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Sports Mole's Premier League Team of the Season - Harry Kane, Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes

Sports Mole's Premier League Team of the Season - Kane, Dias, Fernandes
© Reuters
Sports Mole selects its Premier League Team of the Season for the 2020-21 campaign, including Harry Kane, Ruben Dias and Bruno Fernandes.

A Premier League season like no other has now come to an end, with Manchester City best coping with the absence of fans and other coronavirus-related considerations to lift the title for a third time in four years.

Liverpool's title defence collapsed shortly after the turn of the year, but an end-of-season revival allowed them to salvage third place and qualify for next season's Champions League alongside Manchester United and Chelsea.

Leicester City agonisingly missed out on the top four with defeat on the final day, although the 2020-21 campaign will nonetheless still go down in history for them as they lifted the FA Cup for the first time.

West Ham United were also among the surprise packages as they secured Europa League football, while Tottenham Hotspur had to make do with a place in the inaugural UEFA Conference League and Arsenal missed out on Europe altogether.

While the North Londoners underachieved, the likes of Leeds United and Aston Villa surpassed most expectations.

At the other end of the table, all three relegation places were confirmed with three games to go for the first time in Premier League history as Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham all went back down to the Championship.

There were countless memorable moments throughout a campaign which saw the very future of the game as we know it first threatened by coronavirus and then by the short-lived Super League, and a number of players who stood up taller than the rest to help bring success to their respective teams.

Here, Sports Mole selects its Premier League Team of the Season for 2020-21.

Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez

Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez reacts on February 13, 2021© Reuters

On the face of it, Emiliano Martinez's stats this season do not necessarily suggest an exceptional season: 46 goals conceded from 38 appearances is not a campaign that will go down in Premier League history.

However, the true mark of his contribution comes when you compare it to how Aston Villa fared last term. In 2019-20, Dean Smith's side conceded 67 times - the second-highest tally in the league - and only avoided relegation on the final day. This time around, relegation was never a concern and the signing of Martinez last summer was a major reason for that.

The Argentine equalled Brad Friedel's club record for most clean sheets in a single Premier League campaign with 15, despite only three goalkeepers facing more shots (189). Only two goalkeepers made more saves (141) throughout the course of the campaign too.

To put that into context, the Golden Glove winner Ederson only faced 93 shots and made 66 saves, while Edouard Mendy - the only other person to keep more clean sheets than Martinez - faced 82 shots and made 57 saves.

Honourable mentions: Ederson, Edouard Mendy, Alisson Becker, Kasper Schmeichel

Right-back: Joao Cancelo

Manchester City's Joao Cancelo pictured in November© Reuters

Joao Cancelo is a curious one to crowbar into the Team of the Season, simply because it is difficult to know where best to play him.

The Portuguese full-back has played on the right and left side of the defence, but has also popped up in midfield and at times this season appeared to have almost a free role - something which caused havoc for the opposition as Man City overloaded the middle of the park.

During that time he was arguably Man City's most important player for a spell - no mean feat in a team filled with star names. Cancelo may have only made 28 appearances across the course of the league campaign, but he was one of the first names on the teamsheet during their incredible winning run, which effectively secured them the title.

It speaks volumes for their strength in depth that one of his main competitors for this position was his clubmate Kyle Walker, but Cancelo's versatility just about earns him the nod for us.

Honourable mentions: Kyle Walker, Vladimir Coufal, Luke Ayling, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Centre-backs: Ruben Dias, John Stones

Manchester City's Ruben Dias and John Stones celebrate after the match on May 4, 2021© Reuters

Ruben Dias was one of the first names in this XI, with the FWA Footballer of the Year largely credited with turning Man City back into a title-winning force.

The Portuguese centre-back cost a lot of money, but has already proven that he is worth every penny - and at just 24 he has plenty of time to turn that transfer fee into a bargain.

It takes a lot to fill the shoes of a club legend like Vincent Kompany, but Dias has already shown signs of being capable of doing that, and his authority at the back belies his relative youth.

Man City conceded just 0.7 goals per game with Dias on the pitch compared to 1.8 goals per game in the six matches he missed, with more than a third of the goals they conceded throughout the entire season coming in those six games they were without Dias - a clear demonstration of the impact he had.

While the first centre-back spot was easy to fill, the second was perhaps the toughest in this entire XI, with plenty of good options but no one truly outstanding candidate to partner the Portuguese.

In the end, his teammate John Stones gets the nod for us as, like Cancelo, the Englishman became an integral member of their team throughout their season-defining winning run.

Man City conceded 10 goals in seven games between Stones's first and second appearances of the season, but after breaking back into the team they went on to let in just two goals in the next 14 matches he played in - all but one of which ended in victory.

Stones at one stage looked as though he may not have a future at Man City, but his revival and partnership with Dias was a decisive part of their title success, while he also had an important impact at the other end of the field with four goals.

Honourable mentions: Harry Maguire, Jonny Evans, Wesley Fofana, Antonio Rudiger, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, Thiago Silva

Left-back: Luke Shaw

Manchester United defender Luke Shaw pictured in September 2020© Reuters

Stones was not the only English player to enjoy a return to their best form in 2020-21, with Luke Shaw thriving for Manchester United as they enjoyed their joint-best finish of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.

