This Season's Best Player From Each Premier League Club
The Premier League season is in the rearview mirror, and what a year it was.
Before we move full on into the summer transfer window, let's take a look back at each squad's best player during the 2016-17 Premier League campaign, working our way down the table.
Chelsea -- N'Golo Kante
The Blues boast a number of players -- with Eden Hazard at the top of the list -- who could take this spot, but Kante's statistical impact in his first year in London was pretty staggering. Overall, the tireless defensive midfielder led the team in tackles (3.6) and interceptions (2.4) on his way to winning the PFA Player of the Year award, which is voted on by his Premier League peers.
The Blues allowed 0.86 goals per match with Kante in the side this season after conceding 1.39 goals per contest sans Kante a year ago. Kante -- who finished with a WhoScored rating of 7.23 -- obviously wasn't the sole reason for the defensive turnaround, but he was a big factor.
It's been an incredible journey for the French international. Kante was a relative unknown 24 months ago, but now he's widely recognized as one of the top -- if not the best -- defensive midfielders in the world. In what's maybe the most telling stat of all -- over the past two season's, Kante's teams have lost a mere 8 times in 76 EPL matches.
Tottenham -- Harry Kane
Chelsea won the title in fairly convincing fashion, but there's a case to be made for Tottenham as England's best team. After all, they did score the most goals while allowing the fewest goals.
Kane led the way in attack, capturing the Premier League's Golden Boot with 29 goals, 4 more than any other player. Here's a look at every single tally.
This is great from #TottenhamHotspur...
All of Harry Kane's 29 goals this season... pic.twitter.com/kIHwn1zgWD
â€” SBO (@SBOnet_) May 25, 2017
He added 7 assists and attempted 3.7 shots per match. His 7.68 WhoScored rating paced Spurs and was good for fourth in the league.
Manchester City -- Kevin De Bruyne
Pep Guardiola's first season didn't result in a Premier League takeover, but City were still quite a bit better than they were in 2015-16. In all, Pep's bunch totaled 12 more points, scored 9 more goals and allowed 2 fewer goals than Manuel Pellegrini's squad did a year ago.
De Bruyne was the club's key cog and most consistent performer. He ended the campaign with 6 goals and 18 assists, the latter of which led all EPL players. His 7.55 WhoScored rating was City's best mark, as well.
Liverpool -- Philippe Coutinho
In Jurgen Klopp's first full season, the Reds overcame a slew of injuries to finish in fourth, edging Arsenal by one point for a coveted Champions League spot. Liverpool have several influential players, but Sadio Mane -- who was immense in his first year with the club -- and Coutinho stood above the rest. Mane missed the stretch run due to injury, which gives Coutinho the nod.
It's not like the Brazilian doesn't deserve the honor, though. Coutinho tied for the team lead in goals (13) and was third in assists (7) while his WhoScored rating of 7.56 was tops on the team.
This isn't a very advanced-stats take, but the dude is so much fun to watch. He always goes for it, which results in moments -- and passes -- like this.
Sturridge's goal. Delicious Coutinho through ball. pic.twitter.com/xdrTZHXnSb
â€” Goals (@PremHighlightz) May 14, 2017
If Liverpool can hold onto Coutinho through the summer transfer window (Barcelona are rumored to be interested) and stay healthy next season, they could contend for the EPL title.
Arsenal -- Alexis Sanchez
There are only a few of these that are no-brainers. This is one of them.
Sanchez was phenomenal for the Gunners, leading his side in goals (24), assists (10) and WhoScored rating (7.76). He was the lone EPL player to finish in the top 10 in both goals and assists.
The Chilean's rating ended up miles better than Shkodran Mustafi's 7.35 clip, which was the second-best mark on the team, and it trailed only Hazard's 7.81 rating among EPL players. Sanchez's 24 goals set a new career-high, and his 10 assists tied his career-best domestic-league output from his final season in Barcelona (2013-14).
Manchester United -- Paul Pogba
The narrative early in the year -- and even now, according to some -- is that Pogba struggled to make a big impact in his first season at United. The numbers, though, always told a different story. Pogba ended the campaign with the Red Devils' best WhoScored rating at 7.72, which made him the third-highest-rated player in the Premier League -- not bad for a "down" year.
While United continued their struggles in the goal-scoring department (the Red Devils finished with 54 goals, 1 fewer than Bournemouth), Pogba did his part to try to generate some attack. He paced the Red Devils in passes (72.6), long balls (5.4), through balls (0.4) and key passes (1.9) per match, and he completed his passes at an 85.1% rate.
