Fans have been treated the sublime performances from a plethora of players this season. Many individuals stand out from the top of the table to the bottom. Almost every club this season has at least one top star and standout performer, but who are these 20 individuals?
Arsenal – Bukayo SakaEmbed from Getty Images
After his unfortunate penalty miss in the Euro 2020 final, Saka has pressed onwards, with terrific performances for Arsenal in the 2021/22 season. Safe to say, it has been Saka’s best individual season so far and it’s crazy to think he’s just 20 years old!
Saka managed 11 goals and seven assists in a pretty decent Premier League season for the Gunners, who came agonisingly close to securing Champions League football once again. His footwork and dribbling ability consistently troubled defenders as he continues to prove himself as a creative pivot. If his crossing was just a little better and he was accompanied by a top striker, Saka would’ve undoubtedly hit double figures for assists. He just needs to be a bit more clinical in front of goal and he will become a top Premier League player.
Aston Villa – Matty CashEmbed from Getty Images
Despite a disappointing campaign for Aston Villa, several players have stood out for having remarkable seasons. John McGinn and Emiliano Martínez both had a positive influence but Matty Cash stands out as Villa’s best performer. Cash contributes significant to attack and defence, being comfortable in both sides of the game.
He provides plenty of energy and some creativity going forward which has resulted in him gaining four goals and three assists. Not the most prolific return granted, but imagine if Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins among others showed better form this season! As the season progressed Cash ironed out some of his defensive weaknesses. Now he consistently wins the ball from duels (202 won), interceptions (49) and also tackles (where he ranked 6th in the Premier League with 89), to make him one of Steven Gerrard’s top players moving forward.
Brentford – Christian NørgaardEmbed from Getty Images
Ivan Toney is the name most people will scream out for Brentford. Praise must also be bestowed on Christian Eriksen and Ethan Pinnock, but Christian Nørgaard has been exceptional for the Bees. The 6’1″ Dane has been a stable option at the heart of Brentford’s midfield this season, thanks to his recoveries, concentration and willingness to make a tackle. In fact, Nørgaard completed the most tackles of any Premier League player, an incredible 109!
He possesses a great level of awareness and physicality to challenge for and win the ball consistently, making him a comfortable player to have on your side. His only major downfall is the number of fouls he gives away, but many of these are helpful in stopping the opposition’s momentum. Besides, he’s yet to receive a red card in the Premier League.
Occasionally Nørgaard gets himself amongst the goals, scoring four times and assisting thrice. Most memorably, he grabbed a goal on an opening day against Arsenal and from then on, we knew Brentford and Nørgaard meant business.
Brighton and Hove Albion – Marc CucurellaEmbed from Getty Images
Cucurella arrived from Getafe CF last summer in the southern city and its safe to say £15 million was a bargain! In 35 games for Brighton, Cucurella has only seen the ball in the back of his net 39 times. A 67% tackle rate alongside 247 recoveries are great stats for emphasising his reliability because he wins the ball and stops the potential of opposition attacks.
Versatility too becomes a leading component of his inclusion here. Cucurella has starred at left-back, centre-back and left-midfield all in the space of one season! He likes to win the ball high up the pitch (depending on his position of course) to stop attacks before they can even pressurise the Brighton defence. Occasionally he has also become a threat to opposition. I wouldn’t be shocked if Brighton make a profit from Cucurella in the summer. Manchester City are said to be interested in the Spaniard, and money talks.
Burnley – James TarkowskiEmbed from Getty Images
I remember saying at the beginning of the season that if Chris Wood leaves Burnley, they would face relegation. While he got off to a poor start before leaving for Newcastle in January, I wasn’t exactly wrong. Goalscoring was a critical issue for Burnley with 34 goals scored in 38 games. Meanwhile, the defensive efforts of James Tarkowski gave them hope until the final day of the season.
It’s a shame that Tarkowski – alongside goalkeeper Nick Pope – faced relegation as both players are far too good to be at the table’s foot; Tarkowski’s presence was more important I believe. He managed 64 tackles (with a 69% success rate) alongside a staggering 240 duel and 153 aerial battle wins. Granted, the high numbers are due to Burnley often being on the back foot, but lesser players would crumble under the constant pressure. Tarkowski also managed the most blocks (61) of any Premier League player across the campaign. He deserves Premier League football, so I hope a club sign him up.
