WITH the Champions League final still a few days away, we continue to wrap up the highs and lows of the 2021/22 Dream Team campaign.
Here we’ve identified an unsung hero from each position we feel is worthy of overdue celebration.
Admittedly, the definition of ‘unsung hero’ is loose and fleeting but we’ll do our best to justify our selections.
GOALKEEPER: Hugo Lloris (£3.7m)
Jose Sa (£3.1m) was the surprise package among the custodians this season but his sustained challenge to the regular top boys meant he earned plenty of headlines.
And so we reckon Tottenham’s skipper is the man who went under the radar given he was one of only five assets in his position to achieve a century of points (exactly 100 points in the Frenchman’s case) alongside the aforementioned Sa and the first-choice keepers of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.
Lloris banked 30 points in his last eight outings of the season which is put into perspective by Ederson’s (£4.2m) tally of seven in his last seven appearances – the Brazilian has been the most popular keeper for the majority of the campaign.
The 2018 World Cup winner featured in 2.6% of teams for the final Game Week of term, making him less popular than Kasper Schmeichel (£3.5m), David de Gea (£2.4m), Aaron Ramsdale (£2.3m), Emiliano Martinez (£2.2m) and Jordan Pickford (£1.8m), all of whom finished with fewer total points.
DEFENDER: Craig Dawson (£3.1m)
Defence was dominated by the top three clubs like never before in 2021/22.
The top 15 assets in the positions all represent either Liverpool, Chelsea or Man City.
It’s not impossible for players from the top three to be ‘unsung heroes’ (as we’ll discover momentarily) but generally speaking, they are widely selected and much discussed.
And so this particular crown has to go to West Ham’s experienced centre-back.
Dawson’s total of 114 points puts him first among those defenders who don’t call the Etihad, Anfield or Stamford Bridge home.
The 32-year-old chipped in with four goals in all competitions and was a favourite of David Moyes, racking up 50 appearances in 2021/22.
The Hammers’ defence wasn’t their strongest contingent as eight teams conceded fewer league goals but Dawson mustered a very respectable tally almost through sheer diligence and effort alone.
MIDFIELDER: Rodri (£4.0m)
The Spain international gets the nod here because he defied expectations of a defensive midfielder.
Generally, players who sit deep in a three-man midfield are tasked with turnovers and ball retention.
In the same way Sergio Busquets was a key cog for Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side, Rodri’s press resistance, defensive effort and tempo setting kept City slick enough to hold off Liverpool’s title challenge.
Usually, such a role would not translate to Dream Team success but the former Atletico Madrid man ended with 145 points, a tally only bettered by 11 other midfielders.
Rodri earned more 7+ ratings than most his peers and was a far more regular goalscorer than most had anticipated prior to Game Week 1.
His crucial strike against Aston Villa on Sunday was his seventh league goal of the season.
It’s understandable that Rodri’s viability was perhaps overlooked by Dream Team gaffers, given the explosive returns of Kevin De Bruyne (£7.9m), Riyad Mahrez (£6.8m), Bernardo Silva (£4.3m) and Phil Foden (£5.9m).
Jarrod Bowen (£5.1m) and James Maddison (£5.3m) were magnificent midfield magicians but they don’t qualify as ‘unsung heroes’ because we’ve been singing about them for months on end!
FORWARD: Ivan Toney (£4.7m)
Up front, it simply has to be Brentford’s primary striker.
The list of names above Toney in the forward rankings says everything you need to know about just how dramatically he has punched above his weight: Gabriel Jesus (£4.5m), Sadio Mane (£5.3m), Cristiano Ronaldo (£7.6m), Diogo Jota (£4.8m), Son Heung-min (£6.6m), Harry Kane (£7.9m) and Mohamed Salah (£7.2m).
14 goals and six assists in all competitions represents a great haul for a player from a promoted club who had to contend with an injury setback at a key phase.
When all was said and done, the 26-year-old produced 171 points, eclipsing the likes of Romelu Lukaku (£4.5m), Michail Antonio (£3.8m), Jamie Vardy (£4.3m), Kai Havertz (£3.5m) and others who were more fancied at various stages.
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