Rice, Raphinha and GOAL's non-'Big Six' Premier League Team of the Season

Raphinha Declan Rice Conor Gallagher GFXGetty/GOAL

On Monday, GOAL published our Premier League Team of the Season following the dramatic culmination of the campaign.

As tends to happen with these sides, the players selected were largely from the same small number of clubs, with 10 of this year's 11 players from what has come to be known as the 'Big Six': Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United.

For the first time since 2019, those six clubs finished in the top six positions (and in the exact same order, for what that is worth), meaning their monopoly on select XIs is likelier to be even greater than in previous seasons.

So with that in mind, GOAL has put together a team that discounts players from the 'Big Six', and gives those who excelled further down the table their moment in the sun...

  • Jose Sa Wolves 2021-22Getty Images

    GK: Jose Sa (Wolves)

    Wolves' star performer this season was summer signing Sa, whose brilliance allowed Bruno Lage's side to squeeze through matches even when second best.

    Sa ranks fourth in the Premier League for total saves (120) and tops the charts for save percentage (79.3%). Most impressively, he is also number one for post-shot expected goals (how likely a goalkeeper is to save a shot) minus total number of goals allowed – a calculation that accurately measures how much a goalkeeper has overperformed the average. 

    A good way to think of this metric is an xG equivalent for goalkeepers, and Sa's score of +9.32 is significantly higher than the second best, David de Gea, with +6.7. In other words, Sa saved Wolves more than nine goals. 

    If that wasn't enough, he is also an incredible sweeper, ranking third (behind Alisson Becker and Ederson) for total number of defensive actions outside the penalty area, with 40.

  • Matty Cash Aston Villa 2021-22Getty Images

    RB: Matty Cash (Aston Villa)

    Aston Villa's Player of the Year didn't grab a lot of headlines outside of Birmingham, but quietly Cash has excelled under Steven Gerrard – a manager who demands a lot of his full-backs going forward.

    Now a regular for Poland, Cash could see his status grow considerably next year if he impresses at the World Cup in Qatar.

    Although known for his energy in overlapping and his good crossing ability (he made the fifth most in the division, with 94), Cash is very strong defensively. He ranks fifth in the Premier League for tackles made (90), second for number of pressures applied to opponents in the defensive third (268), and third for total blocks (91). 

    He only managed two goal contributions, both assists, in his debut Premier League season in 2020-21. His four goals and three assists in 2021-22 is a clear sign that Cash is yet to hit his ceiling.

  • Marc Guehi Crystal Palace 2021-22Getty Images

    CB: Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace)

    Crystal Palace enjoyed an excellent season under Patrick Vieira, who introduced a ball-playing style of football in which centre-back pairing Joachim Anderson and Guehi were put under a lot of pressure to start attacks.

    To illustrate that point, only three of the top 20 players for total touches taken played for bottom-half clubs; Guehi and Anderson were 10th and 14th respectively.

    Guehi epitomises the incredibly quick revolution that Vieira has overseen at Selhurst Park. Most onlookers assumed Palace would struggle to switch tactical strategy so quickly after the Roy Hodgson years, but thanks to astute signings like Guehi, they made it look easy.

    The ex-Chelsea defender's leadership qualities and defensive composure have been excellent, and there is little doubt that the 21-year-old, long tipped to be one of the best of his generation, is well on the way to fulfilling his potential.

  • Craig Dawson West Ham 2021-22Getty Images

    CB: Craig Dawson (West Ham)

    A cult hero at the London Stadium, Dawson is a rock of a centre-back whose heroic tackles and blocks are vital to the bullish defensive shape deployed by David Moyes.

    And he has been more important than ever this season, while injuries and off-field issues have seen fellow centre-backs Kurt Zouma, Issa Diop, and Angelo Ogbonna rotate in and out of the team.

    What makes Dawson so loved at West Ham is the unlikeliness of the story. After a year in the Championship with West Brom was followed by relegation from the Premier League at Watford, nobody expected him to be any more than a squad player when he arrived in east London in 2020.

    But his surprising quality on the ball, coupled with old-school battling defending in his own third, has made Dawson one of Moyes' most important players.

  • Marc Cucurella Brighton 2021-22Getty Images

    LB: Marc Cucurella (Brighton)

    Brighton's left wing-back was recently voted the club's Player of the Year, and that came as no surprise.

    He is one of the most intelligent and subtle players among non-'Big Six' clubs, playing at left-back and left centre-back with equal skill. 

    More than anyone else, Cucurella embodies Graham Potter's hybrid formations and positional rotations, with the 23-year-old regularly overlapping as a centre-back or moving into midfield areas when deployed as a wing-back. A lot of his good work is captured in the stats, too.

    Cucurella ranks 10th in the division for progressive passes, with 175, and he is fifth for passes made under pressure from the opposition, with 327.

