With the PFA releasing their team of the year recently, I’ve decided to look at who would make the Premier League’s ‘Young Team of the Season’. In order for a player to be eligible for this, they must have been under 25 at the start of the season, and must not have appeared in the actual PFA team of the season.
Goalkeeper – I don’t think you can look any further than Stoke’s Jack Butland for the goalkeeping position. With Courtois massively underperforming, there really was no competition for 23 year old Butland. Reacting to the loss of highly rated Asmir Begovic to Chelsea, Jack has stepped up to the plate, and has almost thrown Asmir’s departure into irrelevancy with a season of impressive performances that have earned him his first senior England cap, and a place on the PFA Young Player of the Year shortlist.
Right Back – There’s no surprise to see a number of contestants for this position, as it is one that favours the youthful traits of pace, energy and stamina, especially in the fast-paced modern game. With Bellerin making the TOTS, he cannot be included here. Yedlin has matured a lot this season, making himself a regular in the Sunderland defence, whilst Trippier experienced an impressive, yet bit-part first season at Spurs. On top of this, Fosu Mensah’s recent performances have been extremely promising for Man United, looking like he could go on to cement a place in the side very soon, despite still being 18. But the player I’ve decided to go with is Nathaniel Clyne. The full back, who recently turned 25, has continued his impressive development during his first season at Liverpool following his Summer move from the Saints. He is also facing a battle for Kyle Walker to become England’s first choice right back for the Euro’s, and it will be interesting to see who Hodgson prefers.
Centre Backs – With most teams favouring experience in this position, it can be difficult for young centre backs to really get their chance. However, some have been given their chance and truly taken it. With Everton’s John Stones perhaps not living up to the hype of last season, and Jagielka experiencing injuries that have kept him out for part of the season, The Toffees have needed some solid defensive cover. They found this in Funes Mori. The fearless Argentian, who signed from River Plate in the summer has really found his feet in the Premier League. His gritty, yet on the whole classy performances have perhaps been the most impressive thing in Everton’s lacklustre defence this season, and he has also contributed with four goals, making him a threat at both ends of the pitch.
Potential partners for Funes Mori are Bournemouth’s Steve Cook, who has perhaps had the most underrated season of any English player in the Prem, and the Austrian Kevin Wimmer, who effortlessly replaced Jan Vertonghen whilst he was out injured. But, the player I’ve gone for is Virgil Van Dijk. The 24 year old made his move from the SPL in the Summer, and I for one expected him to struggle defensively after making the step up. However, the Dutch centre half has proved me wrong with many strong performances contributing to Southampton’s season. His physicality and comfort on the ball have been a major part in his initial success in England, and we can expect his good form to carry on next season.
Left Back – The two main contenders for this position were Patrick Van Aanholt and Ben Davies. Van Aanholt has offered a handful of impressive performances this season, improving massively on his disappointing form last year, developing well defensively, and contributing to the Black Cats’ attack with his pace, crosses, and three goals. Davies, on the other hand, has acted as back up for the majority of the season, but has really pushed Rose for the number one spot at Spurs this season. It is widely believed that Davies’ solid form has been a key factor in the rapid development that has earned Rose the title of the PFA’s Left Back of the Season. Davies has filled in for the PFA Left Back of the Season 15 times this season, and hasn’t looked out of place once, earning him a place in my team.
Defensive Midfield – We look no further than Eric Dier for this role. The 22 year old has been irreplaceable in the heart of Spurs’ midfield, with his brimming talents undoubtedly contributing to the success of Spurs’ season, and his midfield presence being a key factor in Spurs conceding the fewest amount of goals in the league. His unlikely success in this role has earned him his first England caps, getting a late winner against Germany in his most recent. His immovable presence in midfield has allowed him to shake off competitors for this role such as Coquelin and Besic.