Chelsea – Antonio RüdigerEmbed from Getty Images
Chelsea has had plenty of issues on and off the pitch this season. Focusing on the pitch, they fell very far behind Manchester City (19-point-deficit) and Liverpool (18-point-deficit). Many pundits and fans suggested Chelsea would be considerably closer to the top of the table, but the lack of a goalscorer – Romelu Lukaku was meant to be exactly that – has hampered them. In defence, on the other hand, Rüdiger has been excellent! Just 27 goals conceded in 34 games is a key reason for Real Madrid signing the German up for next season.
Many components of the game contribute to Rüdiger’s fantastic individual season. A brilliant tackler, Rüdiger is capable of running the distance and insuring he claims the ball. His physical presence is matched by few in the Premier League, as he bullies attackers with little effort. Do not try long balls against Rüdiger, as he rarely loses an aerial battle. He is almost the perfect centre-back and Chelsea will miss him next season.
Crystal Palace – Wilfried ZahaEmbed from Getty Images
Conor Gallagher comes very close but Zaha has once again proven himself as Crystal Palace’s star man. He scored 14 of Palace’s Premier League 50 goals: a new record for the Ivory Coast international. Some of them were absolute stunners too (especially goals against Watford and Norwich). Furthermore, his technical ability is incredible! Zaha is well known for his eye-catching flair, dribbling and pace in abundance, with all of this being demonstrated with success over the season as he looks to be a significant part of Patrick Vierra’s rebuild.
Psychologically he has a big advantage over plenty of defenders and he draws an incredible amount of fouls as a result. While his own attitude can be his worst enemy sometimes – he received four yellows and one red card – Zaha’s impact is unmatched for Palace.
Everton – RicharlisonEmbed from Getty Images
It’s been a pretty torrid time for the Toffees recently, no doubt about that. Although, youngster Anthony Gordon has definitely impressed me, and in a couple of seasons’ time he’ll be a star! Jordan Pickford has played well generally despite the performances of his shaky defence. Richarlison has been a saving grace for Everton this season, however, scoring some of their most integral goals. His 10 goals and five assists have saved Everton from relegation, in a season much worse than most fans expected.
He draws plenty of fouls (and controversy), is great technically and knows how to get into the head of his opposition, while making sure the referee takes notes. Goals against the likes of Leicester City, Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal have made him a rare beacon of light in an unbalanced, messy side. If Richalison leaves, could Everton’s issues worsen next season?
Leeds United – RaphinhaEmbed from Getty Images
He is easily Leeds’ best player! Similar to Richarlison, Raphinha really has been a rare beacon of light for the Yorkshire club, who only just overcame ‘Second Season Syndrome’. They survived on the final day of the season and they have one man in particular to thank.
Raphinha possesses great ball control and agility to weave past defenders and cut inside, often delivering killer long shots or crosses. In addition, he is very happy to take a set-piece and he loves a direct free-kick! One of Raphinha’s best features is his work rate, however. After all, to succeed as he did under Marcelo Bielsa you must possess high energy levels and a sturdy determination. Even when he wasn’t scoring one of his 11 goals Raphinha had the energy and trickery to tire out almost any defender, thus contributing to the bigger picture. Raphinha is almost a parallel to Richarlison in the sense that if Leeds loses their star man over the summer, they will be in big trouble.
Leicester City – James MaddisonEmbed from Getty Images
With 12 goals and eight assists to his name, James Maddison is finally fulfilling his true potential and has become one of Leicester’s most valuable assets. His best season has just ended, making the £25 million spent on the Englishman a great deal!
Maddison is established as a great passer, workhorse and as we’ve seen recently a goalscorer. He’s highly intelligent in attacking situations due to his natural mindset, meaning that the creative freedom Brendan Rodgers has allowed Maddison has only helped him to flourish. Whether he grabs the goals or makes Jamie Vardy’s job easier thanks to killer balls and movement, Maddison commands a high price tag thanks to his consistent performances and hard work. He would be an asset (and starter) for most clubs in the world.
Liverpool – Mohammed SalahEmbed from Getty Images
While yes, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Luis Diaz, Joel Matip and more have too stood out, few people can disagree with my choice. The Golden Boot-winning Egyptian has been fantastic yet again for Liverpool in the Premier League. To score 23 goals and assist a further 13 in 35 games is simply world-class (I dare you to name a better right-winger currently). Granted, Salah’s scoring slowed down towards the season’s climax, but his effort and impact were still evident to anybody watching him play.
Salah in individual brilliance in a nutshell! His footwork and ball control is second to nobody, skipping past the Premier League’s top defenders with ease often. Goals against Manchester City, Watford and Everton among others leave the viewer in awe because of that individual brilliance shining through. Year after year Jürgen Klopp continues to get the maximum out of his star man; this season was no different.
