John Giles: My Premier League team of the year is based on hard grafters and class acts
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IT’S a bit early to be picking a team of the year with so many dramas still to unfold in the season but in terms of the Premier League, Manchester City’s dominant performance all season makes the timing right.
By winning the title with a month still left in the schedule, City and Pep Guardiola set a benchmark for everyone else and that is reflected in the fact that they provide four of the men I believe have been better than anyone else in their positions all season.
The PFA team of the year announced in midweek went for five and included Nicolas Otamendi but I thought there were better defenders than him this season.
In fact, only Kyle Walker is the only City defender to make it into my line-up and perhaps that mirrors the doubts I had about Guardiola’s defence which were eased by a decent goals against total in the Premier League but blossomed again fully when they lost to Liverpool in the Champions League.
The one very obvious point about my selection is the fact that only one Manchester United player makes it into the team and it’s not Paul Pogba.
David de Gea (Manchester United)
He has been United’s best player by some distance for the last four years and has saved the club a great deal of embarrassment.
Without him, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho would have won less games or perhaps more importantly, lost a lot more than they did.
It took him a while to get going at Anfield but when he finally replaced Alberto Moreno and stand-in left-full James Milner, he showed a level of ability which was balanced and very effective.
He knows how to defend, first and foremost but he can get forward with almost as much impact as Moreno. If Liverpool’s defence has improved this season, I think he has had a bigger influence on that than Virgil van Dyke. For me, he is one of the buys of the season in the Premier League.
If you’re looking for an example of how Pep Guardiola has improved his players this season, Walker is the perfect candidate and I have to say, when he first signed for City I wasn’t so sure about him. He was a bit wild when he was playing for Spurs and I wasn’t sure whether he would learn control but under Guardiola, he is more composed, better on the ball and as a result a much more effective player.
He was one of the best players in Antonio Conte’s three-man Premier League winning defence last season and I think he has been just as good this season.
I know Chelsea are in a very different place now but this lad never waivers, never drops his standards and I haven’t seen a better level of consistent excellence from any other defender.
Hull City sold Andy Robertson and Harry Maguire last summer for £20m combined and they must be looking at how both have developed with great regret.
Maguire has been top class for Leicester all season and I’ve seen talk about him being worth £50m now with clubs like Man City and United both interested.
He has great feet and he’s good enough to play at any club.
When it comes to the silky skills you need as a playmaker, Silva is gifted with plenty and it was a pleasure to watch him pushing and probing all season long with his quick feet and sharp brain.
He’s been doing it for a long time now and I think he has improved under Guardiola which is a great tribute to both men.
Kevin de Bruyne
Like almost everyone else, I didn’t see what Guardiola saw in this lad and he is another great example of how the City boss has a magic touch when it comes to freeing players up to let their talent emerge.
De Bruyne has everything you need to be a complete midfielder and for me, he was the dominant man in the Premier League in the centre of the park all season. Top class and right up there for Player of the Year.
I watched this man go about his business for Chelsea this season in the same dedicated and determined way I’ve seen him play since he arrived at Leicester, despite what was happening at Stamford Bridge.
He helped hold things together for Conte when it was clear that the manager was struggling and he would be in any team of mine.
They said he couldn’t work with Pep Guardiola but here we are 18 months on and he’s still City’s top scorer and his goals played a big part in the club’s successful season.
Aguerro will never be the one to score the fifth goal in a 5-0. He is more likely to score the first one and the second and that’s why is he so valuable as a player. He gets the big goals when they are needed.
What a player and what a pleasure to watch him play with such refreshing adventure and style. Salah is the great surprise of the season.
He scores all sorts of goals and the common theme through them all is his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time.
What you see is what you get with Harry Kane and he has been deadly in front of goal for large parts of the season.
I have an enormous amount of time for Kane, a throwback to days when footballers wanted glory above all else.
He’s a fantastic sniffer of goals and I think he’s still improving.