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  • Liverpool has three defenders and one magnificent forward in the Premier League's best XI.
By Jonathan Wilson
December 26, 2018

As the Premier League season reaches its halfway point, here’s our team of the season so far. These are not necessarily the best eleven players, but the best players in each position, picked to form a side that should be able to play together—nobody has been picked out of position, and there’s been no attempt to shoe-horn in, for instance, half a dozen attacking players. In addition, there is a maximum of four players per club in the starting XI, and six in the 18-man squad. All stats are accurate coming into Wednesday's fixtures. 

GK: EDERSON (Manchester City)

It’s been some time now since David De Gea wasn’t generally regarded as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, but after a disappointing World Cup and with a ramshackle defense in from of him at Manchester United, he has had a difficult end to 2018, even if he has made more saves this season than all but three other goalkeepers. West Ham’s  Lukasz Fabianski has been excellent this season and Jordan Pickford has, by and large, continued his fine form the World Cup, but two goalkeepers have stood out, for their passing just as much as their shot-stopping: Alisson and Ederson. Alisson’s handling errors against Arsenal and Manchester United means Ederson, just, gets the nod.

RB: TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Liverpool)

He may only be 20 but Alexander-Arnold is already an assured and mature figure, an exciting presence driving forwards and more than capable defensively, as he showed in his handling of Neymar in the Champions League group game at Anfield. That he is such an obvious selection, though, is in part down to a paucity of other candidates. Kyle Walker remains frustratingly error-prone, while Kieran Trippier has struggled more than most to recapture his form after the World Cup.

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CB: JOHN STONES (Manchester City)

All the debate about whether Stones would ever step up to become a high-class defender, or whether he was doomed always to be a gifted but fragile player prone to a mistake, seems a little misplaced now. He has developed into an excellent central defender for a team like City’s, comfortable on the ball and with an acute positional sense. Joe Gomez came into consideration for the right-sided center-back role, as did Antonio Rudiger, but Stones’s consistency won the day.

CB: VIRGIL VAN DIJK (Liverpool)

It’s hard to remember a signing that has had such an impact on a club as that of Van Dijk in January. Last season Liverpool played 24 league games without Van Dijk, conceding 1.17 goals per game; in the 14 in which he played they conceded 0.71 goals per game. This season, in which Van Dijk has played every game, they’re conceding 0.38 goals per game. He is powerful and commanding, reads the game superbly, can win physical battles and offers an aerial threat from set-plays. Aymeric Laporte and David Luiz have been very impressive this season, but Van Dijk has been magnificent.

LB: ANDY ROBERTSON (Liverpool)

There were hundreds of reasons for Jose Mourinho’s departure from Manchester United, but nothing so exposed his diminished ability to change games as the way Robertson shredded United in the second half of Liverpool’s 3-1 win a week gone Sunday. Mourinho spoke with apparent awe afterward of Robertson’s energy, the way he kept marauding up and down that flank, and with good reason. Robertson is a great example of how Jurgen Klopp improves players: this is somebody picked up from Hull for £8m and transformed into the best left-back in the division. It also says much for the work Klopp has done in developing his side that three of the back four are Liverpool players. Marcos Alonso was a close second.

DCM: LUCAS TORREIRA (Arsenal)

Fernandinho has been his usual consistent self this season, performing a vital function at the back of the Manchester City midfield, dropping between the central defenders when required and distributing the ball sensibly, but he has not quite had the impact of Torreira. It’s hardly come as a surprise that Arsenal needed a tough-tackling holding midfielder, but the way he has elevated the whole team has been remarkable. The Uruguayan is the model of Oscar Tabarez’s image of the new Uruguayan player, retaining all the tenacity that has habitually characterized players from that country but with technical ability. Torreira is not just a destroyer but is a fine passer as well and has recently weighed in with two goals.

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CM: CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (Tottenham)

It’s a position usually occupied by Kevin De Bruyne but with his injury, a number of candidates emerged. In De Bruyne’s absence, Bernardo Silva has excelled at Manchester City, but the pick goes to the one Tottenham player who has found a measure of consistency this season. Others, notably Dele Alli and Harry Kane, seem to be returning to form, but Eriksen has been excellent all season. He’s the creative spark that gives Spurs something a little extra, and his versatility means he can play in just about any attacking midfield role. This season has brought just one league goal—the excellent finish against to secure a late win over Burnley—but he has registered six assists.

CM: DAVID SILVA (Manchester City)

Is there a more habitually overlooked player in the Premier League than David Silva? His consistency, perhaps, is a curse so he is taken for granted. Particularly in De Bruyne’s absence, though, he is key to City’s style, his deft feet the unlocking of numerous defenses. In that sense, Silva is the most obviously guardiolista player in the squad, diminutive, technically gifted and blessed with both great vision and an extraordinary capacity to make a pass. A record of five goals and two assists at this stage may not sound anything exceptional, but what is vital is how Silva knits everything together, the unseen lubricant in the mechanism. A pass completion rate of 89.1% is astonishing, particularly for somebody who plays that high up the pitch and who averages 2.6 key passes per game.

RW: MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)

At the beginning of the season, something didn’t seem quite right with Mohamed Salah. There was a diffidence about him. The shots he had once arrowed into the top corner drifted wide. Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect him to live up to the astonishing heights of last season. Perhaps he was fatigued by the World Cup, particularly given the emotional strain on him personally given how things worked out with Egypt. Perhaps he was still recovering after his shoulder injury. Perhaps he was struggling to adapt to Liverpool’s slightly more cautious style with the full-backs overlapping him less often. Perhaps the adjustment that saw him play more centrally more often didn’t suit him. It took a while, but the real Salah soon emerged again. He has 11 goals and five assists, and once again there is a collective intake of breath every time he picks up the ball and advances on a defender.

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CF: SERGIO AGUERO (Manchester City)

A good case could be made for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has banged in 12 goals in the league this season and has been a significant factor in the Arsenal revival, playing both at center-forward and on the flank, but perhaps even better has been Aguero. A couple of years ago, it seemed he would be on his way out of City because he did not conform to Guardiola’s idea of what a center-forward should be. Aguero has reinvented himself as a leader of the press while still scoring eight goals. It may not be coincidence that all three of City’s defeats so far this season have come when he has been out of the side.

LW: EDEN HAZARD (Chelsea)

As Chelsea began the season with a run of 17 games unbeaten (after the Community Shield), there was one obvious doubt. Were they too reliant on Hazard? It’s a difficult balance for a manager to strike between creating an environment in which his best player can thrive and making a team that is dependent upon him, but in those early weeks, with the Belgian in supreme form, it seemed Maurizio Sarri had got it right. Hazard’s form has perhaps leveled out a little of late but he has still scored eight goals and set up nine in the Premier League, his link-up with Marcos Alonso is the main reason Chelsea began the season as well as they did.

SUBS: LUKASZ FABIANSKI (West Ham), JOE GOMEZ (Liverpool), DAVID LUIZ(Chelsea), FERNANDINHO (Manchester City), ANDRE GOMES (Everton),RAHEEM STERLING (Manchester City), PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal)

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
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