Premier League Team of the Season: Soccer Saturday pundits pick their line-ups

Merson, Thompson, Nicholas and Le Tissier select their best starting XIs from this campaign

Soccer Saturday pundits
Image: We charged the Soccer Saturday pundits to come up with their teams of the season, with some interesting picks from the quartet

We asked the Soccer Saturday pundits to come up with their Premier League teams of the season and after much deliberation, these are the line-ups the quartet have come up with…

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Paul Merson (4-3-3)

TOTS

Goalkeeper: Alisson
Alisson is an incredible goalkeeper. Every goalkeeper needs to make saves that win you points, and he's done that all season. He's been absolutely outstanding. Nick Pope has done well for Burnely but for me, no other goalkeeper gets close to Alisson. You've got to remember this team is 25 points clear and Alisson has made crucial saves at vital times during Liverpool's unbeaten run, and there aren't many big errors during that time.

Alisson

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
You cannot not put the youngster in. The full-backs are so crucial to Liverpool, who are the standout team. He's also come up with vital assists this season, so it's an absolute no-brainer that he makes the cut.

Left-back: Andy Robertson
Liverpool's left-back also gets the nod. He's been outstanding. I still think the Achilles heel of both Liverpool full-backs is defending, but going forward they are as good as anyone. If you are that good going forward though you haven't really got to worry about the defending part of it too much, especially with the way Liverpool are playing.

Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk
There aren't too many more superlatives we can throw at the Dutchman. Everyone used to say Rio Ferdinand was a Rolls Royce footballer and the same can be said of Van Dijk.

Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring against Brighton

Centre-back: Gary Cahill
This might be a little left field, but Cahill goes in alongside Van Dijk. He's been outstanding for Crystal Palace. He came in last summer and you've got to remember he didn't play much football at all last season for Chelsea. He was completely frozen out at Stamford Bridge and he really shouldn't have been considering what he did for the club and what a good player he was.

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To then go to Palace where you are playing in a team that only gets 35 to 40 per cent possession, compared to Chelsea's 60 per cent, and to defend as well as he has, he deserves credit. He has marshalled that defence and he's a key reason Palace aren't deep in a relegation battle.

Gary Cahill tries to challenge Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Goodison Park

Midfield: Jordan Henderson
It's been a standout season for the England midfielder. There aren't many leaders in the game anymore, but he's definitely one of them. He's led by example and when he's been out of the team they've struggled badly. He's a bit of unsung hero of the Liverpool team.

Midfield: Georginio Wijnaldum
He's got to go in for me. Another outstanding performer for Liverpool. I put him down as a big-game player. He gets big goals in big games. There are a lot of players around who score a lot of goals, but if you weigh their goals up, they'll get the third or fourth in a 4-0 win, or they'll get the consolation goal in a 5-1 defeat. Another really top player, who goes under the radar in Jurgen Klopp's team.

Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne
Liverpool dominate this team, but I have to make room for De Bruyne. He's an outstanding talent. Some of the performances he's put in this season have been bordering on freakish at times. Man City do still have a great team, but at times his performances have dragged them through. He's been beyond 10 out of 10 in a number of games.

Manchester City's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the English League Cup semi-final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on January 7, 2020.

Forward: Mohamed Salah
I don't think Salah has got to the level of last season, but it was always going to be difficult to repeat that. If he did, he would be better than Lionel Messi. But still, he's been a key figure for Liverpool, and he's come up with some crucial goals at some really key times.

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates after scoring v Bournmouth

Forward: Sadio Mane
Another big-game player in this Liverpool side. He does things out of the ordinary and is one of the first names in this team. He is a special player who has been Liverpool's go-to man at times in the season. He's performed and got big goals in big games. He's the Player of the Year for me.

Forward: Jamie Vardy
Many people will go with the Liverpool front three, but I have to make room for Jamie Vardy. It's freakish what he's done for Leicester this season. He took a big gamble by saying he wouldn't play for England again to look after himself and extend his career.

