Premier League: The best and worst XIs of the 2021-22 season so far

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For all the good that has been shown in the Premier League so far this season comes the not so good, the bad to be blunt.

While Manchester City have run out to a commanding lead in the title race, Burnley are rock bottom playing catch-up with their relegation rivals. 

So it got us thinking, who crops up in the Best XI of the season so far, and who is part of the Worst XI? 

Scoring players that have had a minimum of 11 starts and have appeared in at least 16 matches overall, with the help of SofaScore, Sportsmail assesses the best – and worst – Premier League teams of the season so far…  

Pukki has found it tough leading the line for Norwich City

Mohamed Salah (left) has been sensational but it’s been one to forget for Teemu Pukki (right)


Sa; Alexander-Arnold, T Silva, Van Dijk, Cancelo; R James, De Bruyne, Kovacic, Robertson; Son, Salah

The first thing to note here is that not one Manchester United player has made the cut. 

January’s Premier League Player of the Month, David de Gea, can perhaps count himself the most unfortunate but this a team brimming with talent and, crucially, consistency.

Jose Sa is in his first season with Wolves and was something of an unknown quantity to fans outside of Portugal but he has proven a hit at Molineux. 

The goalkeeper has managed eight clean sheets and has only let in 16 goals so far this season – only league leaders Man City have conceded fewer (14).

With just one error leading to a goal so far, Sa has been a success story under Bruno Lage and is a big part as to why this team is looking to sneak into European contention in the second half of the campaign. 

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (left) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (right) make the Best XI so far

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk (left) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (right) make the Best XI so far

Moving on to the defence and it is no surprise to find the four players spread across the league’s top three.  

Trent Alexander-Arnold is the highest scoring player, as per SofaScore’s metrics, and is joined by Virgil van Dijk.  

Starting with Alexander-Arnold, a player who has won 13 of his 20 league games this season, with 12 big chances created en route those victories. 

He has made 160 recoveries and is yet to have an error leading to a goal. For balance, his cross accuracy stands at 29 per cent but no player is perfect and the full-back is doing a lot more good than bad for Jurgen Klopp’s high-flyers. 

Then there is Van Dijk, a colossus at the back and a familiar name in these Best XIs that crop up.

The 30-year-old Dutchman has won 80 per cent of his tackles and has become a key distributor with 101 accurate long balls to set his forwards away.

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To partner him at the back is Chelsea veteran Thiago Silva.  The 37-year-old is a Rolls Royce of a player and shows no signs of calling it a day after recently securing a contract extension.

Manchester City star Joao Cancelo, who can make an argument to be among the candidates for Premier League Player of the Year, completes an all-star back four.  

Manchester City pair Joao Cancelo (left) and Kevin De Bruyne (right) also crack this squad

Manchester City pair Joao Cancelo (left) and Kevin De Bruyne (right) also crack this squad

Defenders have performed so well this season across the leading pack that Chelsea’s Reece James (right wing-back) and Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson (left wing-back) also get in.

That leaves two orthodox midfielders and, while one in Kevin De Bruyne felt completely obvious given Man City’s overwhelming dominance this season, his partner was up for much debate. 

It has ended up going to Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic, who scooped January’s Premier League Goal of the Month award for his sublime long-range volley in the draw against Liverpool.

The Croatian star hailed that striker as ‘the best of my career’ and the central midfielder formerly of Real Madrid has been something of a Mr Reliable for Blues boss Thomas Tuchel. 

He is averaging more than 51 passes a match and has not fluffed his lines for a single error leading to a goal.  

Tottenham's Son Heung-min is perhaps a surprise strike partner to go with Mohamed Salah

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min is perhaps a surprise strike partner to go with Mohamed Salah

That leaves a front two of Mohamed Salah, the easiest pick of the lot as the Premier League’s top scorer this season, and Tottenham’s Son Heung-min.

Let’s start with Salah. He’d be the first name on any team sheet in any team in the league. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, it’s that simple. 

Sixteen goals from 20 league appearances, coupled with nine assists, is a phenomenal return.

Salah, who stands on the cusp of Africa Cup of Nations glory with Egypt on Sunday, has been head and shoulders ahead of his peers and it offered up plenty of potential strike partners.  

In the end it is Son, who finished with a score of 7.28, down slightly on Salah’s 7.51.

Son has eight goals and three assists across 18 matches this season – while also missing seven big chances. 

Antonio Conte was bemused at Tottenham’s January transfer window but he can thank his lucky stars that someone of Son’s quality is still in his squad.  

The team over at have pulled together the best-rated Premier League XI so far

The team over at have pulled together the best-rated Premier League XI so far


Krul; Ward, Troost-Ekong, Cathcart, Henry; Almiron, Allan, Willock; Gudmundsson, Pukki, Barnes 

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It will come as little surprise that eight of the 11 players here come from sides in the bottom five of the Premier League table right now. 

