2020/21 isn’t done yet but we’re impatient to heap praise upon the players who have overachieved against expectations in Dream Team this season.
For some reason, a deluge of points from an unexpected source is more satisfying than a big haul from an established performer.
Harry Kane (£7.3m) and Bruno Fernandes (£5.2m) have been fantastic but the majority of Dream Team gaffers would have predicted they would be among the best players before a ball was kicked this campaign.
Here we’ve built an XI of players who weren’t generally fancied but ended producing top-bracket returns.
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GOALKEEPER: Emiliano Martinez (£3.0m)
Aston Villa narrowly escaped relegation last season and so logically many tipped them to struggle again this term.
But a shrewd transfer window enabled a significant upturn in results that put them in contention for European qualification for much of the campaign.
Only Ederson (£3.6m) and Edouard Mendy (£3.7m) have kept more clean sheets in the league than Martinez at this stage – the Argentine has been one of the best signings of the year.
DEFENDER: Joao Cancelo (£5.5m)
Cancelo had a modest 2019/20 as he took some time to adapt to his new surroundings.
Prior to the new term, his place in the pecking order was uncertain and most Dream Team bosses leaned towards Kyle Walker (£3.8m) if they decided a Man City full-back was the way to go.
But the Portugal international has exploded this season, recapturing the form he exhibited at Juventus to become one of Pep Guardiola’s key players.
He currently holds a 56-point lead over the next-best defender having established absolute supremacy in his position.
DEFENDER: John Stones (£4.7m)
Rewind a few months and Stones’ Man City career appeared to be on the brink of extinction.
The arrivals of Ruben Dias (£3.9m) and Nathan Ake (£2.9m) seemed to have relegated him to Guardiola’s fourth-choice centre-back but circumstances granted him a shot at redemption which he has grasped tightly.
Having formed a formidable partnership with Dias, he has racked up 173 points and taken Aymeric Laporte’s (£5.0m) in City’s best XI.
DEFENDER: Kurt Zouma (£3.9m)
A similar situation here in that Zouma’s rank among Chelsea defenders was unclear at the start of the season.
However, he repaid Frank Lampard’s faith in spades, chipping with headed goals as well as contributing to a flurry of clean sheets.
Thomas Tuchel has generally preferred alternative options but the Frenchman’s blistering first half of the season means he’s still the ninth-best defender overall with 156 points to his name.
DEFENDER: James Justin (£3.8m)
Leicester have been utterly brilliant this season.
Despite a plague of injuries, they’ve never dropped out of the top four and are well-placed to qualify for the Champions League.
Last season, Justin was a reserve right-back who stepped in for Ricardo Pereira (£3.5m) occasionally but he grabbed 2020/21 by the horns before his campaign was curtailed.
Capable of playing in any defensive position, the 23-year-old was among the very best in his position before his injury.
MIDFIELDER: Nicolas Pepe (£4.3m)
Pepe has been a figure of ridicule in some circles but his habit of affecting goals should not be underestimated.
The Ivorian has scored 11 goals and provided six assists in all competitions this season to reach 144 points, making him the seventh-best midfielder available.
MIDFIELDER: Ilkay Gundogan (£4.2m)
Previously an ultra professional metronome who rarely demanded the spotlight, Gundogan has reinvented himself this season as a late-arriving, Frank Lampard-impersonating, goalscorer supremo.
The German would have been way down the list of Man City midfielders for Dream Team bosses at the start of the season but his popularity spiked during his goal glut.
He remains the fifth-best midfielder at the time of writing.
MIDFIELDER: Tomas Soucek (£3.2m)
Soucek was an unknown entity 18 months ago and even three goals at the back end of 2019/20 didn’t do much to raise his profile.
As a defensive midfielder for a team expected to linger in the bottom half, Dream Team gaffers didn’t give him a second thought until he started heading goals past half the league’s keepers.
His nine goals have been key to West Ham’s impressive effort and his total of 128 points means he’s still in the top ten midfielders at this late juncture.
FORWARD: Kelechi Iheanacho (£4.1m)
Iheanacho was very much seen as an understudy just a few weeks ago!
His late-season explosion has been truly astonishing with 99 of his 156 points coming in the last seven Game Weeks.
This prolific run has propelled the Nigerian up to 8th in the forwards rankings.
FORWARD: Patrick Bamford (£3.4m)
The archetypal example of an overachiever.
Plenty of observers thought Bamford wasn’t good enough play up top for Leeds in Championship, let alone the Premier League!
He answered his critics with majestic streak of goalscoring form – only five players have scored more league goals this season.
Admittedly, the goals have dried up in recent weeks but with 152 points to his name he’s already excelled himself.
FORWARD: Ollie Watkins (£3.7m)
Similarly to Bamford, Watkins has performed superbly in the top flight after making the jump up from the Championship.
He’s currently level with Alexandre Lacazette (£4.1m) and Jamie Vardy (£4.5m) on 13 league goals for the season and has established a strong understanding with Jack Grealish (£4.5m).
His recent goal against Everton moved him onto 151 points for the season – a great effort for a debut Premier League campaign.
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