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20th April 2016

Premier League 2015-16: Team of the year

With the 2015-16 Premier League season coming to a close, James Haughton picks his best XI for the season, and it comes as no surprise that Leicester and Spurs feature strongly

The 2015-16 Premier League season is rapidly drawing to a close. Inevitably people are now debating who they think have been the best players this season and what their best XI would be, which, thanks to the many players whose performances have exceeded expectations this year, is no easy task.

The Mancunion is no different, so here is, in James Haughton’s opinion, the 2015-16 Premier League Team of the Season—4-4-2 formation.

GK: David de Gea (Manchester United)

While it has been another turbulent season for Louis Van Gaal’s side, with each positive result seemingly followed by a crushing disappointment, David de Gea has maintained the phenomenal form that has earned him the reputation as one of the world’s most sought-after goalies. He combines an exceptional shot-stopping, with a disciplined command of his box and regular outstanding encounters with crosses. An early 2-1 defeat to Swansea, where Sergio Romero deputised for de Gea, demonstrated the Spaniard’s vitality to the team.

RB: Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)

While not as shocking as Leicester’s stratospheric rise, nobody predicted Tottenham’s sustained brilliance at the beginning of the season. The improvements made by the players under Mauricio Pochettino have been typified by Kyle Walker. Whereas he was previously thought of as a defensive liability, this season has seen many fewer lapses in judgement. His attacking prowess hasn’t been neutered either, providing an attacking outlet out wide and creating space for Spurs’ attacking midfielders in the process.

CB: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)

After a successful loan spell at Southampton last season, Alderweireld has developed into a phenomenal centre-back this season. His centre-back partnership with Jan Vertonghen, a fellow Belgian, has been key for Spurs this season, with them complementing each other brilliantly. Even after Vertonghen’s injury, Alderweireld has formed an impressive partnership with Kevin Wimmer. Alderweireld’s tackling and ability to read the game, in particular, have impressed, and his heading prowess has proved vital at both ends of the pitch.

CB: Wes Morgan (Leicester City) (c)

While Robert Huth would also have been worthy of a place in this line-up, his teammate just gets in ahead of him. Leicester have relied heavily on their defensive solidity recently—they conceded 17 goals in their first ten league games and only 14 since then. At the heart of that defence, Morgan has epitomised Leicester’s willingness to work and successfully nullified opposition attackers with his ability to head the ball, and tackle and block.

LB: Christian Fuchs (Leicester City)

While Danny Simpson narrowly lost out to Kyle Walker, Leicester’s other full-back, Christian Fuchs, who is captain of the Austrian national side, makes it into this best XI. Throughout the season, Fuchs has rigorously maintained his discipline, knowing when to intercept opposition attacks or support his centre-halves. Fuchs has not neglected his attacking duties, however, and his defence-splitting through ball to Jamie Vardy at home to Manchester United is a testament to that.

DM: N’Golo Kanté (Leicester City)

A £5.6 million signing from Caen in the summer, Kanté has attracted rave reviews for his performances this season, with rumours of £20 million moves to the likes of PSG and Arsenal surfacing. His tenacious tackling and tireless running have allowed him to hassle countless opponents, but he has also demonstrated a skillful touch and an ability to pass the ball, that have helped to launch devastating counter-attacks.

RM: Dmitri Payet (West Ham United)

Another summer signing, Payet has flourished in a side rejuvenated under Slaven Bilic, scoring nine goals and having eight assists. Payet has adapted well to the rigours of the Premier League, being able to outmuscle opposition defenders as well as silkily weave past them. Since the turn of the year he has also showcased a talent for scoring sublime free-kicks.

LM: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)

Mahrez’s pace and trickery have confounded opposition defenders throughout the season, but unlike many tricky wingers, there have been no doubts as to his end product, scoring 16 goals and creating 11 in 33 games this season. His wonderful goal against Chelsea, where he beautifully controlled a diagonal ball with his instep, bamboozled César Azpilicueta and then placed his shot past Thibaut Courtois, in a 2-1 victory, has been one of his many highlights this season.

AM: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

Despite playing in English football’s third tier last year, Alli has not just been a peripheral figure for Spurs, but a linchpin of the side. His dynamism and work-rate have been fantastic, and from the start, he has possessed the technical skill and creativity needed to best Premier League defenders, whether it be by providing an inch-perfect cross for Spurs’ winner against Watford or scoring a Goal of the Season contender to beat Crystal Palace 2-1.

FW: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Quietening those who claimed he was a one-season wonder, Harry Kane has scored 22 goals so far this season to top the scoring charts and take Tottenham to second in the Premier League, which would be their highest finish since 1963. Kane has shown over the past two seasons that he is a brilliant finisher, whose technique and ability to involve teammates in attacks are underrated.

FW: Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Only four seasons after playing non-league football for Fleetwood Town, Jamie Vardy has broken the Premier League record for the most consecutive games scored in, and his goals have propelled Leicester right up through the table. His importance to the team cannot be underestimated, since his pace, along with that of Mahrez, allows the team to be so consistently effective on the counter-attack. His finishing, too, has impressed, with his first strike at home to Liverpool being the most spectacular example of that.

Subs: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Mesut Özil (Arsenal), Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham Hotspur), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Sergio Agüero (Manchester City).

Worst XI: Any 11 Aston Villa players.

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