We’re preparing to approach the business end of what has proven an unforgettable Premier League season so far, with much to play for at both ends of the division as we head towards the run-in.
Some of the league’s leading lights have enjoyed campaigns to remember, whilst there are several stars who have ensured 2020/21 will live long in the memory after enjoying career-best seasons.
Here are 10 Premier League players having the best seasons of their career in 2020/21:
Joao Cancelo arrived at Manchester City in a big-money deal in 2019 after spells at some of Europe’s leading sides, but the full-back struggled to make an impression during a disappointing debut campaign at the Etihad.
Premier League history is littered with foreign imports who shone after an initial period of adaptation, and Cancelo appears the latest to have followed that trend following a remarkable season of improvement.
Cancelo has evolved from underperforming full-back to multi-functional essential in Pep Guardiola’s side, tucking inside to midfield and proving an influential figure at both ends of the pitch.
Cancelo ranks amongst the Premier League’s leading players for interceptions, passes into the penalty area and carries into the final third, whilst only one defender can better his average of 1.8 key passes per game.
The 26-year-old’s tactical intelligence has seen him adapt perfectly to the demands of Guardiola’s ‘inverted full-backs’ with his ability to tuck effortlessly into midfield allowing City’s innovative style to flourish.
Arguably the most talented teenager in the Premier League right now, Bukayo Saka has built on a hugely impressive debut season at Arsenal to become the Gunners’ most influential player in 2020/21.
Saka exudes confidence and has shouldered responsibility in what has proven a testing season for the north London side, standing up in the absence of consistent performances from many of his senior colleagues.
After starring in a left wing-back role last season he has featured for much of this season in an advanced position on the right, his intelligence and versatility remarkable in a player still finding his feet at Premier League level.
10+ – Since the start of last season, Bukayo Saka (19y 166d) is the youngest Premier League player to have reached double figures for goals (10) and assists (16) across all competitions. Hope. pic.twitter.com/cQMN2bOKvx
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 18, 2021
Saka has starred this season and his statistics in comparison to his peers make for remarkable reading, leading all Premier League teenagers for goals, shots, chances created, duels won and completed dribbles so far this season.
West Ham manager David Moyes named Jack Grealish as ‘the best player in the Premier League’ earlier this month, an incredible compliment to a footballer who was playing in the Championship just two seasons ago.
Grealish was excellent upon Aston Villa’s return to the Premier League last season as the club narrowly avoided relegation, but has taken his game to new heights during the current campaign to add validity to Moyes’ claims.
The 25-year-old has scored six goals and provided a huge 10 assists in the division in 2020/21, whilst he leads the Premier League for a number of metrics with the England international arguably the division’s best creative force.
— Goal (@goal) February 12, 2021
No player can better Grealish’s numbers for chances created, key passes, progressive carries and shot-creating actions, the midfielder the heartbeat of an improving Aston Villa side who will be hoping they can keep the influential star out of the clutches of the Premier League’s leading sides.
Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival at Everton has helped transform the fortunes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the forward leaning on the Toffees manager for advice with the Italian having worked with iconic forwards including Andriy Shevchenko, Robert Lewandowski and Didier Drogba.
It is the game of Filippo Inzaghi that Calvert-Lewin has focused on, however, and studying the master poacher has paid dividends for a player enjoying the best season of his Premier League career.
Calvert-Lewin has netted 13 league goals during the current campaign – already matching his tally from last season – demonstrating an improving instinct around the penalty area with a number of first-time finishes.
No player in the Premier League has scored more headed goals this season than the 23-year-old, whose performances have seen him break into the England side, scoring two goals in four caps, and establish himself as the leading deputy to Harry Kane for the Three Lions.
Leicester City’s progress under Brendan Rodgers has continued this season with the Foxes in the midst of another push towards Champions League qualification, a young and exciting side looking to upset the established elite.
Amongst an emerging side is academy graduate Harvey Barnes, who has thrived since being handed his opportunity at the King Power Stadium on a regular basis under the Northern Irishman’s guidance.
Barnes scored six league goals last season and provided eight assists, figures that are set to be bettered during the 2020/21 campaign with the 23-year-old having already scored eight Premier League goals.
