Garth Crooks’ Team of the Season: Salah, De Bruyne, Aguero and Kane – who else?

Garth's team of the season

The Premier League season is over, with Manchester City deservedly crowned champions after sweeping all before them in a record-breaking campaign.

West Brom, Stoke City and Swansea are facing up to relegation, while Arsenal enter life without Arsene Wenger.

But who has made my team of the season?

Garth's team of the season

Goalkeeper – David de Gea (Man Utd)

Garth Crooks’ Team of the Season: Salah, De Bruyne, Aguero and Kane – who else?
Garth Crooks’ Team of the Season: Salah, De Bruyne, Aguero and Kane – who else?

The moment Jose Mourinho persuaded David de Gea to stay at Manchester United, rather than leave for Real Madrid, you knew something was brewing. Neither have managed to win the title this season, but I wouldn’t bet against them next term.

De Gea has once again looked imperious in goal, and one player in the United set-up who warrants the accolade ‘world class’. The issue for Mourinho is he has not been in a position to assemble a defence worthy of his keeper.

Petr Cech had William Gallas, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho to protect him when Mourinho was manager at Chelsea in 2004-05. That’s why they won the title and why United haven’t.

David de Gea

Did you know? De Gea won the Golden Glove this season, keeping 18 clean sheets in the Premier League. It’s his highest tally in a single season in the competition.

Defenders – Kyle Walker (Man City), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Nicolas Otamendi (Man City), Ashley Young (Man Utd)

Kyle Walker, Lewis Dunk, Nicolas Otamendi and Ashley Young

Kyle Walker: When Kyle Walker left Tottenham Hotspur for Manchester City for £50m I thought Blues boss Pep Guardiola had suddenly gone to the ‘dark side of the moon’. When I saw Walker make his Premier League debut for his new club at Brighton, I knew then that City had spent over the odds but were sure of exactly what they were buying.

Walker has fulfilled his role and responsibilities brilliantly in this City side and got his reward as a consequence – it’s called a Premier League title.

Did you know? Walker has provided six Premier League assists this season, his highest in a single campaign.

Lewis Dunk: I have watched this lad in the Championship and I have watched him again in the Premier League and I can’t believe it’s the same player. The growth in the space of a season has been quite extraordinary.

It would have been very easy for me to have selected Jan Vertonghen (who has had another good season for Spurs) but Dunk has had to be outstanding week in, week out. Without that level of performance, Brighton would have sunk without trace.

If any of the big six have any sense whatsoever they should get their chequebook out immediately. He’s worth £30m of anyone’s money in the current financial climate.

Did you know? Dunk made more blocks than any other Premier League defender this season (56).

Nicolas Otamendi: I can never make up my mind about Otamendi. I have seen him play brilliantly for City and then suddenly be a complete disaster. I must say his calamities have been less frequent this season. He had a fabulous first half to City’s league campaign and deputised for Vincent Kompany brilliantly during a very important period for the club.

Defeats by Liverpool in the Champions League were not his finest hours, but overall he has proved to be a steady influence in a Manchester City team whose emphasis as always been on attack not defence. Lucky for him.

Did you know? Otamendi made more successful passes than any other Premier League player this season (2,825).

Ashley Young: I thought this lad was finished at Manchester United but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. United have converted yet another winger into a very competent full-back. First Antonio Valencia, now Ashley Young.

The England international was beginning to create a reputation for himself when it was alleged he would go looking for penalties in the days when he was a winger. He appears to have adapted his game and concentrated on becoming a permanent fixture in United’s defensive line-up.

His performances have also earned him a recall into the England set-up at 32 years of age. Not bad for a player I had written off.

Did you know? Young made more Premier League appearances (30) and starts (28) this season than he had in any of his previous seven campaigns with United.

Midfielders – Kevin de Bruyne (Man City), Fernandinho (Man City), David Silva (Man City)

Kevin de Bruyne, Fernandinho and David Silva

Kevin de Bruyne: Of all the players I have watched this season, I have enjoyed no-one more than Kevin de Bruyne. It is unfortunate for De Bruyne that Mohamed Salah has had such a wonderful season, at the ‘award-winning’ expense of the Belgium international.

De Bruyne lifting the Premier League title with City will compensate to a large extent, but not completely – that’s the way it goes in football sometimes.

To play the game with such grace and win matches on such a regular basis without an ounce of ruthlessness deserves some recognition. Selecting De Bruyne for my Team of the Season is the best I can do.

