December 8, 2021

Carra & Holliday’s KOTPL XI

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The Kings of the Premier League show, sponsored by Budweiser, returned on Sky Sports this Friday with another all-star line-up on the panel.

Guests pit stats against gut when they compare results from the statistical Power Rankings with fans’ votes for Kings of the Match on the Premier League website.

This month, Sky Sports presenter Adam Smith was joined by Jamie Carragher and influencer Nicole Holliday – who is also an avid Arsenal fan.

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So, how did the team unfold? Let’s start between the sticks…

Goalkeepers

KEEPERS

Emiliano Martinez was the unanimous choice, having impressed during the latter stages of last season for Arsenal as he stood in for the injured Bernd Leno – but signed for Aston Villa this summer after 10 years at the Emirates.

“I feel like a proud mum,” said Nicole. “In the first game, when he saved the penalty, I was like, ‘Yes, Emi,’ but also, ‘Not good, we’re going to be coming up against you!’

“He’s gone to Villa and played so well and kept two clean sheets from two games, that’s brilliant. He’s really good with his feet as well – definitely the standout goalkeeper so far.”

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“I think he’s looked excellent for Arsenal,” agreed Carra. “He was possibly the best No 2 in the Premier League. I always worry about backup goalkeepers because, what have they got about them? Who’s happy to sit on the bench?

“I thought it was going to be interesting when Leno came back, and how Mikel Arteta went about it. But, they got £20m for their second-choice goalie.”

Filming straight off the back of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Arsenal, and before the Gunners’ Carabao Cup revenge, Carra couldn’t resist a light-hearted dig at Nicole’s expense. “And Arsenal need all the money they can get to improve the rest of the squad!”

“The digs are coming already!” replied Nicole.

Final selection: Emiliano Martinez

Centre-backs

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Carra kicked off proceedings for the centre-back debate, electing Villa’s Ezri Konsa. “Obviously two clean sheets is the reason for that, and it could be a toss-up between him and Tyrone Mings, but I go back to last season.

“Villa came back and stayed up last season because of their defensive record and Mings was there throughout the campaign. Konsa came in towards the end of the season and Villa look far more solid since he’s been cemented in there.”

But Nicole had other ideas. “This team is based just on this month, and I’m torn between Gabriel and Mings. Gabriel has done so well at Arsenal. People ask whether players coming into the Premier League can perform straight away, and he has.”

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Carra swayed Nicole to choose Mings. “I think you should go for Mings. Aston Villa started well. Why didn’t Arteta play Gabriel against Liverpool? He was replaced with David Luiz, that’s nothing to shout about!

“I’ve been really impressed with Mings. I was surprised he didn’t start for England earlier actually. In a back three, he’d give a lovely balance with that left foot on the left side, stepping out with the ball.

“There’s no doubt, since Mings joined Villa, that’s one of the main reasons they got into the Premier League, why they stayed up and have started this season well.

There was no debate with Mings’ partner in central defence, with both guests selecting Everton’s Michael Keane.

Final selections: Tyrone Mings and Michael Keane

Full-backs

FBS

“I’m going for Reece James at right-back,” said Nicole. “He’s only 20 years old, he creates a lot of chances, one goal and one assist so far. That game against West Brom, wasn’t good, though – he got caught out a few times.”

“That is his job, isn’t it?” joked Carra. “No, Chelsea have been too poor defensively, they’ve been all over the place. He’s part of that back four, that is his job. I understand about full-backs getting forward, but I’ve gone for Tariq Lamptey.

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“But, with Lamptey, are you buying into the media hype?” asked Nicole. “He’s looking good, though, had a brilliant start.”

“Do Brighton players get into the media?” joked Carra. “He’s been amazing, I can’t believe Lamptey can’t get into this team. He’s been one of the best players in the league.”

With Lamptey secured in the XI, Nicole was swift to secure her choice at left-back, Lucas Digne. “He’s so consistent, you know what you’re getting with him. An all-round solid defender and he’s made a massive difference to the team.”

Most of Everton's attacking threat has come down Lucas Digne's left flank in the Premier League this season
Image: Most of Everton’s attacking threat has come down Lucas Digne’s left flank in the Premier League this season

“Yes, he’s brilliant,” added Carra. “You felt like replacing Leighton Baines was almost impossible, he was one of the top left-backs in the Premier League, along with Ashley Cole, around that era. Now, Digne is one of the best left-backs.”

Final selections: Tariq Lamptey and Lucas Digne

Midfielders

MIDS

Carra also poured praise on new Everton signing James Rodriguez, who has already notched a goal and an assist – ranking behind only Mohamed Salah in the Premier League with 10 chances created for team-mates.

“He’s been a revelation at Everton and completely changed the mood with the supporters. I wasn’t sure how it would work out at first. I know he’s played for some big clubs but he’s never really fitted in and become a regular.

“It’s almost like he’s got a relationship with Carlo Ancelotti, more than anything. I think that relationship is one of the reasons why Ancelotti is at Everton, so he can attract this calibre of player.

“It gives everyone in the squad a lift when you come to the training ground and see a player of that quality. They’d see that quality day in and day out, and it lifts standards.”

James Rodriguez has been frequently firing long balls to Lucas Digne down the opposing flank
Image: James Rodriguez has been frequently firing long balls to Lucas Digne down the opposing flank

“I totally agree,” added Nicole. “Some people were asking why he was signing for Everton if he’s that good, which is a bit disrespectful. He’s proving himself. He’s a leader. He’s made all of them look a lot more confident as a team.