Manchester City – Kevin De BruyneEmbed from Getty Images
Man City possess several candidates for the Player of the Season: talents who are world-class. Rodri, João Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are all prolific players who go above and beyond in every performance. However, Kevin De Bruyne is the player I’ve chosen; the Belgian is one of the world’s best! It took De Bruyne a short while to come to his best but his purple patch was phenomenal, which is why he was named as the 2021/22 Premier League Player of the Season.
De Bruyne has had a slightly adjusted role this season, to make up for Man City’s lack of an out-and-out striker. So he’s had to step up and grab important goals. Safe to say, he’s passed the test with flying colours. De Bruyne managed 15 goals (including four against Wolverhampton Wanderers), leading Man City’s scoring charts in the Premier League. Meanwhile, he grabbed eight assists to boot. Granted this number is not so high for a player of his reputation, but De Bruyne’s role has not so much been about playing the final pass this campaign.
Similar to the situation with Marc Cucurella, De Bruyne has been fantastic in performing in a trio of roles and performing all of them well. He has played deeper as a centre-midfielder for example, yet managed to grab some goals and his passing was still a delight to watch! In his traditional attacking-midfielder role, his link-up play has been integral (and again, his passing ability). Then as a centre-forward, he has also scored important goals.
Manchester United – Cristiano RonaldoEmbed from Getty Images
I absolutely understand some of the critiques aimed at Cristiano Ronaldo. His lack of pressing has been brought into question over the course of the campaign. Although – with Ronaldo – not just are expectations astronomically high due to his prominence, but he is a goalscorer first and foremost, especially being 37 years old. While he has had blips over the season’s duration, Ronaldo still managed to 18 of Manchester United’s 57 Premier League goals – nearly one-third of their total tally.
Without said goals and performances, Man Utd would be in a much worse position than they currently find themselves. Going back to the criticism of Ronaldo, a lack of pressing intensity in addition to a highly unbalanced squad is hardly his fault. Tactics and work rate were exposed massively by many teams across the 2021/22 Premier League campaign. With Erik Tan Haag’s arrival comes the opportunity to completely overhaul the squad and create a balanced side.
Newcastle United – JoelintonEmbed from Getty Images
Let’s look back at 2019. Newcastle spent a staggering £40 million – their transfer record at the time – on Joelinton. It seemed completely absurd, especially as owner Mike Ashley refused to provide Rafael Benítez with the funds to upgrade the team (which resulted in his departure). As a centre-forward, Joelinton managed merely SIX goals in 69 games, across two lacklustre seasons. Needless to say, this is shambolic from any centre-forward, as he looked like one of the biggest flops in Premier League history.
Fast forward to 2022; Joelinton has significantly improved. Since Eddie Howe’s arrival early into the 2021/22 campaign, Joelinton has been one of Newcastle’s stars. He was 22nd in the Premier League for tackles (72) – second only to Matt Targett for Newcastle. The Brazillian also managed 34 interceptions and 47 clearances, which is massively due to his defensive work rate. That’s his biggest attribute by far, work rate.
He is the engine at the heart of Eddie Howe’s midfield, being the man who wins the ball and begins attacks. Joelinton earns extra points for so quickly adapting to a position foreign to him. Sooner or later – if he maintains this level of performance – that price tag will not seem unreasonable.
Norwich City – Grant HanleyEmbed from Getty Images
Teemu Pukki and Grant Hanley are the only players even deserving of a mention for Norwich. It’s really a shame because having a promoted team heading straight back down so convincingly creates a less exciting division. I digress, and I will choose the latter because he’s actually been decent. It’s crazy to think that if Hanley had not put in some great performances, it would’ve been worse than conceding an abysmal 84 goals. Now it’s hard to vouch for a player who conceded 70 goals in his 33 Premier League appearances, but hear me out.
Hanley won significantly more duels (169 won, 72 lost) and aerial battles (102 won, 33 lost) than he lost, proving to be strong in the air and in direct battles with opposition players. Never did Hanley make an error directly leading to a goal or receive a red card (with only two yellows). Perhaps this indicated a lack of tactical fouls but you’d rather not see your top player sent off. I think he deserves to play for a Premier League side next season. If he keeps these numbers up on a better side, he would be a standout player again!
