SPFL Pre Split Team of the Season
In the 33 rounds of Scottish Premiership fixtures we’ve had so far this season, there have been an abundance of managerial changes, controversial refereeing decisions and even sprinklers turning on during matches.
Most importantly however, there have been a number of players who have took the Scottish top flight or ‘the cinch’, as fans prefer to call it, by storm this campaign with their standout displays which have appeased supporters up and down the country and today, I’ll be putting these players into a starting eleven in my Pre-split Team of the Season.
The formation will be a standard 3-5-2 with no restrictions over specific positions, tactics and the like.
In addition to the eleven starters, I’ll also pick three honourable mentions as I believe there are a number of players whom it would be harsh not to include.
Goalkeeper - Craig Gordon
It is testament to his league form in the Scottish Premiership this season that Craig Gordon has nailed down the number one spot in Steve Clarke’s Scotland side at the expense of Euro 2020 play off hero David Marshall. Gordon has played in all but 1 of Hearts’ 33 fixtures in the 21/22 season and has managed to keep 13 clean sheets along the way. He has been a standout between the sticks in Gorgie and has had some tremendous displays this season including man of the match performances against his former club Celtic on the opening day and Livingston at the Tony Macaroni in December where he made arguably one of the saves of the season. Going into the split, Hearts sit a colossal 16 points ahead of the chasing pack in third. The Jambos look to already have secured their status as best of the rest in the Scottish Premiership this campaign thus it will be intriguing to see how they get on in the remainder of the season with next to nothing to play for in the league at least.
Defender - James Tavernier
The Rangers captain has continued his tremendous attacking output from right back into the 21/22 season in Scotland’s top flight. James Tavernier has scored 6 goals and registered 12 assists in 31 league appearances this season as his continuous charges down the right hand side and set piece ability have offered an added attacking threat to his side. He tops the league for assists as well as being second for key passes per match with 3.2. In addition to being a menace in attack, Tavernier is also stout defensively and despite some competition from Nathan Patterson prior to his move to Everton, the Englishman is one of the first names on Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Rangers team sheet.
Defender - Cameron Carter-Vickers
After joining on a deadline day loan from Spurs in the English Premier League, Cameron Carter-Vickers has brought great stability to a Celtic defence that wasn’t so solid at the outset of Ange Postecoglou’s reign. The American has been a stick-on in the Hoops’ back line this campaign as he has struck up a rigid partnership with Carl Starfelt at the heart of it. Carter-Vickers has also proved to be a dangerous threat going forward, netting 4 goals in the league this season including the winner at Ibrox in a colossal derby which put Celtic six points clear at the top of the league at the time. The twenty four year old has oozed class in the Celtic team this season and the option to buy in his loan deal will be one many fans of the Parkhead team will be eager for the club to take up after Carter-Vickers has contributed significantly to the best defence in the league so far this campaign.
Defender - Stephen Kingsley
Yet another member of the Hearts rearguard who makes it into my pre-split team of the season is Stephen Kingsley. The twenty seven year old is capable of playing at both centre back and left back with his appearances in the 21/22 season being distributed among both as Robbie Neilson has interchanged between three, four and five at the back systems. In his 29 league starts this season, Kingsley has helped Hearts to 11 clean sheets but he’s also contributed going forward, scoring 6 goals. Impressively, half of his 5 strikes have come from free kicks as he’s proved himself as somewhat of a dead-ball specialist. On the international front with it looking increasingly likely Kieran Tierney will miss Scotland’s crucial play off with Ukraine, there have been calls for Kingsley to be included in Steve Clarke’s squad come June due him potentially being able to amply into the fifty eight year old’s system. These calls are a clear indication of the stellar form Kingsley has enjoyed so far this campaign and he will look forward to representing Hearts in Europe next season after they already secured group stage football as a result of their league placing and Scottish Cup exploits.
Midfielder - Jota
Picking one of Jota or Liel Abada was one of the toughest decisions I had to make when assembling this team however I have elected to include the former due to the uplifting effect he has on the team when he plays. Jota’s flair and panache rouses Celtic supporters but he’s also able to match this poise with end product, scoring 7 goals and assisting 8 in 24 league matches this season. Jota has excellently slotted into Ange Postecoglou’s 4-3-3 system at the left wing spot, thoroughly making it his own. He has been a key player for the Hoops this season and it will be intriguing to see if he elects to go back to his boyhood club, Benfica, in the summer to try and fight for a place or stay at Celtic where he has enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career.
Midfielder - Regan Charles-Cook
One of the unexpected successes of the 21/22 Scottish Premiership campaign so far has been that of Ross County’s Grenadian wide-man, Regan Charles-Cook. He joined the club in the summer of 2020 on a free transfer from Gillingham and after an arduous first season in the Highlands where he failed to net in the league, Charles-Cook has recently began to come to the fore. The twenty five year old has 13 goals and 2 assists in the league this season as he’s turned into a somewhat talismanic figure for his side. Moreover, Charles-Cook leads the scoring charts in the division with five games to go and will be keen to maintain that status as Ross County make a late push for Europe.
Midfielder - Joe Aribo
At least in terms of goals and assists, Joe Aribo is enjoying one of his best seasons in a Rangers shirt. The attacking midfielder has scored 8 and set up 5 in 29 starts for the Gers in the 21/22 league campaign so far. Aribo has scored some fabulous goals this season - a curling effort at the Tony Macaroni Arena was followed by an emphatic strike at Tynecastle two weeks later and in the last game prior to the split, he bent a wonderful shot into the top corner in Paisley. When he is on top form, the Nigerian is a force to be reckoned and his overall form this season earns him a place in this team.
