Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea hasn’t had his best of seasons with Manchester United as the club finished in sixth on 69 points, but the keeper has played his part in helping United’s revival under manager José Mourinho in the Portuguese’s first season at the club. The Spaniard kept 14 clean sheets overall from 35 matches, where he was on the losing side on just five occasions.
Despite keeping less clean sheets than both Thibaut Courtois (16) and Hugo Lloris (15) and conceded a goal more than the Belgian and five goals more than the Frenchman, it can be argued that the former Atlético Madrid keeper did exceptionally well for a keeper, playing behind a less well-organised defence in comparison to that of Chelsea’s and Tottenham Hotspur’s.
From the three keepers, the United number one faced the most shots (103), from which he made 74 saves and had it not been for the Spaniard, United may well have dropped down into seventh, behind Everton and missed out on automatic qualification for the Europa League. It comes as no surprise that Spain’s first-choice keeper has been linked with Real Madrid and the Red Devils will do well to prevent De Gea from returning to the Spanish capital this summer.
Left Centre-back: César Azpilicueta
César Azpilicueta has been a rock for Chelsea since Antonio Conte decided to switch formation to three at the back. The Spaniard has been assured defensively, covering for Victor Moses, who has tendency to maraud forward, when required. The defender played every minute of every league match this season, helping to keep 16 clean sheets in the process, while making 84 tackles (75%). However the defender loves to drive forward and has been pivotal to Chelsea’s counter-attacking style of football.
The Spaniard has provided some crucial assists when required, crossing for Diego Costa to score the winner, in what looked to be a stalemate against Crystal Palace in December to then equal their longest winning run in the Premier League (11 runs), which later became 13. Azpilicueta also provided the assist for Michy Batshuayi to score the goal that sealed Chelsea’s title triumph. The Spaniard didn’t give up on a loose-ball after a deflected strike from Gary Cahill, demonstrating his sheer desire and commitment to his club.
Azpilicueta then scored his first league goal of the season against Watford in a 4-3 victory. The former Marseille full-back also became the first Premier League player to complete over 2000 passes, 100 more than any other player.
Centre-back: David Luiz
It came as a surprise to many that David Luiz would return to Stamford Bridge on Transfer Deadline-day, having celebrated wildly at the Bridge after scoring a goal that helped Paris Saint-Germain knock-out his former side in the 2015 UEFA Champions League Round of 16. Luiz left the Blues to join PSG for £50m in June 2014, however in the months that followed, the Brazilian endured a treacherous time against Germany in an embarrassing 7-1 loss in the Semi-finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The following season, despite helping PSG to dump Chelsea out of the Champions League, Luiz looked a liability when his PSG side were well-beaten by Barcelona in the Parisians’ following Champions League game. Luis Suárez had got the better of PSG’s defence on numerous occasions, scoring twice in a 3-1 first-leg away victory, in which he nut-megged the Brazilian countless times.
However since Luiz’s return to the Bridge and the change in Chelsea’s formation, the Brazilian has been coolness personified in defence. Alongside Gary Cahill and Azpilicueta, the Brazilian has been solid, helping to keep 13 clean sheets and winning 100 decisive clearing headers from deliveries. He also scored a crucial goal for the Blues against Liverpool with a stunning freekick. Although Luiz has encountered some difficult spells in his career, the defender looks back to his best and has even been recalled into the Brazilian National Team.
Right Centre-back: Toby Alderweireld
Toby Alderweireld is quickly becoming one of the best central defenders in the Premier League. The defender, who was sold by Atlético Madrid after a successful loan spell at Southampton has been in impressive form for Tottenham Hotspur and begs the question as to whether the Rojiblancos let the 28 year-old depart prematurely.
The Belgian has developed a strong defensive partnership alongside compatriot Jan Vertonghen and this strong Belgian identity within the Tottenham Hotspur side, with Mousa Dembélé sitting in front of them in defensive midfield, has allowed the defenders to solely focus on their defensive duties, from which they have thrived.