Check out this pass with the outside of the right boot to set up a goal against Crystal Palace. (It's pretty much NSFW.)
It takes a 21-year-old academy graduate to finally make Paul Pogba's creation count. Pinpoint pass. pic.twitter.com/sIiPxPywSM
â€” Jordan (@FourFourJordan) May 21, 2017
More than any of the other top-six clubs, the Red Devils have some major work to do this summer, and Pogba stands to benefit. The addition of a defensive-minded midfielder would free up the Frenchman to go farther forward while an influx of attacking talent, especially on the wings, should create more space in midfield for Pogba to do his thing.
Everton -- Romelu Lukaku
This is a pretty cut-and-dried choice, as Romelu was superb for the Toffees. He bagged 25 goals, dished out 6 assists and posted a team-best 7.50 WhoScored rating. The 25 tallies were the second-most in the Premier League, and they shattered his previous career-high by 7 goals.
There has been plenty of speculation about Lukaku moving on from Everton, and if he leaves, the Toffees will have a gaping hole in their attack. Lukaku had a hand in exactly half of their 62 goals, and no other Everton player scored more than 5 times.
Southampton -- Virgil van Dijk
The Dutch defender looks to be the latest Southampton product to get big teams tripping over themselves in an attempt to toss some serious cash at the Saints, with Liverpool looking like the likeliest destination. If this was van Dijk's last season with Southampton, he sure went out in style.
The center-back posted a 7.43 WhoScored rating, which led the team, and he also topped the Saints in interceptions (2.6) and clearances (6.8) per match.
Bournemouth -- Joshua King
The Cherries flirted with relegation last season before finishing 16th, but they had no such worries this year. The difference was their ability to score goals. They have allowed 67 goals in each of the past two years, but they scored 10 more goals this campaign than they did in 2015-16.
King led that charge. He netted 16 goals -- more than twice as many as the Cherries' second-highest scorer (Junior Stanislas with 7) -- and his 7.08 WhoScored rating was a team-best mark.
West Bromwich Albion --Gareth McAuley
The Baggies had a wonky season. On one hand, they finished 10th, their best placing since the 2012-13 season. On the other hand, they found the back of the net just 43 times in 38 matches and were only five points clear of 17th place.
It's not hard to envision a scenario in which West Brom are fighting for their lives with Gareth McAuley's big year. He was on point for Tony Pulis' side. Not only was he in form as a central defender -- racking up team-best clips in clearances (6.3) and blocks (0.9) per match -- he finished second on the team in goals (6).
West Ham -- Michail Antonio
When Dimitri Payet forced his way out midseason, the Irons needed a playmaker in the worst way, as the team was teetering dangerously close to the drop zone. Antonio and Manuel Lanzini stepped up and helped Slaven Bilic's side to a comfortable finish.
Antonio gets the honor here for his incredible versatility. The Englishman started games at all three levels -- forward, midfield and on the back line -- before eventually settling into an attacking role. Among West Ham players, Antonio ended the season ranked first in goals (nine) and second in assists (three), and his 7.25 WhoScored rating led the way among Hammers who saw action in at least 16 matches.
Leicester City -- Christian Fuchs
After last year's historic title run, the Foxes had one heck of a tumultuous season in 2016-17.
A miserable start led to the shocking sacking of Claudio Ranieri, and then all of the sudden, Leicester started looking like last season's Leicester -- bearing down in defense, bombing long balls to Jamie Vardy and turning the King Power Stadium into a fortress. The Foxes even put up a pretty darn good showing against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals. None of it makes much sense, but that's football.
Fuchs was one of the team's few consistently impactful players.
Vardy and Riyad Mahrez ended up having decent years, but they were two of the biggest culprits when things were going south. Fuchs, meanwhile, led the team in WhoScored rating (7.05) and was third in assists (4) from his full-back spot. He also scored two goals, including the above screamer against Palace. Defensively, he averaged 4.0 clearances, 2.7 tackles and 2.0 interceptions per match.
Stoke City -- Joe Allen
Stoke basically repeated their performance from a year ago in terms of goals scored and goals allowed. But instead of finishing 9th with 51 points like they did a year ago, the Potters came in 13th with 44 points.
