It may seem like only yesterday the 2015/16 Premier League campaign kicked off, but believe it or not, we’re now just two games away from the exact midpoint of the season.
Sky Sports pundits Jamie Carragher and Thierry Henry used this week’s edition of Monday Night Football to pick their Team of the Season so far and barring a few suspiciously biased selections from the Arsenal legend, it’s hard to disagree with their line up; Jack Butland, Hector Bellerin, Toby Alderweireld, Chris Smalling, Nacho Monreal, N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley, Riyad Mahrez, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Jamie Vardy.
But we at Football Fancast believe some of the Premier League’s less high-profile stars deserve their share of the credit as well, and thus, we’ve created our own Alternative Team of the Half-Season utilising a fittingly alternative 3-5-2 formation – the only stipulation being that it can’t include any members of Sky Sports’ chosen Xi.
Do you agree with our picks? Is there somebody we’ve glaringly missed out? How would our XI fare against Sky Sports’? Let us know by commenting below!
We may be doing David De Gea a slight disservice, considering the Manchester United No.1 has been as superlative as ever this season, whilst Petr Cech has substantially fortified Arsenal’s defence since arriving from Chelsea during the summer.
But former Spurs flop Heurelho Gomes has been conducting heroics on a weekly basis at Watford, barring a few predictable howlers here and there. He’s keep the most clean sheets of any Premier League goalkeeper, eight, and ranks a respectable joint-fifth in the saves charts with 42.
Others might feel slightly aggrieved considering injuries and suspensions have limited Ryan Shawcross to just seven Premier League appearances this season. But the fact Stoke City have conceded just two goals and kept six clean sheets with the English centre-back in their starting line-up – most notably against Chelsea and Manchester City – speaks for itself.
Compare that to the 14 goals they’ve conceded in their 10 games without him, and the impact the 28-year-old skipper’s had on the Potters since his first league outing in October becomes even more evident.
Unfortunate to miss out on Sky Sports’ XI, we had to give a slot to Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscienly.
The France international has established himself as one of the best centre-backs in Europe over the last few years and he’s maintained that reputation again this season, helping Arsenal concede the joint-fewest goals of any Premier League side, 14, with averages of 2.6 successful aerial duels, 5.3 clearances, 1.5 tackles and 3.8 interceptions per match.
No defender has claimed more interceptions than the 28-year-old this year, whilst two goals in 14 Premier League appearances leaves Koscielny just one shy of matching his best ever return in the English top flight.
Scott Dann inexplicably missed out on a place in last season’s PFA Team of the Year and has carried his form into the current campaign, missing just one fixture amid Crystal Palace’s rise to sixth in the Premier League table.
The 28-year-old has been nothing short of monolithic at the back for Alan Pardew’s side, helping them record the fourth-best goals conceded record in the division, whilst his offensive contribution has also caught the eye – bagging three goals and one assist in 16 outings.
Re-signing Gerard Deulofeu during the summer – albeit allowing Barcelona a cheeky buy-back clause – has proved an incredibly shrewd move on Everton’s part.
The prodigious Spaniard’s blistering pace has caused continuous problems for Premier League defences this season, whilst he’s second in the division’s assists charts with an impressive seven from 15 outings.
Six of those set-ups have gone straight to Romelu Lukaku, making the Toffees duo the most frequent goal-assist combination in the top flight.
Somehow not even mentioned as Thierry Henry and Jamie Carragher constructed Sky Sports’ XI, the £10million arrival of Yohan Cabaye has been the catalyst behind Crystal Palace’s impressive transformation into top six contenders.
Indeed, the Frenchman has brought the guile and class to the Palace engine room that many assumed when he signed during the summer. But it’s his output and industriousness that has impressed us at Football Fancast most, bagging five goals and one assist in 16 appearances whilst averaging 3.8 tackles and 3.8 interceptions per match.
We simply couldn’t overlook Dele Alli’s sensational rise since representing MK Dons in League One just six months ago, going on to establish himself as one of the first names on the Tottenham team-sheet and a recurring fixture in Roy Hodgson’s plans for the England squad.
An all-action midfielder, the 19-year-old has performed well as a holding player, a centre-mid and a No.10 this season, bagging four goals and two assists in twelve Premier League starts – not to mention that absolute stunner against France whilst on Three Lions duty in November.
Also averaging 2.4 tackles, 2.2 interceptions and 1.1 created chances per match, Alli has quickly emerged as one of the most exciting home-grown prospects in the Premier League.
Jamie Carragher’s disbelief at Alexis Sanchez making it into Sky Sports’ select XI over Dimitri Payet says it all. The France international was nothing short of incredible for West Ham during the first few months of the season before picking up a lengthy injury layoff at the start of November, bagging five goals and three assists in twelve Premier League appearances.
He’s still only second to Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil in the Premier League’s chance creation rankings – a whopping 3.9 per match – and was integral to the Hammers’ spate of wins against the Premier League’s big boys at the start of the campaign, namely Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City. In fact, Slaven Bilic’s side are yet to win a league game without the 28-year-old in the starting XI.
Perhaps a return of four goals and six assists should be expected of an attacking midfielder plying his trade in a side as talented as Manchester City’s, overflowing with pace and attacking prowess.
But it’s the ease in which Kevin De Bruyne has transitioned to life at the Etihad, despite not joining the Citizens ranks until late August and arriving with a £55million club-record fee over his head, that’s left us at Football Fancast so impressed.
Club-record signings have developed a knack for flopping spectacularly in the Premier League or, at the very least, initially struggle to live up to their billing – Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Erik Lamela being the more obvious examples.
Many feared a similar outcome for the Belgium interational, especially considering how he failed to impact at former club Chelsea, but he’s already emerged as a key element in the City line-up and one of the best creators in the division, ranking third in that respect with 3.2 chances per match.
After an underwhelming 2014/15 campaign, Romelu Lukaku is firmly back to his best. Only Jamie Vardy has surpassed the Everton frontman’s 13-goal haul in the Premier League this season whilst his four assists is the joint-most of any striker in the division.
That return has seen the Belgium international join an elite club of just five players who have netted 50 Premier League goals before their 23rd birthday and he’s emerged as a very complete goalscorer this season, bagging three goals with his right foot, six with his left, four headers and one from outside of the box.
Following closely behind Lukaku in the scoring charts is Watford’s Odion Ighalo, whose partnership with Troy Deeney has been one of the stories of the season in the Premier League.
He’s bagged twelve goals and two assists in 17 outings for the Hornets, propelling them to a shock seventh-place in the table, and his partnership with the Watford skipper is steadily putting 4-4-2 back into fashion.
More than simply an expert finisher, however, it’s the Nigerian international’s pace, power and trickery that the rest of the Premier League has failed to deal with this year. He’s been awarded six Man of the Match awards by stat enthusiasts Whoscored.com – only Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil has more throughout the Premier League.