English Premier League: Top 10 Underrated Players so Far This Season
It is the halfway point of the league season and already we have seen so many talking points among the players. This season has seen much of the focus placed upon the likes of Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll, or rather their increasingly fruitless afternoons in front of goal. Prime example of players who have failed to live up to highly inflated price tags. There are other players who have underperformed but I'll touch onto that in my next piece.
This season has seen as many success stories as well as failures. When discussing your stars of the season with your friends, names such as Sergio Aguero, Gareth Bale and Robin Van Persie will be mentioned frequently. However these are the players who you expect to perform to such a high standard, Ageuro being one of the few who are so far proving money well spent by Manchester City. Others such as Van Persie and Rooney, have been performing to the high standards they have set themselves over the past few years.
But in an age in which it is important for clubs to get the best out there players as most cannot simply drop 100m in a transfer window to replace under-performing players. (Cough, City) There are some players who having been purchased for significantly less then the likes of Aguero, Juan Mata, and Ashley Young; who have performed admirably, often for clubs not necessarily sitting in the right end of the league table.
Listed are the perhaps unsung heros in the league.
Here are my top 10 underrated players this season so far.
Comments welcome, let me hear your views
10. Michael Carrick
A much maligned and widely debated figure in the Premier League, especially in the eyes of many Manchester United fans.
To some he is to a point overrated, not incisive enough, not physically imposing to make a decent defensive midfielder, and doesn't score enough goals to be considered in anyway an attacking midfielder.
However many fans including myself have warmed to him in recent months.
Arguably you could say that in a season in which Manchester United have suffered an unprecedented amount of injuries, Carrick has been the most consistent midfielder. He has always possessed a fantastic range of passing and is a sweet kicker of a football. In many ways, he performs that often understated role of picking up possession in key areas of the pitch, and is confidently able to retain possession and release inviting balls for the likes of Rooney, Nani and Valencia to flourish. His excellent footballing brain allows him to bring a degree of stability in a midfield.
His performances this season has been described as fantastic by manager Sir Alex Ferguson. To many fans he is seen in the same way as the likes of Scott Parker and Lucas, you have to watch him to notice the difference he makes
Although traditionally he has been criticised for not dominating games and not getting enough goals, he has at least partially done his bit to make up for the loss of Paul Scholes, and his well taken strike against Bolton, his third so far this season, and almost setting up Danny Welbeck, with arguably the pass of the season so far. He is beginning to impose himself more on games, and at what better time to do so, with Euro 2012 just around the corner, there is still time for him to perhaps force his way into Fabio Capello's final squad.
9. Daniel Sturridge
Despite a hugely successful loan spell at Bolton last season, not many would have predicted his first team opportunities to be any more increased at the start of this season. Especially when you have players of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres in competing for essentially the same spot.
However clever management by AVB has allowed Sturridge to flourish in 4-3-3 of sorts, playing as an inside forward on the right and side. A tricky player blessed with a good turn of pace and plenty of skill he has set up plenty of goals. as well as weighing in with plenty of goals. Currently he has nine Premier League goals making him Chelsea's top league goalscorer.
Taking the place of the increasingly ineffectual Florent Malouda, playing regularly and well for that matter, will do his chance no harm of breaking into the England squad. His progress has largely been under the radar of many, but for me his doing a lot better then many English Strikers.
It is worth mentioning that he has the second highest goal tally for a English striker, the first being of course Wayne Rooney.
8. Ashley Williams
One of two players In this slideshow. It is testament to the progress of Swansea thus far in the season that Williams is in the list. Normally teams that are promoted to the Premier League are usually favourites for relegation.
However with the exciting brand of football being encouraged by manager Brendan Rodgers, the worry would be that they would concede too many goals. However it is in the defence, where the credit for Swansea's steady start to the season should go to.
Welshman Williams spent much of his early career in the lower leagues with Stockport County before moving to the Swans in 2007 when they were still in League 1, and ever since been a rock in the heart of the defence, comfortable on the ball, but strong in the tackle, he has not looked out of place on the big stage at all, and scored a lovely headed goal against Chelsea earlier in the season.
At 27 he is approaching the peak of his career, and on current form certainly looks like he has a few good years in him and could possibly find bigger clubs knocking on his door.
7. Alejandro Faurlin
The talented Argentine playmaker has impressed many of the more astute football observers, and proved a bargain in the fantasy football stakes. Like many South American players, he is very comfortable on the ball, can play a good pass and has been the centre of much of the QPR's more positive play.
Despite the mecurial talents of Adel Tarrabt, the Moroccan, has been rather unspectacular so far this season, certainly not performing anywhere the level of hype surrounding him during the summer. Meanwhile big summer signing Joey Barton is not proving to be as he calls himself "The best midfielder in England", well, unless he is basing it on his Twitter usage.
Quitely but assuringly, Faurlin keeps things ticking over nicely, and will normally be involved in QPR attacking movement.
Although time will tell whether his form will develop into a move to a bigger club and maybe international acclaim, the evidence is there to suggest that he would not look out of place, especially for ball playing Premier League sides.
His injury has curtailed his progress, but for me I feel he will have a telling contribution next season at least.
