After a scintillating season of Premier League football, EA Sports have shortlisted what they consider to be the 40 best-performing footballers across the English top-flight in 2022-23, before handing that list over to fans from around the world and asking them to vote on which players they think should make the final XI.
With the EA Sports’ FIFA 23 Premier League TOTS being announced on Friday, we thought it would be a good time to make our selections based on real life Opta data ahead of the reveal.
Using the 40-man shortlist, we’ve picked 11 players in a traditional 4-3-3 formation based on who has impressed us the most through their metrics in the Premier League in 2022-23.
So, who made our team?
FIFA 23 TOTS: Goalkeeper
There are five contenders for the goalkeeping spot in Opta’s FIFA 23 Premier League TOTS, but our pick is Liverpool’s Alisson. The Brazilian completes the double, after also making our FIFA 23 TOTY for 2022 in January.
It wasn’t an easy choice, however. Fulham’s Bernd Leno has had an exceptional season in the Premier League and is the only goalkeeper to have a superior goals prevented total (10.7) than Alisson’s 9.7. That said, their goals prevented rate – the number of goals that a goalkeeper is expected to concede as a proportion of the number of goals they actually concede – is much closer, with Alisson’s 1.24 a shade lower than Leno’s 1.26.
Of course, Liverpool’s defence is supposedly stronger than Fulham’s – on paper, at least – so Alisson’s been helped out with 12 clean sheets across 34 appearances. However, the deciding factor in picking Alisson over Leno was the Brazilian’s impact in building play from the back.
The Liverpool No. 1 has been involved in 47 unique shot-ending open-play sequences for Liverpool in the Premier League this season. Only Ederson been involved in more (51), while Leno’s total of 21 shows that he’s not as integral as Alisson at being a part of his side’s build-up play.
No goalkeeper has averaged more successful passes per 90 than Alisson (28.6). Back in 2006-07 when we started analysing passing in Premier League matches, Liverpool also had the leading goalkeeper in this metric: Pepe Reina. The big difference is that Alisson’s average is more than double that of Reina’s in that season (13.3 per 90), showing how important a goalkeeper’s passing ability and range is in the modern game.
FIFA 23 TOTS: Defenders
Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman, William Saliba, Oleksandr Zinchenko
Okay, a few things we need to point out here. Firstly, John Stones isn’t on the FIFA 23 TOTS so we weren’t able to select him. Secondly, not picking his Manchester City team-mate Rúben Dias was one of the toughest calls we made in this team. The main reason that he wasn’t included is that we felt we needed a central defensive representative from the most solid Premier League defence in 2022-23.
So that means our first defensive pick is Newcastle United’s Sven Botman. The Dutch centre-half has played the full 90 minutes in 10 of the 13 games in which Newcastle have kept a clean sheet, while he’s an integral part of the Magpies’ side that have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season (27). Of the 63 Premier League defenders to have been involved in at least 150 duels in 2022-23, Botman has the sixth-best success rate (65.5%) and he’s one of only four in these 63 to have won at least 65% of his aerial duels as well.
It’s easy to forget that William Saliba is still only 22 years old and playing in his first Premier League season. The Arsenal central defender has enjoyed an exceptional campaign and it’s no coincidence that Arsenal’s title challenge began to falter once he suffered a potentially season-ending injury in March.
Saliba is one of the leading defensive ball carriers in the division, with only Lewis Dunk (21.9) and Manuel Akanji (23.1) averaging more carries per 90 of defenders to have played 2,000 minutes or more in the Premier League this season. The Frenchman is a key part of Arsenal building it out from the back, with only Oleksandr Zinchenko (63.9) averaging more completed passes per 90 than Saliba (63.2) at the club in 2022-23.
It’s Zinchenko that takes our left-sided defender role in the Premier League TOTS, with the Ukrainian having a fine first campaign at Arsenal following his move from Man City in the summer.
He’s in a group of the ‘busiest’ players on a Premier League pitch this season, as he’s among only eight players to average at least 90 touches per 90 minutes (92.0) of those that have played at least 1,500 mins, while he gets in dangerous areas of the pitch – only Rodri (46.7) has averaged more successful passes per 90 than Zinchenko (38.9) in 2022-23. More impressive is that Zinchenko has averaged 22.6 successful passes ending in the final third of the pitch per 90 this season – three more than any other player to have played at least 1,000 minutes of action.
Only four Arsenal players have been more involved in more open-play shots on a per 90 basis than he has (5.4), and all of them play in more attacking positions: Martin Ødegaard, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli. Of Zinchenko’s 5.4, a team-high 3.4 have seen his only involvement in the build-up to shots, meaning his role can often go unnoticed.
One defender whose role in the side is hard not to notice is that of Newcastle United’s creator-in-chief Kieran Trippier. The England international slots in at right-back for our FIFA 23 Premier League TOTS.
Trippier has created more chances than any other Premier League player this season (96), while only Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes (13.4) have a higher xG assisted total than the Magpies’ defender (10.7). Much of his threat comes from his set-piece delivery, with Tripper creating the most chances and assisting the highest xG total from both corners (44 and 4.0) and indirect free kicks (18 and 2.8).
Tripper’s threat isn’t just from set pieces, however, as he’s one of just five players to have fired in over 100 open-play crosses in 2022-23 (116), alongside Kevin De Bruyne (134), Trent Alexander-Arnold (124), Antonee Robinson (121) and Ivan Perisic (114).
