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Selecting Our 2023/24 Premier League Squad Of The Season

With the Premier League being concluded, Lauren selects her starting XI, substitutes and manager from the players and managers that have impressed the most this season. Choosing a team of the season is almost impossible, with several players excelling in one position making it difficult to decide who to go for.

With Arsenal and Manchester City taking the title race to the final game, how many in red and sky blue will make the cut? Will any of the Champions League-bound Aston Villa players make my selection?

Cover photo: Evening Standard

 

Goalkeeper: David Raya (Arsenal)

The Spaniard claimed the golden glove whilst on loan from Brentford this season at Arsenal. It was a surprising transfer when Arsenal announced this loan signing considering how well Aaron Ramsdale had performed between the sticks the previous year. In 32 matches this season, Raya claimed 16 clean sheets and conceded only 24 goals. He was on the bench for the first three games of the season at Arsenal, but promptly replaced Ramsdale in goal. Raya sometimes acted like a fifth defender for Arsenal as they played football from the back.

 

Left-Back: Josko Gvardiol (Manchester City)

This choice was difficult considering the number of injuries in this position across most clubs this season. Andy Robertson and Luke Shaw have been injured for much of the campaign. In the end, I have gone for City’s make-shift left-back Gvardiol. Guardiola signed him from RB Leipzig in the summer for £77.6m, making him one of the highest transfer fees for a defender. T

he defender has proved his versatility playing at both centre-back and left-back this season. City retained the most possession on average in the league (65.9%) last season; a large part of that is down to playing out from the back. Gvardiol completed 87% of his passes and was very difficult to shake off the ball with an average of 0.6 times per 90 minutes.

 

In the 28 matches Gvardiol played in the league last season, 23 were at left-back. The 23-year-old also contributed at the other end of the pitch with four goals and two assists; all in the season's final six games. He is becoming the definition of a modern-day full-back as he plays higher up the pitch, continually gets into the opposition box and creates chances.

 

Centre-Back: Gabriel (Arsenal)

Arsenal’s defensive record has a lot to do with their centre-back pairing; Saliba and Gabriel. Last year, Saliba won the applause for his contributions but this season his compatriot is deservingly in the limelight. The duo are like a wall at the back; unmoveable.

 

Gabriel appeared 36 times this season; with 16 clean sheets achieved in that time. He averaged 1.39 tackles and 2.86 clearances every 90 minutes on the pitch. Gabriel delivered some fine performances this campaign including keeping Erling Haaland quiet in their draw with Manchester City.

 

Like most modern defenders, it is his contribution at the other end of the pitch that has not gone unnoticed. He netted four goals in the Premier League this season, and only Cristian Romero of Tottenham has netted more (5).

 

Centre-Back: Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)

The Dutchman would be the first to tell you his standards slipped last season. But as the old saying goes, “Form is temporary, class is permanent.” With Henderson leaving Liverpool in the summer, Jurgen Klopp handed the captain’s armband over to Van Dijk. The centre-back has been a key part of Liverpool’s form this season and has partnered up with various centre-backs, helping to ease the breakthrough of youngster Jarrell Quansah into the squad.

 

Van Dijk helped to contribute at the other end of the pitch with two goals and two assists. He is certainly a menace during set-piece plays. Liverpool conceded 38 goals in the 36 matches the captain played for them, averaging out a goal conceded every 84 minutes. His stats continue to impress with an average of 4.17 clearances, 1.14 tackles and 1.02 interceptions per match. His ability to dominate in the air, force interceptions and blocks signifies why the Dutchman is such a key figure for Liverpool’s defence.

 

Right-Back: Ben White (Arsenal)

Yes, it’s another Arsenal player in the team but how can you avoid them with the best defensive record in the division? White’s transformation to right-back from central defence has proved successful, and his stats from his second season in the position show you that.

 

The defender has formed a strong bond with creators Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka down the right; providing them with an option in attack as he takes up more advanced positions. White accumulated a career best 8 goal involvements; with goals and assists divided equally. He would be a great addition to the England squad; whatever is going on behind the scenes needs sorting, he deserves his spot in the international team!

