Mane, Maguire, Lukaku: Revisiting our Premier League Team of the Season prediction

Man Utd's Maguire struggling.

The 2021/22 Premier League season is coming to a close.

While Manchester City and Liverpool duke it out for the title and Burnley and Everton scramble to avoid the drop, most of the narrative threads in England’s top-flight this year have been neatly tied into a bow.

As such, that means the time is nigh to look back on the season as a whole and reflect on who should be named the finest player, manager, emerging star and so forth.

The 2021/22 Premier League

However, with many of those awards tending to feel pretty obvious by the time that a campaign concludes, often one of the most exciting and debatable accolades is the Team of the Season.

While it might be obvious that Mohamed Salah has the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in his back pocket, it’s less clear as to who will occupy the 11 spots of the Premier League‘s finest XI.

That being said, you can bet your bottom dollar that the final Team of the Season selection is a lot clearer now than it was back in August 2021.

Although that might sound like the most obvious statement of all time, what we’re alluding to here is the fact that we put our necks on the line and predicted the 2021/22 Team of the Season before a ball was kicked.

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How did we do?

Here at GIVEMESPORT, we love the fun and games that come with pre-season predictions where you either look like a genius or idiot a year down the line by revealing how you think the campaign will play out.

And while, yes, we’ll react to how we thought the Premier League table would finish once every single game is concluded, we now have plenty of information to go back and look at our Team of the Season forecast.

Plus, bear in mind that we were coming into the prediction with a pretty good record having correctly called five out of the 11 members of the 2020/21 Premier League Team of the Season before a game was played.

Soccer Football – FA Community Shield – Manchester City v Chelsea – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – August 5, 2018 The Premier League trophy on display before the match Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

Revisiting our TOTS prediction

So, we nailed it again, right? Ummm, absolutely not, because yours truly had something of a nightmare with my August prediction for the league’s finest of 2021/22 ageing like milk left in the sunshine.

In fact, unlike the superb predictions of 2020/21, our latest attempt was so terrible that you can probably only argue that one of the players is actually in with a shout of making the genuine line-up.

If you’re feeling intrigued, then you should be, because it’s certainly not our finest Premier League prediction ever and you can join us in reacting to how it’s aged with a run-through of each player down below:

GK: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)

Key line: “Rule number one of Premier League Team of the Season picks: the club that wins the league ends up with tonnes of selections with Manchester City earning no less than six nods last time out.”

Ok, so, not a terrible shout because Mendy has actually enjoyed a solid season with 13 clean sheets and a string of superb performances that really put him in the hunt for ‘world’s best goalkeeper’ status.

However, we’ve got to hold our hands up and say that Alisson Becker has been the standout goalkeeper in 2021/22 with our prediction for Chelsea winning the league costing us in a lot of key misfires.

Chelsea's Mendy warms up.
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RB: Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City)

Key line: “Expect Pereira to grab this opportunity with both hands and bag more than five assists for some aesthetically-pleasing stats.”

Oh come on, you’ve got to have at least a couple of rogue shouts in your Premier League Team of the Season because you can never tell which unexpected star might enjoy a stunning year.

However, Pereira was most certainly not that guy as he only stands on two assists amid a difficult season for Leicester City. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James have blown him out of the water.

CB: Harry Maguire (Manchester United)

Key line: “It might not be popular to claim that Maguire will be this season’s Ruben Dias, but I fully expect him to follow Jordan Henderson’s trajectory of shining so much that even his doubters can’t ignore it.”

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. We’ve had an absolute nightmare here, but come on, lest we forget that we made this prediction on the back of Maguire dominating Euro 2020 and the 2020/21 season.

It just so happens that he’s gone on to endure the most difficult campaign of his top-flight career, shrinking at Old Trafford to make our prediction that he would be this season’s Dias look nothing short of farcical.

Man Utd's Maguire at Old Trafford.
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CB: Ben Godfrey (Everton)

Key line: “With Rafael Benitez at the reins, it feels inevitable that Everton will drop some iron-clad defensive performances this season and that is nothing but good news for the club’s most exciting defender.”

There’s just so much wrong with this. Look, Godfrey is an exciting young player who could become an England regular one day, but the 2021/22 season was most definitely neither his nor Everton’s.

It turns out that the Toffees were anything but ‘iron-clad’ under Benitez as they now barrel towards a potential relegation to the Championship having sacked the Spaniard and hastily hired Frank Lampard.

LB: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea)

Key line: “Nothing catches people’s eyes more than a full-back with an eye for goals and assists, never mind when they’re playing for Champions League winners that I’m tipping to summit the Premier League.”

Now, to be fair, this prediction could genuinely have come true if it wasn’t for Chilwell suffering a horrendous cruciate ligament injury that ended what was panning out to be an impressive season.

