With the 2016-17 Premier League season well underway, theScore is ranking the best players on offer at various positions on the pitch so far.
- 10 best goalkeepers in the Premier League
- 10 best centre-backs in the Premier League
- 10 best full-backs in the Premier League
- 10 best midfielders in the Premier League
- 10 best forwards in the Premier League (Nov. 21)
Today, we focus on the true magicians: the wizards who occupy the wings.
10. Michael Antonio – West Ham
Antonio’s six goals this campaign are double that of the Irons’ next best scorer Manuel Lanzini, and nearly half of the 13 Slaven Bilic’s lot have bagged.
The non-league-nobody-cum-top-tier star’s virtues aren’t limited to his goal scoring either, as his versatility gives Bilic options with squad selection. Antonio, 26, has started all 12 of the club’s league matches this season as right-back, winger, central midfielder and twice as a forward against Everton and Middlesbrough.
9. Pedro – Chelsea
What a difference a year makes. Largely ineffectual last season under Jose Mourinho after a £19-million move from Barcelona, Pedro has carved a niche on the right wing in Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 this term.
As part of a front three with Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, Pedro is given free reign to wander sans defensive responsibilities, and it’s paid off, with the Spaniard pairing two goals with five assists for the volcanic-hot Blues.
His performance in Chelsea‘s 5-0 drubbing on the other side of the international break was likely his best with the London side, where the La Masia product scored once while assisting on tallies from Marco Alonso and Hazard.
8. Yannick Bolasie – Everton
Able to ply his trade anywhere across the top but best served on either flank, Congolese speed merchant Yannick Bolasie has seamlessly acclimated to Ronald Koeman’s Everton after a £25-million switch from Crystal Palace.
Bolasie, 27, has featured in all but one of the Toffees’ Premier League matches this season, and while his goal and four assists have been a welcomed addition at Goodison Park, it’s his link-up play with Romelu Lukaku that has again placed the Belgian international among the top-flight’s best strikers.
7. Willian – Chelsea
Chelsea’s reigning player of the year Willian‘s 2016-17 hasn’t quite gone to plan, though that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he is both one of the league’s best wingers and most dangerous free-kick practitioners.
Willian, 28, has scored twice in eight league appearances for Chelsea this season, though the death of his mother and subsequent return to his homeland at the start of October have been unfortunate setbacks for the Brazilian international.
Technically gifted and quick footed, Willian’s greatest attribute may be his tireless work on the flanks.
6. Dusan Tadic – Southampton
Amid a near-endless stream of departures and arrivals, the one consistent over the last three seasons at St. Mary’s has been the exploits of Serbian international winger Dusan Tadic.
Tadic, 27, joined Southampton from Twente for a reported fee of £10.9 million in 2014, and the south coast side got good value for its money. In 79 league matches, Tadic has 12 goals and 19 helpers in two seasons and change.
5. Riyad Mahrez – Leicester City
For reigning PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez, it was always going to be a near-impossible challenge to replicate last season’s preposterous standards.
While Mahrez has appeared short of that form this season, he has been Leicester City‘s best player in the club’s first foray in continental competition. The Algerian international has scored three of the Foxes’ five goals in group play including a brace in a drubbing of Club Brugge.
Closer to home, Mahrez is still creating a similar number of chances as last season with inferior results, pairing two goals and an assist in a dozen matches. That’s not entirely Mahrez’s fault.
4. Raheem Sterling – Manchester City
While it feels like the Jamaican-born England international has been around forever, Sterling is just 21 years old. In 11 league matches this campaign, Sterling has paired four goals with two assists after scoring only six times last term in 31 outings.
After an unceremonious Liverpool exit with a £44-million price tag, Sterling has started to show his worth this year. His dribbling skills and low centre of gravity amount to an unplayable threat at times, and his performances in victories over West Ham and Bournemouth were two of the best by a winger in the Premier League this season.
3. Theo Walcott – Arsenal
After missing out on Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad, Walcott entered the season a player with something to prove, and with eight goals in 13 matches in all competitions, the 27-year-old has made his case.
Stationed on the right wing, Walcott has combined with Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, and Alex Iwobi to rival Liverpool for the league’s most fluid four-man attack, and during a month-long six-match spell, the Saints academy product scored seven times as the Gunners dummied their opponents by a 17-3 margin.
2. Sadio Mane – Liverpool
Sitting atop the table with a league-best 30 goals scored including 17 at Anfield in five fixtures, Liverpool's title ambitions have been buoyed by the steadfast efforts of Sadio Mane and Brazilian mates Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho.
Matching electric pace with a nose for goal, the summer signing from Southampton has paired a team-best six goals with two helpers including a stunning performance in a 4-3 victory over Arsenal on opening day.
As valuable as any player in Jurgen Klopp’s motley squad, Mane’s importance to the Merseysiders will become more apparent when the 24-year-old attacker makes a month-long Senegalese sojourn for the Africa Cup of Nations.
1. Eden Hazard – Chelsea
After taking a self-imposed sabbatical last season to cement Jose Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge exit, Belgian whiz Eden Hazard has secured his place as the Premier League’s best winger two years after being named the division’s best player.
When the league-winner with Lille was named PFA Player of the Year in 2014-15, he scored 14 goals. This season, the 25-year-old has already registered seven times in less than a third of the 38 matches he played during his breakthrough campaign.
As part of a three-man attack with Diego Costa and Pedro, Hazard has shone under Antonio Conte with 211 successful passes in the final third including a five-match spell against Leicester, Manchester United, West Ham, Southampton, and Everton where the left-wing assassin bunched five goals, an assist and three Man of the Match honours for the Blues.
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