We’ve picked out 5 outstanding performers in this remarkable Premier League season. With Arsenal and Man City slugging it out for the title, it shouldn’t surprise you to see a few Gunners and Citizens feature prominently. We’ve also given a shoutout to a Brentford star on the top of his game.With all 5 of our candidates operating in the attacking third, it’s only right that we also give the defensive players their flowers by naming a best XI and our honourable mentions. Did your favourite player make the cut?
Premier League Player of the Year contenders
Born to score goals at an abnormal rate. At the time of writing, Haaland has bagged 48 goals in 42 matches across all competitions in his debut season with Manchester City. 32 of those have come in the Premier League, meaning he’s already equalled Mohamed Salah’s single-season record (38 matches) and there are still 8 matches left for City to play in the league.
There were some theories doing the rounds that City had become worse with Haaland in the side. Sure, he’s not as involved in the play as most conventional strikers (according to a piece in The Athletic last month, Haaland was averaging 26.8 touches per 90 minutes) but it’s difficult to argue with the statistics which truly matter.
No Premier League player has ever scored as many goals in a single season across all competitions as Haaland, and he’s done it in his first campaign in England. It’s scary to think where he goes from here. City have adapted their playing style to the Norwegian’s strengths and they’re looking better for it. How many goals will the 22-year-old go on to score in his Premier League career?
Did you know? Haaland is the only player in Premier League history to score hat-tricks in 3 consecutive home matches
Decision-maker supreme. What’s most striking about 21-year-old Saka is his ability to make the right decisions at the right times with the ball at his feet. Arsenal’s superstar already shoulders so much of the creative burden at Emirates Stadium, but he’s also becoming a regular goalscorer in the games that matter.
He was the first Premier League player this season to notch double figures for both goals and assists, underlining the clear evolution in his game that’s seen him become a complete attacker who has the potential to become an elite creator too. His “weaker” right foot is now a reliable source of goals, assists and key passes.
Saka’s coolness under immense pressure sets him apart from most players in his age bracket. In Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal have plenty to build their attack around in the coming years.
Did you know? Saka (23) and Martinelli (20) are only the second pair of teammates aged 21 or under to both record 20+ goal involvements in a single Premier League campaign, after Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in 2006/07 for Man Utd (via OptaJoe)
Kevin De Bruyne
The assist machine keeps on delivering. KDB has been a BIG-game player for some time now. His nonchalant left-footed finish against Arsenal earlier in the season was a perfect summary of the type of player he is: instinctive, decisive and devastating.
He’s maintained his relentless desire to create goals for teammates too. De Bruyne has 15 assists this campaign, making it the fourth time he’s notched 15+ assists in a Premier League season. Cesc Fàbregas is the only other player to do it more than once, and he did it in 2 campaigns. That gives you some perspective on De Bruyne’s ridiculous consistency.
Looking beyond all of the numbers, De Bruyne also possesses that X factor a manager dreams of in a player. Pep Guardiola will likely lean heavily on the brilliant Belgian in BIG matches to come, including a potential title decider against Arsenal, a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and the FA Cup Final against Manchester United. KDB was built for these occasions.
Did you know? De Bruyne recently became the fastest player to reach 100 Premier League assists (237 matches), beating Fàbregas’ mark of 293 (via SkySportsStatto)
Coolness personified. Arsenal’s skipper has gone and notched up 12 goals and 7 assists in the Premier League this season, but it’s HIS quiet leadership skills which have been most impressive. Like De Bruyne, he is the driving force and creative heartbeat of his team.
The Gunners have been criticised for a lack of leadership in recent years but they’ve gone a long way to addressing that, with Odegaard’s understated style complementing some of the more vocal players in the group.
Did you know? Ødegaard needs 3 more assists to become only the second player to hit double figures for both goals and assists in the Premier League this season
Prolific and usually spot-on. Brentford’s counter-attacking football under Thomas Frank has been a wonderful thing to witness this season. If their marquee striker Toney played for one of the traditional BIG 6, he’d probably earn even more rave reviews.
Still, 19 league goals this season is another remarkable return for a top-class striker who gives defenders a torrid time on a regular basis. And he’s doing it for a relatively unfashionable team, too. Only Saka, Haaland and Harry Kane have more direct goal involvements this season than Toney’s 23.
Did you know? Before his recent spot-kick miss against Newcastle, Toney had scored 22 out of 22 penalties in a Brentford jersey, including 10 out of 10 in the Premier League
2022/23 Premier League Best XI
Nick Pope; Kieran Trippier, William Saliba, Sven Botman, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Rodri; Bukayo Saka, Kevin De Bruyne, Martin Ødegaard, Ivan Toney; Erling Haaland
Alisson Becker; Benjamin White, Lisandro Martínez, Fabian Schär, John Stones, Gabriel Magalhães; Pascal Gross, Moisés Caicedo, Casemiro, Thomas Partey, Alexis Mac Allister, Christian Eriksen, Solly March, Kaoru Mitoma, James Maddison, Jack Grealish, Gabriel Martinelli, Brennan Johnson, Michael Olise, Marcus Rashford, Leandro Trossard, Mohamed Salah; Harry Kane, Ollie Watkins, Alexander Isak, Gabriel Jesus, Callum Wilson