FootballPremier League

European Team of the Season so far: Smalling, Cazorla, Haaland make the grade

November 19, 2019

THE international break provides the ideal opportunity to take a breath and reflect upon the frantic start to the 2019/20 club season across Europe. Here, we have put together and XI of the best performers from around the continent for the season so far.

 

GK – Marc-Andre ter Stegen

Barcelona might sit in their customary position atop La Liga at present, but Ernesto Valverde and his men have fallen some way short of their imposing best so far this term. While Lionel Messi carries them in attack, Ter Stegen keeps them alive at the back.

The 27-year-old is perhaps the most complete goalkeeper on the planet, matching any elite keeper for reflexes, command of his penalty area, prowess in one-on-ones and passing ability with the ball at his feet.
 

RB – Trent Alexander-Arnold

Still only 21, there is a strong case to be made that Alexander-Arnold is already the best right-back in the world. The young Liverpool and England star’s defensive weaknesses are often overstated and, in any case, are greatly outweighed by the unique threat he poses going forward.

As one of the finest and most intelligent passers in Europe, Alexander-Arnold is the kind of playmaker at full-back not seen since Dani Alves’ Barcelona prime.
 

CB – Caglar Soyuncu

When the summer transfer window closed, Leicester City were roundly praised for the business they’d done, both in respect of the players they brought in and the fact they fetched a record £80m fee from Harry Maguire’s sale to Manchester United. 

The revelatory addition to the Foxes’ line-up this season has been a player they signed the previous summer, though, with Soyuncu, a £19m buy from Eintracht Frankfurt, stepping in at centre-back to ensure Maguire has not been missed. The commanding 23-year-old Turkish international has been outstanding, proving indomitable in the air, comfortable on the ball and a step ahead of opposition attackers.
 

CB – Chris Smalling

Unwanted at Old Trafford, Smalling is thriving on an unlikely loan with Roma this season. The 31-cap England international has been maligned for his passing ability – or lack thereof –  for much of his time with United, but he has impressed when bringing the ball out from defence in the Italian capital, while also anticipating play soundly and dominating aerial duels to fill the void left in the Giallorossi backline by Kostas Manolas’ sale to Napoli.
 

LB – Andrew Robertson

Picking right up where he left off last season, Robertson has again been outstanding for Premier League leaders Liverpool. The Scot has emerged from humble beginnings to become one of the finest full-backs in the world and lives up to that billing weekly thanks to the strides he has made in his defensive work and a quality of delivery in the final third that has delivered 15 top-flight assists since the start of last season.
 

CM – Santi Cazorla

In one of the feel-good stories of recent years, Cazorla has finally put the injury-stricken nightmare of his last few seasons with Arsenal behind his and is now, at 34, is playing some of the best football of his career with Villarreal. The gifted playmaker has delivered five goals and nine assists for the Yellow Submarine already in 2019/20 and has made more key passes (37) than any other La Liga player.  

DM – Denis Zakaria

Four points clear at the top of one of the most competitive Bundesliga tables for some time, Borussia Monchengladbach are flying in Germany this season. And their midfield anchor is earning rave reviews.

Swiss international Zakaria, who cuts and imposing figure in front of the Gladbach backline at 6ft 2ins, is a proficient ball-winner and has the confidence and technical ability to play through pressure and keep his side moving forward. At 22, he has everything in place to be one of Europe’s finest defensive midfielders for years to come.
 

CM – Hakim Ziyech

One of the stars of Ajax’s run to the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League, many were surprised when the summer transfer window came and went without one of the European super-powers swooping for the classy Ziyech.

Despite the baffling lack of transfer interest, the Moroccan midfielder has is once more proving he deserves to be considered among the very best in his position this term, contributing six goals and 11 assists across the Eredivisie and Champions League.
 

CAM – Lionel Messi

Recovering from injury as the season began, Messi took his timing warming into 2019/20, but the world’s greatest player is now back to his unstoppable best. 

The 32-year-old has only started six La Liga games so far this season but had already been directly involved in 12 goals, scoring eight himself and providing four assists. Barcelona are more reliant than ever on their Argentinian superstar and, luckily for them, he’s showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
 

ST – Robert Lewandowski

Bayern Munich’s form may have been stuttering as they gun for their eighth successive Bundesliga title, but Lewandowski is dependably delivering goals by the bucketload.

The 31-year-old Pole is Europe’s form striker this season, with a staggering 16 goals from just 11 Bundesliga appearances, and a further six strikes from four Champions League outings. The world’s most complete centre-forward has been at his unplayable peak.

 

ST – Erling Braut Haaland

An honourable mention must go to Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, whose 14 goals and five assists in Serie A would ordinarily be more than sufficient to earn selection here. But there has to be a place for the most talked-about young player in Europe.

Tracked by as many as 20 of the continent’s biggest clubs, Leeds-born Norway striker Haaland has plundered a remarkable 26 goals in 18 games for Red Bull Salzburg this season, including five hat-tricks and seven strikes in his maiden Champions League campaign. Reportedly valued at £86m by his club, the prolific 19-year-old’s next move is sure to make him a household name.
 

Manager: Chris Wilder

 

Sheffield United’s current form and fifth-place standing upon their return to the Premier League will likely prove unsustainable across the remainder of the season. But the relegation-tipped side appear destined to outperform all reasonable pre-season expectations.

And the credit for the Blades’ success goes to manager Chris Wilder, who has enriched the top flight with his innovation and fearlessness at the Bramall Lane helm.