“But I can’t have a midfield without Kevin De Bruyne in there. I’m not saying Manchester City’s performances have been brilliant. The game against Leicester, he wasn’t outstanding, by any means, but he is great.”

Carra also backed City’s talisman. “He was still man of the match in the first game against Wolves, he was outstanding. He’s the best player in the Premier League. He’s the standout one.

“De Bruyne is the big hope for City, really, in terms of getting back into title race and challenging Liverpool. If he plays at the top of his game, they’ve got a great chance. If he’s not, I don’t see the others dragging City to the league title.”

Carra was adamant on filling the final midfield berth up for grabs and nominated Leeds midfielder Mateusz Klich, who has scored two goals and notched an assist during his opening three games.

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Image: Mateusz Klich also ranks joint-top for possession won in the middle third at Leeds

“Leeds have been a revelation to start with, the games they’ve been involved in, so exciting. He’s been a big part of that. We talked a lot about other Leeds players before the season started, but the goals he’s got, the assists.

“The energy he shows from midfield to get into the box, and that high energy is what Leeds are about. We’ve got to have someone from Leeds in this team.”

Final selections: James Rodiguez, Kevin De Bruyne and Mateusz Klich

Forwards

FWS

Both guests nailed down Dominic Calvert-Lewin from the get-go after scoring five goals in just three Premier League games so far – becoming the fourth Everton player to make the team of the month.

“This team is an Everton love-in,” joked Carra. “There’s not a lot I can do about this at the moment!

“Carlo Ancelotti has had some of the best strikers in world football at times. He’s put his faith in Calvert-Lewin and it’s paying off. I’m a big fan.

“The only thing he lacked before was goals. He held the ball up, was good aerially, provided pace, could lead the line, worked off the ball – but he needed to be more clinical in front of goal. That’s what he’s doing now under Ancelotti.

“He’s hitting all the right numbers but it’s very early days. It’s fantastic for him now – but you’ve also got to remember the opposition they’ve played against [including West Brom and Crystal Palace].”

Nicole elected Heung-Min Son as one of the wide forwards. “He’s a brilliant player. And now he’s injured, that’s another reason why he should make the team this month, we don’t know when he will be back! Four goals so far, he brings so much and so versatile.”

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“Yes, he’s been a revelation since arriving from the German league,” said Carra. “At first, you asked where he fits, because Spurs had many attacking talents and now he’s made himself one of the first names on the team sheet.

“Kane gets injuries, as we know, and Son can play centre forward and still provide that pace and goal threat as well. Those two, joined by Gareth Bale, as the season goes on, I think gives them a great chance of making the top four.”

There was one final debate on a wide forward, with Carra insisting a Liverpool player deserved to make the cut. “Liverpool are the best team in the world and nine points out of nine! I haven’t got one player in this team yet!

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“For me, it’s a toss-up between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane and I’ve gone for Mane. Everyone knows I’m a big fan. I love him… and he loves me!

“Salah got off to a blistering start, that hat-trick at home to Leeds, but then Mane did it against Chelsea, which is a much tougher game, and he hit the goal against Arsenal as well. Again, tough opposition.”

Final selections: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Heung-Min Son and Sadio Mane

Final KOTPL XI

Reflecting on the final XI, Carra couldn’t help but notice the scales had tipped in favour of the blue half of Merseyside. “It’s a good team, probably Everton-heavy! They can have their moment In September. Hopefully that’ll be the end of it!”

TOTM

King of the month

The guests signed off with one final debate for the King of the Month, with Nicole voting for Calvert-Lewin and Carra sticking to his guns with Mane.

“Mane scored his goals against Chelsea and Arsenal. I mean, whether you still class Arsenal as top six, I don’t know!” joked Carra.

“Wait until the cameras are switched off!” replied Nicole.

“I’ll bow to your expertise on the attacking players,” ceded Carra.

Jamie Carragher and Nicole Holliday selected Dominic Calvert-Lewin as King of the Month
Image: Jamie Carragher and Nicole Holliday selected Dominic Calvert-Lewin as King of the Month

Final selection: Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Pick your KOTPL XI

Disagree with the final selections? Use the team selector below to create your XI and share it on Twitter @SkySportsPL using the hashtag #KOTPL.

Kings of the Premier League returns on Sky Sports

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Sky Sports and Budweiser, official partner of the Premier League and King of Beers, have joined forces to bring you the Kings of the Premier League show.

On the back of its resounding success last season, the debate will return to your screens at 8pm on the last Friday of every month on Sky Sports Premier League.

Sky Sports presenter Adam Smith and two guests will build an ultimate XI from the top-performing players over the past month, pitting stats against gut as they compare data-driven form charts with Kings of the Match fan votes.

“This show really is the perfect way to pick the team of the month,” according to Smithy. “It’s never easy picking a dream XI, so let the debate commence.”

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The show’s best bits will play out across Sky Sports’ YouTube and the partnership will also deliver the weekly Power Ranking articles every Tuesday on the Sky Sports website and apps.

The show kicks off on Friday, October 2, with repeats on Saturday and Sunday, and will run throughout the first four months of the Premier League season.

Do the Premier League’s statistical leaders make the cut in this month’s XI, or do the fans’ favourites earn starting berths? Tune into Sky Sports Premier League to find out…