The Chelsea left-back still boasts a solid record of three goals and an assist from his mere 12 outings, even if City fans might argue that Joao Cancelo still would have beaten him without the injury.

Chelsea's Chilwell knee-slides.
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CM: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)

Key line: “Like, duh. If Kante can produce performances that are even 80% as good as his Champions League masterclasses last season, then Chelsea winning the league will make him a shoo-in for the TOTS.”

Duh? ‘Like, duh,’ you say? Goodness gracious me, this prediction is so embarrassingly confident, but at least it was down to the fact that Kante was coming into the season off the back of Ballon d’Or-contending form.

It just so happens that the Chelsea star hasn’t managed to come within 80% of those dizzying 2020/21 performances and neither have his team managed to win the league title that we tipped for them.

CM: Donny van de Beek (Manchester United)

Key line: “Van be Beek is an avalanche of goals and assists waiting to happen when he’s given the consistent run of game-time that surely he’ll warrant during his sophomore campaign.”

Sigh. Look, we knew at the time that this was a rogue prediction, but we genuinely thought that Van de Beek would finally catch a break at United and show the world why he’s one of Europe’s most exciting midfielders.

Well, it turns out that Van de Beek wasn’t handed a single start in the Premier League by either Ole Gunnar Solskajer or Ralf Rangnick, before being shipped out to relegation-threatened Everton.

The apparent ‘avalanche of goals and assists’ that we saw in his tea leaves has weighed in at one goal and zero assists. Let’s hope that he finally gets his time in the sun under Erik ten Hag in 2022/23.

Van de Beek on loan at Everton.
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CM: Kai Havertz (Chelsea)

Key line: “With a year of experience in England to his name and a full campaign under Tuchel’s stewardship, expect the infinitely-talented German to bag more than 15 goal contributions and a TOTS nod.”

Eh. Look, in the grand scheme of some of the clangers that we’ve dropped in the line-up, selecting Havertz – who is enjoying a strong sophomore year at Stamford Bridge – isn’t the worst shout in the world.

The Chelsea wizard isn’t within the same postcode of Team of the Season contention, but 13 goals and three assists represents a step in the right direction for the £75.8-million purchase.

RW: Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa)

Key line: “Something tells me that his form could catch fire to the tune of eight goals and 12 assists.”

What a shocker. Don’t even bother reading the original prediction because it includes mad ramblings on Aston Villa challenging the ‘big six’, never mind just tipping Buendia for the Team of the Season.

Sadly for the Villa Park faithful, the exciting purchase of Buendia has proven to be nothing short of a disappointment with the forecast of eight goals and 12 assists actually translating to two goals and five assists.

Villa's Buendia in action.
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ST: Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea)

Key line: “Is this the most ‘Barry Basic’ pick in the whole team? Probably, but if I’m backing Chelsea to win the title, then I’d be an absolute madman not to predict Lukaku to play a key role in their success.”

Gosh darn it. To think that we even thought picking Lukaku was a little ‘Barry Basic’ in the belief that the £100-million man would lead Chelsea to the title on the back of scoring 30 goals a season for Inter Milan.

It turns out that the prediction couldn’t be further from the truth with Lukaku not even consistently starting for Chelsea with his record of five league goals falling no less than 17 strikes behind the Golden Boot pace.

LW: Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Key line: “I expect Mane to become the darling of the voters and outperform Raheem Sterling, Heung-min Son and Christian Pulisic.”

Probably the only prediction that you could argue might come true with Africa Cup of Nations-winning Mane potentially even being the hunt for the Ballon d’Or if Liverpool win the quadruple.

The Liverpool baller has most definitely outperformed Sterling and Pulisic, while his record of 16 goal contributions in the league is enough to make a solid argument for him to pip Son to the left-wing spot.

Liverpool's Mane celebrates.
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Talk about a disaster…

And breathe. What a wild ride that was.

Perhaps the most staggering thing about how poorly the selections have aged is that not a single Manchester City player has made the cut despite the fact the Premier League title is theirs to lose.

Obviously, we weren’t to know that back in August, but tipping Chelsea to conquer England over both City and Liverpool with such conviction as to only pick Mane was not our proudest moment.

Besides, the actual Premier League Team of the Season will likely be stuffed with players from both clubs such as Cancelo, Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, Rodri and Salah to name just a few.

Soccer Football – Premier League – Chelsea v Liverpool – Stamford Bridge, London, Britain – January 2, 2022 Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their second goal with Trent Alexander-Arnold REUTERS/Peter Cziborra EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

However, if our terrible predictions can tell you anything at all, it’s that the joy of the Premier League comes in its unpredictability and boy did we think the 2021/22 season would turn out a lot differently…

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