    Both metrics show how he is attack-minded and extremely skilled in possession, but his influence overall is best captured in the fact no player outside the 'Big Six' touched the ball as many times this season as his 2,691.

  • Declan Rice West Ham 2021-22Getty Images

    CM: Declan Rice (West Ham)

    The only player to feature in both of GOAL's Premier League Team of the Season line ups is West Ham's talismanic central midfielder, a No.6 and a No.8 all in one who is already approaching 'world-class' status.

    So often mislabelled as a purely defensive player (and he is joint first for blocks, with 95, this season), anyone who watches Rice for a full 90 minutes comes away shocked by his talent.

    He ranks third for carries into the final third, behind Bernardo Silva and ahead of Kevin De Bruyne, while he has also completed the third-most passes into the final third. The two players above him are both defenders, Aymeric Laporte and Joao Cancelo.

    Rice is, quite simply, a brilliant ball-playing midfielder who seems to be everywhere at once.

  • James Ward-Prowse Southampton 2021-22Getty Images

    CM: James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)

    It raised some eyebrows to see Ward-Prowse named on the shortlist for the Premier League Player of the Season award, but Southampton's poor campaign should not overshadow his personal achievements – quite the opposite.

    Playing in a struggling side makes it even more impressive that Ward-Prowse has amassed 10 goals and five assists.

    An all-action midfielder, Ward-Prowse is far more than a dead-ball specialist. He ranks third in the division for passes made that cover more than 40 yards of the width of the pitch (116), while he is also the third-best recover of loose balls, with 414, and eighth overall for key passes per game (2.0).

    In other words, he completely runs matches, despite the fact that the Saints are rarely the ones in control.

  • Conor Gallagher Crystal Palace 2021-22Getty Images

    CM: Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace)

    On-loan Chelsea midfielder Gallagher was making headlines in the first half of the season, but not so much in the second, and indeed he has only managed two goal contributions in 2022 so far.

    Nevertheless, his season tally of eight goals and three assists earns him a place in this line up, with Gallagher's contribution for Crystal Palace going well beyond the final third.

    As an aggressive box-to-box midfielder, the England international's capacity to snap into challenges in the middle of the park is crucial to Patrick Vieira's tactical system, which centres on a compact midblock and making use of the attacking transitions. Gallagher's driving energy has been crucial to Palace's success.

    Statistically, this is best captured by Gallagher topping the charts for most fouls, with 84, despite not being a dirty player, while he has also applied more pressures (781) and more successful pressures (221) than anyone else. His aggression will be very useful for Chelsea next season.

  • Jarrod Bowen West Ham 2021-22Getty Images

    RW: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham)

    There is no need for deep-dive stats for this one.

    Bowen's 22 goals and assists in the Premier League is bettered only by Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-min, Harry Kane, and Kevin De Bruyne, all of whom featured in GOAL's overall Team of the Season.

    Having gone to a whole new level this season, Bowen's sharpness in the final third is turning him into an elite forward.

    Only Salah scores higher on 'goal creating actions' than Bowen's 21, which suggests his assist tally is lower than it might have been in a top side. Like Diogo Jota before him, it looks like Bowen would be able to go to a whole new level if he joined a club like Liverpool.

  • Ivan Toney Brentford 2021-22Getty Images

    ST: Ivan Toney (Brentford)

    Brentford's incredible debut season in the Premier League is all thanks to the tactical work of manager Thomas Frank, who has combined a direct playing style with intricate build-up play once the ball lands in the final third.

    It is an unusual hybrid that makes the Bees very unpredictable, and nobody embodies that better than Toney – who plays like an old-fashioned target man and a lithe modern centre forward at the same time.

    In relation to Brentford's tendency to hit longer passes forward early and win second balls, Toney ranks third in the division for fouls drawn (84) and first among forwards for aerials won, with 150 (third among all players). 

    But Toney is also a ruthless goalscorer and has built a very good relationship with partner Bryan Mbeumo, who dovetail in similar roles. Toney finished the season with 12 goals and five assists, meaning he contributed 25% of Brentford's total strikes.

    Much was made of the impact Christian Eriksen had on reviving the west London outfit's campaign, but it is no coincidence that his arrival – and Brentford's improved form - coincided exactly with Toney's return from injury.

  • Raphinha Leeds United 2021-22Getty Images

    LW: Raphinha (Leeds United)

    Raphinha's celebration with the travelling Leeds United supporters in the stands at Brentford is one of the most iconic images of the season, and it might turn out to be the perfect ending to his time at Elland Road, because a player this talented is unlikely to remain outside the Champions League for much longer.

    The Brazil winger is first among non-'Big Six' players for shot-creating actions this season, with 119, reflecting his incredible creativity even within a team that scraped survival on the last day. 

    His 11 goals and three assists speaks for itself, but what makes Raphinha such an entertaining player is his signature flair: only one player completed more nutmegs than his 15 over the course of the season!