After doing that, though, he has produced at the highest level. He's recaptured his form and is back to the Vardy we all knew, and that Vardy is an absolute nightmare to play against. He's a prime example for any kid out there who wants to play football at the highest level. To come from where he's come from, it's an incredible story.

Jamie Vardy was back among the goals as Leicester thrashed Aston Villa on Monday Night Football

Phil Thompson (4-2-4)

TOTS

Goalkeeper: Alisson
Alisson would be the No 1. I think it speaks for itself, with the number of goals he has conceded. The games when he has been out of the team in comparison to when he plays is evident to see. His presence is inspiring for defenders, and I think since his inclusion in the Liverpool side, along with Virgil van Dijk, they have rightfully been the two players behind the resurgence. The biggest thing is the goals against column over the last two years, and he and Ederson have led the way in that respect.

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
This is partly due to Liverpool having the best defence, which will be said a few times in this team. His attributes which he stars in are assists. He and De Bruyne are going head to head, but people have to remember he is a full-back. It has been another influential season for him in this Liverpool side.

Trent Alexander-Arnold starred for Liverpool in their win at Leicester

Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk
He is the absolute star of this Liverpool team. His influence and calmness is personified. He oozes class at any given time. As we have heard, he loves a clean sheet, which for a defender, is as good as scoring a goal. I think he has been the most important player for Liverpool, despite the goals the forwards have scored and the influence the midfielders have had - his presence is paramount for this side.

Centre-back: Fernandinho
This team will consist of mainly City and Liverpool players. Even at 34, Fernandinho has been a terrific holding midfield player, but you can see why Pep Guardiola values him as a centre-back. Throughout Aymeric Laporte's absence, they were having to rely on Fernandinho as a centre-back.

He reads the game as good as I have seen, and for a midfielder to go and play centre-back is something that Pep dreams about, especially building up from the defence. Pep has had a win-win with Fernandinho.

Fernandinho

Left-back: Andy Robertson
I think Andy Robertson gets this comfortably. Nobody could hold a position down at City who could give him a problem with a position in this side. Ben Chilwell is probably the only one that comes near. The influence of Liverpool's full-backs to the side are enormous. Although he does not have as many assists, he still has a lot of those and is probably a better defender than what Trent is.

Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne
You mention the name and that is enough! He is a wonderful technician. His control, his vision, his passing, and his appetite for the game is brilliant to see. He fits City and City fits him in how he wants to play the game. Some of his assists this season have been remarkable and he thoroughly deserves a spot.

Midfield: Jordan Henderson
He would probably be the holding midfielder in this side. Jordan speaks for himself and is a leader of men. He has tremendous qualities and great belief in the qualities he has, which is that he can run forever, he closes down, he can chase back - if you want someone to be creative he can do that too.

He has added so much to his game and probably never drops below an eight for any game this season. It was no coincidence that when Liverpool had a blip, Henderson was missing.

Henderson

Forward: Sadio Mane
He has had an unbelievable season, as he has done for a couple of seasons. Dare I say it, he has overshadowed Salah as Liverpool's go-to man. His appetite for the game again is incredible. I think he would get into any Premier League team, he is that important for Liverpool. He is another one who will be high up on the Player of the Season list.

Forward: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
On the left is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. To score the goals he has done for Arsenal, in very difficult times, is a testament to his goalscoring ability. If you are leading the way with the likes of Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi, who are not the most creative behind you, it says everything for the amount of goals he scores. He needs to be in my side.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Forward: Sergio Aguero
He has to be in any team for me. Season after season, he never lets his standards drop, and he is always hungry to score more goals. He is a Premier League legend, and certainly a City one at that.

Forward: Jamie Vardy
The pest! I mean that in such a nice way. As a central defender, I would hate to play against him. He never gives you a moment's rest and sets greats patterns for the side. He takes the game to the opposition, and is another one with an appetite for the game that is unquestionable.

