,” Cole said. “Now if he is going to turn around and say that is not my strength, my pace and my power, we’d all sit here scratching our heads because it is. If you watched him at Everton, that is how he got a lot of his goals, they would slip him in and he would make those runs. “If you look at the modern game now, all the forwards want the ball to their feet. There could be 20 yards of space in behind, but no-one runs in behind. I look at Lukaku and think to myself, ‘Does anyone really want to chase him?’. I really don't think so. So if he thinks to himself, ‘There’s 20 yards of space in behind, I could give some a yard or two and still beat them to it’. Once he starts doing that, phew...” Andy Cole was speaking on behalf of Marathonbet, the Official Global Betting Partner to Manchester United www.marathonbet.co.uk
Why Romelu Lukaku is the one player Jose Mourinho cannot do without
One need only have listened to Jose Mourinho’s damning appraisal of Manchester United’s dismal 1-0 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion late last month to understand why few things will have heartened the manager this week as much as Romelu Lukaku’s return to training. “For 10 months I get asked ‘Why always Lukaku? Why always Lukaku?” Mourinho said. “‘That guy doesn’t have a chance to start, the other one is on the bench’. You know why now.” United’s attack has been toothless since Lukaku suffered an ankle injury against Arsenal three weeks ago and, having seen his side score just once in their final three Premier League outings over that period, Mourinho will be more than a little relieved to have the Belgium striker back for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday evening. Lukaku’s debut season at Old Trafford following his £75 million move from Everton has not been without its own difficulties but, after goalkeeper David De Gea, he has been United’s best performer. Antonio Conte, for one, will not want a reminder at Wembley of what he missed out on last summer when Lukaku snubbed Chelsea for United. “He’s had a massive season,” Andrew Cole, the former United striker, said. “He’s not had the opportunity to have much rest, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being injured and then moving on [to Los Angeles Galaxy], so this season he’s done really well, in a team that doesn’t create many chances. To get 27 goals, whether from a half-chance or a full chance, is brilliant.” How Lukaku is becoming a more selfless player Man Unite'd reliance on Lukaku Lukaku played in all bar four of United’s 38 league games with the team scoring half as many goals on average when he did not play and winning only half of their matches without the Belgian compared to 67.6 per cent when he led the line. Mourinho simply does not have the same trust in either Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford, both of whom failed to advance their case for a Cup final place in Lukaku’s absence. Yet for all Mourinho’s faith in Lukaku, it has not always been shared elsewhere. After a blistering start when he scored 11 times in 10 games, Lukaku managed just four in his next 20 and came in for considerable criticism from former United players, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes, for dropping too deep and a reluctance to play off the shoulder of defenders. Ferdinand was uncompromising after United’s 2-0 defeat away to Spurs in January when he claimed Harry Kane, the Tottenham striker, gave Lukaku a lesson in how to play centre-forward and it was a similar story after the goalless draw at Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 exit. Lukaku lost possession repeatedly and Ferdinand and Scholes criticised the striker’s poor first touch, struggles to hold the ball up and the adverse effect that had on United’s attempts to play on the counter-attack. Andy Cole, who scored 121 goals for Manchester United, believes Lukaku can add to his goal tally if he gets in behind defenders more Credit: Getty Images For all his goals this season, Cole would certainly like to see Lukaku running in behind defenders more. “I still don’t believe, when I watch him play, that he’s actually playing to his strengths,” he said. “If you look at the way he played at Everton, to the way he plays now, it’s totally different. If he starts taking advantage of what he has as an athlete - his strength and power – and starts running in behind and stretching teams, you’ll get even more out of him.” In Lukaku’s defence, he is creating more. He has claimed more assists (seven) this term than ever before, his delivery from wide areas has been very good and his work ethic has shamed some team-mates. United have also lacked fluency going forward but Cole believes Lukaku could plunder a goals tally closer to Mohamed Salah’s 44 at Liverpool if he modified his game. “I think the onus is on the team as well as him because as a centre-forward you have to make that move to show your team mates that you are prepared to go in there,” Cole said. “Now if he is going to turn around and say that is not my strength, my pace and my power, we’d all sit here scratching our heads because it is. If you watched him at Everton, that is how he got a lot of his goals, they would slip him in and he would make those runs. “If you look at the modern game now, all the forwards want the ball to their feet. There could be 20 yards of space in behind, but no-one runs in behind. I look at Lukaku and think to myself, ‘Does anyone really want to chase him?’. I really don't think so. So if he thinks to himself, ‘There’s 20 yards of space in behind, I could give some a yard or two and still beat them to it’. Once he starts doing that, phew...” Andy Cole was speaking on behalf of Marathonbet, the Official Global Betting Partner to Manchester United www.marathonbet.co.uk
