The Premier League has seen some of the finest players in football history.
These players have shone over both long and short spells.
Some shine for years, but don’t quite have that one standout season.
Others excel over the course of one season, but do not continue this form over a long spell, due to a drop in form or a move away.
For every Ryan Giggs, there is a Luis Suarez.
Here we look at the very best individual seasons that have occurred since the Premier League began.
The players will be fitted into a 4-4-2 formation, to get a good range of positions. This also allows for the inclusion of two strikers and two wingers, who often have the most standout seasons.
It also must be a balanced side, so there will not be two attacking midfielders in the centre of the park.
This is based solely on performances over the 38 (or 42) games within the given seasons.
The player’s career outside of the chosen season is not taken into account.
David de Gea – 2017/18
The 2017/18 Golden Glove winner is the first inclusion in this side.
De Gea was superhuman at times during this season.
While Petr Cech was phenomenal in 2004/05, he had a fantastic defence in front of him.
De Gea was largely left to fend for himself, dragging a rather poor Man United team to 2nd.
Per Opta, de Gea prevented 14 expected goals, an absolutely phenomenal record.
He kept the most clean sheets in the league while facing the fifth-most shots, proving that United’s defensive record that season was largely down to him.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 2019/20
This season may not be over yet, but this just further reiterates the class of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
He has already equalled his own record for assists by a defender in a single season, racking up 12 by March.
He is essentially one of the world’s best creators, as a 21-year-old right-back.
The Scouser is also an underrated defender, being a part of the league’s best defence for two years running.
He is his own closest competitor. His 19/20 season edges his 18/19 season.
Virgil van Dijk – 2018/19
The centre-backs in this side are two of the three to be crowned PFA Player of the Year (the other being Paul McGrath in 1992/93).
Surely best individual season by a defender in Premier League history was by Virgil van Dijk in 2018/19.
The most vital of numerous important clogs, van Dijk inspired Liverpool to the third-highest points tally in the league’s history.
While the next player on the list played in a more defensive system, van Dijk is often charged with defending with just his central partner for company.
He transformed a famously leaky Liverpool back line, helping them become the best team in the world in 2019.
A Ballon d’Or runner-up that same season, his inclusion is a no-brainer.
John Terry – 2004/05
While he had more help than van Dijk, nothing should be taken away from John Terry’s 04/05 season.
Yes, Claude Makelele, Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Mourinho’s system were important factors in Chelsea conceding the fewest goals in an individual Prem campaign, but Terry was the key man.
His lion-hearted performances saw him crowned PFA Player of the Season, as well as gaining him a worthy inclusion in the UEFA Team of the Year.
Andy Robertson – 2018/19
Everything was done to include Ashley Cole here in order to avoid including too many Liverpool players.
He has had a series of phenomenal campaigns. Due to his consistency and longevity, he is seen as probably the best left-back in the league’s history.
But having looked into it in great detail, Andy Robertson simply must be included.
While Cole has had many great years, it was often in defensive teams. Robertson has been part of a great defence in a more attacking system.
Cole also never came close to achieving Robertson’s attacking output in 2018/19.
Like van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold, Robertson was part of the league’s best defence in 2018/19.
Rarely caught out defensively, the Scot also contributed 11 assists, the second-most by a defender in a single campaign, behind Alexander-Arnold.
Mohamed Salah – 2017/18
The player with the most goals in a 38 game season must be included.
Mo Salah scored 32 league goals in his first season at Anfield.
The record was a shock to pretty much everybody, as he was remembered for his poor spell at Chelsea.
Expected by many to be cover for the front three, Salah reached levels never seen by any of Mane, Firmino or Coutinho.
Despite Liverpool coming fourth that season, Salah won the PFA Player of the Year award.
His record-breaking season simply has to see Mo Salah make this eleven.
Yaya Toure – 2013/14
While the likes of Steven Gerrard could have had a pick of seasons to be recognised here, he didn’t quite reach the level of Yaya Toure in a single campaign.