The winger’s energy and creativity have added another dimension to the Leicester attack and he appears to be getting better and better with each passing performance, Barnes an outside chance to make this summer’s England squad after winning his first senior cap in October.
Luke Shaw has been written off on several occasions at Manchester United but has responded once more this season, the full-back looking a player transformed during the current campaign.
Shaw endured a strained relationship with former manager Jose Mourinho and was on the receiving end of some stinging criticism, but he has responded brilliantly under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has become a key figure in the Red Devils’ side this season.
Shaw looks fitter than he has done in recent seasons with his powerful running a trademark of his side’s play, whilst his creativity has been evidenced by a league-leading average of 2 key passes per game amongst defenders and five league assists.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 15, 2021
The 25-year-old’s position had looked under threat following the summer signing of Alex Telles, but Shaw is now arguably one of the very first names on the teamsheet and, Bruno Fernandes aside, has been United’s most consistent player this season.
West Ham’s running machine has been one of the signings of the season after turning his loan move from Slavia Prague into a permanent deal, emerging as one of the most influential box-to-box presences in the Premier League.
Soucek had enjoyed an impressive goalscoring record from midfield for the Czech champions with 30 in all competitions across his final 18 months with the club, and he has shown his knack of arriving into the box perfectly so far this season.
No player in the division has won more aerial duels than the towering Czech Republic international, who has scored eight league goals with an intuitive understanding of when to ghost into dangerous areas.
Soucek’s imposing frame provides West Ham with a steely midfield presence alongside Declan Rice, his ability to both break-up attacks and get forward quickly making him the perfect player for David Moyes’ engine room.
Few avid watchers of the Premier League would have tipped Ilkay Gundogan for the Player of the Year accolades at the start of the season, the midfielder having been an understated and occasionally criticised component of the Manchester City squad.
The Germany international has been a player reborn this season to become the goalscoring driving force of City’s title challenge, enjoying a blistering run of form over the past two months to emerge as one of the most influential footballers in the division.
Gundogan has been freed by the anchor of Rodri behind him and Pep Guardiola’s inverted full-backs’ tucking inside, driving forward from midfield and showcasing a finishing repertoire even the world’s finest forwards would be proud of.
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 17, 2021
The 30-year-old had never previously scored more than six league goals in a campaign but has netted 11 times in his past 12 league appearances, a phenomenal return from a player playing the best football of his career and a run of performances that has pushed City towards a third league title in just four seasons.
With just one previous Premier League goal and disappointing top-flight spells at Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley behind him, it’s fair to say there was more than a little scepticism about Patrick Bamford’s credentials ahead of Leeds‘ return to the top tier this season.
Bamford had scored 16 league goals during the Whites’ promotion-winning campaign but doubts remained over his clinical edge, whilst the club-record signing of Rodrigo from Valencia appeared to indicate a different direction for Marcelo Bielsa.
Bamford, however, has risen to the challenge and after scoring on his first appearance of the season at Liverpool has barely stopped since, spearheading an impressive Premier League return for an exciting Leeds side who have often thrown caution to the wind.
The 27-year-old presses tirelessly from the front and has scored 12 league goals this season, his performances having sparked talk of an England call-up with Bamford having silenced the doubters and shown he belongs at this level.
Manchester United have a long and proud history of producing academy graduates with the current side no exception, both Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood amongst those to become fan favourites after coming through the ranks.
Scott McTominay’s rise has not been so straightforward with the midfielder having had to endure his fair share of criticism, often used to provide security to the centre of the pitch and maligned for becoming symbolic of a perceived lack of imagination by his manager.
McTominay, however, has shown he has much more to offer and has enjoyed some fine performances in recent months, finding career-best form and showcasing an improving sense around the penalty area.
The Scotland international’s energy and drive has long been appreciated, but the development of his attacking play has been a welcome string added to his bow, netting seven times across all competitions with only Bruno Fernandes and Rashford scoring more.
McTominay is a fine character and ranks highly amongst his teammates for tackles, interceptions and pass completion, the added goal threat rounding his game superbly as a box-to-box midfield presence.