The 30 best players in the Premier League 2018/19: ranked

JJ Bull
Who were the best players in the Premier League this season?

The Premier League champions are Manchester City, Liverpool were a single point off it and overall the competition's best players play for one of those two clubs.

That doesn't make for a particularly interesting ranking system though, and there have been some stellar performances from individuals at other clubs which need to be considered.

Using a combination of our monthly player rankings lists with data to produce overall scores in six categories (attack, vision, passing, defence, physical and dribbling) we have ranked the top 30 players of the 2018/19 season. There is naturally an element of human judgment involved too. I have watched an awful lot of football this season.

And so we begin. The best 30 players in the league are:

30. Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

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Put down the chair, relax - Pogba deserves a place in our list. Stop laughing, it's true. Just. Although dreadfully inconsistent, prone to throwing arms in a strop rather than do things like, you know, tackling people or track runners, he is stupidly talented.

Thirteen goals and nine assists is a big improvement on last season (even if seven goals were penalties), and when United were flying for a few months in the post-Mourinho world, Pogba really was fantastic. Some of his moments of skill, dribbling in tight spaces and forward passes were sexy-looking functional tools in a much-demanded attacking setup but once things started getting difficult, Good Pogba disappeared and Meh Pogba emerged.

With two other great players next to him, Pogba is brilliant. With Nemanja Matic and Fred... oh boy. That doesn't excuse some of the abject performances we've seen but if Pogba played badly and still ended up on a combined 22 goals and assists imagine the possibilities if he improves next season.

29. Ilkay Gundogan (Man City)

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Integral to City's title win, playing as both an 'eight' and a 'six' and establishing himself in the first team towards the end of the season. Six goals and three assists is decent enough but Gundogan's job isn't to score or assist anyway - he brings quality and reliability to the centre of the pitch alongside Fernandinho, deployed when City are worried about winning the midfield battle.

28. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

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Scored 12 and assisted six other goals but much of the best work Firmino does is off the ball, running into space to free Mo Salah and Sadio Mane up to score or to draw defenders away. His first touch is exemplary - there should be university courses on it.

27. Jan Vertonghen (Spurs)

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Vertonghen's influence is most obvious when not playing, which is natural considering he is a captain without the title on the pitch. One of the league's best defenders but his passing ability places him close to midfielders Ander Herrera, Mateo Kovacic and James Ward-Prowse. Dependable at the back and calm in possession.

26. David Luiz (Chelsea)

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Once the Premier League figured out that tightly marking Jorginho takes him out of the game, a lot of creative influence became David Luiz's responsibility. The centre-back takes the ball beyond the Chelsea midfield at times and also launches direct passes out to wingers and mix up Chelsea's play, given space to do so because he's a centre-back. If this is by design rather than an accidental consequence of Plan A stalling, this is clever use of the player by Maurizio Sarri.

25. Ruben Neves (Wolves)

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Could play for any of the top six, probably the top two, teams in the league as a regular starter. Neves has everything - leadership skills, incredible free kick-taking ability, long passes dropped onto the toe of teammates, amazing long shots, clever movement in the middle for passes, and he likes a tackle. In total, Neves made 74 tackles and 73 interceptions (the seventh most of any player), scoring four goals and assisting three.

24. Idrissa Gueye (Everton)

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Joint top with Wilfred Ndidi for tackles made this season (143) having played five fewer games, Idrissa Gueye is the kind of player for whom Manchester United should be preparing a sizeable transfer bid. He might be the actual player. Everton would miss him enormously.

23. Jamie Vardy (Leicester)

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Claude Puel didn't seem able, or inclined, to utilise Vardy's strengths but Brendan Rodgers has and the results are  splendid. Vardy finished the season on 18 goals and four assists. 

22. Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)

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Has overcome a couple of serious injuries to justify Eddie Howe's trust and prove he is one of the better forward players in the league. Scored 14 goals and assisted nine others, linking up particularly well with Ryan Fraser.

21. David Silva (Manchester City)

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Silva hasn't had his best season for City and has even been rested at times but the numbers and his obvious influence on the team means he gets place number 21, on this list. An achievement I'm sure Silva puts on a par with his Premier League medal. 

A deft flick which clipped the ball into Sergio Aguero's path for the equaliser against Brighton on the final day took his assists total to eight. He's scored six goals this season, created the third-most big chances (16), and the made the fifth-most successful passes in the opposition half. One of the best ever Premier League players, like a feistier Iniesta.