Again, to be at the top of the goalscoring charts with, aside from James Maddison, a lesser creative midfield with the likes of Wilfried Ndidi and Youri Tielemans, is wonderful for Vardy at his age. Incredible. Normally I think Harry Kane would be there to outfox Vardy or Aguero, but he has been out for quite a while. Hopefully he gets back very soon, but he has to miss out. I have a million goals in my team!

Charlie Nicholas (4-3-3)

TOTS

Goalkeeper: Ederson
Alisson is a major fabric of what has happened and been built at Liverpool, but all 'keepers made mistakes. Just Ederson's cleanness and the way he clips or passes a ball, whether it be 30 or 60 yards, is phenomenal. You can see him playing centre-back with the ball at his feet or central midfield. He has a certain authority about him that makes you appreciate it. He clips without back lift.

He is courageous and brave on top of this. He is also a guy that has had to play in front of a makeshift defence, and he has saved them some more points in the process. If the Champions League goes ahead, he would be the real reason why they may go through. He was hardly troubled in Madrid, but pulled off a couple of important saves when he has to.

Ederson has proved a safe pair of hands for Manchester City

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold, alongside Andy Robertson, are quite the dynamic duo. Trent is so easy to pick in this team. Is he the best defender? No. Is he one of the best passers, crossers of the ball? Yes he is. His crossing ability is second to none.

When he was answering questions with Robertson, both of them thought they had made more mistakes than what they had, which was still very little. When he gets the ball, something looks as though it is going to happen. If someone has blocked him, he finds a pass. He plays like an exciting winger. When both of them get 30 yards from goal, the crowd are off their feet.

Left-back: Andy Robertson
Everything he does is with pace, energy and purposefulness. You all have weaknesses and you can get at him. He, alongside Alexander-Arnold, have probably made more mistakes than people realise.

As much as we can name individuals, the full-back areas have been the key position in Liverpool being so much better than City. Man City spent £100m on two quick full-backs, so they could be more attack-minded. They signed Robertson for around £8m and Trent came through the system.

Robertson has been breathtakingly good and the improvement in him has been world-class. I see both of these players being in the team of the season for the next three or four seasons. They can really kick on from here.

Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk

Virgil Van Dijk has to be in there. He is the Rolls Royce of the game. Has he been as good as last year? No. He looks cumbersome and sluggish at times, but his pace can rescue him. He has pace and purpose on the ball, while having a great awareness of danger. He never jumps in and rarely dives in.

If someone is really quick, they may have a chance, or if a player is tricky, they could send him the wrong way, but he stands up and asks them to do something, meaning the player would normally lay it off. He has an authority within the game.

Is he as good as what people think? Yes, he is that good. People are scared to test him. Little balls in behind can make him vulnerable, but who isn't? He is a leader and has such a response of being on the ball, whether it be 10 yards or 60. He is good in the air both in attack and defence, he has to be in the team of the season.

Centre-back: John Egan

Last year it was Aymeric Laporte partnering Van Dijk. People were raving about Fernandinho, but he physically cannot play the position. When Laporte comes in, you sit and admire him. He is a centre-back. That is the level they have dropped.

The guy I have been raving about all season, I know Sheffield United play a back three, is John Egan, as he stands out for me. He has been absolutely brilliant. He is brave, he is a warrior, and he has authority within his back three. He has a fabulous goalkeeper behind him, but if he has to deal with it, then he will.

The big buys of Harry Maguire and others were all focused on, but there were plenty of Blades players who I did not think would cut it. His consistency at this level has looked so comfortable, so Egan goes in.

John Egan of Sheffield United during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Crystal Palace at Bramall Lane on August 18, 2019 in Sheffield, United Kingdom.

Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne

The first one has to be Kevin De Bruyne. For what he has won already, as well as his injuries, has been phenomenal. His first season was quite harsh on him and Pep Guardiola. He deserved so much more, but the follow up to that was winning back-to-back titles. He was injured for large parts of that and missed a fair amount of games because of that. He has played more than his part in the cup victories, but when you look at the fabulous players at this club, the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva, he in a very short period of time has become like them, with a legendary status already.

He makes goals, scores goals, left foot, right foot, short distance or long distance. He has everything. As the season was kicking on, Liverpool were blowing City away, Roberto Firmino was different class, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane the same, as with Trent and Robertson. Many think Liverpool will wrap up the player awards too, but De Bruyne may have something to say about that. He has been consistently high level.

The Madrid game was a masterclass. He was at his worst when he came on at Wembley against Aston Villa - he could not get up to the speed of the game, but that aside he has been breathtakingly good. It has to be between him and Mane for the Player of the Season award, due to their individual standards. I cannot find any other reason not to have him in my side, no matter how many individuals have been improving - he must play there.

Midfield: Rodri

I look at Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison, who have had a very good three or four months. Does it make them better than Rodri, who in my opinion the best holding midfielder in the country at doing that? Fabinho is close to him, but think Rodri has more in terms of all-round play.

Part of me does think a Leicester or Wolves player should be in there. Joao Moutinho has been brilliant. They bring more than just being an individual for their team.

Rodri celebrates Manchester City's second in the Carabao Cup Final.

Midfield: Jack Grealish

I am looking at different players that have impressed me and how their respective teams have performed. Leicester have only done it for part of the season, Chelsea have been unpredictable, Man Utd not so much, Arsenal and Tottenham have been poor, Burnley have been average, while Wolves and Sheffield United have been brilliant.

Jack Grealish has had a first-class season, and he has actually been better than James Maddison I feel. A lot doing comparisons between the two. He has been carrying the Aston Villa attack for a while. I understand how Jeff Stelling and the others have the debate around whether Ross Barkley, Mason Mount, Maddison or Grealish should play in that spot.

There is an abundance of talent, but Grealish has stood up to it. He wanted the ball and has shown maturity that I have never seen before. He is a lovely footballer and has tried to offer so much more than that for Villa. He has come on even more since Tottenham were linked and that price tag is going to continue to go up and up. As much as Villa are a mess, Grealish is an eye-catching player, so he definitely makes the team.

Jack Grealish celebrates Villa's 2-1 win over Burnley

Forward: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

I have to put Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in for his goals. I can pick out the goals in different players, who all have differing styles. His record since he arrived has been breathtaking. De Bruyne and Grealish would supply every other pass to him. His pace and movement is too hard to defend against. He is not as good in a No 9 position with his back to play, but instead coming in slightly off the left on the half turn.

Forward: Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino put Liverpool 2-0 up early in extra-time

Everyone always goes with the goalscorers. I am pleased with Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota, likewise with the goals of Jamie Vardy and Danny Ings. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has improved massively too.

I am a huge Roberto Firmino fan. He does not score as many goals, but he normally comes up with an assist in a big game and then scores sometimes in the big games too. He is the No 9 that wants to come in and play a number 10 role, so that Mane and Salah can go in behind and play more advanced. He has to do more than those two, so he is in the team. I love him to death.

Forward: Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane takes up the last spot. He has been superb. Wolves have had a lot of games and fatigue kicks in, so I can get that. Mane has played game after game after game. Even when injured, he recovers quickly. His goals are very important goals, and he is an unselfish player. He likes to feed players in and does respect his team-mates.

His consistency is second to none, while his pace frightens defences. As much as Liverpool are talking about Timo Werner coming from RB Leipzig and potential other buys, it might be Salah that gets moved on. I would be careful about Mane, as I believe even Lionel Messi picked him as one of his Ballon d'Or choices. Salah has been great and Liverpool fans love him, but the two they may want to keep are Mane and Firmino. They have more options about them, not better players necessarily. Salah is that type as he gets the goals.