Known as a defensive midfielder at Barcelona, the Catalans won the 2009 Champions League final with Toure at centre-back.
So, while he was known as a phenomenal player, his 20 goals and nine assists for Man City in 2013/14 was a surprise.
He inspired City to finish two points ahead of Liverpool and win the Premier League.
This was while playing largely in the box-to-box role, not shying away from defensive duties.
The first of two inclusions from 2013/14.
N’Golo Kante – 2015/16
In order to add some balance to this team, a lights-out defensive midfielder is needed.
They don’t come much better than N’Golo Kante.
The unknown signing was arguably the most important cog in the fairytale Leicester City title win of that season.
In fact, a good argument could be made to include the 16/17 version of Kante, the year in which he won player of the season after repeating his title-winning heroics after moving to Chelsea.
It is six one, half a dozen the other but we will choose the 15/16 campaign, as the reality of his achievements that season are still somewhat underrated.
He performed a whopping 8.9 tackles and interceptions that season, per Who Scored.
Roy Keane, particularly of 1999/00, is unfortunate to miss out, but Kante does the work of three men in the middle and is needed to free up the two attack-minded wingers.
N’Golo Kante’s 2015/16 is surely The best individual season by any defensive midfielder in Premier League history.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 2007/08
Yes, Ronaldo played the majority of this season on the left. But both he and Salah were simply too good to leave out.
This was the year that Ronaldo became one of the best in the world.
Having gradually improved throughout his career in Manchester, becoming a very good player, Ronaldo really exploded in 2007/08.
He hit 31 in the league as United were crowned champions of both England and Europe.
It began the era of goal-scoring wingers that still exists today.
Ronaldo finished the year as PFA Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or winner.
Thierry Henry – 2002/03
Like a few others, there were multiple campaigns of Henry’s that could have been included in this XI.
But 2002/03 is a particular standout.
He scored 24, which was less than he managed in the Invincible 03/04 season, but still a substantial return.
It was second only to Ruud van Nistelrooy in the golden boot race.
But it’s the goals combined with the number of assists he got that see him make his way into this team.
Henry got 20 assists in 2002/03, a record that still stands.
This means that he contributed to a whopping 44 goals over the course of a single season.
It is certainly one of the best individual seasons ever seen in England and is well worth an inclusion here.
Luis Suarez – 2013/14
Save the best ‘til last?
Before Salah’s 17/18 season, Luis Suarez’s 31 goals in 2013/14 was a Premier League joint-record.
What is vital to remember is that these 31 goals came in only 33 games, as he missed the first few matches due to suspension.
Suarez also added 12 assists, the second most in the league.
This means he contributed a goal every 69 minutes. When you think about it, this is simply astonishing.
It was as if he was single-handedly dragging Liverpool to the title at times, with the sheer importance and quality of his goals.
Arguably the best individual season in the league’s history, and the first name in this team.
Petr Cech (2004/05), Paul McGrath (1992/93), Ashley Cole (2010/11), Roy Keane (1999/2000), Frank Lampard (2009/10), Gareth Bale (2012/13), Alan Shearer (1994/95)
This team has a very 21st century feel to it.
There are no inclusions in the first eleven pre-2002/03, which is strange to think about.
Perhaps social media and the development of statistical analysis has placed more emphasis on individual quality.
English football in the nineties was based on 4-4-2, with each position having their specific roles. Midfielders and wingers didn’t score as many as they do now, and fullbacks didn’t get as many assists.
Strikers got most of the credit, and Alan Shearer of 1994/95 is unfortunate that the chosen forwards managed to out-do him by adding assists to their goals.
Since then, the game has become more fluid, allowing individual quality to shine through.
All in all, few can argue against the chosen players being worthy of their places in this XI.
Based on one-off, individual seasons, this is the best XI in Premier League history.