 

Central Midfielder: Declan Rice (Arsenal)

The Englishman has undoubtedly lived up to his £105m price tag. Rice’s presence has helped to progress an already world-class Arsenal team, taking the title challenge to the final day of the season with Manchester City. The 25 year-old is second to none with his ball recoveries and interceptions, but his attacking prowess has significantly progressed since his move across London. He did everything; protecting the backline whilst also contributing to the attack.

 

Rice delivered his best goal involvements in a season last campaign. He netted seven goals and assisted a further nine goals in all 38 matches this season. Since new year, Arteta named Rice corner-taker and his deliveries into the box have created an abundance of chances in the process. Previously noted as a defensive midfielder, his move to Arsenal has enabled Rice to advance further forward. He’s now an almost box-to-box midfielder, and his stamina is astounding as he will make runs into the box deep into injury time.

 

Central Midfielder: Rodri (Manchester City)

Similar to Rice, it is easy to focus on Rodri’s defensive abilities however the Spaniard has also been involved in goals this season. He is arguably one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. At the base of midfield, Rodri averaged over 100 passes a game; more than any Premier League player that racked up more than 10 appearances. He managed to notch up 4,112 touches of the ball last season – that’s 486 more than anyone else.

 

This season, Rodri contributed the most goals he has ever done in a season. He netted eight goals himself whilst assisting a further nine to his teammates. Rodri stepped up when it was important including netting in the final day win over West Ham United to clinch the title. That game marked the 50th consecutive appearance in the Premier League in which Rodri has played and not lost. Rodri failed to appear in four league games this season, three of which due to suspension. The three losses Manchester City sustained last season were all when Rodri were suspended. That justifies how important Rodri has been for Guardiola’s team.

 

Left Midfielder: Phil Foden (Manchester City)

The Premier League Player of The Season. How could he not make the line-up? The England International entered sixth gear this season. He is in the form of his life. 19 goals and seven assists. That’s a staggering nine more contributions than his previous best tally. Only teammate Haaland (20) scored more non-penalty goals than Foden did. The 24-year-old put in some world-class performances this season including hat-tricks against Brentford and Aston Villa as well as netting two quality goals against rivals Manchester United. Only six players created more chances in the final third this season than Foden’s 73.

 

He filled the boots of departing Ilkay Gundogan and the injured Kevin De Bruyne. With the latter back fit again and the inevitable additions to City’s squad in the summer, Foden must continue this fine form – but the sky is the limit for the ‘Stockport Messi.’ It's great as a neutral that Foden enters Euro 2024 in red hot form. It’s just a case of how Southgate fits him in England’s line-up to get the best out of him.  

 

Central Attacking Midfielder: Cole Palmer (Chelsea)

What a first season this man has had at Chelsea. 34 goal involvements including 22 goals helped steady the ship at Chelsea and guide them to a return to European football. He is certainly a strong contender for signing of the season. Eyebrows were certainly raised when the 22 year-old left Manchester City to Chelsea for £40m. He was eager for the move to happen. Palmer certainly diminished any concerns, easily justified his price tag and has rightfully paved his way into the Euro 2024 England squad.

 

He is remarkably only the third Chelsea player to score 20+ goals and assist more than 10 in a Premier League season – Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were the previous players. Palmer’s performances deservedly put him up with those star names.

 

Right Midfielder: Mohammed Salah (Liverpool)

The Egyptian has excelled under Jurgen Klopp. In 32 league appearances this season, he has netted 18 goals and assisted 10 more. That’s almost a goal contribution per game. And yet, there have been question marks over Salah’s performances this season. Perhaps he could have laid it off to a teammate rather than had a pip himself, perhaps he should have hit the target in some scenarios but his numbers are still incredible. If his teammates were just ruthless in front of goal, perhaps Salah would have more assists.

 

For any fantasy football fans out there, Salah made a seventh consecutive appearance in the FPL team of the season. Whilst Frank Lampard and Harry Kane managed the same number, they failed to do so in consecutive seasons. His 1,741 points make him one of the greatest fantasy football assets of all time. We can only see how Liverpool fare under the new manager Slot next season. Will Salah remain at the club or will he call it quits and join elsewhere? Whatever happens, he has certainly graced the Premier League well.

