The 2018-19 Premier League campaign ended with a bang. There were 36 goals over the final weekend, making it the highest-scoring single matchweek of the season, resulting in a dramatic (if not stressful) Sunday for fans and fantasy players alike.
In real life, Manchester City and Liverpool both capped off their fantastic seasons with multi-goal performances with City finishing the year as English champions for a second consecutive season. It was Liverpool though, that proved to be the best source of fantasy points this season with five of the 11 best players in the ESPN game coming from the Merseyside club. As for the race for the Champions League places, it was Chelsea and Tottenham that wound up securing their seats at Europe's top table next season.
In terms of fantasy, every player in our "Team of the Year" came from clubs that finished in the top four. While it is unsurprising that the best clubs have the best players, it is somewhat surprising that players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ryan Fraser failed to make the cut. While both were fantastic, ending the season as top-15 players, they just missed out due to the construction of this team needing to fit a valid footballing formation.
Other interesting trends from this year that should probably be kept in mind come August are that wingers vastly outperformed central playmakers, centerbacks dominated the defensive tiers, and that the best goalkeepers in our game are still the ones with the best defenses in front of them.
With all that preamble out of the way, here is the ESPN Premier League Fantasy Team of the Year.
Mohamed Salah, Liverpool, 594.9 Points, No. 2 overall
Compared to his 2017-18 campaign, Salah had a bit of a down year, yet he still managed to score more points than everyone other than Eden Hazard in the ESPN game. Despite scoring 10 fewer goals this season, Salah still dominated the league in the shooting categories, finishing first in goals, total shots and shots-on-target. While there is far more to Salah's game than just shooting, those three statistics accounted for more than 60 percent of his total points this season which, on their own, would have been enough for the Liverpool man to still finish as a top-35 player. Now having seen two seasons of Salah, it's hard to say whether last year or this one is a better indicator of who he is as a player but, in terms of fantasy, he's incredible regardless.
Sergio Aguero, Manchester City, 489.4 Points, No. 8 overall
It seems like it's "always the bridesmaid and never (well, once) the bride" for Aguero and the Golden Boot. Still, he continues to churn out year upon year of high-end attacking production. Since coming to the Premier League in 2011, the Manchester City man has scored 20-plus goals in five of seven seasons, only failing to do so when playing less than 2,000 minutes. While impressive, Aguero basically has to score in order to have any value in the ESPN game. Of the 18 games in which he scored 10-plus points, only three of those came without a goal. The upside was still incredible though, with Aguero being the only player to record multiple hat-tricks this season (three). On the whole, the Manchester City man has been a goal gamble, but there's simply not a better one in England.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea, 631.4 Points, No. 1 overall
For an in-depth analysis of Hazard, check out my article on him from last week. He's simply the best.
Paul Pogba, Manchester United, 525.1 Points, No. 3 overall
At around the halfway point of the season, I wrote that Pogba had been one of the unluckiest players in the league. Under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, that luck did indeed turn around. While the year didn't end the way Manchester United would have wanted, Pogba was undoubtedly better with Ole at the wheel, scoring 10 of his 13 goals and nearly 60 percent of his points after the managerial switch. While he has drawn criticism in the media and even from within his own fanbase, Pogba still finished the season leading United in goals, assists, and shots both on- and off-target, as well as in chances created. Yes, he probably should have done better down the stretch, but Pogba was an elite fantasy player this year, and will likely be again wherever he is in 2019-20
Raheem Sterling - Manchester City, 497.4 Points, No. 6 overall
Sterling had another fantastic campaign for Manchester City, en route to another Premier League title. While he ends the season just third among midfielders, going with Sterling in your fantasy lineup was always a safe bet. Sterling recorded double-digit points in 65 percent of his matches, and scored five or fewer points just three times. I mentioned earlier this season that Sterling was a must-own when starting on the right, and that proved to be fantastic advice. In fact, his 17.8 points-per-game average when playing in his preferred position was higher than any player this season.
