UEFA Europa League 2022-23: Team of the Season
This year’s edition sees AS Roma face Sevilla in the Puskas Arena in Budapest in the final, on Thursday
A variety of teams have played and made their impression on the viewers of the Europa League this year. Major European giants such as Manchester United, Juventus, Arsenal have played in the competition however are unable to win the coveted trophy, as record winners Sevilla and AS Roma go up against each other for the crown jewel. Here’s a look at this year’s Europa League Team of the Year and the best eleven players in our eyes.
Manager – Jose Mourinho
The Portuguese enigma or the one and only “Special One” has had quite the managerial journey in the years leading up to the AS Roma job. In his debut season in a three-year deal, he managed to win the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League last year, became the first manager to win all three major European Cups and got himself tattooed to signify the achievement!
Now after pulling off upset wins against Real Sociedad, Feyenoord and Bayer Leverkusen, he’s reached his sixth European Cup final and is on the verge of adding another record to his storied career. In his own words, “Finals are not for playing, they are for winning” and we have no other choice but to pick the Special One as the Manager of the Year.
Goalkeeper – Rui Patricio, Roma
Very few would have predicted a veteran keeper, on the wrong side of 30 would be anything than a utility player who’s a make-stop for a top young goalkeeper. However, the former Wolves player has made the role his own and has been the standout goalkeeper for Roma Europa League run, and are a win away from winning two consecutive European finals.
He’s been the outright leader in a resolute Roma team which has relied heavily on its defence and he leads the clean sheets in this year’s campaign with six. Alongside teammate Mancini in defence, he’s also made the second-highest appearances He also has the fifth-highest save percentage(79.5%), besides also keeping out 2.3 saves per 90 minutes, which makes him a top choice for this year’s team.
Right-back – Jeremie Frimpong, Bayer Leverkusen
The Dutch full-back was a bundle of energy on the Leverkusen right side, and his partnership with Moussa Diaby formed to be a great combination at one point, with six-goal combinations back in February. This stat made them amongst the top 5 goal combination providers in Europe’s Top 5 leagues, and excelling both in the Bundesliga as well as the Europa League this year.
He’s also amongst the fastest players in Europe with a recorded running speed of 36.2 kmph, besides his immense dribbling and ball-carrying ability. He’s scored a crucial goal against Union St.Gilloise, and an assist against Monaco, in the Round of 8 and Round of 32 respectively and help Bayer reach the semi-finals this year. His pure consistency gets him into this year’s team.
Right Centre back- Victor Lindelof, Manchester United
The Swedish defender has been the solid and consistent presence in this year’s Europa League and is being paired alongside captain Harry Maguire in leading Manchester United’s Europa League campaign. However, his role and consistency were even further called upon when both United’s first-choice centre-back pair of Varane and Martinez got injured, and Lindelof had to manage to play non-stop football in both the league and the cups.
He’s helped cover the deficit of Lisandro’s ball-playing ability, and has been the player with the highest accurate passing percentage (Europa League) from the back into the forward areas with 94.8%, & also ranked second in accurate passes per 90 (65.7). He’s helped his side keep four clean sheets in seven appearances while also being amongst the top clearances per 90 in 2.9 for the season, and get in our team of the year.
Centre-back – Edmond Tapsoba, Bayer Leverkusen
The defensive versatility makes him the standout performer in Xabi Alonso’s revival of Bayer Leverkusen’s fortunes where the Spanish midfielder has been able to employ a back three of Tapsoba, Tah and Hincapie for most of the Europa League campaign and successfully manoeuvre way till their elimination at the hands of AS Roma.
However, he was the most influential performer even in losses to Jose Mourinho’s side and was responsible for the German outfit, winning 12 aerial duels, making six clearances, five tackles and four interceptions, while also attempting 184 passes across both legs in the semi-final. His recent performances have the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham being interested in a move in the upcoming transfer window, and his dribbling defending percentage of 90.91% makes him the number one ranked defender in the category and a certainty in our team.
Left back- David Hancko, Feyenoord
Feyenoord were amongst the most prolific and dangerous side in this year’s Europa League. Naturally, all the attention has been on their key players in midfield and the forward such as Kokcu, Weiffer, Giminez, all of whom have earned rave reviews across Europe and linked with numerous suitors.
