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Premier League Bonus Team of the Season

Team of the Season is one of the great debates which shortly follows any final day. Some names are obvious, this year that would be the likes of Erling Haaland, Martin Odegaard and Kieran Trippier. Others are more debatable, such as Kane or Rashford to partner Haaland, Rodri or Casemiro in front of the back four.


This list however is for those players who have exceeded expectations. Take nothing away from Haaland of course, but we knew he was going to break some records this season. Bonus Team of the Season is designed for those players who have stepped up for their clubs, perhaps unexpectedly or adapted brilliantly to a position that wasn't their own.


Goalkeeper - Dean Henderson (Nottingham Forest, on loan from Manchester United)

Dean Henderson's injury was heartbreaking for Nottingham Forest, not just because they had to sign another goalkeeper, but also because he will likely not play for the club again. The on-loan Manchester United keeper will head back to Old Trafford having picked up a thigh injury in January.


The clean sheet against Leicester in his last game was the sixth he'd kept in the Premier League this season; Forest have kept only two since then. In wins against Leeds, Crystal Palace and West Ham and in the draw away at Brighton, Forest were completely outplayed and Henderson almost single-handedly held onto the clean sheet.


Whilst his influence didn't carry over into the second half of the season, he was certainly a huge part of Forest's survival. It's fair to say he was worth at least seven points, maybe as many as ten or twelve, especially given his three penalty saves this season. This coming from a goalkeeper sent away by Manchester United as they didn't believe he could compete with David de Gea.


Henderson can't be in the team of the season because he played less than half of it, but when he did play he did very little wrong.


Right-Back - Ben White (Arsenal)

Ben White hasn't been the best right-back in the Premier League this season, but he's in the top three or four. This is an achievement in itself, but it's made very impressive when you remember that he's actually a centre-back.


White's defensive qualities have never really been in doubt, either at centre-back or right-back. But now that he's added seven goal contributions, he's shown a whole new element to his game. White linked up brilliantly with Bukayo Saka on several occasions, often providing the pass before the assist.


To be a centre-back playing at right-back for an entire season is impressive enough, but the fact that he did so to a degree that allowed Arsenal to mount a title charge is remarkable. His understanding with Gabriel from last season allowed him to move into a back three when Zinchenko pressed into the midfield as the inverted full-back, blocking counter attacks and tracking runners on several occasions for the Gunners.


White's versatility will afford him plenty of game time next season even if Mikel Arteta does opt to sign another defender. He's had a fantastic season and deserves a regular place in the Arsenal team again next term.


Centre-Back - Ben Mee (Brentford)

Brentford have been one of many surprise packages this Premier League season. Ben Mee has been the beating heart of that. He delivers the messages and executes the thinking from Thomas Frank brilliantly, helping to keep the back four very well-drilled.


It's the defensive side of things that have really helped Brentford this season. The Bees have conceded ten fewer goals than they did last season, with a better defensive record than Brighton or Liverpool, both sides who qualified for the Europa League.


Mee's experience and composure at the back have been incredibly notable, especially when they've pulled off some upsets. They've beaten Manchester City twice, drew 1 - 1 at the Emirates and beat Liverpool 3 - 1 in January. These results have relied on disciplined defending against phenomenal attacks, and Mee has not only been a brilliant defender himself but he's led Brentford's back line, keeping them in check and organising it in the way Thomas Frank wants.


Mee hasn't necessarily been as good as some of the Premier League's star defenders such as Ruben Dias, William Saliba or Raphael Varane but he's certainly as crucial to Brentford as those defenders are to their clubs.


Centre-Back - Lewis Dunk (Brighton)

Brighton have been an excellent surprise this year, winning six more games and losing seven fewer than last year. Surprisingly though, they've actually conceded nine more goals this season, with Robert de Zerbi's attacking style making them far more of a 3 - 2 kind of team than the 1 - 0 team they were last term.


So Lewis Dunk might seem a strange pick in the Bonus Team of the Season, but it's not so much his defensive qualities but his leadership which has gotten him selected. That's not to say that he hasn't been very important to Brighton defensively; they kept clean sheets against four of the five teams who finished above them at least once in the Premier League.


Dunk leads that defence, but he also leads the rest of the Brighton team. He is an outstanding captain who sticks up for his players when they're fouled, gets his teammates in the right positions for attacking and defensive set pieces and leads with the voice and attitude of a true captain.