20. Moussa Sissoko (Spurs)

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Didn't see this one coming. If you'd asked 'which player is least likely to make the top 20 list' at the beginning of the season, Sissoko may have been my answer. After seasons of searching, Sissoko found his best position on the right-centre of a midfield diamond. In Spurs' previous 4-2-3-1 Sissoko's poor crossing let him down when played in the '3' and he wasn't trusted as one of the '2'. This year, his new role makes best use of his dribbling skills while keeping him in a part of the pitch where he can win the ball. A  sustained run in the team has been a big help. 

19. Alisson (Liverpool)

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The last piece in the puzzle and winner of the Golden Glove. Liverpool spent big and got their perfect goalkeeper, one as good on the ball as he is at stopping shots and plucking crosses out of the air. Alisson brings something to the Liverpool defence which improves them enormously than the era of Loris Karius or Simon Mignolet. Perhaps it's just confidence? Has made a few mistakes but those are always highlighted when the goalkeeper's involved and he recovered immediately.

18. Son Heung-min (Spurs)

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Gotta love Sonny. What a player. So fast, amazing first touch, makes great decisions when charging at defenders, can play on the wing or through the middle, scored 12 goals and assisted six. It feels like Son has come out of Harry Kane's shadow this season to be an integral part of the Spurs XI, even though he's been that way for years now. 

17. Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)

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A less famous name than others on this list but the stats don't lie and Fraser is second top of the assists table. That's not easy, especially when playing for Bournemouth. With 14 assists and seven goals, Fraser's output for Eddie Howe's team is impressive but consider that he created 28 big chances this season - 10 more than any other player - and it becomes clear that could have been even higher. Larger clubs are right to be considering making a bid for the forward, who is equally dangerous on either wing.

16. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

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A Golden Boot winners but only number 16 in our prestigious list. Before you start thrashing angry words in the comments section, consider that Aubameyang does go missing in games when leading the line on his own and only created 33 chances for others, then remember that there are a lot of Liverpool and Man City players to fit in here. Please.

15. Ederson (Man City)

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Another goalkeeper, though much of Ederson's contribution has been in transition and attack for Man City. Comes 40 yards off his line to clear danger, has a key role in short passing moves around the City box, often playing the calm pass between two chasing forwards that beats an opponents' press and his distribution is insane. Whether kicked from hand or on the ground, Ederson finds teammates up the other end of the pitch like he's in a video game, perfectly aimed and weighted. He saves a lot of shots too and commands the area brilliantly.

14. James Maddison (Leicester)

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Created more chances than any other player in the league, despite playing for a mid-table team formerly managed by captain of average, Claude Puel. Of those 100 chances, seven were converted to give Maddison a decent assists return and he also scored seven goals, including some beautiful hits from distance. Brendan Rodgers plays him on the left or behind the striker, two positions that seem to really get the most out of a highly creative player. Has work to do on defensive positioning and workrate, is otherwise great.

13. Harry Kane (Spurs)

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Kane scored 17 goals from only 28 games this season and were it not for a rash challenge on Fabian Delph turning his ankle so badly, it's likely he would have another Golden Boot. Has some sort of science-defying ability to recover from injury ahead of the time usually associated with humans too, which helps.   

12. Joao Moutinho (Wolves)

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Moutinho was Andre-Villas Boas's transfer wish during his ill-fated time at Spurs and by the looks of things, Tottenham made a mistake not signing him then. Moutinho is 32 years old and made 264 recoveries, 113 tackles, created 84 chances and assisted eight goals as the heartbeat of an impressive Wolves team, contributing enormously in both defence and attack. The best all-round midfielder this season.

11. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)

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The first of our two-part series on Liverpool's full-backs is Andrew Robertson, whose roving role on the left is fundamental to how Jurgen Klopp's side plays. Named the Scotland captain earlier in the season, Robertson defends tenaciously - usually high up the pitch - and contributed 11 assists, which is one fewer than Christian Eriksen. 

10. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

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Alexander-Arnold provided 12 assists this season - joint third in the league - so calling him a full-back is a little silly. For large parts of games the 20-year-old is a full-on winger and his delivery from wide, as the stats suggest, is brilliant. Opposition teams have regularly tried to focus their play down his flank and expose weaknesses, eventually learning that there aren't many. 

9. Fernandinho (Man City)

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Fernandinho's midfield performance against Liverpool in January during his side's crucial 2-1 win was one of the season's standouts.

Always in the middle keeping things tidy, Fernandinho is City's anchor and although he's getting on a bit now (34 years old) and will need replacing. The uncoachable, fundamental understanding of position and space is something that makes that task even more difficult, and the uncanny ability to get away with the tactical fouls Man City definitely don't regularly commit, borderline impossible.

8. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

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The last of our list before it descends into duopoly controversy debate. Aside from a quiet November and February, Hazard has been outrageously good this season, as in one of the best players in Europe good. He scored 16 goals and provided 15 assists (the combined highest of anyone) as something of a one-man team - he can decide matches in an instant and regularly did this season.

The solo wondergoal against West Ham was something only a few players in the world would dare to attempt let alone execute so well and Hazard's dribbling stats for the year are better than any player. Even kicking his shins doesn't make much of a difference - Hazard is the most fouled player of the 2018/19 season, fouled 104 times.

7. Aymeric Laporte (Man City)

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Man City's best defender by miles. As comfortable swapping between left-back and centre-back as he is moving the ball around midfield, Laporte made the fourth most touches and the third most passes in the league this season, also scoring three goals. His numbers are those of a tempo-setting midfielder and since Laporte spends most of the game at close to the halfway line, that makes sense.

Solid in the air, always seems to make the right decisions but his ability on the ball is what sets Laporte apart. When City win possession near their goalkeeper, Laporte moves in and out of space to complete the little rondos that get City from danger positions to counter-attacking ones. Joel Matip can clear a ball but you don't want him chased by two forwards while in possession inside the six yard box.

6. Sergio Aguero (Man City)

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Aguero, or to refer to him by his proper name, Agueeeerrrrrrrrooooooooo, has scored more than 20 Premier League goals for the fifth consecutive year and the sixth time in his career. Only Alan Shearer has done it more, only Thierry Henry can equal the year on year consistency, which means Aguero should be considered alongside these two as an all-time superstar. Finished one off the Golden Boot podium on 21 but the league winner's medal should suffice.

5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

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Salah's exploits last season, when he completed English football, has made it feel like this term has been a bit of a let-down, but he's the combined top scorer and assister of goals in the league so text your pals about that.

Goes down a little too easily in the box - the tumble against Newcastle was embarrassing - but Salah is a special talent so perhaps we should let him off? A little quiet at times but usually fun to watch - his long-range stunner against Chelsea was a wonderful moment.

4. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

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Has either learned how to shoot or has found a way to manage his composure in pressure moments because 17 goals and 10 assists is elite level for a player who is essentially a winger. Guardiola has squeezed the absolute best out of Sterling, playing him in a system which entirely suits his abilities but without his talent and application, he wouldn't be able to play that system. PFA Young Player of the Year (at the questionable age of 24), and a deserved winner of the Football Writer's award.

3. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

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Mane's first touch and ability to dribble at high speed makes him a nightmare for anyone to defend against. Can go outside or in, kill a 70-yard pass dead with a single bit of control - even on the move - and springs to life so quickly from a standing start that he's too far ahead for a chasing player to get close by the time it's even obvious that danger is present. Joint top scorer on 22 goals,  just needs to increase his number of assists (only one this season) and win the league to be considered a Premier League great. 

2. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)

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City's most important player and Pep Guardiola's favourite this season. Exceptionally talented, hugely creative, fast and skillful, Bernardo is a match-winner and turned several tight games into City wins. Instigated the 2-0 win over Manchester United in April with a superb shift of balance and early-hit shot from distance which beat David De Gea at his near post, having moved from a right-wing position to central midfield. 

For all the attacking brilliance he brings (seven goals and seven assists), it is Silva's workrate which is most impressive. If he loses the ball he chases relentlessly until he wins it or commits a foul and although that sounds incredibly basic, it spreads to others in the team and makes City much better as a team. 

1. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)

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Quite simply, a brilliant footballer. Van Dijk's performances have been consistently outstanding all season and with him in the team, Liverpool have kept 20 clean sheets.

Great at bringing the ball out from the back and playing short passes, Van Dijk also fires 70-yard long-balls out to waiting attackers on the wings to kick-start goalscoring moves. When Liverpool are under pressure, he doesn't mess about either. Van Dijk won 182 aerial duels (eighth most), won 74 per cent of his tackles, and made the joint sixth most clearances (199). Brings a calmness and composure to Liverpool's defence that they've desperately needed for years. He is the best centre-back in the world.

Players who just missed the cut
  • Christian Eriksen
  • Abdoulaye Doucoure
  • Jordan Henderson
  • Salomon Rondon
  • Troy Deeney
  • Wilf Zaha
  • Fabinho
  • James Milner
  • N'Golo Kante
  • Nicolas Otamendi
  • Davinson Sanchez
  • Ayoze Perez
  • Ben Chilwell

Who did we miss out? Do you disagree with any omissions or inclusions? Join the conversation below in the comments.