Southampton – James Ward-ProwseEmbed from Getty Images
For the second consecutive season, James Ward-Prowse has been the Saint’s star man! Kyle Walker-Peters and Tino Livramento have also impressed, but Ward-Prowse’s presence at the heart of midfield is integral to Southampton. He managed 302 crosses, the highest of any Premier League player in the recent campaign.
Ward-Prowse also managed a sublime 259 recoveries and managed an average of 50.75 passes per match. These stats are incredible, especially for playing in a team which don’t often control possession. I haven’t even mentioned his sublime set-piece taking or goal involvements yet and he already seems like a fine talent.
Once again, Ward-Prowse has scored for fun from set-pieces. While four of his 10 goals have come from penalties, another four have come from direct free-kicks. Add to this another two pinpoint strikes from open play and it’s clear Ward-Prowse has a wicked eye for goal. He has also claimed five assists, making it a goal involvement for over a third of Southampton’s goals. As just a midfielder he does a decent job, but his set-pieces ability makes him a sought-after player who could very leave soon.
Tottenham Hotspur – Son Heung-MinEmbed from Getty Images
No doubts here for me. Harry Kane came to life under Antonio Conte, but his numbers are not as impressive. Rodrigo Bentacur and Dejan Kulisevski proved to be stellar January signings too, but Son won the Premier League Golden Boot. His 23 goals and seven assists have fired Spurs back into the Champions League for the first time since 2019.
Said goals have come against the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Leicester City to earn vital points which turned Spurs’ fortunes around, especially considering their poor start to the season. Son is sublime with both feet which gives defenders a very torrid time. While goalscoring is obviously his main attribute, he’s also effective with passing and crossing. As we know, Son and Kane have a great partnership and it flourished once again and was helped by the arrival of Kulisevski.
Watford – Emmanuel DennisEmbed from Getty Images
Emmanuel Dennis arrived in the summer of 2021 from Club Brugge and for the first half of the 2021/22 campaign, he was in great form! In fact his goal and assist contributions earned points against Aston Villa twice and Manchester United, points which were difficult for Watford to find. In fact, they had a terrible season with just 24 points (from six wins and six draws). The Hornets also conceded 76 times and only grabbed 34 goals. Dennis contributed to just under half of the said goals, grabbing 10 and assisting a further six.
It says a lot about a team when a singular player is contributing such a high percentage of the goal tally. Nonetheless, he seemed worth what was rumoured as a £20 million fee. While he didn’t set the world alight he proved he is Premier League quality at least, which is more than most Watford players could accomplish. If they somehow keep them in for next season, he could dominate in the Championship.
West Ham United – Declan RiceEmbed from Getty Images
People have been going crazy over Declan Rice for the past couple of seasons, and it’s clear to see why. At only 23 years old, Rice has shown maturity on the pitch that’s difficult to find in young players these days. In fact, he is stepping up as captain for West Ham next season, showing the trust he has gained in quite a talented squad. Nonetheless, Rice has played spectacularly in the majority of games this season, and the stats don’t lie.
Rice astonishingly ranked 15th for most completed passes in the Premier League campaign (2,153), made even more impressive considering that all but two players ahead of him playing for the top four teams. These two players were Crystal Palace’s centre-back duo of Marc Guéhi and Joachim Andersen. Of course, this is impressive, seeing as those top four teams often control possession in games.
In addition, he is a great physical presence at the heart of midfield, making 80 tackles alongside winning 42 aerial battles and 183 duels. What makes Rice such a capable defensive midfielder is also his ability to read the game and make judgement calls. For example, he knows how to begin a counter-attack when he regains the ball and he knows how to at least slow opposition attacks down if he cannot win the ball.
Rice is a fantastic player, and I can’t help but think Chelsea and Manchester United would be wise to make bids for him if they can get him for the right price.
Wolverhampton Wanderers – José SáEmbed from Getty Images
I would go as far as to say José Sá was the best goalkeeper in the 2021/22 season, despite Allison and Ederson sharing the Golden Glove! One of the signings of the season, Sá has been a key component to the fifth-best defence in the Premier League. Wolves conceded only 43 goals in their 38 games and Sá’s quality shone through, game after game.
Sá was second for punches (20) but more importantly, his save ratio was through the roof. In his 37 games played, Wolves conceded 40. However, he made 121 saves, resulting in a save ratio of over 75%; only Allison had a higher percentage. In addition, Sá’s game is not just about saves but also his passing, with great range. In fact, he earned himself one assist in the 2021/22 season and is great as a sweeper, thanks to his accuracy. He will be one to watch again next season.
Any changes you would make? Be sure to let us know!