Garth Crooks’ team of the year: Alisson, Fernandes, Mane, Fabinho, Henderson


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The year 2020 will be remembered for face masks, hand gel and video conferencing – but when life slowed down, the Premier League kept us going.

Fast forward a few months and the new campaign has mainly been played behind closed doors, but it has brought plenty more thrills and spills.

Have a look at my of the year and you can create your own at the bottom. I have only used players who have been included in my team of the week at least three times.

Garth's Team of the Year

Goalkeeper – Alisson (Liverpool)

Alisson

Alisson: The Liverpool keeper hasn’t put a foot wrong since he lifted the title at the end of last season, and with it the Golden Glove award for the most clean sheets. I would like to have picked Burnley’s Nick Pope – he’s had an impressive year – but until he joins a club that is challenging for honours I can’t see him having the same impact as the likes of Alisson, Manchester City’s Ederson and Manchester United’s David de Gea I’m afraid.

Did you know? In 2020 Liverpool conceded 29 goals in the 31 Premier League games that Alisson started (0.94 per game), compared to 10 in the four he didn’t start (2.5 per game).

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 3

Defenders – Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Fabinho (Liverpool), Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)

Defenders

Trent Alexander-Arnold: Everyone can see his ability but what I’m starting to see is a maturity in his game I didn’t see last season. He’s had one or two indifferent games as Liverpool attempt to regain the title, and was substituted against Fulham earlier this month. The absence of Virgil van Dijk and an unsettled back four may have had an effect on him, but the lad has shown resilience and retained his position in the Liverpool team. And mine too.

Did you know? Alexander-Arnold played 378 passes or crosses into the opposition penalty area in 2020, the most of any player in Premier League games.

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 3

Tyrone Mings: He played an important role in helping Aston Villa survive relegation and has been an integral part of their defensive successes so far this season. Villa have kept eight clean sheets in the league and are fifth in the table. Mings is proving to be an inspired signing for Villa, and his selection for England is merely a reflection of the enormous progress the defender has made since his arrival from Bournemouth, where his appearances were limited.

Did you know? Mings kept the most clean sheets (10) and blocked the most shots (26) of any Villa defender in Premier League games in 2020.

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 3

Fabinho: When I heard Virgil van Dijk was out for the best part of the season I immediately thought ‘there goes the title’. The situation was further compounded when Joe Gomez suffered a long-term injury shortly afterwards. Two centre-backs who were so vital to Liverpool’s fortunes were no longer available. Suddenly Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City all thought they were in with a chance. Well that was before Fabinho moved out of Liverpool’s midfield and into their back four and performed like a colossus. With Joel Matip now added to that casualty list, should anything happen to Fabinho it really is curtains for the champions.

Did you know? Fabinho topped all Liverpool players for tackles (64) and interceptions (38) in Premier League games in 2020.

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 3

Andrew Robertson: This kid is playing out of his skin again. I didn’t think he could maintain the form he showed in Liverpool’s title-winning season but I think he’s even better now. His quality of pass – especially his delivery into the opposition penalty area – has been magnificent. I can’t imagine what he will be like when there’s a full house at Anfield again.

Did you know? Robertson assisted 12 league goals in 2020, the most of any Premier League defender, and the third-most of all players in the division behind Kevin de Bruyne (15) and Bruno Fernandes (14).

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 3

Midfielders – Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Bruno Fernandes (Man Utd), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)

Midfielders

Jordan Henderson: He has the same influence on Liverpool that Kevin de Bruyne has on Manchester City. However, Henderson finds himself in my team of the year and De Bruyne does not. ‘Captain Marvel’ has held Liverpool together and got them back to the top of the league amidst a catalogue of injuries and enormous disruptions. Meanwhile, De Bruyne and City have struggled to find any consistency at all this season. That said, I doubt whether De Bruyne could have retained the unbelievable standard he had set for himself.

Did you know? Liverpool averaged 2.3 points per game with Henderson in the starting XI in 2020 compared to 1.9 points per game when he didn’t start. Over a 38-game period this would be a difference of more than 15 points.

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 7

Bruno Fernandes: With Paul Pogba off the boil and Manchester United in desperate need of someone who could take the club to the next level, Fernandes’ arrival was very timely. Posing a serious challenge to Liverpool and securing a regular top-four position have to be the goals. The Portugal international’s contribution to United’s fortunes has been immense. Penalties, free-kicks or in open play, Fernandes has been in devastating form. Ten goals already this season and we are not halfway through. By the way, if Pogba does turn up this season Liverpool may have a serious problem.

Did you know? Fernandes has been directly involved in more goals (32) than he has played Premier League games in 2020, scoring 18 times while providing 14 assists.

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 14

Jack Grealish: The contribution Grealish made to Aston Villa’s Premier League survival last season was quite extraordinary. However, what has taken place since Villa’s miraculous escape from relegation has been phenomenal. They put seven goals past Liverpool, three past Leicester with 10 men and even topped the table during the early part of the season. Grealish has been their mastermind in every single game. The issue now facing the Villa star is can he do the same for his country?

Did you know? Grealish was fouled 148 times in Premier League games in 2020, 51 more times than any other player. Only Kevin de Bruyne (107) created more chances than Grealish (93) over the calendar year.

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 6

Forwards – Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

Forwards

Sadio Mane: I’ve no doubt Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp thinks the world of Mane but I’m not sure he gets the praise his performances and goals deserve. Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah are back in form again but they weren’t at the end of last season. Liverpool struggled on their return from the lockdown in June, when Covid-19 threatened the cancellation of the entire season, but Mane did not. The Senegal international remained consistent and even carried the Reds through games on occasions. His contribution this season remains a key component to the club’s success. Liverpool have lots of jewels in their crown but they would do well to look after this gem.

Did you know? Only Salah (23) scored more league goals for Liverpool than Mane (14) in 2020.

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 4

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Last season Everton were in total disarray, with the threat of relegation hanging over them. In came caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson, who grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck and invested an enormous amount of faith in a young footballer by the name of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. He led the line gallantly and chased every ball. He even scored the occasional goal. However, when Carlo Ancelotti arrived at Goodison a striker was born. Goals seem to be flying in from everywhere for him now, with England call-ups quickly following. The transformation in the lad’s game during the past 12 months has been quite phenomenal and that’s why he leads the line in my team of the year.

Did you know? Calvert-Lewin scored 16 league goals in 2020 at an average of 177 minutes per goal – in 2019 he scored 11 league goals at an average of 205 minutes per goal.

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 6

Son Heung-min: Harry Kane may be the star of the show at Tottenham, but Son Heung-min makes my team of the year. This lad has been electric. His ability to run at defences, score spectacular goals and make things happen was the reason Spurs spent a brief time on top of the table. What a recovery from that nightmare moment in November 2019 when he inadvertently injured Everton’s Andre Gomes. The incident affected Son, but he soon recovered. The South Korea international has not looked back since that fateful afternoon and has a very important role to play if Tottenham are to lift a trophy this season.

Did you know? Son Heung-min had the best shot conversion rate of any player to take at least 20 shots in the Premier League in 2020, scoring 17 times from 65 shots (26%).

Number of times included in team of the week in 2020: 7

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