Top ten Premier League players. This second.
You know those articles that come out each week ranking the best players in the Premier League after each matchday. This is 100 times better. It’s up to the second. Like the millisecond. Like the second you read it, it then becomes invalid because that second is over. That’s how up to date these rankings are. And it’s why they are the best.
10) James Tarkowski/Ben Mee — Defenders, Burnley
I’m only, like, half-joking with this. Burnley currently sit in seventh in the table, trailing my beloved Tottenham on only goal differential. No club outside of Manchester has allowed fewer goals this season this Sean Dyche’s side, and that whole “Dyche for U.S. coach” joke is doing that thing where people now go, “but really? maybe” afterwards.
Tarkowski and Mee likely wouldn’t start on any of the Big Six backlines, but they’re putting in yeoman’s work for what has been the third-best defense in the Premier League this campaign. They deserve some credit.
9) David De Gea — Goalkeeper, Manchester United
I have a mental block where I just can’t rank a goalie much higher than this. De Gea is clearly the best of the best, but he’s not cracking the top eight when the Premier League has the depth of talent we’re about to get to.
That being said: De Gea leads the Premier League with nine clean sheets so far; no other keeper has more than seven. United are even with City in terms of fewest goals allowed this campaign (9), and while Pep’s side does it by refusing to ever let the other club touch the ball (71.6 percent possession), United relies much more on their back line and De Gea. While Phil Jones is improved and Eric Bailly is downright good, De Gea makes the whole side look a lot stronger defensively than they may deserve credit for.
8) Eden Hazard — Winger, Chelsea
The nicest haunches in the Premier League land in eighth, as Hazard as his tush have been back in prime form for the 2017–18 campaign. Hazard has “only” five goals and two assists this season, but he has clearly been back to his role as the driving force behind the Chelsea attack. Hazard can be one to see his impact on the match ebb and flow for long stretches of time, but right now he’s in a good place. As an American rooting heavily for Belgium in Russia this summer, this is excellent news.
7) Abdoulaye Doucoure — Midfielder, Watford
Richarlison may be the one getting more attention at Vicarage Road, but I’m going with the hipster pick here. You may not know it from the coverage each is getting, but Doucoure has as many goals (5) as Richarlison, and he actually has a better FotMob average rating. Doucoure sits 21st in England with a 7.3 average rating, while Richarlison sits just a bit lower, in 37th at 7.12. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love with Richarlison, including his age (20), but after watching Doucoure boss around the Spurs midfield this weekend, I’m going with the 24-year-old Malian in my top ten.
6) Harry Kane — Striker, Tottenham
It kills me to leave my adopted son, Harry Kane, off the top five, but he’s not in peak, peak form at the second, and remember: these rankings are up to the millisecond. When he’s in the mood, there’s no one better in England (and I’d argue, in the world) at putting the ball in the back of the net. He’s the Poacher Supreme, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
What has stood out to me about Kane this campaign, however, is that he has also improved in so many other facets of his game. His hold-up play has always been excellent, but his contributions on the defensive side of the pitch have been top-notch in 2017–18. He has also been even more of a creator for Spurs, and his hair game has reached its pinnacle in the last few months. High marks all around.
5) Kevin de Bruyne — Everything, Manchester City
KDB has done a bit of everything in 2017 for the Citizens, and he’s just about the only player in England I could imagine doing so. He has four goals and seven assists (only teammate David Silva has more assists), and he’s done all that from a much deeper position than in seasons past. Pep has KDB playing the role of Vultron Andrea Pirlo, pulling the strings for the City attack like a warped Geppetto. And boy have those strings been making some nice music.
The City attack is among the most fierce in the Premier League, and no team is close to their 44 goals scored through 14 matches. (And most sides have played 15 matches as of writing this.) (Remember: this is a to-the-second article.) KDB could easily have twice as many goals if he pushed forward more and simply unleashed holy hell with his left boot more often (he’s right-footed, by the way), but he knows he is best for his side in the role that he is playing this season.
4) N’Golo Kante — Midfielder, Chelsea
I hate Chelsea more than basically anything in the world. It’s:
- The parents of the bully in Wonder
- Trump’s entire cabinet
- The fact that the sports writing industry may or may not be dying
- Food that gets stuck in my teeth
But even I can admit that Kante might actually be the most important player in all of the Premier League. The metrics behind how Chelsea do with and without their star are almost at Joel Embiid-levels. In fact, let’s call Kante the Joel Embiid of the Premier League and move on with it.
3) Mo Salah — Winger, Liverpool
If this were written two weeks ago, Salah might have been number one. But it wasn’t. It was (is?) written right now. As you’re reading it. (Are you sick of this joke yet? I know I am!) Still, Salah doesn’t slide far. His 12 goals pace the league, and the 25-year-old almost can’t help but put the ball in the back of the net these days. His pace has always been unreal — anyone who has ever played FIFA can tell you that. Toss in the magical finishing touch that he appears to have added between the time he left Chelsea in 2015 and now, and bang — you’ve got the third-best player in the Premier League.
2) Paul Pogba — Midfielder, Manchester United
I remember before Pogba came to the Premier League, I always used to think he was a bit overhyped. He was the perfect player for the hipster soccer fans to gush over. He wasn’t an attacker, so he was never going to have the flashy goal totals of, say, an Antoine Griezmann. He played in Serie A, the ugly stepchild of the Big Four European Leagues. (Don’t @ me about Ligue 1 being a big-time league until PSG has a side that can come even close to challenging them.) (Yes, I am ignoring Monaco last year, whatever.)
However, now that I get to see a lot more of him, it turns out those pesky soccer hipsters were right: Pogba is a god. He’s the perfect player for fans of opposing teams to turn on, but he’s so good that he disarms any opposition with a drop of the shoulder, a shake-off of a defender, and a Pog-Boom into the back of the net. He does it all, and he does it all at such a high level that his impact has to viewed in macro to gain full awareness of their impressive stature. If it weren’t for the player to come going full “2012 LeBron James Eastern Conference Finals Game 6” on the rest of the league, Pogba would be the top man.
- Raheem Sterling — Winger, Manchester City
What Sterling is doing right now is bonkers.
Sterling has taken a lot of shit over the years, and I’ll be honest, I never understood it. Not to play the race card for Raz, but honestly: it did seem to be tied to Sterling’s race. All the old cliches came out: “He’s such a natural athlete, he just lacks a bit of focus;” “He just needs to work on the intellectual side of his game.” It was more than a bit gross, and it only makes it all the more satisfying to see him come out the other end looking like one of the best players in the world. King Raz forever.