Spurs boasted the Premier League’s best defensive record, conceding 29 goals, seven less than Champions Chelsea in which Alderweireld played a pivotal role, helping to keep 14 clean sheets. The defender won 41 tackles throughout the season (85%), made 26 interceptions, 162 clearances and 5 blocks. The Belgian also netted on the final day of the season against Hull City, a goal which meant they scored the highest number of goals in the league with 86, one more than Chelsea.
Left Wing-back: Marcos Alonso
Conte’s decision to sign Marcos Alonso was questioned by many initially, but has proved to be a success this season as the Spaniard has excelled at his new role as a wing-back. Although he’s not the best defender, understandably due to the change of role from a midfielder, he has looked relatively assured in front of a solid back three, who have helped the defender gain confidence.
The former Fiorentina player has adapted well since his transformation from a midfielder and the 3-4-3 system has really benefited him, allowing him to showcase his offensive capabilities, while also tracking back on several occasions to relieve Eden Hazard of his defensive duties.
The Chelsea number three’s overlapping runs to support Hazard on the attack, has been a key characteristic of his game and his dangerous deliveries from the flanks have been an instrumental component to the way the Blues have played all season. The Spaniard has scored six times in the league, including a brace against Leicester away, where he went close to getting a hat-trick. He also scored against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge as well as fantastic freekick away against Bournemouth.
Right Wing-back: Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker has been pivotal to Spurs’ title bid this season. The wing-back is one of Spurs’ most experienced players and despite being a defender, is one of their most offensive players. He has thrived since Mauricio Pochettino changed the formation to three at the back, allowing him to surge forward and support the likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli further up the field.
Walker’s pace seems to be one of his best traits and has allowed him to drive forward from defence into the opposition’s half and provide as many as five assists in the campaign, his highest ever tally.
England international has also been solid defensively, helping to keep 14 clean sheets. The defender won 72 tackles throughout the season (71%), made 38 interceptions, 94 clearances and 5 blocks in total. However there have been a few blips towards the latter parts of the season, including the loss to West Ham United, where he looked exposed against Manuel Lanzini, who scored the winner, which ultimately dealt them a huge blow in their search for the title, although it could be argued that he wasn’t the only individually to blame for defeat.
Central Defensive Midfield: N’Golo Kanté
N’Golo Kanté has had an amazing season with Chelsea, winning both the Premier League Player of the Season and the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. Since joining the West-London side from last season’s Champions Leicester City, the Frenchman has started from where he left off. The midfielder has dominated his opponents in the heart of midfield, keeping the likes of Paul Pogba and Kevin De Bruyne among many others, relatively quiet. The former Leicester player has interrupted a number of threatening attacks, allowing Chelsea to break on the offence. Kanté even tends to complete his teammates’ defensive duties, for instance tracking back when Hazard is further up the pitch, at times doing the job of two players. His performances have been so impressive in fact, that he kept midfield maestro, Cesc Fàbregas out of the starting line-up for the vast majority of the season.
The France international often draws comparison to former Chelsea midfielder and compatriot Claude Makélélé, who was renown for his majestic defensive work in midfield, leading to the so-called position: “the Makélélé role,” which Kanté has looked to have made his own. Kanté has made 127 tackles this season (65%), 82 interceptions and won 197 duels and despite losing 180 duels, he’s made 275 recovering challenges.
Kanté also plays his part when Chelsea attack too. The Frenchman scored a marvellous solo-effort against Manchester United in a 4-0 home victory and also provided an assist in the league, before firing home the winner against United in the FA Cup. Kanté also became the first player to win the Premier League title consecutively with two separate teams.
Central Midfield: Dele Alli
Dele Alli has had a very impressive season with Tottenham despite finishing second and without a trophy. It is easy to forget the midfielder is only 21 years old with the England international playing 37 times for Spurs this season, while scoring 18 goals, two of which were against Champions Chelsea at White Hart Lane, and providing seven assists in the process.
