Tue. Oct 20th, 2020

The statisticians’ Premier League XI of the decade

4 min read

Many footballers can make a case for being in the Premier League team of the decade, but who do the numbers dictate should make the XI?

Based purely on goals for strikers, assists for midfielders and goals conceded for defenders and goalkeepers, this is the team of the decade.

Goalkeeper & Defence

Thibaut Courtois (0.97 conceded per 90); Antonio Valencia (0.81); Vincent Kompany (0.83); Virgil Van Dijk (0.90); Ashley Cole (0.87)

Soccer – Barclays Premier League – Chelsea v Norwich City – Stamford Bridge
Ashley Cole takes his place at left-back (Adam Davy/PA)

When it comes to defenders and goalkeepers, the key statistic is goals conceded per 90 minutes.

Thibaut Courtois beats his former team-mate Petr Cech to the goalkeeper’s jersey based on that metric, with the Belgian conceding less than a goal a game on average during his time with Chelsea.

Ahead of Courtois, Vincent Kompany and Virgil Van Dijk lock down the centre-back positions – few would have expected Kompany to be absent, having played for a dominant City side, but Van Dijk spent two-and-a-half years at Southampton before moving to a resurgent Liverpool.

For the 28-year-old to have a 0.90 goals conceded per 90 average then is all the more remarkable.

Leicester City v Liverpool – Premier League – King Power Stadium
Virgil Van Dijk has shone for Liverpool (Tim Goode/PA)

At full-back, you might have expected to see Kyle Walker, Cesar Azpilicueta or Andy Robertson – but it is Antonio Valencia and Ashley Cole who fill those spots.

Cole was a key cog in the free-flowing Chelsea side that claimed the first title of the decade in 2010, and when the England left-back departed the Premier League for Roma in 2014 he had allowed just 0.87 league goals past him per 90 minutes.

Valencia enjoyed a role in the last great Manchester United cycle under Alex Ferguson.

Having joined in 2009 from Wigan he won titles in 2011 and 2013 before the Scot retired. And in his absence, Valencia maintained a superb record by conceding just 0.81 goals per 90 across the decade.

Midfield

Kevin De Bruyne (0.49 assists per 90); Cesc Fabregas (0.40); David Silva (0.35)

Chelsea v Burnley – Premier League – Stamford Bridge
Cesc Fabregas helped CHelsea to two Premier League titles (John Walton/PA)

It goes without saying that the role of a midfielder is not as simple as creating chances, but this midfield recognises the assist kings of the decade.

Manchester City’s David Silva might not have the best assists per 90 record, but in the 2010s he was the most prolific provider in the Premier League with 89 assists.

Silva has been a key cog in each of City’s four titles this decade, but the man who is set to replace him in Pep Guardiola’s side has been even more devastating with the ball at his feet.

Kevin De Bruyne has spent the past four-and-a-half years building a reputation as the division’s best distributor, with a passing range that few teams have been able to combat.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – Old Trafford
Kevin De Bruyne has a Premier League record in sight (Martin Rickett/PA)

The Belgian records an assist in the Premier League basically every other game, and is well clear of anyone else in that regard. With 12 assists in the league already this season, he is in sight of Thierry Henry’s record of 20.

Henry’s former colleague Cesc Fabregas once looked the most likely to do it, and having departed Arsenal in 2011 he moved to Chelsea in 2014 to continue unlocking Premier League defences.

Fabregas completes this midfield of providers with a record of 0.40 assists per 90.

Attack

Sergio Aguero (0.84) Harry Kane (0.75) Mohamed Salah (0.73)

Liverpool v Watford – Premier League – Anfield Stadium
Mohamed Salah’s success at Liverpool puts him in the team (Peter Byrne/PA)

The three forwards who take their place in this XI have all made goals their business this decade, and none more devastatingly so than City’s Sergio Aguero.

The Argentine has scored 174 league goals in 254 appearances – an identical record to Thierry Henry in his first stint at Arsenal – and in doing so has earned four Premier League winners’ medals.

But for all the goals he has scored, none will mean as much to the fans – and possible himself – as that winner against QPR in 2012 which snatched the league from Manchester United in the dying seconds of the season.

Harry Kane joins Aguero up front, having burst on to the scene at Tottenham.

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – London Stadium
(John Walton/PA)

The England captain has 136 league goals from 200 appearances for Spurs.

The XI would not be complete without the man who broke the record for PL goals in a 38-game season – Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.

The forward could not stop scoring in the 2017-18 season, scoring 32 goals to seize the golden boot award.

He has since proven himself more than a one-season wonder, and is closing in on 100 goals for Jurgen Klopp’s side in just his third season.

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