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We are only just over half of the way through 2020/21, but this has already been an extraordinary Premier League season. It is not just that games have, for the most part, been played behind closed doors. The congested calendar means they are coming even thicker and faster than usual, which has contributed to a near-permanent state of flux. Around half of the division’s 20 teams have topped the table at some point, compared to two last season.
There have been some jaw-dropping results, such as Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool and Manchester United 9-0 Southampton. But perhaps even more surprising than those one-off outcomes is the level of top-class soccer that has been played on a consistent basis. Many wondered whether the quality would drop in the absence of supporters, but it is testament to the players’ professionalism and talent that it has not.
In this article, we have picked out the best Premier League players this season.
West Ham have been the surprise package of the season so far. Widely tipped to be part of the relegation battle, they are instead competing for an unlikely top-four finish. Not many people saw this coming when David Moyes was appointed for a second spell at the London Stadium towards the end of 2019.
Tomas Soucek has arguably been their standout performer. The 6ft 4in midfielder has contributed in both phases of the game: as well as expertly breaking up the play and halting opposition attacks, he is his team’s top scorer with eight goals.
Arsenal had a big decision to make last summer. Bernd Leno was their undisputed No.1 for much of 2019/20, but Emiliano Martinez did a brilliant job of standing in for the injured German towards the end of the season. Mikel Arteta had to decide which of the two goalkeepers to keep hold of going into the current campaign.
He choose Leno – and the 28-year-old has been reliable between the sticks for the Gunners. Martinez joined Aston Villa instead, and has been one of the best Premier League players this term. Only Ederson has kept more clean sheets than Martinez so far.
Most Leeds fans believed the club needed to sign a new striker following promotion to the Premier League. Patrick Bamford scored 16 goals in the Championship in 2019/20, but he was guilty of wasting many more chances. The Elland Road faithful wanted an upgrade at center-forward.
Marcelo Bielsa did not. He has always had faith in Bamford, and the former Chelsea striker is repaying him. With 11 goals to his name at the time of writing, Bamford is among the best Premier League players of 2020/21.
Optimism and excitement has returned to Goodison Park since Everton persuaded Carlo Ancelotti to take charge in December 2019. The Toffees are now eyeing a place in the Champions League next term.
James Rodriguez has impressed when he has played, but he has missed too many games to be included in this list of the best Premier League players. Up front, Dominic Calvert-Lewis has exceeded expectations with 13 goals – five of which have been with his head.
Liverpool may have won the title last season, but Kevin De Bruyne was top of the list when it came to the best Premier League players. The Manchester City man has been excellent again this season, scoring three goals and providing 10 assists.
De Bruyne is the most complete player in the Premier League. He is physically and technically gifted, can score goals and create them, and can thrive in phases of possession and on the counter-attack.
Bruno Fernandes has been one of the best signings made by a Premier League club for years. The Portugal international has transformed Manchester United from underachievers to potential title contenders. He has been superb since moving to the club in January 2020.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer regularly rotates his attacking players, but Fernandes is a guaranteed starter. When he is fit, he plays. The attacking midfielder has responded with 13 goals and nine assists to help United into the top two.
Not only is Jack Grealish one of the best Premier League players, he is also among the most entertaining to watch. With his socks around his ankles and his free-spirited style of play, the Aston Villa captain is something of a throwback.
A place in the Europa League qualification spots does not seem beyond Dean Smith’s side this term – particularly if Grealish maintains his current form for the remainder of the campaign. The England playmaker has contributed six goals and 10 assists to his boyhood club’s cause so far.
Coming up for 18 months on from his appointment, the jury is still out on whether Jose Mourinho is the right manager for Tottenham. But while several players have taken steps backward under the Portuguese – Dele Alli chief among them – his counter-attacking tactics suit Son down to the ground.
The South Korean’s speed, intelligence and two-footed technique make him one of the best Premier League players around. He has scored 13 goals and set up six more at the time of writing, and is already the greatest Asian player in English soccer history.
Despite his consistent brilliance over a number of years, Mohamed Salah still seems to be under-appreciated. The Egyptian is not only one of the best Premier League players, he is one of the world’s leading attacking stars.
He is proving that again this season, even though Liverpool’s title defense has not gone as smoothly as they would have hoped. With a league-high 16 goals to his name, the finger of blame cannot be pointed at Salah.
Harry Kane has adapted his role this season. He drops deeper than he did in the past, and has taken on more creative responsibilities. It is testament to his world-class ability that he looks as if he has been playing in this new withdrawn role for his whole career.
No one in the division can better Kane’s tally of 11 assists so far this season. More impressively, his increased inventiveness has not come at the expense of his goal numbers, with Kane having found the net 13 times. In the ranking of the best Premier League players this season, Tottenham’s talisman is first among equals.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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