Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville picked their best Premier League XI of 2020 on Monday Night Football. But who made it in?
The Sky Sports pundits looked back on the past 12 months in their final show of the year and selected the top-flight’s best performers over that period.
Unsurprisingly, Liverpool – who sealed their first-ever Premier League crown in the summer – dominated the line-up, with Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Jordan Henderson, and Mohamed Salah all included.
There were also spots for Tottenham pair Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne and Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes in midfield. Wolves’ Conor Coady completed the backline.
Goalkeeper: Alisson is an amazing player
Neville said: “Alisson has been the best by a mile. Ederson had been outstanding for a few seasons but his standards have dropped. When you have an outstanding goalkeeper, the difference it makes is off the scale. The upgrade from a good goalkeeper to a great goalkeeper, points-wise, is unquantifiable.
“He (Alisson) just makes save after save and makes the fewest errors, which is the key. He gives complete assurance to everyone in his team. If you want to win titles, then you need an amazing goalkeeper – and he’s an amazing goalkeeper.”
Carragher said: “When Alisson was missing at Aston Villa, Liverpool lost 7-2. Liverpool were as bad against Fulham but the difference was that he was in goal. It’s equally important as when Virgil van Dijk came in when Liverpool signed Alisson. Liverpool, without Van Dijk, are still the best team in the league and it’s because he’s there.”
Defence: Back four picks itself
Neville said: “The second centre-back was a debatable one. We had Eric Dier, Harry Maguire, Ayermic Laporte, Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady – but Coady’s stats but were better than the rest. He’s part of a great Wolves defence and has broken into the England team.
“Robertson is an unbelievable player. To do what he’s done for the past three years up and down the line at the intensity he plays at. He’s quality and so consistent. Trent Alexander-Arnold mesmerises me with the things he does – I never thought a full-back could do those things. But if he wants to look anywhere at who to become in the next five years, it’s the left-back that he’s playing with. He needs to get defensively as good as him, as consistent as him, and to be intense as him in every game.”
Carragher said: “I went with Coady, not only for his Wolves performances but for his England breakthrough too. There’s always a question mark surrounding players who don’t play at the top level, whether it would be Champions League or international football. But Coady stepped up for England, impressing everyone with his personality. We can talk about his clean sheets and how many games he plays but his passing out from the back is as good as anyone – possibly only Van Dijk is better than him.”
Midfield: All three players standout
Carragher said: “All of them stand out. Jordan Henderson was footballer of the year last year, Kevin De Bruyne pipped him to PFA Player of the Year and if Bruno Fernandes had been signed in the summer rather than January, I think he’d be in the running for player of the year as well. The three of them would have been fighting it out.
“For me, De Bruyne is the best player in the league. I think he’s going to be a Premier League great when we look back at his time at Manchester City. The best way to describe Henderson, when you see the Liverpool team and he’s not there, the team doesn’t feel the same. There’s something missing. He just gives that side presence and authority in the middle of the pitch.
“And Fernandes, I remember having a debate with Roy Keane, talking about how far Manchester United were away. I said sometimes one player can just spark something. At times for us, it was Fernando Torres and his arrival just lifted everyone. Luis Suarez did the same when he came to Liverpool, so you are never as far away as you think, and Fernandes has done that with United. Only Liverpool have won more points than United since Fernandes’ debut and that’s what just one player can do.”
Neville said: “There’s Paul Pogba, David de Gea and Harry Maguire at Manchester United. They’ve all been captains and now there’s Edinson Cavani with his experience, but Fernandes is the leader in that team. You watch him and he’s the leader by example.
“He’s a leader in what he does when he gives the ball away, he sprints straight after it. Every time the team is on the ball, he wants the ball and every time he gets the ball, he wants to play a pass that matters. He’s transformed the whole club and every time he doesn’t play, it’s a massive problem. That’s a big issue when you are almost reliant on him.
“And of all the midfield players they’ve got, Donny van de Beek, Pogba, Fred, Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay, he is just absolutely out there.
“Those three midfield players pick themselves and Fernandes has been an absolute sensation at Manchester United. He is the leader of that team and although he’s not wearing the captain’s armband, he could be.”
Attack: Son just pips Mane
Neville said: “You cannot criticise Son or Mane. There is no negative about them. They are both absolutely world-class. Every club in the world would want Son or Mane playing for them – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, every club in the world want those two players.
“Just plug the actual goals and assists in, and Son’s just done better in a team that isn’t as good obviously. Son just won it but that is no reflection on Mane. He could’ve easily been in the team.
“The reason I’ve always chosen Salah over Mane is because he’s cold-blooded. Mane’s a team player, who would always put the team first, but Salah is cold-blooded and that’s not a negative. It makes Liverpool vicious as a team and he’s the type who will just go for it again and again and again and again, and he won’t stop.”
Carragher said: “I love Mane but he’s just going through a little spell at the moment. He’s got just one goal in nine games whereas Son’s been off the charts. You couldn’t not pick Son.
“But what I would say is, that position, the left-sided attacker is the strongest position in the league and where the best players are. For the last two or three years, you’ve had Mane and Raheem Sterling who have been as good as anything in the world in that position.
“Eden Hazard just dropped off at Real Madrid and Neymar is obviously a top player, but I think Marcus Rashford and Son have jumped up now as well. Rashford’s a super player and Son this season has just edged the others, but they are four probably world-class players. Maybe Rashford is just slightly under trying to get into that next bracket but I do think we’ve got the best in the world in that position in the Premier League.”