One need only have listened to Jose Mourinho’s damning appraisal of Manchester United’s dismal 1-0 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion late last month to understand why few things will have heartened the manager this week as much as Romelu Lukaku’s return to training. “For 10 months I get asked ‘Why always Lukaku? Why always Lukaku?” Mourinho said. “‘That guy doesn’t have a chance to start, the other one is on the bench’. You know why now.” United’s attack has been toothless since Lukaku suffered an ankle injury against Arsenal three weeks ago and, having seen his side score just once in their final three Premier League outings over that period, Mourinho will be more than a little relieved to have the Belgium striker back for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday evening. Lukaku’s debut season at Old Trafford following his £75 million move from Everton has not been without its own difficulties but, after goalkeeper David De Gea, he has been United’s best performer. Antonio Conte, for one, will not want a reminder at Wembley of what he missed out on last summer when Lukaku snubbed Chelsea for United. “He’s had a massive season,” Andrew Cole, the former United striker, said. “He’s not had the opportunity to have much rest, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being injured and then moving on [to Los Angeles Galaxy], so this season he’s done really well, in a team that doesn’t create many chances. To get 27 goals, whether from a half-chance or a full chance, is brilliant.” How Lukaku is becoming a more selfless player Man Unite'd reliance on Lukaku Lukaku played in all bar four of United’s 38 league games with the team scoring half as many goals on average when he did not play and winning only half of their matches without the Belgian compared to 67.6 per cent when he led the line. Mourinho simply does not have the same trust in either Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford, both of whom failed to advance their case for a Cup final place in Lukaku’s absence. Yet for all Mourinho’s faith in Lukaku, it has not always been shared elsewhere. After a blistering start when he scored 11 times in 10 games, Lukaku managed just four in his next 20 and came in for considerable criticism from former United players, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes, for dropping too deep and a reluctance to play off the shoulder of defenders. Ferdinand was uncompromising after United’s 2-0 defeat away to Spurs in January when he claimed Harry Kane, the Tottenham striker, gave Lukaku a lesson in how to play centre-forward and it was a similar story after the goalless draw at Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 exit. Lukaku lost possession repeatedly and Ferdinand and Scholes criticised the striker’s poor first touch, struggles to hold the ball up and the adverse effect that had on United’s attempts to play on the counter-attack. Andy Cole, who scored 121 goals for Manchester United, believes Lukaku can add to his goal tally if he gets in behind defenders more Credit: Getty Images For all his goals this season, Cole would certainly like to see Lukaku running in behind defenders more. “I still don’t believe, when I watch him play, that he’s actually playing to his strengths,” he said. “If you look at the way he played at Everton, to the way he plays now, it’s totally different. If he starts taking advantage of what he has as an athlete - his strength and power – and starts running in behind and stretching teams, you’ll get even more out of him.” In Lukaku’s defence, he is creating more. He has claimed more assists (seven) this term than ever before, his delivery from wide areas has been very good and his work ethic has shamed some team-mates. United have also lacked fluency going forward but Cole believes Lukaku could plunder a goals tally closer to Mohamed Salah’s 44 at Liverpool if he modified his game. “I think the onus is on the team as well as him because as a centre-forward you have to make that move to show your team mates that you are prepared to go in there,” Cole said. “Now if he is going to turn around and say that is not my strength, my pace and my power, we’d all sit here scratching our heads because it is. If you watched him at Everton, that is how he got a lot of his goals, they would slip him in and he would make those runs. “If you look at the modern game now, all the forwards want the ball to their feet. There could be 20 yards of space in behind, but no-one runs in behind. I look at Lukaku and think to myself, ‘Does anyone really want to chase him?’. I really don't think so. So if he thinks to himself, ‘There’s 20 yards of space in behind, I could give some a yard or two and still beat them to it’. Once he starts doing that, phew...” Andy Cole was speaking on behalf of Marathonbet, the Official Global Betting Partner to Manchester United www.marathonbet.co.uk
Why Romelu Lukaku is the one player Jose Mourinho cannot do without