Did you know? The Belgian finished the season with the most assists (16) and chances created (106) in the Premier League.

Fernandinho: There is a one in every title-winning team. Claude Makelele did it for Real Madrid, Esteban Cambiasso did it for Inter Milan, and Fernandinho has done it on two occasions for Manchester City.

These are players who accept that their ability does not compare with Zinedine Zidane, Wesley Sneijder or Kevin de Bruyne but who will run through brick walls for their team and wonder what the fuss is all about when you pat them on the back and tell them just how wonderful they have been.

The Brazilian is the lynchpin for City and the first player Guardiola would have pencilled in his team every week. Fernandinho has had a magnificent season and wins another Premier League title for his efforts.

Did you know? Granit Xhaka (2,709) was the only midfielder to complete more passes in the Premier League this season than Fernandinho (2,679)

David Silva: What a wonderful servant David Silva has turned out to be for Manchester City. Along with the amazing Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany, they have provided a platform upon which legacies are made.

How Silva has completed a title-winning season with the family issues he has to contend with is a testimony to the resilience and dedication of the man himself.

He is a wonderful player and, from what I can gather, an even better father.

Did you know? The Spaniard had a hand in 20 Premier League goals this season (nine goals, 11 assists). Only in 2011-12 (21) was he involved in more in a single campaign.

Forwards – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Sergio Aguero (Man City)

Mo Salah, Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero

Mohamed Salah: What this lad has done for Egyptian football, not to mention social cohesion, cannot be quantified. What I can tell you is there is no better place on the planet than Liverpool Football Club to appreciate the talents of Mohamed Salah. He has had the most wonderful season.

I’m not entirely sure what I have enjoyed more – the striker bearing down on the opposition with such blistering pace and leaving defenders in his wake, or his glorious ice-cool finishes. A chorus of “Mo Salah, Mo Salah, Mo Salah” ringing around Anfield is not far behind, by the way.

Put that all together and there cannot be a better place on the planet for a player of Salah’s class to play his football.

Did you know? Salah’s 32 goals is the most by a player in a 38-game season.

Harry Kane: This has been another magnificent season from Harry Kane, however it can’t be entirely comfortable for Kane or his team-mates to look at another empty trophy cabinet. Elsewhere, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling all have titles, and Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Nathaniel Clyne are preparing for the Champions League final.

It would be sheer folly for me or anyone else to ignore the obvious. This lad cannot wait around forever watching his England team-mates achieve what he could do quite easily elsewhere.

It’s why Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Teddy Sheringham all left Tottenham. It would be a crying shame if Kane is forced to do the same.

Did you know? Kane became the first Spurs player to score 40+ goals in all competitions in a single season since Clive Allen in 1986-87 (49).

Sergio Aguero: Regular readers of my Team of the Week will know how much I think of Sergio Aguero. Of all the strikers in my Team of the Season, Aguero is the one who has joined the ranks of football greatness.

During his time in the Premier League there is no other striker who has scored as many goals over so many seasons, or held so many titles.

His goals blasted Manchester City into an unassailable lead at the top of the table before injury took its toll and Leroy Sane took over. We have at last honoured this great Premier League player in the PFA team awards, and the least I can do is honour him in mine.

Did you know? Aguero’s goal against Napoli in November made him City’s all-time highest goalscorer.

Manager of the season – Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez

I was asked recently who were my top three managers this season. Without a moment’s hesitation I said Rafael Benitez, Sean Dyche and Chris Hughton – in that order.

I never expected Burnley to qualify for Europe, for Brighton to survive a season in the Premier League, or for Newcastle to finish with 44 points, ensuring safety with games to spare having started the season with seven Championship players in the team.

Anyone who has watched Newcastle United this season will have observed Benitez and his boys refusing to compromise one iota on the brand of football their fans want to see.

I wish I could say the same for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United. If Newcastle have lost a game they have done so with their dignity intact. They have taken the opposition on trying to play.

There have been times when they have been outplayed, even outclassed, but they have never turned their backs on giving their fans 100%, which you have to do when playing for the Magpies.

That is why Newcastle fans love Benitez, because they have seen the Spaniard turn their team from a Championship squad into a credible Premier League outfit.

Give Benitez the resources and he would do what Kevin Keegan failed to do, and win Newcastle a trophy. Don’t give him the resources to compete with the very best and he will leave – and quite rightly.

Now it’s your turn

You’ve seen my picks this week. But who would you go for?

Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.

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