Watford’s leaky defence pushes Craig Cathcart and William Troost-Ekong into the backline while Newcastle pair Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron form two-thirds of the Worst XI’s three-man midfield.

Interestingly, it is Norwich that possesses the worst defensive record in the league so far this season, shipping 45 goals.

And yet the only man having to carry the can for that one in this side is goalkeeper Tim Krul, with a rated score of 6.78.

Krul, who has 19 league appearances this season, has managed just three clean sheets, and only one since November.  

Rico Henry (left) has been graded the worst performing Premier League star in 2021-22 so far

Rico Henry (left) has been graded the worst performing Premier League star in 2021-22 so far

A look at Cathcart and Troost-Ekong makes for some startling reading, also. 

Starting with Cathcart, the 32-year-old hasn’t overseen a single clean sheet this season for the Hornets across the 17 league appearances he has had. 

Then there is Troost-Ekong, a 2020 signing that helped get Watford back into the Premier League but is finding life tough at the top. 

He has managed 16 league games, one shy of his team-mate, and too has not a single clean sheet to show at the mid-season point.  

As per SofaScore’s scoring system, it is Brentford that possess the worst-performing star in the league so far with left back Rico Henry managing a score of just 6.53.

The 24-year-old, who has two goals to his name from 19 league appearances, looked sharp in the early part of the season but has numbers that he will know need to improve. 

A league crossing accuracy of just 15 per cent, for example, is an area of his game that has hurt Brentford. As does the fact that he has lost more duels (90) and more aerial battles (21) than he has won. 

Rounding out the defence is Crystal Palace’s Joel Ward, who is perhaps a surprise inclusion given boss Patrick Vieira showered him in praise earlier this season. 

Joe Willock thrived at the back end of last season but his form has dipped for 2021-22 season

Joe Willock thrived at the back end of last season but his form has dipped for 2021-22 season

But a 12 per cent crossing accuracy is nothing to celebrate and a 57 per cent tackle success rate is problematic, also, across 21 appearances this season. 

Then comes the midfield, an area where Newcastle’s shortcomings, before they were able to rectify it in the January window with the marquee addition of Bruno Guimaraes from Lyon, have been badly exposed.

Miguel Almiron, along with Joe Willock, take two of three available spots in this Worst XI.

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Almiron has fallen out of favour under new boss Eddie Howe and has been limited to cameo appearances off the bench, winning four minutes against Watford, before failing to get on against Leeds. 

The Paraguayan, who has 17 league appearances to his name this season, has no goals, no assists and just one big chance created to talk of this season. 

Then there is Willock, who struck seven goals in the last nine games of 2020-21 season in devastating fashion. 

At 22, Willock has plenty of room for improvement and he will accept his effectiveness has dropped off massively this season, hence his poor performance to SofaScore’s algorithm. 

Like Almiron, Willock has no goals or assists to speak of, he hasn’t created a single big chance in more than 1,100 minutes and has managed just four shots on target across 17 games. He’s also missed two ‘big chances’, per Premier League metrics. 

Harvey Barnes (right) effectiveness has dipped and it's hurt Leicester as they are down in 10th

Harvey Barnes (right) effectiveness has dipped and it’s hurt Leicester as they are down in 10th

That leaves three remaining spots: the front three. 

Perhaps one of the most surprising inclusions in the Worst XI so far comes from Leicester City, who are 10th in the table.

By the Foxes’ standards this has been a poor season and they are way off troubling those battling for European spots. 

Harvey Barnes, with a score of 6.63, assumes position at left-wing in this line-up after a campaign that has brought him just two goals and three assists. 

Five big chances missed is the alarming stat in Barnes’ repertoire in 2021-22, coupled with the fact he’s managing just 20 per cent accuracy on crosses and 43 per cent accuracy when shooting, numbers that don’t constitute winning. 

It speaks volumes that he has only been on the winning side four times in his 16 league games this season. 

Albeit deployed more centrally for his club, Burnley’s Jóhann Gudmundsson takes the right-side of the attack, while Norwich marksman Teemu Pukki leads the attack.

Icelandic star Gudmundsson is managing just 15.42 passes a game and is finding matches pass him by, losing more duels than he wins and creating just two ‘Big Chances’ in 19 games. 

Then there is Pukki, who has five goals to his name. Norwich are the lowest scorers in the league – just 13 from 22 games – and Pukki’s struggles – he only has three from open play and not a single goal since November 30 – have badly hurt the Canaries.

As well as the Best XI, has also compiled the Worst XI of the season so far

As well as the Best XI, has also compiled the Worst XI of the season so far

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