 

Striker: Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

It might come to a surprise to you that I have spent a long time umming and aahing between Haaland and other strikers this season. But ultimately, whilst this wonderkid is in the Premier League you cannot ignore him. The Norwegian netted 27 goals on his journey to claiming the golden boot. He had to overcome a few niggling injuries this season and perhaps wasn’t always at his best, but there is no denying that 27 goals in 31 appearances is incredible. He might not have hit the heights of last season but he is still the best striker in the world.

 

Haaland missed the most chances in the league last season – yes, that’s right it wasn’t Darwin Nunez. The Norwegian only converted 3 out of 20 chances in the Premier League; that’s a 15% chance of scoring. In all his previous seasons at senior level he has amassed over 50%. A stark decline this season and yet a tremendous achievement for the 23 year-old.

 

Manager: Unai Emery (Aston Villa)

What Emery has done at Aston Villa is remarkable. He took over the club in November 2022 when they were 16th and guided them to a 7th place finish – their highest since 2010/11 and secured their first European football since the same season. This season he has taken the club further; securing Champions League football for the first time since it was renamed; last playing in 1983.

 

Emery has completed mindful transfer business in his time at Aston Villa; strategically purchasing players rather than splashing the cash like other clubs. Most notable signings include Moussa Diaby for £51.2m and Pau Torres for £31.5m. So to have beaten the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea to a top four finish, deserves the applauds.

 

Substitutes: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Pedro Porro (Tottenham Hotspur), William Saliba (Arsenal), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Antony Gordon (Newcastle United), Martin Odegaard (Arsenal), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa), Alexander Isak (Newcastle United).

 

Now unlike most team of the seasons, I have selected a matchday squad (20 players) as I feel some players might not have made the line-up but deserved to be mentioned about. Jordan Pickford was in the running all season for the golden glove, accumulating 13 clean sheets – only three fewer than Arsenal, whom let’s face it have a stronger defence than Everton. Many times this season the England shot-stopper has been the hero for Everton pulling off some outrageous saves. He enters the Euros off the back of an incredible season. Surely, he deserves a shot at European football?

 

My selection of defenders on the bench are Porro, Saliba and Trippier. Porro and Trippier are classic examples of the modern-day full-back; performing their defensive duties well whilst consistently attacking up the pitch. Trippier missed several games through injury but managed to hit double figures in assists in 28 games, whilst Porro racked up three goals and seven assists in 35 matches. At centre-back option I have gone with Arsenal’s William Saliba. Part of a formidable Gunners’ backline, the Frenchman continues to improve and at 23 years old is becoming one of the world’s best in his position.

 

In the middle of the pitch, I’ve gone with Conor Gallagher and Martin Odegaard as my backup options. Gallagher has enjoyed a strong personal season with Chelsea but has been overshadowed by England team-mate Cole Palmer. Taking over the captain’s armband from the injured Reece James, Gallagher has consistently performed in midfield for the London club this season, displacing the likes of big-money signings Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo. Missing only one game this season, Gallagher managed seven assists and five goals including some ferocious efforts from distance. Arsenal skipper Odegaard is my other option in midfield. He's unlucky not to have made my starting XI having managed eight goals and ten assists this season. He is Mr Reliable for Arsenal but I could not ignore what Palmer has perhaps single-handedly achieved at rivals Chelsea. With Odegaard and Haaland cementing their world-class status, it can only be a matter of time before we see Norway feature at the World Cup.

 

And finally, up front I have gone Antony Gordon, Ollie Watkins and Alexander Isak on my substitutes bench. Gordon and Isak have been stand-out performers for Newcastle this season. In his first full season with them, Gordon managed to score 11 goals and assist a further 10; opening the door for a place in the Euro squad this summer with England. Isak impressed with a strong campaign where he netted 21 times. We might see the Sweden International on the move this summer but if Newcastle can resist offers, he will flourish in a side full of attacking talent. If they can sort out their defensive injury list; they will be back chasing for European football. The final player in my squad is Ollie Watkins. The 28-year-old scored a career best 19 goals this season, whilst assisting his teammates 13 times. His stats were equal to Manchester City’s Haaland, and only bettered by Cole Palmer, and that was by one. It’s safe to say it’s been a season to remember for Watkins – and there should be more memories to come with a place in the England squad in his sights before tasting Champions League football next season with Villa.

 

 

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