In his first year with Stoke, Allen made an immediate impact in midfield. He tied for second on the team with six goals, and he added a pair of assists. Allen averaged 35.7 passes per match and completed them at an 81.3% clip. His 6.95 WhoScored rating was first among Stoke players who played in at least 22 matches.
Crystal Palace -- Wilfried Zaha
Sam Allardyce came in and did what he does -- pulling Palace to safety after it looked like they may be in danger of going down. He upped the play of the team's two stars, Zaha and Christian Benteke, and if there's an argument to be made for two guys to share the nod, it would be here.
But we're going to give Zaha the honor, as he impacted the game in more areas than just goal-scoring. The Ivory Coast international scored 7 goals and recorded 9 assists while posting a 7.39 WhoScored rating, which narrowly bested Benteke's mark (7.36). Zaha also scored one of Palace's biggest goals of the season, netting the opener in an eventual 4-0 triumph over Hull, a win that ensured the Eagles would stay in the top flight.
Swansea City -- Gylfi Sigurdsson
Along with Sanchez, this is probably the easiest pick of the litter. Sigurdsson was a one-man show at times for the Swans, and his all-around stellar play helped Swansea avoid relegation.
He finished with 9 goals and 13 assists, the latter of which was good for third in the league. His 7.25 WhoScored rating was the top mark at the club by a significant margin, with Alfie Mawson's 6.99 rating sitting second.
Burnley -- Tom Heaton
Burnley's attack really struggled this season, scoring a meager 39 goals in 38 matches. Thing is, their defense wasn't very good, either, as they surrendered the second-most shots on goal per match (17.7) while also ranking 19th in possession (42.7%).
At the risk of being too simplistic, Heaton, the team's keeper, is the reason Sean Dyche's men stayed up. Heaton faced the most shots (616) and tied for the most shots on target against (189), but he allowed just the sixth-most goals. That may not seem like a huge difference, but when we're talking about a side that needed every point as it desperately tired to stave off relegation, it's a big deal.
Heaton put on one of the best goalkeeping performances of the campaign -- and probably one of the premier displays for any player, regardless of position -- in a 0-0 draw at Manchester United, which included this astounding stop on a point-blank Ibra volley.
In all, Heaton made 11 saves in the match as the Clarets took a valuable point away at Old Trafford in a fixture in which they were outshot 38-7. Yep, 38-7.
Watford -- Jose Holebas
The final table doesn't do the Hornets justice as Watford didn't truly fear the drop this season, only slipping up late once the three relegation spots had been decided. With that said, it was something of a down year as their 40 points were 5 less than they totaled in 2015-16, although it was the first time in club history that they'd played back-to-back seasons in England's top flight.
Holebas, capable of playing left-back or in the left side of midfield, led Watford with a 6.93 WhoScored Rating. He netted two goals and tied for the team lead in assists with four. Holebas also averaged 3.5 clearances, 1.8 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per match.
Hull City -- Harry Maguire
Now we're getting to the relegated sides, and some of these players may find themselves sporting a new kit in the Premier League next year thanks to their strong showings this season.
With so many of the top squads needing defensive help, Maguire is likely a goner this summer. He played like a star this season, leading Hull with a 7.07 WhoScored rating while averaging 4.9 clearances, 2.2 interceptions and 1.9 tackles per match.
Middlesbrough -- Ben Gibson
Boro totaled a mere 28 points this season, but their defense actually performed well. They allowed the 10th-fewest goals (53) but managed to bag a measly 27 of their own, the fewest in the league.
Gibson was a key man at the back. Not only did he start all 38 league matches, he didn't come off once as he played the maximum of 3,420 minutes, a feat only accomplished by two other outfield players (Cesar Azpilicueta and Steve Cook).
Gibson averaged 6.2 clearances and 1.5 interceptions per match. As a rising 24-year-old Englishman, Boro should be able to fetch a pretty penny for him this summer.
Sunderland -- Jordan Pickford
Most of what was said about Heaton also applies to Pickford. There wasn't much to be pleased with this year for the Black Cats, but Pickford is a glaring exception. In fact, the young keeper probably played his way out of Sunderland.
Goalie ratings can oftentimes be skewed toward keepers on bad teams (because those keepers are asked to do more), but Pickford's 7.04 WhoScored rating did lead all first-team goalies. He paced EPL keepers in saves per match (4.5) as well as saves per match on shots from the penalty area (2.4). Considering he just turned 23, the future looks awfully bright for Pickford.