It’s been a fascinating start to the season, with no fans, shock score lines and some stellar individual performances.
The league table after four gameweeks makes for interesting reading, too. Everton currently sit top of the pile followed by Aston Villa then Leicester City.
With many clubs outside the so-called big six getting off to flying starts, we thought it was high time to shine a light on some of the best performing players who don’t ply their trade for one of the media’s favourite sides.
We’ve decided to base the formation around which stars are in-form, so in this article we’ll be using a 3-4-3 system, and heaping praise on some often under-appreciated names.
Goalkeeper: Karl Darlow
There were a few contenders for the spot between the sticks. Łukasz Fabiański has conceded the fewest number of goals in the Premier League, while Emiliano Martínez has made a cracking start to life in a Villa shirt. But the man who gets the nod is Darlow, whose clean sheet versus West Ham on the opening day of the season, and string of miraculous saves against Spurs, made him the standout candidate.
Centre-Back: Ezri Konsa
What a start to the season it’s been for Aston Villa. After back-to-back clean sheet wins against Sheffield United and Fulham, they demolished Liverpool 7-2 in one of the Premier League’s biggest ever upsets. Konsa played a key role in all three matches, scoring the winner in Villa’s curtain raiser and has generally proved to be a vital cog in Dean Smith’s backline.
Centre-Back: Tyrone Mings
We couldn’t include one without the other, could we? Mings has been immense at the back next to Konsa this season, and has also helped himself to a goal, with his coming against Fulham. Mings’ WhoScored rating of 7.74 is also the best of any defender in the entire league so far. Comfortable in either a back three or four, we felt Mings was the perfect man for the job to sit in between our other two centre-backs. Kudos, Tyrone.
Centre-Back: Aaron Cresswell
Cresswell’s first game of the season came at left-back, in a 2-0 home loss to Newcastle, a performance we’re sure he and his teammates are keen to forget. Since then, though, he’s been moved to the left of a back three, with a working-from-home David Moyes waving his magic wand and transforming his side into the best defensive united in the Prem (statistically, at least). A narrow defeat to Arsenal was followed by two clean sheets against Wolves and Leicester, with Cresswell picking up a brace of assists in the latter.
Right Wing-Back: Timothy Castagne
A lot of Leicester fans feared the worst going into the season without their current player of the year. Ricardo has been sidelined through injury since before last season’s restart, and with Ben Chilwell departing for Chelsea, the Foxes looked short at fullback. Step forward Castagne, whose performances have been so good Leicester have hardly missed Ricardo. He’s helped himself to a goal and two assists in the first four games and looks to be a real gem.
Left Wing-Back: Lucas Digne
Everton’s attackers have received plenty of praise in the opening few weeks, but one defender who’s stood out is French full-back Digne. His runs down up and down the left flank have been electric, and his superb set-piece deliveries give him every chance of building on the one assist he’s registered thus far. He’s also second in the league for crosses, sandwiched between Liverpool’s marauding full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. Not bad company.
Centre Midfield: Declan Rice
As West Ham continue to phase out Mark Noble, Rice has struck up a brilliant midfield partnership with Tomáš Souček. The pair have proved excellent at getting in amongst it and breaking up play, as well as starting off counter-attacks. Rice’s distribution in particular has been impressive, with his passing accuracy of 87.2% a testament to that.
Centre Midfield: Kalvin Phillips
Leeds have made a strong start to the season and have already proved they’ve not been promoted just to make up the numbers. Manager Marcelo Bielsa has each player drilled meticulously, which has resulted in some beautiful, free-flowing attacking football. Phillips is central to Bielsa’s vision, both figuratively and literally. His defensive positioning and stunning passing range has been one of the main reasons his teammates have been able to press so high and aggressively.
Right Wing: James Rodríguez
Perhaps the most obvious inclusion and the first name on our team sheet. Rodríguez is every bit the quality of a top six player, and he’s shown already in a short space of time that he may well be the man to establish Everton among the Premier League’s elite. Three goals and two assists in just four games — including a scintillating display last time out against Brighton — is quite simply stunning, and his WhoScored rating of 8.41 makes him the league’s second-best player on current form (more on the first coming up).
Left Wing: Jack Grealish
The man of the moment. Grealish’s name seems to be on the tip of every England fans’ tongue at the moment, and for good reason, too. He built on his promising opening performance against Sheffield United, scoring in Villa’s second game of the season versus Fulham, before putting in that unstoppable Liverpool display. Two goals. Three assists. Incredible. He’s currently WhoScored’s top-rated player with a score of 8.54. It looks to be a very promising season ahead for Super Jack.
Striker: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
It’s been some start to the season for Calvert-Lewin. Those who doubted his goalscoring record heading into the campaign have been made to eat humble pie. The Everton striker is leading the race for the golden boot, with six goals in just four outings… and he’s not even on penalties. Indeed, Rodríguez may well steal the headlines, but Calvert-Lewin’s exceptional start to the season is just reward for the hard work he’s put in over the years.
Non-Big Six Premier League XI (3-4-3)
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