One need only have listened to Jose Mourinho’s damning appraisal of Manchester United’s dismal 1-0 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion late last month to understand why few things will have heartened the manager this week as much as Romelu Lukaku’s return to training. “For 10 months I get asked ‘Why always Lukaku? Why always Lukaku?” Mourinho said. “‘That guy doesn’t have a chance to start, the other one is on the bench’. You know why now.” United’s attack has been toothless since Lukaku suffered an ankle injury against Arsenal three weeks ago and, having seen his side score just once in their final three Premier League outings over that period, Mourinho will be more than a little relieved to have the Belgium striker back for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday evening. Lukaku’s debut season at Old Trafford following his £75 million move from Everton has not been without its own difficulties but, after goalkeeper David De Gea, he has been United’s best performer. Antonio Conte, for one, will not want a reminder at Wembley of what he missed out on last summer when Lukaku snubbed Chelsea for United. “He’s had a massive season,” Andrew Cole, the former United striker, said. “He’s not had the opportunity to have much rest, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being injured and then moving on [to Los Angeles Galaxy], so this season he’s done really well, in a team that doesn’t create many chances. To get 27 goals, whether from a half-chance or a full chance, is brilliant.” How Lukaku is becoming a more selfless player Man Unite'd reliance on Lukaku Lukaku played in all bar four of United’s 38 league games with the team scoring half as many goals on average when he did not play and winning only half of their matches without the Belgian compared to 67.6 per cent when he led the line. Mourinho simply does not have the same trust in either Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford, both of whom failed to advance their case for a Cup final place in Lukaku’s absence. Yet for all Mourinho’s faith in Lukaku, it has not always been shared elsewhere. After a blistering start when he scored 11 times in 10 games, Lukaku managed just four in his next 20 and came in for considerable criticism from former United players, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes, for dropping too deep and a reluctance to play off the shoulder of defenders. Ferdinand was uncompromising after United’s 2-0 defeat away to Spurs in January when he claimed Harry Kane, the Tottenham striker, gave Lukaku a lesson in how to play centre-forward and it was a similar story after the goalless draw at Sevilla in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 exit. Lukaku lost possession repeatedly and Ferdinand and Scholes criticised the striker’s poor first touch, struggles to hold the ball up and the adverse effect that had on United’s attempts to play on the counter-attack. Andy Cole, who scored 121 goals for Manchester United, believes Lukaku can add to his goal tally if he gets in behind defenders more Credit: Getty Images For all his goals this season, Cole would certainly like to see Lukaku running in behind defenders more. “I still don’t believe, when I watch him play, that he’s actually playing to his strengths,” he said. “If you look at the way he played at Everton, to the way he plays now, it’s totally different. If he starts taking advantage of what he has as an athlete - his strength and power – and starts running in behind and stretching teams, you’ll get even more out of him.” In Lukaku’s defence, he is creating more. He has claimed more assists (seven) this term than ever before, his delivery from wide areas has been very good and his work ethic has shamed some team-mates. United have also lacked fluency going forward but Cole believes Lukaku could plunder a goals tally closer to Mohamed Salah’s 44 at Liverpool if he modified his game. “I think the onus is on the team as well as him because as a centre-forward you have to make that move to show your team mates that you are prepared to go in there,” Cole said. “Now if he is going to turn around and say that is not my strength, my pace and my power, we’d all sit here scratching our heads because it is. If you watched him at Everton, that is how he got a lot of his goals, they would slip him in and he would make those runs. “If you look at the modern game now, all the forwards want the ball to their feet. There could be 20 yards of space in behind, but no-one runs in behind. I look at Lukaku and think to myself, ‘Does anyone really want to chase him?’. I really don't think so. So if he thinks to himself, ‘There’s 20 yards of space in behind, I could give some a yard or two and still beat them to it’. Once he starts doing that, phew...” Andy Cole was speaking on behalf of Marathonbet, the Official Global Betting Partner to Manchester United www.marathonbet.co.uk
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - May 13, 2018 Liverpool's Sadio Mane acknowledges fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
FILE PHOTO: Premier League - Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - May 13, 2018 Liverpool's Sadio Mane acknowledges fans after the match Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
When Brighton told me I was being released, it was a bitter pill to swallow
When Brighton told me I was being released, it was a bitter pill to swallow
When Brighton told me I was being released, it was a bitter pill to swallow
When Brighton told me I was being released, it was a bitter pill to swallow
When Brighton told me I was being released, it was a bitter pill to swallow
When Brighton told me I was being released, it was a bitter pill to swallow
‘While I’m sad at leaving such a wonderful club and uncertain of my next step in the world of football, I feel blessed to have been part of the journey.’