However, a key presence in the Feyenoord team has been Slovakian central defender David Hancko, who was brought in the summer to replace Marco Senesi. He was amongst the top players for Arne Slot’s side and was a key factor in their build up from the back with approx 3.5 accurate long ball per 90 mins played. His on-ball ability shone throughout the season, as he was second in total attempted passes (717), first in total accurate passes(629) played, besides his immense aerial ability.
Central midfield – Lorenzo Pellegrini, AS Roma
The local boy and Rome captain is the ever-reliant presence in Jose Mourinho team’s success this year. Despite the limited options upfront, the creativity provided by Italy International has been the reason for their progress till the final. He has the highest goal contribution in the Europa League this season (4G,4A) and will look to end his campaign with the trophy under Jose Mourinho’s guidance for the second consecutive season.
He alongside Bruno Fernandes is the outright leader in numerous statistical factors such as total shots on goal (1st), assists (1st), shots assisted (1st), attempted & accurate crosses (Both 1st) etc., in the Europa League this year, and easily makes the team.
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Defensive midfield – Ivan Rakitic, Sevilla
The former Barcelona player has the honour of being the first player ever to win the Champions League a year after winning the Europa League while playing for two clubs. He completed the feat back in 2015 with Barcelona after winning the Europa League the year before with Sevilla. Now a club legend at 35, he’s looking to cap off a brilliant career with another Europa League trophy to his name.
He’s put in instrumental performances against Manchester United and Juventus in the last rounds and can be expected to always turns up in a big match and another major final. He ranks in the top ten in chances created in this year’s Europa League and is a first name in the Sevilla team sheet, as well as ours.
Central midfield – Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United
The Manchester United talisman in Eric Ten Hag’s new era at Manchester United this season and the added responsibility of the armband has certainly brought more maturity in his game this year. He started 10 of United’s 11 Europa League matches and added a goal and three assists. He also ranked first in shots assisted(31), third in passes in the opposition half(380), first in big chances created (11), total chances created(11), & expected assists (4.1xA). Besides his statistical brilliance, the evolution in his game of being more of a creator and allowing his teammates to succeed also made his team successful and is in this year’s team of the year.
Left Forward – Marcus Rashford, Manchester United
The England International capped off his best possible season in the top flight in England and ended with 17 goals and five assists. He was able to carry over his impactful performances into the Europa League as well and will finish as the top scorer in this year’s campaign with six goals. He’s also second behind Lorenzo Pellegrini in total goal contributions with seven, while also registering 4th in goals per 90(0.96), 2nd in expected goals(5.2), expected goals per 90(0.83xG), shots per 90(5.1).
He’s mirrored his Portuguese team-mate Bruno Fernandes in leading most statistical categories in the Europa League and has stood out head and shoulder above the average player in the competition, and walks into the team of the year.
Forward – Victor Okoh Boniface, Union St. Gillloise
It has been the dream season for his Nigerian compatriot Victor Osimhen, who’s taken all of the limelight in the Champions League and Serie A. However, this 22-year-old Nigerian prodigy has put clubs across Europe on notice with his Europa League-leading scoring record of six goals which is tied for joint-highest with Marcus Rashford this season. His assist tally isn’t far behind as he’s tied second in goal involvements(7) with Rashford & only behind Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Such a display on the leading European stage also helped his Belgian club side reach the furthest ever(quarter-finals) in the club’s history. Such a fascinating rise within a year of his move from Bodo Glimt last year has also enabled his club’s side to compete for the top spot in the Belgian league also. He has 20 goals and 10 assists in 49 games in all competitions and clubs like Union Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt, AC Milan, and Napoli all want him in the summer. His rise could further continue next year in Europe’s top tier and certainly caught our eyes for this year.
Right Forward – Angel Di Maria, Juventus
Now a World Cup winner, Angel Di Maria has had quite an illustrious career playing in the biggest clubs in the world and mostly in the Champions League. However, due to Juventus’ fall from grace into the Europa League this year, Di Maria showed his class in his usual spurs of brilliance.
His brilliance was seen in the hattrick in the second leg away tie at Nantes with Juventus under immense pressure to progress from the Round of 16. He scored yet again in a man-of-the-match performance against Freiburg in the next round and helped the Old Lady reach the quarter-final stage, and exiting against Sporting. The former PSG player ended up being amongst the top five goal-getters in this year’s competition and makes this year’s team of the year purely based on the impact he created for his side in only seven appearances all season.
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