Shaw produced five assists and one goal in his 32 Premier League appearances, and his influence went far beyond those statistics too as he was a constant marauding threat down the left flank.

The addition of Alex Telles as competition at left-back for Man United appears to have brought the best out of Shaw, who enjoyed his most consistent season as a Red Devil and was the clear choice for left-back in this team.

Honourable mentions: Lucas Digne, Ben Chilwell, Andrew Robertson, Matt Targett

Defensive midfield: Ilkay Gundogan

Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan celebrates scoring their third goal on February 13, 2021© Reuters

Man City have had a number of players improve their performances this season, particularly during their winning spell, and perhaps none more so than Ilkay Gundogan, who established himself as their most important attacking player midway through the campaign.

In a two-month spell between December 15 and February 13, Gundogan scored 11 goals and provided two assists in 12 Premier League outings, all but one of which Man City won.

It proved to be the most important spell of the season as Pep Guardiola's side left the rest of the league in their wake, and Gundogan's purple patch also included goals against the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

It was a time when Man City needed others to step up in the absence of some of their more established match-winners, and Gundogan did exactly that to claim the Premier League Player of the Month award for January and February, and end the season as the club's top scorer.

Honourable mentions: N'Golo Kante, Rodri, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek

Central midfield: Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne pictured on January 10, 2021© Reuters

Still widely regarded as the best player in the Premier League, Kevin De Bruyne may not have been head and shoulders above the rest of Man City's squad this season - as he so often is - but he still showcased consistent levels of excellence to inspire the club to another title.

Only one player can better his tally of 12 assists throughout the course of the season, and that despite the fact that he missed 13 games, largely due to injury.

De Bruyne also weighed in with six goals and made more key passes per game than any other player in the division, not to mention stepping up in the absence of his long-time partner in crime Sergio Aguero as Man City played much of the campaign without a recognised centre-forward.

De Bruyne's influence is arguably matched on the other side of Manchester by Bruno Fernandes, who built on his hugely impressive first half-season at United with a superb first full season with the club.

The playmaker scored 18 goals and created 12 more in his 37 league appearances, and without the Portuguese it is safe to say that a second-placed finish would have been beyond Man United this season.

Fernandes won the Premier League Player of the Month award in November and December, one of only two players - alongside Gundogan - to claim it more than once in 2020-21.

Honourable mentions: Mason Mount, James Maddison, Youri Tielemans

Right-wing: Mohamed Salah

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their first goal against Aston Villa on April 10, 2021© Reuters

Consistency was severely lacking for Liverpool throughout the 2020-21 campaign, be that in results or team selection due to injuries, but one thing they can almost always count on is Mohamed Salah's goals.

In a season in which the team as a whole underperformed hugely, despite ultimately salvaging a third-placed finish, Salah is arguably the only member of the squad who can say that he maintained his usual standards for the majority of the campaign.

The Egyptian missed out on a third Golden Boot on the final day of the season, but his 22 goals in 2020-21 saw him become the first Liverpool player to reach at least the 20-goal mark in three different Premier League seasons.

More importantly, those goals earned his side a league-high 16 points, without which Liverpool would have ended the season in 11th place. In terms of individual impact on a team this season, Salah is right up there with the best, and they needed him to be so with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino enduring underwhelming campaigns.

Honourable mentions: Riyad Mahrez, Raphinha

Centre-forward: Harry Kane

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane pictured on May 19, 2021© Reuters

Another season, another Golden Boot for Harry Kane, who pipped Salah on the final day to win the trophy for a third time - only Thierry Henry has won it more often now.

Kane has been one of the the best goalscorers in the Premier League for some time now, but this season he added more assists to his game too, ending the campaign top of both charts with 23 goals and 14 assists - a career-best return of 37 goal involvements, despite Spurs finishing seventh.

Speculation over his future remains rife, and should he indeed leave Tottenham Hotspur this season then it will be nigh-on impossible to replace their second-highest scorer of all time.

The mantle of the Premier League's leading scorer ever is also very much within Kane's sights having moved up to seventh on the all-time list this season, now only nine behind Henry in sixth.

Honourable mentions: Patrick Bamford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins, Jamie Vardy

Left-wing: Son Heung-min

Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-min celebrates scoring against Liverpool on December 16, 2020© Reuters

There is no getting around the fact that Spurs have had a disappointing season, and a place in the UEFA Conference League next season is a dubious reward for their seventh-placed finish, but they have also boasted two of the outstanding individual performers of 2020-21.

Son Heung-min joins Kane in this XI courtesy of his 17 goals and 10 assists in 37 league outings; only Kane and Fernandes can boast more goal involvements.

The South Korean formed a particularly lethal partnership with Kane in the early stages of the season, and the pair have now combined for more Premier League goals than any other duo in the competition's history.

Whether Kane's apparent desire to leave will have a telling impact on Son's numbers remains to be seen, but on an individual basis the attacker has done just enough to edge out Phil Foden on the left wing this term.

Honourable mentions: Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Jack Harrison


PL TOTS 2020-21

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Manchester City's Sergio Aguero is thrown in the air by teammates as they celebrate winning the Premier League after his last match at the Etihad Stadium as a Manchester City player on May 23, 2021
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