Right Wing – There have been several contenders for this spot with players such as Shaqiri and Zaha being constant threats for Stoke and Palace respectively, and Deulofeu looking dangerous on the right for Everton when called upon. Erik Lamela has also developed into one of Spurs’ players of the season during his most successful season in England yet. However, one player who has taken considerably less time to adapt to this league is Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian made his big money move to Liverpool in the summer, and it looks to be money well spent so far. The 24 year old has nine goals and seven assists in 22 appearances this year, which is impressive given Liverpool’s arguably below par form. His versatility and exciting attacking work earns him a place on the right of this team.
Left Wing – With Eden Hazard being almost non-existent all season (barring a brace vs Bournemouth, of course), and other promising young wingers like Arsenal’s Joel Campbell and Alex Iwobi featuring limited game time, there weren’t too many contenders for this position. Martial has had a lot of success out wide but I still see him more centrally, so I have opted for Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen on the left wing. With six goals and 12 assists, the 24 year old has contributed immensely to Spurs’ attack and creates over three and a half chances a game on average, sparking deadly combinations with Spurs’ biggest goal threats, Kane and Alli. His combination of graft and guile have earned him a place in this team.
Attacking Midfield – Spurs midfielder Dele Alli is out of contention due to his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Season, so the only other main contenders are Coutinho and De Bruyne. Jesse Lingard has looked okay in the Man United side, but hasn’t been outstanding by any means. Coutinho has built on his success from last year, and has improved upon not only his goalscoring form, but his all round play. However, Kevin De Bruyne has been exceptional for Man City, and has well and truly answered the critics who questioned his large fee. With six goals and nine assists in 23 league appearances, and a wealth of skill and quality on the ball, it’s no wonder City’s worst run of form coincided with the 24 year old’s spell out with knee ligament damage.
Strikers – There have been quite a few young strikers who have grabbed headlines this season. Kane proved any doubters of his ability wrong with an even better season than last year, 18 year old Marcus Rashford became a surprise leading striker for United, and 18 year old Kelechi Iheanacho managed to force himself into a City team that has spent millions on attacking talent. Kane, however, isn’t eligible due to his inclusion in the PFA Team of the Season, and despite the immense quality that Rashford and Iheanacho possess at such a young age, I feel neither have done enough (mainly due to limited game time, or inconsistency) to be included in this team.
Divok Origi also enjoyed an admirable second half of the season, flourishing under Klopp’s style of play, before his unfortunate injury against Everton. (However, this wasn’t quite enough to exclude Funes Mori from this team). Despite Divok’s impressive spell, I feel there have been two strikers more worthy of a place in the Young Team of the Season, and one of these is Frenchman Anthony Martial. Martial was, in my opinion, an obvious inclusion, after arguably being United’s player of the season following his big money move from AS Monaco in the Summer. The eight League goals he has to his name don’t show the half of what he’s achieved this season, as it is his beautifully combined pace and skill that have allowed him to effortlessly beat defenders and constantly create and make chances in a Van Gaal system which doesn’t appear to favour attacking play. On top of this, he has had to play the majority of the season from the left where I feel he is less effective than he is through the middle, but the fact that the 20 year old has still managed to be a bright spark in a pretty uninspiring Man United side has been enough to warrant his inclusion.
And finally, I’ve decided to include Everton’s top scorer, Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian may have just hit a slight dip in form, but it arguably his goals that have kept a poor Everton side out of a relegation battle this season. The 22 year old has hit the net 18 times so far for Everton, and on top of this has six assists, meaning he has so far contributed to just one goal less than leading scorer Kane when taking assists into account. The physical striker relishes being the main man of his team, and Everton will do well to keep him at the club following his best goalscoring season of his career.
Bench – Thibaut Courtois, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Kevin Wimmer, Philippe Coutinho, Erik Lamela, Kelechi Iheanacho, Marcus Rashford.
By Dan Grimes, TFN Columnist on 28/04/2016 at 23:39
Follow Dan on Twitter @False_CB