Midfielder - Lewis Ferguson
Despite managerial change midway through the season, Lewis Ferguson’s form has remained a constant throughout the 21/22 campaign. Ferguson has failed to start in just 2 of Aberdeen’s fixtures in the Scottish Premiership this season and the twenty two year old has remained a stalwart in the Dons’ midfield on the regular occasions he’s lined up. Ferguson has racked up 9 goals in the league this campaign, 5 of which have come from the spot where he has an almost impeccable record. As well as this, Ferguson’s passing ability is of optimum quality and his consistent Aberdeen form throughout the current season saw him earn his first few Scotland caps with his first start coming for his country coming in a 2-2 friendly draw away at Austria. Lewis Ferguson has now managed to make 30 or more appearances in 3 of the previous 4 Scottish Premiership campaigns and still at the age of twenty two, his leadership and experience, combined with a vast potential for future development, will be an attractive prospect for any side come the summer transfer window.
Midfielder - Callum McGregor
Callum McGregor has moulded into the influential captain Celtic and Ange Postecoglou required after an enormous squad overhaul in the summer but it is not just off the park he has excelled so far this season - the Scot has been a driving force in Celtic’s midfield, orchestrating and controlling the play as well as making driving runs deep into the opposition’s half. Particularly when he’s not in the team, the instrumental impact he has on the way the Hoops play is drastically noticed. He may have only chipped in with 2 goals and 2 assists in the league this season but what Callum McGregor offers the Celtic side, both in terms of leadership qualities and eminence on the park, is invaluable.
Forward - Alfredo Morelos
Despite being ruled out for the remainder of the 21/22 season through a thigh injury, Alfredo Morelos still makes it into my team of the best performers from the first 33 games of the Scottish Premiership season. The twenty five year old is a player who has significantly benefited from Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s appointment as Rangers manager with 12 of his 18 goal contributions in the league this season coming after the Dutchman’s arrival to Glasgow. Morelos has netted 11 times in the league this season and assisted a further 7 as he’s had some tremendous displays - most notably against Hearts where he bagged a brace and an assist in a man of the match performance in a 5-0 victory. The Colombian is currently the league’s joint second top scorer and would’ve had aspirations to climb up the charts should he not have suffered a season ending injury at the beginning of April.
Forward - Bruce Anderson
In almost identical fashion to Alfredo Morelos, Bruce Anderson missed the last three games before the split through injury. The Scot picked up an ankle injury in training and it may keep him out for the remainder of the 21/22 campaign. Nonetheless, his form up to this point earns him a place in my pre split team of the season. In the 28 league games he’s played, Anderson has scored 11 goals and set up 4. He’s been a fox in the box for a Livingston side who narrowly missed out on a top six spot due to a 93rd minute Ricki Lamie equaliser. The majority of his goals have been that of a typical striker yet he has shown his creative abilities as well - his assist against Dundee United to set up Scott Pittman was particularly pleasing on the eye as he managed to get round his man, chop back inside and lay off Pittman who done the rest. The signing of Anderson has turned out be an extremely shrewd one from the West Lothian club who signed him on a free transfer from Aberdeen last summer.
Honourable Mention - Connor Ronan
He joined on a one-year loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer of 2021 and since then, Connor Ronan has taken rather well to life in Paisley. The twenty four year old has made 24 league appearances for St. Mirren this season, scoring 7 goals and assisting 4 from midfield. Ronan has turned into somewhat of a dependable figure for his club having scored numerous crucial goals including winners in 1-0 wins against Hibernian, Dundee and Aberdeen, a double which included the decisive strike in a 3-2 victory over the same opposition and that’s not to mention a goal of the season contender against Rangers back in October. With St. Johnstone slowly creeping up behind them near the bottom of the Scottish Premiership, St. Mirren will be keen to avoid a dreaded relegation play off and the form of Ronan in the final five games of his loan spell at the club could be central to them doing so.
Honourable Mention - Liel Abada
I said earlier how I was torn between picking one of Jota or young Liel Abada to feature in this team and although I included the former, Abada earns his spot as an honourable mention. The Israeli winger has been one of the shinning young lights in the Scottish Premiership this season and was Ange Postecoglou’s first big signing as Celtic boss. In the league this season, Abada is into double figures for goals having scored 10. He’s also set up another 6 and averages a goal contribution every 124 minutes out of the 1,985 he’s played in this season’s Scottish Premiership. The twenty year old has scored some crucial goals for Celtic this season including a last minute winner against Dundee United and a goal in the second Glasgow Derby of the campaign which effectively finished the match. Due to the magnificent first season he’s had at Celtic, Liel Abada will surely be attracting some interest from some big teams ahead of the summer however he will have 4 years left on his current deal going into the upcoming transfer window meaning any team interested in him would have to cough up a significant fee, one would imagine.
Honourable Mention - Ryan Edwards
Ryan Edwards has been a rock in the defence of a Dundee United side who currently sit fourth in the Scottish Premiership table going into the split. Tam Courts’ team have been a solid unit at times this season and Edwards has been a huge part of said cogency, when it’s transpired, at least. The twenty eight year old is also a threat in the opposition box as well as being robust in his own, scoring 3 goals and assisting 2 in 30 matches. In November, Edwards was also appointed Dundee United captain, proving his leadership qualities to his team who will be aiming to make it into Europe for the 22/23 season.
And that rounds off my team of the best performers up to this point in the Scottish Premiership.
Do you agree with my picks? Let me know in the comments below or get in touch with me on Twitter @Josh_Footblog where you’ll find even more Scottish football content. Finally, thank you for reading!