Sadio Mane, Liverpool, 493 Points, No. 7 overall
With Salah on the same club -- and in the same tier -- Mane was frequently overlooked this season, despite it arguably being his best in England. His 22 goals were almost as many as he'd managed the two previous seasons combined (23), and it came amid a career-high 42 shots-on-target. It's arguable that this was his best season, even as every one of his creative stats (assists, chances created, accurate crosses, etc.) plummeted to their lowest points since he joined Liverpool. In fantasy, this is still a net positive, as goals are worth twice as many points as assists. Still, it is still a bit strange to see a player's tendencies shift so drastically, especially at age 27. It will be interesting to see which version of Mane we see next season. Either way, he will certainly be a worthwhile fantasy asset.
Christian Eriksen, Tottenham, 487.1 Points, No. 9 overall
Eriksen was another player listed in the "Unlucky XI" earlier this season and, like Pogba, he certainly upped his game in the second-half. After ranking 18th overall in chances created at the halfway point, Eriksen cranked it up a notch, ranking in the category's top five for the rest of the campaign (47). Despite this big creative uptick, the assists never really picked up and Eriksen ended up posting his second-fewest assists (12) in any season since joining Tottenham. The injury woes of Harry Kane proved to be a big factor, though, as the midfielder recorded 75 percent of his assists this season with Kane on the pitch. With that in mind, it's actually quite impressive that Eriksen still managed to generate enough fantasy points to make this squad.
Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool, 514.4 Points, No. 5 overall
Many thought that Liverpool overpaid to get van Dijk from Southampton in last season's winter window, but it has worked out tremendously well for both parties. Since joining Jurgen Klopp's side, they have conceded the fewest goals (37) and recorded the most clean sheets (29) in the league. Although the latter is not a scoring category for outfield players in the ESPN game, there's no shortage of ways in which van Dijk can pick up points. In fact, on average, the defender recorded points from at least four different categories 22 times this season. The most important of these was passes, of which he recorded the third-most this season. Just this one stat alone meant that the 27-year-old had a floor of 7.1 points-per-game. Add in Premier League highs at his position in both goals (four) and assists (four) and it's little wonder that van Dijk ended the season as the best defender in the game.
Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City, 443.4 Points, No. 14 overall
Speaking of defenders who can pass, there's no better at playing the ball than Laporte. The Manchester City man completed a ridiculous 2,769 passes which, despite being worth just 0.1 points apiece, accounted for more than 60 percent of his overall fantasy points (443.4) this season. While Laporte doesn't use as many avenues to get his points as does van Dijk, it should be noted that, over the 34 matchweeks in which they both played, Laporte scored more points than his positional rival 19 times. If he wants to be the best at his position though, he'll need to improve in the defensive categories, considering he finished outside the top 40 in every single one of them: tackles, blocks, interceptions, and clearances. If he can simply add those elements to his game, there's every chance that Laporte could finish 2019-20 as the top fantasy defender.
David Luiz, Chelsea, 420.1 Points, No. 23 overall
You may have expected to see attacking fullbacks like Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, or Lucas Digne on this list, but Luiz -- the third-highest scoring defender in our game -- still finished with at least 20 points more than any of those other players. Luiz impressed in the passing game recording a three-year high in both chances created and completed passes. While he's not elite in many other categories, Luiz proved to be a "jack of all trades" option in fantasy finishing top 100 in nine of the 15 scoring categories in the ESPN game. His upside was admittedly limited compared to some of the other players that inhabited the D1 tier but, on the season, Luiz recorded fewer than five points just twice. So, while he was never really likely to singlehandedly win you a week, he almost assuredly never lost one for you either.
Alisson, Liverpool, 516.4 Points, No. 4 overall
Alisson simply dominated the goalkeeping position this season. He conceded the fewest goals (22) while also recording the most clean sheets (21) in the Premier League. He ended up outscoring No. 2 netminder Hugo Lloris by over 50 points. While Lloris contributed in a lot of different categories, Alisson basically did all fo his damage in just three, ranking in the top five in cross-punches, goals allowed, and clean sheets. This proved to be more than enough for him to finish as the best at his position, especially with each goal allowed losing you five points and each clean sheet gaining you a 10-point bonus. Of course, drawing such a high-percentage of your points from so few statistics can lead to some "all or nothing" performances. Still, as long as the Liverpool defense remains one of the best in the league, Alisson should continue to shine.