The Premier League is gearing up for the chaotic Christmas and New Year period.
Football fans will be swept up in a whirlwind of fixtures from England’s top-flight to close the curtain on what has undoubtedly been a dramatic 12 months in arguably the world’s greatest league.
Manchester City got their hands on the prestigious prize in May, while West Bromwich Albion, Fulham and Sheffield United made way for Brentford, Norwich City and Watford.
Premier League in 2021
As such, it only makes sense that we start looking back on all the Premier League action to have graced our screens and stadiums over 2021 and to see celebrate those who have shone the most.
In fact, here at GIVEMESPORT, we’re swinging for the fences in recognition of the competition’s finest performers by drawing up what we consider to be the best Premier League XI of 2021.
With a year, naturally, straddling the end of one season and the beginning of another, it’s actually more difficult and unpredictable than you might imagine to consider the last 12 months as a whole.
Brentford vs Manchester United OFF (Football Terrace)
Best Premier League XI of 2021
Nevertheless, we’ve still given it our best shot with the opinion of yours truly – informed by both statistics, the eye test and guttural instincts – ultimately calling the shots with the final line-up.
So, park your recency bias and nostalgia for the 2020/21 season as a whole as we take a walk through our picks for the finest Premier League XI of the year down below:
GK: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
Regardless of what the clean sheet data might say about Ederson and Alisson Becker, it’s Mendy who has been the MVP of Premier League goalkeepers in 2021 with his epic displays for Chelsea.
With 18 league shutouts and just 27 goals conceded – five of which came in the freak defeat to West Brom – Mendy was robbed of a Ballon d’Or nod despite finishing second in the Yashin Trophy.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Reece James might have been a force of nature across 2021/22, but the way that Alexander-Arnold bounced back from his January 4 disasterclass at Southampton has simply been unmatched.
The Liverpool star closed out the 2020/21 campaign with five goal contributions in his final nine league games and already boasts the second-most Premier League assists of anyone this season.
CB: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
It was mind-blowing to me that Dias was dumped so low in the Ballon d’Or rankings when you consider that he was head and shoulders above any other central defender last season.
He might not have been quite so Herculean since the summer, but let’s not have a short memory with the Premier League Player of the Season who led the division’s Golden Glove-winning defence.
CB: Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)
Reinvented, reborn and reinvigorated under Tuchel’s leadership, Rudiger is now widely loved as the defensive rock on the left side of Chelsea’s centre-back trio, complete with marauding runs forward.
It speaks volumes that Rudiger can now command some of football’s most lucrative wages for a centre-half because he really has stood out as one of the Premier League’s big winners in 2021.
LB: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)
He’s just bliss to watch, isn’t he? Simply put, the proof is in the eye test with Cancelo because his ambidextrous majesty in both full-back positions often makes him look like a number ten.
And although Luke Shaw would have had this spot nailed down on the back of his superb 2020/21 season, his recent dip in form opened the door for Cancelo to overtake him in terms of 2021 overall.
CM: Declan Rice (West Ham United)
Rice’s ridiculous talent wasn’t exactly a secret in 2020, but 2021 really has marked the year that the Hammers’ commander in chief established himself as one of the world’s best young players.
The England star, who enjoyed a spectacular Euro 2020, has seen his transfer value rocket up to £63 million since January 1 to enjoy a more consistent league year than even N’Golo Kante.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)
Can we pause for a second and bear in mind that Gundogan’s 14 goals in the Premier League this year makes him the third-most prolific player in 2021 despite being a midfielder? Simply staggering.
Just because Gundogan hasn’t necessarily been quite so world-beating since the summer, it doesn’t mean he’s been any less crucial on the back of inspiring the Citizens to the 2020/21 title.
CM: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Say what you like about his recent form, but there’s no escaping the fact that Fernandes has been a goals and assists machine for United, even earning himself a Ballon d’Or nomination in the process.
With a combined 20 goal contributions in the Premier League over the calendar year, Fernandes has simply been the most lethal midfielder in the division despite those 2021/22 wobbles.
FW: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Even if we were only speaking like a robot and churning out statistics, Salah would still stroll into our XI without a care in the world because nobody has scored more Premier League goals in 2021.
However, park the data for a second and just consider the beauty of Salah’s football this season, in particular, with his Manchester City and Watford wonder goals reminding us of Lionel Messi.
ST: Michail Antonio (West Ham United)
While it might have been easy to become intoxicated with Harry Kane’s insane record of 23 goals and 14 assists in the Premier League last season, he simply hasn’t been the top dog in 2021 alone.
Step forth Antonio, because no centre-forward who spent the entire year in England’s top-flight has produced more goal contributions in 2021 with a superlative record of 13 goals and nine assists.
FW: Raphinha (Leeds United)
When it comes to Premier League wingers in 2021, Salah really is in a league of his own, which left us with a three-way battle between Raphinha, Sadio Mane and Heung-min Son for the final slot.
A tough battle, no doubt you’ll agree, but we edged it to Raphinha because his 11 goals and eight assists in the Premier League this year is a stellar tally considering Leeds have struggled at times.
Premier League stars in 2021
There are a few surprises in there, aren’t there? Well, if it’s any comfort, there certainly were from our perspective, too, because it’s easy to forget that footballers are so infrequently judged by years.
While it might not feel as though Raphinha was especially life-changing over last season as a whole or merely in the last few months, the simple fact of the matter is that he’s been superb in 2021.
So, fear not, we do feel dirty that Bernardo Silva’s recent form and Kane’s 2020/21 excellence wasn’t enough, but that’s the uniqueness of drawing up a Premier League team of the year for you.