As the Premier League looks forward to a mini winter break this weekend with UEFA countries not involved in any international fixtures, there’s time to pause for thought. With more than half of the campaign gone for every club bar Burnley, here we name our Premier League team of 2021-22 so far, and tip our proverbial cap to the division’s outstanding manager who’s impressed in the dugout.
Goalkeeper – Jose Sa
Replacing the vastly experienced Rui Patricio at Wolves was a tough ask for Jose Sa in the summer. The Portuguese goalkeeper has never represented his country in a full international, and had spent the three previous years in Greece with Olympiacos, having only managed 15 league appearances in three seasons at Porto. However, the ever-present 29-year-old has proven a revelation at Molineux, producing a string of sensational performances as the Wanderers have made it to 21 Premier League games while only conceding 16 times.
Right-back – Trent Alexander-Arnold
After enduring a tough time of it last season, not least in missing Euro 2020 through injury, Alexander-Arnold has responded in the best way possible. The dynamic full-back has a wand of a right foot, and boasts a Premier League-high 10 assists through the opening portion of the campaign. That’s a stunning return for a defender who’s also scored twice himself and is now firmly pushing Kyle Walker and Reece James for a starting place in England’s 2022 World Cup squad.
Centre-back – Ruben Dias
Manchester City’s ability to keep the ball means they concede few chances to the teams they play, with the defending champions only seeing their defences breached 14 times through their opening 23 Premier League fixtures. Dias has become the focal point of the Blues’ back line, displacing Aymeric Laporte as Pep Guardiola’s first-choice centre-back. He’s started 20 of City’s league games so far, chipping in with two goals at the other end, both of which were to open the scoring away to Aston Villa and Newcastle United.
Centre-back – Shane Duffy
Brighton have remarkably only lost four times after 22 games of the 2021-22 Premier League season. The Seagulls have drawn a league-high 12 matches, but their resilience and defensive organisation makes them very hard to beat. Duffy is a crucial component in that, with the Irishman’s performances critical in restricting Brighton’s opponents to only 23 goals so far this term. Graham Potter is doing a superb job at the Amex Stadium and Duffy is his talismanic titan at the back.
Left-back – Joao Cancelo
Andy Robertson may be tough to leave out given his eight assists to date, but Cancelo has been a revelation this season for Man City. Guardiola’s vision for marauding full-backs that are able to glide into midfield positions and influence play from central areas has been realised through Cancelo’s displays in 2021-22. He has a goal and five assists to his name, but the chaos he’s caused has been worth far more to the Blues’ title defence than those numbers may suggest.
Midfield – Conor Gallagher
On loan with a fourth club in just three seasons, Crystal Palace will be desperate to try and turn Gallagher’s spell at Selhurst Park into a permanent deal this summer. There’s likely to be plenty of suitors for the 21-year-old should Chelsea decide to sell though, thanks to his excellent performances in south London this season. However, the Blues could slot Gallagher straight into their team next term. He has been a constant menace across the pitch for Palace thanks to his energy and tenacity, scoring seven goals and contributing three assists in 19 appearances to date.
Midfield – Declan Rice
Another man who’s been decisive at both ends of the pitch this season, Rice has followed up his excellent Euro 2020 campaign with another superb collection of performances for a high-flying West Ham United this term. The Hammers only dropped out of the top four courtesy of their defeat to Manchester United last time out, where they lost at Old Trafford with the last kick of the game. The Irons have a very winnable set of fixtures up next to get back into the Champions League places, with Rice set to be the driving force over the coming weeks and months.
Midfield – Bernardo Silva
Arguably the standout player this season for the reigning champions, Silva has been in superlative form for Man City in 2021-22. The Portuguese maestro is the Citizens’ joint-top scorer with seven Premier League goals, and has been instrumental in much of City’s fluid attacking play. They may be three goals shy of top scorers Liverpool, but without a recognised striker leading the line in most games, City spread their goals around and Silva is a key figure in enabling them to do that.
Forward – Mohamed Salah
The reason Liverpool have scored more goals than City is because Salah has been right at the top of his game this season. It’s tough to say he hasn’t been the best player in the Premier League in 2021-22, netting 16 goals in 20 appearances before heading off to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. He may struggle to match his best ever Premier League goal tally of 32 that he managed in his debut season for the Reds in 2017-18, but the number he ends up with this term will be key to Liverpool’s hopes of catching league leaders City.
Forward – Cristiano Ronaldo
A man who is unlike any other 36-year-old, Ronaldo continues to defy his age on his return to Manchester United. The Portuguese superstar turns 37 in early February but has netted 14 goals in all competitions so far this term, with many of those proving decisive for the Reds as they bid to recover past glories. He may not possess the same electric pace as in his youth, but Ronaldo isn’t short of speed by any stretch and has retained his unerring eye for goal and quality on the ball. If Ralf Rangnick can work out how to improve the service to Ronaldo, United should have few problems securing a place in the top four.
Forward – Diogo Jota
When moving to Liverpool from Wolves at the start of last season, Jota appeared something of a utility man for the Reds. Able to fill in for one of Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino across the forward line, few thought he’d be able to command a regular starting place in Jurgen Klopp’s side. Injuries have helped him make 18 Premier League starts so far this season though, with the Portugal international scoring 10 times to cement his status as an important member of the Liverpool squad. His value has been even greater with Salah and Mane away at AFCON 2021, with Liverpool able to move within six points of Man City if they win their game in hand.
Coach – David Moyes
While an honourable mention to Thomas Frank is certainly due in light of Brentford’s excellent start to their debut Premier League campaign, it’s impossible to ignore the spectacular job David Moyes has done at West Ham this term. The Hammers have been in the top four for much of the season, despite having to manage their domestic duties with a Europa League campaign that also saw them top their group. Moyes has played a major role in helping West Ham truly settle in to their London Stadium home, more than restoring his somewhat fractured reputation in the process.