Several of Brighton's key performances this season have featured Dunk as a star player, he's been brilliant in defence. But he's in the Bonus Team of the Season more as a captain than as a defender. He 100% deserves his spot in the England squad.


Left-Back - Dan Burn (Newcastle)

Much like Ben White, Dan Burn has been one of the best full-backs in the Premier League this season. But as was the case with White, Dan Burn is an exceptional case because he's actually a centre-back. His ability to adapt into a dangerous attacking full-back despite being just about the most typical English centre-back you can imagine is absolutely phenomenal.


Newcastle had the joint best defence in the league this season, letting in just 33 goals in their 38 games. Given that Kieran Trippier, a fairly unarguable inclusion in the Team of the Season, was on the other flank of the defence for Newcastle, it's remarkable that Burn was able to keep up on the left.


Not only did Burn manage to attack with some venom, scoring a beautiful goal in the Carabao Cup semi-final, but he was a key part of Eddie Howe's tactical set-up. His ability to move into a back three to allow Trippier further up the pitch was invaluable for Howe, offering a different version of the inverted full-back tactic used by Arsenal and Manchester City.


Burn's value to Newcastle is undisputed, as is the impressiveness of his ability to adapt to an entirely new position. He's had a great season at left-back, even before considering that he's actually a centre-back. His contributions to the Carabao Cup campaign and a top-four Premier League finish have been invaluable.


Defensive Midfield - Declan Rice (West Ham)

Declan Rice has quietly had one of the best seasons of any player in the Premier League. West Ham may have struggled, but it's worth remembering that they'll actually be in Europe in a season where neither Tottenham nor Chelsea will. Rice has been essential to that success.


His four goals this season (five including one for England) have accompanied his superb game management and unrelenting commitment to protecting his back four. A lot of the talk about Rodri, Casemiro and Thomas Partey has overlooked West Ham's number 41. The rumours linking him to Arsenal and Bayern Munich prove just how impressive his season has been.


It's been incredible to watch Rice grow over the past couple of years. He's emerged into a really mature midfielder, acting as a leader even at 24 years old for West Ham. When Mark Noble retired they needed someone to take on that mantle. Not only is Rice a leader on the pitch, but he's also an outstanding defensive player who has managed games superbly. He has an aura of control and confidence on the ball which usually only comes to players far more experienced than he is.


Declan Rice has had an extraordinary season, building on what was already a great season last term. Whilst he thoroughly deserves a step up from West Ham, he has been mature and loyal in his commitment to the club through what will likely be his first season, dismissing speculation over a move until the Summer. But if this has been his last season at West Ham, he's done the club proud, and may well find himself with a European winners medal before moving on.


Central Midfield - Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham)

Whilst injuries have limited Bentancur to just 18 Premier League appearances this season, the Uruguayan was one of the few signs of hope for Tottenham this season. He arrived at Spurs last year with title-winning experience with Juventus, as well as plenty of Champions League appearances.


He was a bright spark in the Spurs midfield this season, often helping a largely defensive side transition into attacking moves. Despite limited appearances, he still scored five goals and assisted another two. The goals were crucial as well, including two in the comeback win over Leeds United and the stoppage-time winner against Bournemouth.


Bentancur's dynamic performances this season may not have been able to save Tottenham's season, but a lot of their problems kicked in after the Uruguayan went off injured in the defeat to Leicester. Tottenham's only away win after that match in February was against relegated Leeds United on the final day of the season.


This goes to show how vital Rodrigo Bentancur has become in such a short time in North London. With Ange Postecoglou's arrival, Bentancur has the opportunity to become a key fixture in a new-look Tottenham team. He's one of the few players who's genuinely had a season he can be proud of for Spurs and shining in a team so out of sorts is worthy of a spot in the Bonus Team of the Season.


Central Midfield - Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa)

The midfield wouldn't be complete without at least one of the three from Aston Villa. Along with the likes of Kamara, Dendoncker and McGinn, Douglas Luiz has patrolled the middle of the pitch at Villa Park with authority and quality. Any Unai Emery team needs a solid midfield player capable of leading the transitions from defence to attack and vice versa. Luiz does this brilliantly.