FIFA 23 TOTS: Midfielders
Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, Martin Ødegaard
Picking three players from this selection of 12 was never going to be an easy task, so inevitably we’re leaving out some top Premier League talent.
If we’re going to include some flair players in our midfield, we need someone with world-class ball retention abilities and the ball-winning attributes to match. That player in the centre of our midfield is Man City’s Rodri.
Not only is Rodri the player to complete the most passes on a per 90 basis in the competition this season overall (84), he has also averaged five more per 90 minutes than any other player in the attacking half of the pitch (47). His ability to pick an accurate pass in the attacking half means that of the 40 players to make the most passes in the opposition half of the pitch, the Spaniard does it with the highest accuracy (90.2%).
Rodri has also won the ball back from the opposition to start open-play sequences that have led to a Manchester City shot on a league-high 18 occasions, with three of those ending in a goal. Only Everton’s Idrissa Gueye (9.6) has regained possession more often from opponents on a per 90 basis this season than Rodri (9.4), which is even more impressive considering his Man City side don’t let their opponents have the ball that often – no side has averaged more possession this season in the EPL than them (64.9%).
His team-mate Kevin De Bruyne also makes our Premier League TOTS from the FIFA 23 shortlist. The Belgian became just the fifth player to reach a century of Premier League assists last month.
His tally of 16 assists overall in 2022-23 is just four off the all-time Premier League assist record in a season, held by both himself from 2019-20 and Thierry Henry in 2002-03 at Arsenal.
In open play, the Manchester City star tops the 2022-23 Premier League rankings for assists (14), xG assisted (11.52), through balls (17) and is only second to Bruno Fernandes (75) for chances created (64). De Bruyne is also the leading player in the Premier League for open-play sequence involvements leading to shots on a per 90 basis (7.3) alongside Man Utd’s Fernandes.
The third and final midfield pick we’ve made for our FIFA 23 Premier League TOTS is Arsenal star Martin Ødegaard.
The Norwegian has been a key factor in Arsenal’s excellent season in which they’ve secured a top-four spot for the first time since finishing second in 2015-16 – a finish they it seems likely they’ll replicate in 2022-23 (well, according to the Opta supercomputer, at least). Of all Arsenal players, Ødegaard is the most positive in possession of the ball, with a team-high 143 progressive passes this season in the league, while he’s also completed 11 through balls to team-mates in the Premier League across 2022-23 – every other Arsenal player combined have completed 27, with no single team-mate on more than five.
Still only 24 years old, Ødegaard leads Arsenal players for open-play attacking sequence involvements per 90 (6.7) in the Premier League this season, while he’s chipped in with 21 Premier League goal involvements (nine goals, 12 assists) – only Bukayo Saka (24) has more.
FIFA 23 TOTS: Attackers
Erling Haaland, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka
This is arguably the hardest position to select three players from. All 12 nominees have a shout for making the FUT 23 Premier League Team of the Season, but it’s unlikely that most people wouldn’t include the competition top scorer Erling Haaland in their 2022-23 XI.
Haaland arrived at Man City in the summer from Borussia Dortmund having scored 62 goals in 67 Bundesliga matches. He’s already over halfway to matching that goal tally in his first season as a Premier League player, with a record-equalling 35 goals in 31 games so far across 2022-23.
His 51 goals in all competitions for Man City this season are now just 12 away from Dixie Dean’s all-time record as a top-flight English league player (63), set in 1927-28 at Everton, but one record he won’t get close to is Dean’s 60 league goals that campaign.
Haaland has converted 32.4% of his shots in the Premier League this season – no player to score 10 or more goals in a single EPL campaign has bettered that ratio since Papiss Cissé for Newcastle United in 2011-12 (33.3%). He averages a goal every 21 touches, and when you compare that to Harry Kane (52 touches), Mohamed Salah (87 touches) and Ivan Toney (66 touches), you can see how Haaland can seem innocuous to opponents, before reminding them of his presence with a goal.
Haaland is still only 22 years old, so it’s frightening to think about how many Premier League goals he could end up scoring.
Another scary talent to light up the Premier League in 2022-23 is 21-year-old Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka.
Saka makes our Premier League TOTS ahead of team-mate Gabriel Martinelli, but there’s good reason for it. The England international leads an impressive Arsenal side for total Premier League goal involvements in 2022-23 (24), with 13 goals and 11 assists and only Harry Kane (28) and Haaland (42) have been involved in more goals.
Saka has either scored or assisted in 18 different Premier League games in 2022-23 – only Haaland (25) and Kane (24) have had a goal involvement in a wider spread of matches – while the young forward is also the leading player in the competition for shot involvements following a ball carry (53) and is the only player to have had at least 25 shots following a carry (25) and created at least 25 shots for team-mates from carries (28).
The player to attempt the most shots from ball carries in the Premier League this season is Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford (32), and it’s the 25-year-old who is the final selection in our FIFA 23 Premier League TOTS.
Rashford’s return to form in 2022-23 has been great to see unless you’ve been on the end of one of his 29 goals in all competitions. That 29-goal return is the best seasonal tally in his career, while his 16 Premier League goals this season are only bettered by his goal tally in 2019-20 (17) – something he’s likely to at least equal in the remainder of this campaign.
The United forward’s tally of 16 Premier League goals is 10 more than any other player at the club and a third (33%) of the club’s total goal tally, while, including his five assists, he’s been involved in 43% of their Premier League goals in 2022-23. None of his goals have come from the penalty spot, and his non-penalty shot conversion rate (18.4%) is just higher than his international captain Kane’s 18.3%.