As is traditional at this time of year, we’ve picked an XI to represent the cream of English football: our Premier League team of the season for 2018/19.
But we haven’t done it in the way you might have expected. The obvious way would be to compile the leader board for the season, and then shoehorn the best players into a workable team. If anything, that’s the best way of doing it when you rely upon the most powerful algorithm in football (even if we do say so ourselves).
Instead, much like the PFA, we’ve utilised a voting system. And it’s our algorithm casting the votes, but instead of looking at season-long points totals, we’ve compiled our team by looking at the number of appearances each player has accumulated in our teams of the week.
So while the likes of Sadio Mané, Luka Milivojevic, Nathan Aké and David Luiz are in our top 11 players on points alone, their relative lack of TOTW ‘caps’ sees them miss out here. Let’s find out who has made the cut.
Before we do, a quick word on some of the team totals. It won’t surprise you to learn that Manchester City and Liverpool have picked up the most caps, with 48 and 36 respectively. What might shock you is that one cap shy of third place in the chart is Watford, with the Hornets the only non-big six side to break into the top seven by this measure.
Liverpool have the most appearances in defence (16), while City lead the way in midfield (15) and attack (23). But we have to start with our goalkeeper.
Goalkeeper: Neil Etheridge, Cardiff City.
The Bluebirds’ stopper pipped Ben Foster to this position by just one cap. He picked up three of his six team of the week appearances in the last eight weeks, as he did his upmost to keep Cardiff in the division.
As an aside, there were no caps for the goalkeepers from Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea this season. Our algorithm obviously favours the busier ‘keepers.
Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool.
Only four appearances were required by both of our full-backs. The young Scouser currently has the seventh most assists in the Premier League this season, so is well worth a spot.
Centre-back: Harry Maguire, Leicester City.
The England international has appeared in our team of the week eight times this season, the most of any defender. His tally included a hat-trick of inclusions from week six to week eight, so presumably he gets to keep this team, or something.
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool.
It’s hardly surprising that our player of the year featured here too, even if it wasn’t guaranteed. Virgil’s seven TOTW caps account for almost a fifth of Liverpool’s total.
Left-back: Lucas Digne, Everton.
Hands up who thought Andy Robertson would feature here? Thought so. Despite being fourth in the assists table, the Scot only appeared in our team of the week twice. It’s a rare win for the blue side of Merseyside on this one.
Midfield: Paul Pogba, Manchester United.
Well this won’t cause any controversy, obviously. Pogba is one of the three players in the team who picked up nine of our caps in 2018/19, so he should undoubtedly be here. Most people will probably disagree though.
Midfield: Abdoulaye Doucouré, Watford.
This is the one spot in the team which went to a penalty shoot-out. Based on TOTW appearances, the likes of Granit Xhaka or Doucouré’s teammate Etienne Capoue could’ve had this spot. However, a quick total points check on all three gave Abdoulaye the nod by fewer than a thousand points. Sorry, Granit.
Midfield: David Silva, Manchester City.
The Spaniard was our star over the first half of this season. By week 20 he’d appeared in seven teams of the week, a total only five players topped across the whole season. His performances in the autumn months mean he’s deservedly included here.
Forward: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City.
The Football Writers’ player of the year has bagged an even more prestigious award: a berth in our team of the year. Sterling has been remarkably consistent in 2018/19, only going three league games without a goal or assist once.
Forward: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool.
Alongside Pogba and Silva, Salah picked up nine team of the week caps. He had a particularly purple patch around the turn of the year, appearing six times in eight weeks between weeks 16 and 23. Not bad for a one season wonder.
Forward: Eden Hazard, Chelsea.
Our final man produced the single highest point scoring appearance of the season:
And who did he score a hat trick past that day? Neil Etheridge. Circle of life, innit?