He has developed into an outstanding player, more composed than several Champions League midfielders. The likes of Watkins, Bailey and Martinez may be the star players but Douglas Luiz is the lifeblood of the team. He made more tackles than any other Villa player this season, but still managed to score six and assist six goals in the league alone.


These stats are remarkable. No player in the Premier League has more tackles and the same number of goal involvements. In fact, Luiz is at least three goal involvements ahead of any player in the league with more tackles than him. He is a real, genuine box-to-box midfielder, something which is becoming a dying art in the modern game.


It should go without saying that Emery deserves a lot of the credit, but it cannot be understated just how much work Luiz has put in. He's had the lowest number of yellow cards in a season at Villa since he joined in 2019 despite making more appearances. His tally of twelve matches his previous three years with the Villains and he completely deserves a spot in the Bonus Team of the Season.


Right-Wing - Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest)

Nottingham Forest made a slow start to life back in the Premier League, winning just one of their first eleven matches. But the few wins they did manage this season, and a few of the draws, often had something to do with Brennan Johnson.


Even at the beginning of the season, when Forest struggled to settle on a core group of starters from their enormous squad, Johnson made it clear that he was undroppable. He played in every game in the league this season, across four different positions. Despite being asked to play as a striker, number ten, right-winger and full-back at points this season, the Welshman has shown his class and willingness to adapt with consistent, quality performances.


On top of his great attitude, Johnson has been a big game player. He has eight goals and three assists this season, which is impressive in itself. But what makes it outstanding is that ten of those eleven contributions have been decisive. Johnson's contributions have been worth nine points this season, and if Forest had scored nine fewer points they would've finished 19th.


Brennan Johnson has then, quite literally saved Nottingham Forest from relegation. Of course, a couple of other Forest players such as Morgan Gibbs-White and Taiwo Awoniyi have had fantastic seasons too, but none have had quite as good of an attitude as Johnson, earning him a spot in the team.


Striker - Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)

Was it ever in doubt? If there hadn't been quite as many world-class players in the Premier League this season, Ollie Watkins would be in the Team of the Season. But a spot in the Bonus Team is still very well earned.


Emery needed a talismanic striker when he joined Aston Villa in October. Many were thinking that the Spaniard would turn to the transfer market, but Watkins proved that wasn't necessary. He's scored fifteen goals this season, beaten by only six players, four of whom have Champions League players providing them with assists every other week.


It's not just Watkins' goals that have made him so valuable, but also his creativity. He registered six assists this season, which is higher than four of the six players he was outscored by. His performances this season have lifted Aston Villa to another level. Whilst they've been fantastic as a team, he has been the star.


The scale of his impact stems beyond helping Villa secure Conference League football. Given how boldly he's stepped up for his team this year, Watkins has removed the need for Aston Villa to sign a striker. That's a £40,000,000 transfer that doesn't need to happen, saving money which will go even further to improving the capability and depth of a squad that'll be competing in European football for the first time in fourteen years.


Left-Wing - Alexander Isak (Newcastle)

The formation couldn't fit two strikers, so Alexander Isak, a worthy member of the team, will have to cut in from the left-wing. Although it isn't his main position, he was so good in the last couple of months of the season that this is exactly what Eddie Howe did; it was better to play him out of position than to not play him at all.


An injury in the first half of the season limited Isak to just 22 appearances in his debut Premier League season. However that didn't stop him from hitting double digits for goal, as well as registering one of the greatest ever Premier League assists with a dazzling run against Everton; it was the only assist good enough to earn a spot on the Goal of the Month real all season.


Aside from his flashes of ridiculous skill, the Swede has turned Newcastle's attack into a proper front three. Whether it's with Saint-Maximin and Almiron outside or Wilson in the middle and Isak on the left, it feels now as though those players always have an understanding of each other. It's not quite on par with the front threes of the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, but it certainly works well together.


His injury problems this year have prevented him from being among the league leaders statistically, but even in a couple of appearances in September, including the goal-scoring start at Anfield, there was plenty of evidence on show from Isak that he could be something special. Even with his £60,000,000 price tag, it looks as though Newcastle have gotten themselves a bargain.


Despite being just 23 years old, Isak has made the impression of a player arriving with lots of experience. He lifts his teammates and brings players into the game, as well as shining himself. Without a doubt, he has been one of the signings of the season, despite only being fit for around 60% of the campaign. His is a worthy name to round off the Bonus Team of the Season.






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