When Brighton told me I was being released, it was a bitter pill to swallow
‘While I’m sad at leaving such a wonderful club and uncertain of my next step in the world of football, I feel blessed to have been part of the journey.’
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - May 13, 2018 Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates after the match REUTERS/Phil Noble
Premier League - Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - May 13, 2018 Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates after the match REUTERS/Phil Noble
Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - May 13, 2018 Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates after the match REUTERS/Phil Noble
Premier League - Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - May 13, 2018 Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates after the match REUTERS/Phil Noble
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United – Premier League – AMEX Stadium
The highest scorers of the Fantasy Premier League missing from the England squad
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United – Premier League – AMEX Stadium
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.
Babbello Index: the 50 best players in the Premier League 2017/18
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.
Babbello Index: the 50 best players in the Premier League 2017/18
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.
Babbello Index: the 50 best players in the Premier League 2017/18
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.
Babbello Index: the 50 best players in the Premier League 2017/18
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.
Babbello Index: the 50 best players in the Premier League 2017/18
The Premier League season is finished! And what a time we had. Goals, assists, tackles... interceptions! There's not much more we could have really asked for and here we have ranked the 50 best individual players to have performed in over 20 games in an entertaining 10 months of football. Based on statistics, form, consistency, ability and what we've observed with our own eyes, here are the best 50 players in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season. 50. Glenn Murray (Brighton) There were some - really - who suggested that Murray might be a decent outside bet for a place in England's World Cup squad after scoring 12 goals in 35 games for Brighton, but the less said about that the better. An old-style number nine, Murray is a clever player and a bit of a throw-back to ye olden times. Useful, but his all-round game isn't quite to the standard of an international star and his TV must suffice for all things Russian this summer. Credit: GETTY IMAGES That said, Murray had a fantastic season, proving especially adept at offering Chris Hughton's team an out-ball, winning 115 aerial duels. 49. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Divides opinion, doesn't always track his runner and is liable to pick up a booking for 'accidentally' mistiming tackles, but the stats don't lie and Arsene Wenger certainly seems (seemed) to rate the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka played 38 Premier League games for Arsenal in 2017/18, making more passes than any other player (3117) and having more touches. Premier League passes Not really a holding player, nor a creative attacking one, his stats represent those of an all rounder, and although the things he does badly are easily picked up on, Xhaka's range of passing, anticipation, and ability to shoot from long range are all superb. Also assisted seven goals for his teammates. 48. Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Huddersfield did a remarkable job in not only ensuring safety on their return to the English top flight, doing so with a solid base, and alongside defensive partner Mathias Jørgensen, Schindler has formed a formidable duo. Schindler has been one of the standout players outside a top six club, making 75 interceptions this season - the fourth most of any player in the league - and winning 61 tackles. 47. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) Credit: PA Appears to have gone under the radar all season despite delivering some excellent performances. Doucoure scored seven goals - the same as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud - and assisted three in his role in the Watford midfield, winning tackles, making neat passes and keeping things tidy in front of the defence. Seriously underrated. 46. Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle) At 24 years old, Lascelles is the captain of a team punching above their financial weight, leading an uninspiring group of players to a top-half finish. Credit: GETTY IMAGES A reliable, determined defender, he seems to make those around him better and conceded only 16 fouls all season, while winning 18 tackles - Lascelles' reading of the game is his best trait, as evidenced by that extremely low number. Should be in the England squad before too long. 45. John Stones / Vincent Kompany (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS An unprecedented shared position in the Babbello Index, but one necessary considering both players were good enough to be included but neither cleared the 20 game mark. Having cut out the lapses of concentration that previously undermined his game, Stones enjoyed a hugely impressive first half of the season before Kompany stepped in. Man City's charismatic Belgian centre-back proved inspirational as the team powered their way to 100 points. 44. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Chelsea's Mr Consistent (not his real name) hasn't quite been at his best this season, but he still rarely puts in a bad performance. Positionally sound, deceptively quick and with an unerring ability to read danger, Azpilicueta is one of the Premier League's most complete defenders. And at a time when uncertainty reigns at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta's reliability is a welcome constant. 43. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) Ozil's languid style may disgust all self-respecting 'Proper Football Men', but four goals and eight assists from 26 Premier League starts is a reasonable return. Chances created per game (including assists) It sounds better when you consider he created 84 chances from 26 games - the fourth most of all league players, and at 3.49 chances created per match, the second most prolific chance creator in the country, behind only Cesc Fabregas. Ozil also became the quickest player to register 50 Premier League assists (141 games), breaking a record previously held by Eric Cantona, while his volley against Newcastle was one of the goals of the season. 42. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of few slight positives in a woeful season for Stoke, Shaqiri scored eight goals and assisted seven more, accounting for 43 per cent of his team's total all on his own. If his pals at Stoke knew where the back of the net was, that'd be even better - Shaqiri created 77 chances, the same as Alexis Sanchez. 41. Kieran Trippier (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES If you had been told a year ago that Spurs' defence would no longer include Kyle Walker, Danny Rose or Toby Alderweireld, few would have foreseen them finishing third in the table. Trippier has played a crucial role, holding off Serge Aurier's challenge to become Tottenham's first choice right-back, while also staking a very strong claim to start at the World Cup. His improvement has been drastic, and he has been one of the Premier League's best right-backs this season. 40. Willian (Chelsea) Willian scores against Crystal Palace Credit: REUTERS Technically-gifted, hard-working and the model professional, Willian is a joy to watch and has been Chelsea's most consistent and reliable player across the entire season. Lacks a little in end product (he scored six Premier League goals and added seven assists) but managers love him for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Created 62 chances, level with Mo Salah and one more than David Silva, despite starting a large amount of games on the bench. 39. Antonio Valencia (Man Utd) Has fully completed his conversion from winger to full-back while also developing his role as a leader on the field. Scored one of the goals of the season against Everton back in September and his attacking nous gives Man Utd real bite down that right flank. 38. Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Didn't quite hit the heights of his title-winning debut campaign but did establish himself firmly as one of the Premier League's best left-backs, helping provide solid foundations that allow Eden Hazard more freedom on that side of the pitch, while also adding to his own goal tally, hitting seven goals for the season, including two match-winners and two more that rescued Chelsea a point. 37. Davinson Sanchez (Spurs) Davinson Sanchez with his new shirt Credit: GETTY IMAGES Sanchez arrived at Tottenham with the weight of a £42m price tag on his shoulders, but he rose to a challenge that even he wouldn't have foreseen, as Toby Alderweireld got injured and fell out of favour, Sanchez was thrust into the first team. He has a great deal to learn and still makes the odd mistake but at just 21 years of age his potential is absolutely vast. Spurs needed a big character in tough times and Sanchez stepped up, making 38 interceptions and winning 73 aerial duels and 24 tackles. 36. Emre Can (Liverpool) Credit: OFFSIDE Seemingly nearing the end of his four-year spell on Merseyside, the midfielder has been out of action since suffering a back injury in March. The 24-year-old scored three goals in 24 Premier League goals this term, assisting four others. The German has retained his ball-winning presence and calm authority in the centre of the park. He will be sorely missed if he has played his last game for Liverpool. 35. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea) The Spaniard may well be teaming up with Liverpool's Can at Juventus next season if the transfer whispers prove correct. Morata started well but found the going tough at Stamford Bridge, seeing Olivier Giroud leapfrog him in the pecking order too in the final weeks and struggling with injury at the turn of the year. Credit: GETTY IMAGES Morata's 11 league goals have cost Chelsea £6.36m each this season... but when he's on form, few defenders can keep pace with him and his movement and positional sense were what first attracted Antonio Conte to the striker. Powerful in the air, Morata's lack of composure in front of goal and loss of form cost him dear. 34. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) Two months out with a knee injury and watching how quickly record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled into life at the Emirates must have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Frenchman. All in all, 14 goals from 32 league games including four assists has been a solid debut season in England and one to build on under the new manager. 33. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) Ramsey was named captain in Arsene Wenger's last Arsenal match Credit: GETTY IMAGES Named captain for Arsene Wenger's final ever match as Arsenal guvnor, the midfielder can often squander his defensive duties such is his willingness to get on the frontfoot. What the Welshman lacks in his aerial and defensive abilities he more than makes up at the other end. The 56 shots on goal from just 24 league games is evidence of his attacking instinct in a team often blamed for trying to walk the ball into the net. 32. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) Scorer of City's winner which took Pep Guardiola's side to the 100-points mark, the Brazilian has been a solid and consistent performer. Gabriel Jesus celebrates scoring the goal which earned Man City their 100 points tally Credit: AFP A goal-poacher of the highest proportions - he rarely if at all shoots from outside the box - the 21-year-old just needs to add composure to his game when getting in behind defences and could quite easily become one of the most lethal forwards around. 31. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The Algerian marginally recovered from an unsettling January transfer window where a move to Manchester City broke down on deadline day. Mahrez struck just three goals in the final 13 matches but at least grafted for Claude Puel in terms of tracking back and helping win back possession. His thirst for taking on opposition backlines never dwindled either. 30. Paul Pogba (Man Utd) Credit: PA At his best, absolutely brilliant. At his inconsistent worst, ineffective and a drag on his teammates. Sees the game like few others, can beat anyone with the ball at his feet but has had a tendency to not fulfill defensive duties. Officially he made 10 assists but a good few of those were short passes to a player who then dribbled past defenders and hit a t op corner wonderstrike. Needs to produce more but Pogba is so close to being one of the world's great midfielders. 29. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) Hasn't had quite the same impact as he did for Chelsea last season but made 85 interceptions, more than anyone else in the league. Premier League Interceptions He's a machine off the ball but has been made to do more with it at his feet this season. Kante can play but his best trick is that ability to snap at defenders and ping around the opposition midfield like a pinball evading a wasp. 29. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Vardy ended the season as the fourth top scorer, hitting the back of the net 20 times. When you consider he's only behind Mo Salah, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and plays for a midtable side, that is an incredible feat. He can usually be found smashing the ball past the goalkeeper after breaking the offside trap but there's far more to his game than the tenacious hunting he's known for - Vardy's amazing goal on the volley against West Brom required instinctive vision and breathtaking technique to execute and was a highlight of the season. 27. Pascal Gross (Brighton) Gross has been like a more effective budget version of Mesut Ozil, creating an incredible number of chances while playing for relegation threatened Brighton - he has turned out to be one of the signings of the season. Scored seven goals and assisted eight, having created 82 chances, which puts him sixth highest of any Premier League player. Premier League Chances created 26. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea) Created more chances per match than any other player and in total, created 90 chances, the third most in the league. Strangely, only four of those turned into assists and Fabregas' return of two goals isn't stellar either. Still a high quality central midfielder, Fabregas is no longer at his peak and looks to have slowed and dropped back to a deeper quarter-back role. 25. Dele Alli (Spurs) Credit: OFFSIDE Didn't perform near his best for most of the season but came alive in the closing parts and looks ready to go for the World Cup at exactly the right time. Despite looking like half the player of last season, Alli assisted 10 goals and scored nine himself. He was also fouled 84 times, the third most of anyone in the Premier League. 24. Ederson (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The missing piece of the puzzle, Ederson's calm cool under pressure turned Man City into a team with 11 outfield players. The Brazilian can often be seen near the halfway line intercepting long balls, his vision and ability to spot a pass to beat a high press is second to no other goalkeeper in the world and he is incredibly agile, flinging himself to all corners to deny scoring chances. Premier League Clean sheets Why is he only number 24? Well, it's just that outfield players do more - kind of why Manuel Neuer hasn't won the Ballon d'Or. Crucially, Ederson's command of the area and sheer dependability mean the Man City back four (or three) can trust him to clear up any mistakes and keep those quick passes going with a safety net behind. An incredible find. 23. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) Already looks like one of, if not the best left-backs in the league, since signing from Hull Robertson has been a revelation. He runs all game long, is tenacious in the tackle and his delivery from wide is superb, assisting five goals in only 22 games - one more than Eden Hazard. Andy Robertson is currently chasing the Man City team bus along the M62... #Relentless#LIVMCI— Ben Nicol™ (@BenNicol23) January 14, 2018 One action in his performance against Man City will be remembered for years, as the defender chased the ball and just about everyone on the pitch all the way back to the goalkeeper before sprinting back to his own half. What a player. 22. Nemanja Matic (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Man Utd's most consistent performer. It looked like Matic's partnership with Pogba could be the start of something special early in the season but as that stopped and started, Matic was the one to bring real class to the centre of the Man Utd midfield. Made 2488 passes - the sixth most in the league - and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. A defensive shield. 21. Son Heung-Min (Spurs) Credit: CAMERASPORT A striker, winger and inside-forward, Son brings a bubbling, positive influence to the squad and is highly technically gifted with the ball at his feet. He scored 12 goals and assisted six in 37 games and will be exciting to watch at the World Cup as the star of the South Korea team rather than sniping from inside Harry Kane's shadow. Who looks good ahead of the World Cup? 20. Nicolas Otamendi (Man City) With the most touches of any defender and most passes too, it's safe to say that Otamendi's involvement in Man City's buildup play is fairly important. He's strong, anticipates well and is commanding in the air, winning 79 aerial duels, winning 43 tackles and making 48 interceptions. Also scored four goals and represents a threat from set pieces. 19. Romelu Lukaku (Man Utd) Credit: OFFSIDE Apart from a rather large lull between October and mid-January, Lukaku scored fairly consistently in his debut season at United but critics remain over his impact in big games and, with 16 league goals to his name he has arguably under-performed. However, he did come up with a fair few important strikes and he also has developed his hold-up play, too. Has played an important role for Jose Mourinho. 18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) An amazing footballer. Zaha can go past three players at once with ease, turns as if gravity has no effect on him and has added to his game, taking defensive responsibility and showing determination and leadership on the pitch. Premier League Dribbles completed With him, Crystal Palace are a threat, without, they'd be relegated. 17. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs) Credit: ACTION PLUS Dependable, organised, puts in tough tackles, anticipates danger and wins almost every aerial duel he goes into (118 times this season), Vertonghen has been exceptional at the heart of Spurs' defence. 16. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) This wasn't Hazard's best season by any stretch of the imagination but it speaks volumes about just how good he is that he was still one of the Premier League's better performers. Credit: GETTY IMAGES He could and possibly should have done better than his 12 goals and four assists, but even more noticeable has been the effect of the Belgian's absence from the side. Chelsea fans will be desperately hopeful that they don't have to deal with his absence on a more permanent basis next season. 15. Mousa Dembele (Spurs) There was a period this season when Dembele looked utterly unstoppable: he could not be tackled, handing opponents off like a rugby player while turning in impossibly small circles, seemingly capable of winning a physical battle with just about anybody. How Mousa Dembele became the Premier League's most complete midfielder That this period coincided with Tottenham's best run of form is no coincidence, and he would be higher up this list had he been able to start more than 21 games. 14. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) £75m seemed like an awful lot of money for a central defender but there is not a Liverpool fan who regrets the fact their club shelled out most of the money recouped from Philippe Coutinho's sale on Van Dijk. He has shored up a shaky defence that probably wouldn't have made the Champions League final had he not arrived but the Premier League is all important here - his debut goal in the Merseyside derby was pretty memorable. Premier League aerial duels won For comparison, Shane Duffy won those duels in 37 matches, Van Dijk in 26. 13. Christian Eriksen (Spurs) Credit: GETTY IMAGES One of only four players (and one of only two outside Manchester City) to hit double figures for goals and assists in Premier League games this season, Eriksen has continued to improve under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance. Few work as hard as Eriksen and possess his technique and vision, and he never shies away from the big occasion: the Dane scored this season against Man City (twice), Man Utd and Chelsea. 12. Kyle Walker (Man City) Credit: AP Has elevated to a position as one of the world's leading right-backs under Pep Guardiola, and has ended up looking a fantastic signing despite costing more than £50m last summer. Six assists from right-back is a decent tally, and he showed his versatility recently for England when moved in to a central defensive position and has spent much of the season in central midfield and right wing positions for Man City. 11. