smarterthinking

The smarterscout 2020-21 Premier League Best XI

With most of the major questions in England's top tier having been settled, and several clubs already with very little to play for, we thought it was time to offer our best XI for the 2020-21 season. Our first team has plenty of established stars, but our second team is full of young players who are already making an impact in the league. In this article, we'll go through the starters.

We came up with these teams by creating simple formulas from our major performance metrics at each position. Here's what went into them:

GK: Defending quality, Defending quantity, ball retention, and a blend of shotstopping ratings based on the frequency of each type of shot

CB and DM: Defending quality, defending quantity, and ball retention

FB, WM, and CM: Attacking output, defending quality, and defending quantity

CAM/SS and W: Attacking output and a weighted average of (1) a blend of finishing ratings based on the frequency of each type of shot and (2) ball retention based on the player's propensity to shoot versus attempt other actions

CF/ST: Attacking output and a blend of finishing ratings based on the frequency of each type of shot

For simplicity, we opted for a 4-2-3-1, but we'll add a few wildcards to make a full 25-man squad. We also insisted that each player have at least a 20 rating out of 99 for attacking output, defending quality, defending quantity, ball retention, and skill in duels. We want well-rounded stars for our starters! And one more rule – every player must have completed at least 1,900' in the league, or the equivalent of 20 full matches. So here's our first XI:

There won't be many surprises in this lineup, but Pedro Neto has had a simply stunning debut season at the age of 21. He isn't a prolific shooter, so his high ball retention is important when Wolves are looking for an opening in the final third:

Neto has also played almost twice as many league minutes as fellow smarterscout young prospect Phil Foden. Not being in Europe helps, of course, but this is the Premier League Best XI, after all.

So it's fitting that the Premier League champions, Manchester City, have three players in our lineup – more than any other club. Kevin de Bruyne and Rodrigo did excellent work in midfield, with Ilkay Guendogan not far behind in our rankings:

It's been said that Rodrigo is still just 24, young for a DM, and his reading of the game can still improve. But his performances are still excellent overall, and it's extremely difficult to beat him in any kind of duel we track.

Meanwhile, Joao Cancelo reinvented the FB role once again, as Pep Guardiola's inverted FBs became more like midfielders with a hint of wide play. He played mainly RB, but check out his smartermaps on both sides:

Those are not the maps of an orthodox FB!

And how did the defending champions fare? Despite Liverpool's disappointing performances, two of their senior squad made it into our lineup. Mohamed Salah at 80% of capacity is still better than most players at RW, and Alisson had perhaps his best defending season since leaving Roma. His shotstopping was pretty good, too:

Manchester United also managed to place two players in our best XI. You can read plenty about Harry Maguire in our playerfocus here, and then there's Luke Shaw. He started the season on a tear, and his attacking just got better. He was dominant in duels, too. Is he now the world's best LB? He's definitely up there:

Jack Grealish's season was cut short by injury, but he'd already done enough to merit a place in this side. Apart from his amazing individual stats, he was pivotal in Aston Villa's early charge up the table, with a hand (or foot) in six out of every seven goals when he was on the pitch:

It was a close run thing between Kurt Zouma and Cesar Azpilicueta for the RCB spot in our XI, and we gave the nod to Zouma for being more of a classic CB rather than featuring wide in a back three. Zouma was strong at LCB as well, with outstanding ball retention and inicredible skill in aerial duels. But both players had majestic numbers under Thomas Tuchel's revived Chelsea back line:

Finally, we have Harry Kane. Inside the box, outside the box, with his foot, with his head... in open play, it doesn't make any difference – he's deadly. From dead balls, it was not his greatest campaign. But still, you want him in your team:

So what do you think of our squad? Let us know on Twitter, and stay tuned for our second XI!

[Photo: Vyoe]

Recent articles

Who should win the 2020-21 Ballon d'Ata?
Summer transfer window Q & A with smarterscout's Dan Altman
Private membership – there can be only one!
Should clubs focus on shot quality using expected goals?