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Matt Le Tissier (4-3-3)

TOTS

Goalkeeper: Nick Pope

Star man: Nick Pope

Every time I have watched Burnley, he has been impressive and made key saves in many games. Nick Pope has the most clean sheets out of anyone in the Premier League. Dean Henderson has been impressive, as has Alisson, but I am just edging with Pope. I think the way things were for Euro 2020, if both 'keepers were to keep up their current form, Pope would beat Jordan Pickford to the No 1 spot. Gareth Southgate has a loyalty to Jordan and thinks highly of him, but at some point, Pope could force his way in.

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold

He is a shoe-in and one of the easier decisions in this team. Ricardo Pereira has had a good season, but Alexander-Arnold takes it for his all-round play. He has a lot of assists for a defender and contributes a lot to his team going forward, so it was an easy decision in the end.

Left-back: Andy Robertson

Liverpool's Andy Robertson in action against Newcastle

He is my choice at left-back. The way Liverpool play makes it so crucial for how they transition and tick over. That is one of their key strengths. His pace and energy down the flank with quality of delivery into the box is great. His general interplay with Alexander-Arnold is phenomenal, the amount of times they whip the ball across to each other. I have never seen that as much with these two.

Centre back: Virgil van Dijk

The first centre back has to be Virgil van Dijk - there is no question that he will get in everyone's side. He is a Rolls Royce of a player and a big contender for Player of the Year once again. He has such high standards from the previous year, that even dropping them by 10 per cent, he is still better than everybody else in that position for sure. He kept seven consecutive clean sheets at one point, which was pretty impressive too.

Centre back: Caglar Soyuncu

He has made a huge impression at Leicester, specifically in defence. Everybody assumed they would miss Harry Maguire unbelievably, but they haven't because of this guy, and his partnership with Jonny Evans has been superb too. He has been outstanding for Leicester and deserves a place in this team.

Caglar Soyuncu has been a revelation at centre-back since the sale of Maguire

Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne

I am going with three in midfield. The first one is Kevin De Bruyne. He makes the game look so easy and there is not too many midfielders in Premier League or the world right now who come close to him. Some of his passing, some of his assists are special, and he is way out in front in terms of goals created for his fellow players. He is such an outstanding footballer.

Midfield: Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson would be in there too. He has been incredibly consistent and a driving force for Liverpool this season. It showed that when he wasn't in the team and it made a massive difference. You only see the effect a player has when he is not there, and that has been the case with him this season.

I think many critics have been harsh on him - it was always going to be tough following on from Steven Gerrard. It was going to take time for people to stop comparing him to him. They are very different footballers. It has taken him a while to do it, but gradually he has convinced everybody of his worth in that role.

Midfield: Georginio Wijnaldum

He is Liverpool's unsung hero. He is consistently very, very good and goes under the radar because of the star names who grab the headlines. His job has been invaluable. Speak to Phil Thompson and he will harp on about how good he is. It underlines how important a cog he is in the wheel of Liverpool.

Georginio Wijnaldum of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield

Forward: Sergio Aguero

The first one up top for me is Sergio Aguero. Once again, he has proven that he is going to be considered one of the greatest strikers the Premier League has ever seen. He is already talked about in same breath of Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry. Once again this season, his goals-per-minute ratio has been the best of them all. He has been doing it for years.

Forward: Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane of Liverpool celebrates after scoring   between Liverpool FC and Bournemouth at Anfield

I am going with Sadio Mane on one side of him. Given the lack of rest that this boy has had over the 18 months to two years, the way he has been performing is incredible and he has scored a significant amount of key goals in that period too. He has been there in the hour of need many times, he has scored the first goal or the winning goal on many occasions too, and these are the important goals. Mane has to be in the team.

Forward: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Last, but not least, I am going with Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang. His record since coming into an Arsenal team that has not been great, tells you all you need to know. His goals defy logic in the side he is playing in and he has proved his importance to that team, carrying them at times with the goals he scores.

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