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Credit: AFP A slow start to the season had some critics labelling Mane the Ringo Starr of Liverpool's 'Fab Four', but since a lean spell in October and November he has been sensational. Skillful, pacy and with a knack for scoring in the biggest games, Mane has been an integral part of Liverpool's thrilling front-line this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven. 10. David De Gea (Man Utd) Credit: GETTY IMAGES After another brilliant season De Gea has become the first player in Manchester United's history to win the fans' player of the season four times. The Spaniard kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions (a personal best) but the Babbello Index is Premier League only - a good job then that De Gea topped the tables there too with 18. He also made a Premier League record-equalling 14 saves in a stupendous performance away at Arsenal. Save per centage Where on earth would United would be without him? 9. Raheem Sterling (Man City) Credit: OFFSIDE Previously so erratic in front of goal, Sterling morphed into something of a dead-eyed finisher this season (that miss at Burnley aside) and can lay claim to being the Premier League's most improved player. A return of 18 goals and 11 assists from 33 Premier League matches is a magnificent return, and almost as encouraging has been Sterling's much-improved link-up play. 8. Sergio Aguero (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES Aguero will be remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers but he's not finished yet! With 21 goals from 25 games, Aguero's record suggests that had he avoided injury he could well have pushed Harry Kane and Mo Salah to the wire for the Golden Boot. Scored three hat-tricks - the most of any player. 7. Leroy Sane (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Best young player in the world? Scored one of the goals of the season, his first touch is so good it's as though it was sent to earth from a power upon high, he's faster than Nigel Mansell (in a car, in the 90s), and able to wriggle his way through packed defences and create from nothing. Sane is not only a reliable source of chance creation but a key part of buildup play and - most importantly - a game-changer. Telegraph Sport's Premier League goals of the season 6. Fernandinho (Man City) Credit: REUTERS Pep Guardiola's avatar. Everything goes through Fernandinho: he organises, made the second most passes per game of any player in the league and the third highest number of successful passes in the opposition's half and anticipates danger minutes before it happens. Crucially, Fernandinho leads by example but has a ruthless streak to him - the kind serial winners usually do - and can absolutely ping a ball at goal when he gets the chance. 5. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) Credit: GETTY IMAGES The key to Liverpool's slick, fluid forward line. Drops out of the nine space to allow Salah and Mane room to attack, links passes around the final third, won 50 tackles leading the Liverpool high-press and scored 15 goals himself. And if you don't believe that, perhaps Thierry Henry's opinoin will help 4. Harry Kane (Spurs) Credit: PA All jokes aside, Kane does seem to score with most touches of the ball he gets and that makes sense, since most of his touches are shots. Kane took more of those than any other player, hitting 184 efforts at goal and scoring 30 times, including two hat-tricks. Premier League shots taken Has had a slight lull in the last few weeks after - somehow - recovering from injury in rapid time but should be at full-strength for the World Cup. 3. David Silva (Man City) Credit: GETTY IMAGES A treasure of the Premier League, one of the most intelligent, sexiest conjurers of magic the country has ever seen, Silva is one of the under appreciated, less-shiny stones on Man City's crown. Missed a large part of the season with personal problems but when on the pitch played better than he ever has. 2. Mo Salah (Liverpool) Credit: PA What a season. Glimpses of Messi-skill, an Ian Rush-like talent to be in the right place at the right time and a player who has inspired the entire city of Liverpool, let alone the club, throughout the season. Most goals in a 38-game @PremierLeague season… 3️⃣2️⃣ MOHAMED SALAH 3️⃣1️⃣ Luis Suarez 3️⃣1️⃣ Alan Shearer 3️⃣1️⃣ Cristiano Ronaldo Congratulations, @MoSalah! �� pic.twitter.com/oY3DK7Hhxy— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018 Salah is a ridiculous talent who, if he can maintain the form in the World Cup and for Liverpool next season, should be considered up there with the world's elite. Goals scored Premier League But there is another... 1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) Credit: ACTION PLUS Simply put, De Bruyne has been the best all round player in the best ever Premier League team. He embodies everything special about Guardiola's 100-points-winning style of football, makes unbelievable passes, scores incredible goals, is determined, driven, inspirational, hits wonderstrikes with both feet and... well... what more could you want? An assist 4 minutes into added time means that the incredible Kevin De Bruyne is the winner of the 1st @CadburyUK Playmaker award#PLAwardspic.twitter.com/odgxB7XcOT— Premier League (@premierleague) May 13, 2018 The Belgian scored eight goals and assisted 16 others with some of those being match-deciders. His workrate off the ball has been exceptional, some of the passes he makes are out of this world and he doesn't even seem to be better on one particular foot. If he plays like this at the World Cup De Bruyne could light the tournament on fire.

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