The Best XI Outside of the 'Big Six'

leeds united patrick bamford

GK: Emi Martinez (Aston Villa)

Emiliano Martínez has perhaps been the signing of the season outside of the 'Big Six'. The Argentine put in impressive performances at Arsenal towards the back end of last season, where he helped win them an FA Cup.

After this, along with Aston Villa's goalkeeper issues, the club signed him from Arsenal where he made just 15 league appearances in 10 years. Now, Martínez has established himself as one of the best keepers in the league and as the favourite to make the PFA Team of the Year, in the eyes of many.

As of now, the keeper has kept 14 clean sheets across 30 appearances for Villa, which is only bettered by the league leaders Manchester City and the newly-formed threat of Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel.

Martínez has been exceptional all year long, and whilst Rui Patricio deserves acknowledgement for his services down the years, the Villa man is the best around right now outside of the 'Big Six'.

Right-back: Matty Cash (Aston Villa)

England are blessed with some of the best right-backs in world football, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier all playing for clubs that were meant to be a part of the Super League.

However, one name is is right up there with some of the best in the Premier League is Matty Cash. Cash joined Villa from Nottingham Forest this season and he has been one of the most consistent performers in the division ever since.

Cash has been a part of the Villa defence that has helped in those 14 clean sheets Martinez has kept, whilst he remains a constant threat down the right hand side with excellent crossing ability.

In truth, the Englishman is very far away from the England squad, but this is not because of his own inabilities, but the ridiculous talent on offer for Gareth Southgate to work with. In terms of outside the 'Big Six', Cash takes this one quite easily.

Centre-back: Michael Keane (Everton)

Michael Keane is one of the first names on the teamsheet for Everton, as the centre half has missed just one league game all season. Keane averages 4.5 clearances per game for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, as he has established himself as a key name in the Toffee’s line up. Another player who will be looking to make a late claim for a spot in England's squad for the Euros, his chances will be increased if Everton are to qualify for European football for the first time

Centre-back: James Tarkowski (Burnley)

An ever-present in Burnley’s defence, James Tarkowski has previously attracted interest from other clubs due to the solid nature of his performances. Sean Dyche has always aimed to make Burnley a tough, well-organised opponent for their Premier League rivals, with Tarkowski and Ben Mee making up the core of the defensive line.

Captain Mee is perhaps unlucky to miss out, but his centre back partner has two England caps to his name, which help his cause. The 28-year-old will surely be on the shortlist for other clubs again this summer, as he is approaching his prime years.

left-back: Lucas Digne (Everton)

Out of all players on this list, the one who would walk into the first team of many 'Big Six' clubs is Lucas Digne.

The Frenchman has consistently been up there with assists in the Premier League and only Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back for Liverpool has delivered more assists from defence in the division over the past three seasons.

Digne also captains Everton on the odd occasion others miss out. At the same time, his deliveries from dead balls and with his crossing always equal in some sort of threat with the towering figures of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison in the box.

He's also not too bad at whipping it in the back of the net himself and has quite the highlight reel. A great player, Digne, and he is easily better than the options every 'Big Six' club has, except for Luke Shaw and Andrew Robertson.

Defensive midfield: Declan Rice (West Ham)

A player who will likely be at a 'Big Six' club in the near future is Declan Rice.

This season has been a special one for West Ham United, as they continue their surprise push for Champions League football, and Rice has played a major part in getting them into this situation.

Playing with a maturity beyond his years, Rice has established himself as one of the top holding midfielders in the league and is also one of the first names on Southgate’s England team sheet, picking up two Man of the Match awards during the March international break.

As mentioned, he'll likely be at a 'Big Six' club soon, and Rice is no doubt the best of the rest in midfield.

Centre midfield: James Maddison (Leicester)

With an increase to his goals and assists this season, James Maddison has levelled up this season, as Leicester City look to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2017. Maddison has excelled as both a number 10 and in deeper roles this season, making up part of one the best midfield threes in the league, alongside Wilfried Ndidi and Youri Tielemans.

As well as his eight goals and seven assists in the league, the 24-year-old has averaged almost two key passes per game, with an 83% pass success rate. The former Norwich man is an exceptional talent and a worthy name on this team sheet and another who may well be with a 'Big Six' club soon.

Centre Midfield: Youri Tielemans (Leicester City)

Tielemans was one of the most talked-about names in Europe a few years back, as the Belgian captained Anderlecht at the young age of 18 and before he even got close to his 20th birthday, he racked up 150 appearances for his boyhood club - incredible.

Nowadays, Tielemans is part of one of the most commanding and best midfields in the Premier League alongside Maddison and Ndidi. The Belgian pops up with the odd goal or assist and his range of passing is exceptional, whilst his reading of the game beats most in the division.

Tielemans is another player who could walk into most 'Big Six' sides, and in actual fact, bar N'Golo Kante and the Manchester clubs' midfielders, he might just be the best midfielder in the league.

Right wing: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

As the shining light in Roy Hodgson’s side, Wilfried Zaha is an obvious choice for Crystal Palace’s representative in this team. The 28-year-old has 11 goal contributions in 21 games for Palace this season, which is his most in the top flight across his career, whilst he also wins on average three free kicks per game.

Rumours of Zaha leaving the London club have been circulating for a few years now, but he has the chance to go down as a true legend at the club if he is to stay, with his natural ability and productivity helping Palace remain in the Premier League for seven consecutive seasons.

Striker: Patrick Bamford (Leeds)

One of the surprise packages of this season has come in the shape of Patrick Bamford, who has hit the ground running and not stopped moving since gaining promotion with Leeds United. The Englishman has scored 14 goals and assisted seven more in the league this season, with some fans and pundits believing he has done enough to force his way into the squad for Euro 2020.

Bamford appears to have found a home at Elland Road after a career filled with various loan spells and his goals have been vital in securing Leeds a second successive Premier League campaign. An England call-up may not be far away and if he can continue his form, Bamford will likely outscore every Englishman in the Premier League except for the irreplaceable Harry Kane.

Jamie Vardy could have got this spot, but his form this year has seriously dropped.

Left forward: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)

As one of the standout players in the Premier League this season and last, there was no way Jack Grealish could be left out of this team.

Grealish has established himself as one of the most technically gifted players in the country, with many staking a claim for him to start for England at Euro 2020. Villa's skipper has racked up six goals and 12 assists in the league this season, as well as averaging 3.4 key passes per game, which is the most in the top flight.

The 25-year-old appears to be improving with every game and is an easy pick for the left wing spot and he is another player who could walk into any team in the 'Big Six' in some regard.

By Luke Feather


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