You already know who these three players will be, so let’s just get this show on the road…
Welcome back to the Premier League Team of the Season. This piece will cover the three midfield positions, which, to be honest, were fairly easy to pick. We are in a 4-3-3 formation, so there will only be three players in this segment.
You all probably know who they are, so let us get started.
İlkay Gündoğan (Manchester City)
Yes, İlkay Gündoğan is a midfielder. It may not seem like it all the time, with him playing many different roles and sometimes featuring as a center forward for City this season, but he is a midfielder and more than deserving of this spot.
Gündoğan has served a unique purpose in this City team. Often lacking a true number nine, the German midfielder has used his very aggressive, direct style to make darting runs into the box and get into good positions to score. With many of City’s attacks coming from the wings, Gündoğan is often not burdened with much of the creative responsibility, which allows him to freely attack as if he was a forward. It is a very unorthodox way of playing, but it clearly works very well for both the player and for City. It is this reason why Gündoğan is City’s top scorer both in the Premier League and in all competitions this season, and it is the reason why the German took home two consecutive Premier League Player of the Month awards.
Outside of goals, it is a bit difficult to quantify Gündoğan’s season, but the goals provide enough of a report as to why he has had a truly remarkable 2020/21. He is a very competent midfielder in his own right, being very well-rounded as a player, tidy and composed on the ball, and capable of passing well with both feet, but his remarkable goal return is really what made him stand out this season.
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
So, I get the feeling that this might be controversial. I keep hearing about De Bruyne having a disappointing season, and, to be honest, I have no earthly idea why.
Yes, he missed nine games this season. Yes, City probably seemed fine without him (though I would still disagree with any notion that City are better without him). Yes, his season seems a bit disappointing compared to last season, but he literally equalled the Premier League’s single-season assist record last season. If that is the standard, then no human being can equal that.
Kevin De Bruyne is still an absolutely phenomenal player, arguably still one of, if not the most talented player in the league. Five goals and 11 assists this season (with games left to play, remember) is still a great return and leaves him second among all Premier League players in assists, trailing Harry Kane by only two. And remember, De Bruyne missed nine games this season! These total numbers could be much better than they are now, and even then they are still very impressive.
The difference really begins to show when you look at the analytics, specifically all of the creative stats that are per 90 mins, which averages out those creative stats to account for De Bruyne having played less games than his counterparts. When you look at those stats, it is still incredibly apparent that he is still among the best creative players in the league, if not the best in the league. Goal-creating actions and shot-creating actions are basically actions taken by a player that lead to a shot, mainly passes but it can be a variety of things. For a player with the passing range of De Bruyne, those numbers should be high, and they definitely are. While he trails the league leaders in total shot-creating and goal-creating actions, he is at or near the top of the league in both categories per 90 minutes, which put every player on an even playing field in terms of games played. These stats show that De Bruyne plays a pass that leads to a shot over six times every game, while he plays a pass that leads to a goal nearly every game. Which is ridiculous.
De Bruyne is still incredible. Was he as good as he was last season? No. Was he the best midfielder in the league this season? Maybe, but I do not think his case is as strong as it had been in the past. Was he one of the three best midfielders in the league this season? Absolutely.
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
If you had made an award specifically for the player that is most valuable and most important to their team’s success, Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes would likely be one of the front runners. I am not sure if he would win, but he would come very close.
Bruno Fernandes has been the best midfielder in the Premier League this season. I do not believe that is a ridiculous statement at all. You could even make a compelling argument that he has been the best player in the league this season. He is the highest scoring midfielder in the league, while also having the joint-second highest amount of assists among any player in the league and being not far off at all from the leader in that category. He has played more key passes (the final pass/action before a chance on goal that is not scored) than any player in the league this season. He has had more total shot-creating and goal-creating actions than any player in the league this season. His 27 total goal contributions in the league this season make him responsible for about 42% of Manchester United’s Premier League goals in 2020/21. That is ridiculous, and it shows just how influential and just how incredible Fernandes has been this season.
Now, yes, you can call him “Penandes”. You can say he is inconsistent or does not turn up in big games (and there may be some validity to that). But the numbers do not lie. I mean, take away all of his penalties and he still has eight goals from open play this season, which is the third most among all Premier League midfielders and not far behind the leader, the aforementioned İlkay Gündoğan. Even looking beyond the numbers, all you have to do is watch him play and you can tell how much better he makes this United team when he is in form. Every attack runs through him. Almost every good goal-scoring opportunity that United create comes from his foot. He is the engine that keeps United moving, and you can definitely say it has strayed into over-reliance, but you cannot then say he is not among the best players in the league this season.
The stats do not lie. The two Premier League Player of the Month awards do not lie. I genuinely believe United would not be where they are right now if he were not in the team. I anticipate that he will be among the favorites to win PFA Player of the Year at the end of the season, and should he win it, it would be very deserved.
And that is our midfield trio in this Team of the Season. Agree with my picks? Think I left someone out? Let us know in the comments!
Be sure to return tomorrow for Part 3 of the Premier League Team of the Season, where we name the three best forwards in the league this season.
Featured Image Credits: SoccerKakis
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