When discussions take place regarding combined teams, it is the sides in the top-half of the table that get the most attention. More often than not, fans debate over which Manchester City and Liverpool players make it into their combined XI. However, it is quite easy to forget that there is an abundance of quality in the lower end of the table. These players may not get the same amount of attention and recognition, but their talent certainly deserves it. The battle to avoid relegation is as ferocious as ever this year, with Brighton, West Ham, Bournemouth, Aston Villa, Watford, and Norwich vying to keep afloat. Below, each of the @TopBinsTalk writers decide who makes their bottom-six combined XI.
Max’s Combined XI
The more I look at the players on these bottom six squads, the more surprised I am that some of these teams are struggling for points. Then again, it also reminds us of the quality of the Premier League. What I found most difficult about formulating this combined squad was leaving certain players out. From these six teams, there are three keepers that are head and shoulders above the rest: Lucasz Fabianski (West Ham), Maty Ryan (Brighton), and Ben Foster (Watford). I went with Aussie keeper Maty Ryan as my choice, who holds the 10th best save percentage in the league, and has allowed 40 goals compared to Foster’s 44. What he lacks in height he certainly makes up for by his quick reactions and agility. My omission of Fabianski was based partly on the fact that he has been injured for a large part of the season, and has been at fault for a few goals since his return.
For the right-back position, my decision was fairly straightforward with the selection of Norwich’s Max Aarons. After impressing in the Championship last season, he has stepped up a division with relative ease and looks at home in the top flight. I’m expecting a move to a bigger club for him this summer. At centre half, I’ve gone with Brighton’s Lewis Dunk and Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake. I believe their playing styles would compliment each other, with Dunk’s fantastic ability in the air and broad passing range pairing well with Ake’s physical presence and speed. The left-back decision was quite difficult, as none of the possible selections exactly stand out. Jamal Lewis was impressive last season, but hasn’t kicked on quite as he would have liked to, despite his goal against Leicester. Big Dan Burn, the 6’7 defender who has slotted in at LB for Brighton this season, has been solid but I’m unconvinced by his longevity in the position. As a result, I’ve gone with Aston Villa’s Matty Targett, bought last summer from Southampton, and although he is by no means flashy, he is a dependable defender with good set-piece delivery.
In midfield, I’ve gone with Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure and Aston Villa’s John Mcginn as my pair in the centre of the park. Although Doucoure has been utilized further up the pitch since Nigel Pearson’s appointment as Watford manager, I still believe he’s more suited for a deeper role in midfield. His strong, lanky build and relentless energy are a must need in any side — there’s a reason he was courted by PSG last summer. Next to him, and perhaps in a slightly more advanced role, is Scotsman John McGinn, who’s season was unfortunately disrupted by injury a few months ago. Before that, however, the diminutive midfielder had been very impressive, scoring three goals (including one against Arsenal) and providing two assists.
In the advanced midfield roles, I start with a player that would surely be in everyone’s starting XI: Jack Grealish. A player who it feels as though has been around forever, Grealish has come into life this year back in the top flight. If Aston Villa do manage to stay up, his work will have played an absolutely integral part. The Englishman has scored seven goals and provided six assists in the league this year, and his form had surely prompted an England call-up, only delayed because of the suspension of the league. Roaming across the attacking third of the pitch, expect him to drift centrally from the left. My next selection will undoubtedly be controversial, and he perhaps may even be unheard of to many, but I’ve gone with Brighton’s new signing Alexis MacAllister. Recalled from his loan spell at Boca Juniors in January, he has actually only made one Premier League appearance for the Seagulls so far, but he is a player with massive potential and once he finds his feet, I believe he will be Brighton’s most dangerous player. On the right hand side, I’ve gone for an injection of much needed pace in the side and selected Ismaila Sarr, who has begun to settle in at Watford after his move from Rennes over the summer, hitting the headlines after his two goal showing against Liverpool last month. Expect him to only continue improving.
After considering the options up top, it became slightly clearer why some of these teams are struggling towards the bottom of the table — there is simply not enough quality forward options in these sides. The three I only really considered were Neal Maupay (Brighton), Teemu Pukki (Norwich), and Callum Wilson (Bournemouth). Michail Antonio was another option, but he simply isn’t nearly prolific enough to be a trustwothy sole striker. I ended up going with Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson, who is the most experienced Premier League striker of the options and scored 14 in the league last season.
In the end, my team lined up like this:
Bench: Fabianski (West Ham), Mings (Aston Villa), Cantwell (Norwich), Rice (West Ham), Buendia (Norwich), J. King (Bournemouth), Maupay (Brighton).
*Special shoutouts to Bournemouth’s David Brooks and West Ham’s Jack Wilshere*
Phil’s Combined XI
Like Max, I can only feel greatly surprised that many of these teams are scrapping to avoid relegation. The amount of promising talent is impressive, though maybe it only works out that way once the combined team is formed. That being said, here I go.
The keepers are fairly straightforward. My top two are Aaron Ramsdale and Mathew Ryan. Though Tom Heaton and Tim Krul are both proven veterans, both Ramsdale and Ryan have enjoyed incredibly successful seasons. That being said, because he is a Premier League homegrown talent, Aaron Ramsdale will be our starter.
