Jamie Carragher recently produced his Premier League team of the year award, which has probably ruffled more than a few supporters’ feathers. Allegiance to a club is like a tribal mentality, where opinions can so often be led by the bleeding emotions of the game. I tend to avoid listening to football pundits and most sports journalists as their words are often led by agenda or just plain drivel. I have my thoughts on who and why players should be selected, which is something I tried to look at several times, so that my own devotion to Liverpool didn’t take precedence. There is no right answer to such debates, whereas my perspective is whether a player has had a great enough impact to his team beyond all else. I’ve also ignored any domestic cup or European exploits, as this is a Premier League XI based upon only that fixture list.
Below is a representation of my own team of the year, with a 4-4-2 box formation incorporated.
GK – Alisson Becker
RB – Kieran Trippier
RCB – Rúben Dias
LCB – Sven Botman
LB – Nathan Aké
RCM – Bruno Guimarães
LCM – Moisés Caicedo
RM – Bukayo Saka
ACM – Martin Ødegaard
LM – Alexis Mac Allister
CF – Erling Haaland
Subs – William Saliba, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, İlkay Gündoğan, Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Ivan Toney.
Manager – Roberto De Zerbi
Without going too much into detail, I believe that squad of 18 players best represents what we have seen this season. The numbers and overall standards of Mohamed Salah this year sees him take a place on the bench, even though many would have him starting. Our only Liverpool player to make the starting eleven, however, is Alisson Becker. This is the overwhelming pick as Liverpool’s player of the season, as his superhuman performances have enabled a very poor LFC team to finish 5th in the league. Without this man between the Anfield sticks, we would literally be fighting Chelsea for bottom half superiority. Without this magnificent Brazilian, we would perhaps be under the management of a new head coach. As a singular entity within the entire English top tier, I would question whether any other player has been as important to their clubs finishing position.
People often talk about the pace and power of Virgil, that has enabled the high line to be enabled since the introduction of VAR. Some of the fan base will point to the introduction of the youthful and more dynamic Fabinho. Of those two, I see the giant Dutchman as a more vital component to what we became under Jürgen Klopp. What must be considered, is the sweeping nature and decision making of our former Roma number one. No other keeper could or would even contemplate covering the sort of ground of Ali, as shown above. David de Gea would get a nose bleed at the thought of leaving his 18-yard box, whereas many teams simply do not possess either the athleticism heavy defensive line or brilliantly anticipating keeper to carry out such an endeavour. Clearly the risks are high, though we have seen ultimate success accrued in recent years, which is in part due to a choice to defend half the pitch so often. Even in this restructuring and regeneration period, the 30-year-old is still the man that is shutting down counter attacks before they even come to prominence, whilst smothering big chances game after game.
Álisson Ramsés Becker is a player that should have walked into the six-man nomination list, for the Premier League player of the year award. It is only due to the status of our club and the clear (yet hopefully brief) drop off, that his performance this year remains widely understated. Much like Mohammed Salah and Virgil, the performance bar has been raised to such an elite level, that even very good seasons can be viewed as weakened overall showings. In the case of Liverpool’s 6ft 4inch stopper, there should be no downplaying or secondary option for that keeper position, as he stands not just as the divisions supreme number one, but as the world’s undisputed best.