The brand new Kings of the Premier League show landed on Sky Sports this week, in which Adam Smith and two guests were tasked with building their team of the month.
The panel will be pitting stats against gut, comparing results from the statistical Power Rankings with fans’ votes for Kings of the Match on the Premier League website.
This month, Smithy was joined by former England centre-back Sol Campbell and Hashtag United FC founder and YouTuber Spencer Owen.
So, how did the team team unfold? Let’s start between the sticks where there is an uncontested winner…
There was unanimous agreement to select West Ham stopper Lucasz Fabianski after his three successive clean sheets.
“He’s done really well, incredible,” said Campbell. “He’s got the fans behind him as well. Last three games, three clean sheets, you can’t better that as a goalkeeper and it gives confidence to the entire team.”
Spencer, a West Ham fan, added: “I’ve worked with a lot of the players over the past few seasons and [Fabianski is] the signing they always talk about.”
Missed out: Hugo Lloris, Aaron Ramsdale, Dean Henderson, Ederson, Nick Pope, Mathew Ryan, David de Gea and Angus Gunn
Virgil van Dijk was immediately pencilled in by Campbell, who praised the way the Dutchman commands his partnership with Joel Matip at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
“You need your centre-backs really rocking and rolling, and working together,” he said. “There’s a great balance [between them], not a lot of crossing over. There’s organisation, communication and a coolness under pressure. If you’re tense and all over the place it spreads like wildfire through the whole team.”
But Campbell and Spencer left Matip out of their XI, instead drafting in Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake to complete an all-Dutch centre-back pairing.
Missed out: Fikayo Tomori, Jannik Vestergaard, Joel Matip, Issa Diop, Fabian Schar, Tyrone Mings and Lewis Dunk
As was the case with Fabianski, both guests immediately agreed to assign Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back.
“Such a young lad in the game. He’s got a fantastic future ahead,” Campbell said. “He’s scoring goals as well. He’s doing everything and he’s enjoying it at the same time. When you look at the stats and also how he’s played, he has character.”
On the opposing flank, Spencer mulled over a head-to-head between Andy Robertson and Lucas Digne, but swayed towards selecting the former, citing Robertson’s greater passing accuracy as the deciding factor.
Missed out: Ricardo Pereira, Diego Rico, Aaron Cresswell, Ryan Fredericks, Patrick van Aanholt, Adam Traore and Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Three midfield spots were up for grabs and Campbell immediately opted for the man of the moment at Manchester City.
“You cannot go past Kevin De Bruyne,” he said. “What a wonderful player, His assists, passing ability, the timing of passing and the vision. It’s just incredible.”
James Maddison was placed under the spotlight and compared unfavourably alongside De Bruyne, but, one week on from scoring his late winner against Tottenham, Spencer argued the case for the Leicester midfielder.
“His numbers don’t compare,” he said. “But he’s in a team that will create fewer chances.” Sol agreed and sealed Maddison’s place in the Kings of the Premier League XI, adding: “It’s fantastic to see that kind of player in there, and forcing his way in.
“It’s difficult as a player starting out, you want to get it there, you’ve got to muscle your way in, keep on performing, and that’s what he’s doing. He’ll get England time.”
Bernardo Silva completed the midfield after scoring a hat-trick during Manchester City’s 8-0 win over Watford last weekend.
Missed out: Rodri, John McGinn, Felipe Anderson, John Lundstram, Daniel James, Matteo Guendouzi and Todd Cantwell
Liverpool have started the season with six consecutive victories, a run that has extended their overall winning streak in the division to 15 games.
But, remarkably, none of their formidable front three have made the cut, with the individual performances of Tammy Abraham, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero too good to overlook.
“A couple of guys are going to miss out,” Spencer explains. “Is there a world where we don’t put any Liverpool players in this front three? Seems like a crime, especially when they’re winning every game and we know how good the front three is.
“I feel for Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, particularly Firmino because he is so important for Liverpool’s attack, but we’ve got creative midfielders in this team that can do that job.”
Spencer was also keen to coin a new strike-force acronym for the forwards selected.
“We’ve had ‘MSN’ for Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. ‘SAS’ for Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, and Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton. Well how about ‘AAA’ for Abraham, Aubameyang and Aguero?”
“For sure!” Campbell agreed. “But not just because of that! It’s the numbers they’ve produced over the past few games.”
Missed out: Roberto Firmino, Callum Wilson, Sadio Mane, Heung-Min Son and Jamie Vardy
King of the Month
“As someone banging on the drum about English players coming in… Tammy [Abraham] is the leading man [over the past month]. It’s how he’s started, how he’s taken that mantle, taken the pressure and taken the pressure off Frank [Lampard] as well. You want these young players to take their chance and also be given the opportunity, but then going for it. Some players get their chance and don’t take it, but he has.”