The defenders are a bit more lackluster than I would have expected. Maybe that’s why these teams are where they are in the table… As the wide backs that I would have chosen are younger and not as proven, I opt for a back-three. The three center backs I have chosen are Lewis Dunk, Nathan Aké, and Tyrone Mings. Dunk has repeatedly proven himself to be a sound defender and leader. Despite playing for a bottom-six club, he has an England cap to his name. Nathan Aké, since leaving Chelsea in 2017, has become a regular starter for Bournemouth, and has managed 12 Netherlands caps. Constantly linked with top-six clubs, he was an obvious choice. Lastly, Mings is a tank. You see him on your tele screen and think “who the f*ck is this guy???” Mings was pivotal in Villa’s promtion efforts last season, and has been decent all season for them since joining permanently. With two England caps to his name, Mings will stay in the Prem even if Villa go down. Norwich youngsters Max Aarons and Ben Godfrey make the bench, neither having proved enough at the Prem level to make the XI. Shane Duffy and Issa Diop miss out due to inconsistency.
The four across the middle are arguably the most difficult to choose from. I selected two youngsters with top-six potential, and two established players who should probably be playing for top-six clubs.
Through the middle are Declan Rice and Abdoulaye Doucouré. I believe Declan Rice will become an England regular in the few years, whenever that may occur. He has shown the ability to defend properly and distribute deliberately. In a formation with a lone defensive-mid, he could get into most sides. Doucouré is an extremely talented player. I fell in love with Arsenal due to Henry, Vieira, and their French influence, so I really would enjoy seeing Doucouré at the club. Deployed in a more advanced role by Nigel Pearson, he has bagged a few goals and remains an impressive defender. I picked these two over John McGinn, who makes the bench, as McGinn has been intermittently injured and only has a little over half a Prem season under his belt.
On either wing, Ismaïla Sarr and Todd Cantwell. Sarr is a pacy young winger, now known for killing Liverpool’s invincible dream. In a few years time, he’ll be at a top-six club. He’s Sadio Mané’s Senegalese heir. Cantwell, Norwich’s wide playmaker, is very well known for his dance moves, but don’t be fooled. He dances because he’s scored six times in his first Prem season. Like Sarr, he’ll end up at a top-six club. I could have gone with Fraser or Buendia, but the younger two have the highest ceilings.
My front three are all established Prem players, but are the only three possible choices, based on talent and consistency. The first two have been doing it for a few seasons, as Callum Wilson scores goals regularly (and has earned himself a few England caps for it) and Gerard Deulofeu creates an abundance chances for any side he’s been a part of. Villa’s talisman Jack Grealish takes the final place. He’s been more or less the only good thing that has come from Villa’s first season back in the Prem, and will surely get a move to a big side when his side is relegated.
For the bench, my options were Sebastien Haller, Neal Maupay, Teemu Pukki, and Felipe Anderson. In the end, my choice was the massive French target man. He is suited to many styles of play and showed he can be highly productive last season at Frankfurt. I decided Maupay wouldn’t sustain his form with better teams, while Pukki and Anderson have been far too inconsistent this year.
In the end, my team looks like this:
Bench: Mathew Ryan (Brighton), Ben Godfrey (Norwich), Max Aarons (Norwich), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Emi Buendia (Norwich), Sebastien Haller (West Ham)
Brice’s Combined XI
The breadth of talent that exists in the bottom six sides is astonishing. The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world top to bottom, and when promoted teams such as Fulham and Aston Villa spend over 100 million you’re going to see some talent riddled squads. I felt the same sense of bewilderment as Max and Phil when I realized that three of these teams will be relegated (unless the season is voided of course).
I went for an attack-heavy team because most of the quality exists in these positions and I wasn’t particularly fond of the choices at outside back. The back three pick themselves as they are the clear frontrunners in this position. They are the few bright spots in the relatively porous defenses of these teams. Lewis Dunk and Maty Ryan lead the most solid group that has only conceded a respectable 40 goals thus far. Issa Diop and Nathan Aké are physical specimens that have really impressed in the last couple of years despite their team struggles. The Keepers were the toughest group to pick from actually, as I considered all of Ryan, Fabianski, Ramsdale, Foster, and Heaton.
With three in the back, my primary worry about this team is that they could get burned on the counter as I’ve picked three very attacking players to play in the midfield four. Looks like they’ll just have to outscore teams! One of the players that will be doing the majority of that is Jack Grealish, the most obvious choice in this team. Jack will be on his way to a much bigger club this summer as he’s proven his quality throughout this season. Next to him is Todd Cantwell, Abdoulaye Doucouré, and Ismaila Sarr, all three of who I could see joining Grealish at a bigger club in the next few years. It was difficult leaving out John McGinn, David Brooks, Emiliano Buendia, and Declan Rice but a couple of them might find a place on the bench.
In the front three went with the two Wilsons and Felipe Anderson. Harry Wilson and
Tom Hanks’ Wils Callum Wilson have kept Bournemouth afloat this year by combining for 15 goals. Every team needs a freekick maestro and Harry Wilson is at the top of that pile. On the left I have Felipe Anderson. Despite not having a great year, Felipe Anderson is one of the most skillful players in the league and could contribute at a club much higher up the table. Outside of Grealish, I believe he’s the best player in this group. I didn’t consider too many other players for these positions, but the ones who narrowly missed out were Deulofeu, Pukki, and Haller.
On the bench I’ve gone with Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Aaron Cresswell (West Ham), John McGinn (Aston Villa), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Gerard Deulofeu (Watford), Neal Maupay (Brighton)
My team ends up looking like this…