The midfielder has shown a high level of maturity normally associated with more experienced players, tracking back to help out his defence and surging forward to support compatriot Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen further up the pitch. Though Alli is considered to be one of Tottenham’s most attacking-minded players, the youngster plays his part defensively too, making 52 tackles (69%) and 11 interceptions.
However there is still further room to grow in regards to his maturity. The youngster needs to continue to concentrate on his game instead of getting involved with altercations, scuffles and diving, which has seen him pick up needless bookings, which may hinder his performance next season where simulation will receive retrospective action.
Left Wing: Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard looks a completely different player to the one from the majority of the previous season. The Belgian has been in scintillating form, scoring 16 goals (his highest goals tally in the league) and providing five assists from 36 matches and the key seems to have been due to the formation change.
Like many other Chelsea players who have thrived since Conte changed the formation to three at the back, the Belgian has been allowed to solely focus on surging forward and taking players on. With Kanté and Alonso helping Hazard with his defensive duties, which Belgian isn’t his best at, the former Lille winger doesn’t have to do as much defensive work as he used to in comparison to José Mourinho’s Chelsea.
Hazard has a good understanding with Alonso, whose overlapping runs from the flanks, diverts the attention of the opposition players, who are forced to come out, allowing the Belgian to cut-inside and pose a threat. The Belgian’s pace and trickery is another aspect that has caused defenders a number of issues. The winger has been a huge threat on the counter-attack and has scored some fantastic break-away goals, including strikes against Manchester City, Arsenal, West Ham and Bournemouth. The Belgian will be hoping to replicate his form next season as Chelsea look to defend their title.
Right Wing: Alexis Sánchez
Alexis Sánchez has had phenomenal season for Arsenal despite the Gunners’ disappointing Premier League campaign. The Chilean is an invaluable member of the Arsenal squad and it seems unlikely that his side would have even finished fifth without him. The Chile international scored 24 goals in the league from 38 appearances and could have had 29 had the woodwork not denied the winger, and also provided 10 assists in the league too. Sánchez also scored the opener in the Final as he helped the Gunners to a 13th FA Cup title.
However the most significant aspect of the former Barcelona forward’s game is his work ethic, which is second to none in the Arsenal side. The winger always wants the ball and will do anything to receive it, including tracking back to help out his defence and make decisive interceptions to set-off a dangerous counter-attack. The Chilean made 54 tackles and made 24 interceptions this season, which reiterates his workmanship and commitment to his teammates.
As Arsenal conceded five goals in both legs of their Round of 16 clash against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, there was only one player who looked as though they were giving 100% and that was Sánchez, who scored in the First-leg. It comes as no surprise that there is a lot of speculation about the Chilean’s future at the North-London side and should he leave it could be catastrophic for Arsenal next season.
Centre Forward: Harry Kane
Harry Kane has had an impressive Premier League campaign with Tottenham Hotspur despite not winning a piece of silverware yet again. The England international retained a second Premier League golden boot as he once again topped the scoring charts in the league. The striker scored 29 goals in the league from 30 appearances this season, his highest ever goals tally, scoring four more goals than in the previous season and could have had 32 had it not been for the woodwork. Kane also provided 9 assists too, phenomenal considering he missed eight games through injury.
Spurs struggled in three of the matches he missed, in particular in mid-October when they drew three consecutive matches against West Bromwich Albion, Bournemouth and Leicester City, games on paper, that they should have won comfortably even without Kane, reiterating Kane’s significance to the side. Had Spurs won all three of those games, they may well have caught Chelsea, who finished above the North-London side by seven points.
The striker has been clinical in front of goal. From 110 strikes on-goal, 58 of them have been on-target (53%), and of those 58 shots on-target, 29 of them were goals, meaning that the striker had a 50% chance of finding the net if his shot was on-target. Had Kane remained fit throughout the season, he may well have surpassed the 31-goal Premier League record held by Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suárez, and helped Spurs win the league.