Oh how David Moyes must be kicking himself. A player who he let go to Blackburn on the cheap has rediscovered the form which has already got him a stack load of goals in the Premier League over the years. Injuries and fitness issues have hampered him over the past year or two, but has appeared rejuvenated since moving to Rovers.
With 12 league goals this season, taking his total goal tally to 123 Premier League goals in his career, it is difficult to understand why he slated by both fans and the press alike. Granted he is not the most technically gifted, and looks like he enjoys the odd fried chicken, but he has proved that when fit he is a guaranteed 15-20 goals a season striker, a tally some clubs will pay in excess of 15 million for proven strikers. This being even more remarkable considering he has got his goals, playing for teams playing at the wrong end of the league table.
The 'Yak' as he is affectionately known, has been the one shining light, in a season for Blackburn, which can be best described as a disaster, primarily induced by the clueless chicken heads that are the Venkys. Although it would not be surprising to see Blackburn relegated at the end of the season, for as long as they have this man in their starting line up, they stand a chance.
5. Antonio Valencia
The ever more tactically astute watching public will talk endlessly about different formations, inside forwards, fake No. 9s, fake No. 10s. Valencia is a good old fashioned winger.
The league has plenty of young, lightning quick wingers such as Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon, but the one thing that these players are criticised for is their too often lack of end product. Usually players like Walcott will waste good chances by shooting, or sending in poor quality crosses that fail to beat the first man.
Whilst Nani is arguably the most gifted and explosive individual in the Manchester United midfield, Valencia for me is the best crosser of the ball in the Premier league, many of Wayne Rooney's goals has come as a result of his dangerous pinpoint crosses. Valencia is a uncomplicated player, although possessing the pace of many other wingers, he is one who adds width to the United side by getting chalk on it's boots, and instead of needing to cut in, can hit brilliant first time crosses into the penalty area.
With seven assists just in the league so far this season, he has been vital to United's title challenge. Although despite this rarely receives the praise I think he deserves, although not a showman like Nani, or predecessor Ronaldo, most teams would dearly love a winger who has such good delivery.
4. Steve Morison
Between himself and Grant Holt who deserves an honourable mention, Steve Morison has looked like a top class target man this season, the big striker is very much a good old fashioned British centre forward, giving centre backs a hard time with his imposing frame. having given top class defenders such as Rio Ferdinand and other plenty of problems this season, he is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
With seven league goals each for Holt and Morison, it is evident he has no problems in finding the net. having spent much of his career in the conference league, he can be described as a late bloomer in the footballing world, as prior to his move to Norwich had only 1 season experience in the Championship. So it is of credit to himself and manager Paul Lambert that he has looked as good as many of the established names in the Premier League.
His progress has been not gone totally noticed, as he has recently broken into the international scene with Wales.
Another striker who makes the signing of Andy Carroll more embarrassing by the second, if the Welshman continues his remarkable progress up the footballing ladder, he could become a stalwart for Norwich for a few years yet.
All this for a striker who cost around £3 million. Not bad.
3. Michael Vorm
Top class goalkeepers are high in demand, but hard to come by. In Michael Vorm they certainly have a keeper in that category, in the shape of Dutch International Vorm. Previously unknown before moving to Swansea, another late developer, he is nicknamed 'The Penalty Killer' Certainly a nickname many keepers would not complain much at having.
Signed by Swansea for a reported £1.5million, this will probably be the best bit of business that Brendan Rodgers will ever do. Having kept 9 clean sheets this season, which is amongst the highest this season, he has certainly proved his worth.
His remarkable shot stopping ability and penchant for saving penalties, may lead to him receiving more substantial international recognition.
Personally I feel it would be difficult to name a keeper who has been better this season, with perhaps the exception of Manchester City's Joe Hart. If his form continues, big clubs from both Europe and abroad may start getting interested.
2. Kyle Walker
Since the retirement of Gary Neville, the right back slot has been an area of concern for Capello for a couple of years now. Micah Richards is criminally ignored despite his obvious excellent recent form. Glen Johnson seems to have still not grasped the art of defending, and Chris Smalling is not a natural right back.
The opportunity is there for the talented Walker to stake his claim for a starting berth for England. After an impressive loan spell at Aston Villa there has been no looking back for the youngster.
This is perhaps a controversial choice at number 2, but as I have based this on players who have not been that highly mentioned, so therefore excluding the likes of Micah Richards. Walker is someone who we hope will solve the right back slot for Spurs and England alike for many years to come.
Similar to Glen Johnson in terms of attacking ability, he is astute enough at defending set pieces, and it's hard to recall an occasion in which he has been found wanting.
1. Steven Fletcher
The Scottish striker has been for some time proving a saviour for Wolverhampton Wanderers, a team that generally struggles for goals, he is the consistent goalscorer that every team needs, especially teams like Wolves who are likely to be fighting the against the drop for the remainder of the season.
His goal Against Spurs yesterday proved his importance to the team, making the most out of what little chances he gets. Having already nearly matched his tally for last season, there will be certainly be no shortage of takers should the worst happen to Wolves and they get relegated.
Since arriving in the Premier League from Burnley, it is unnoticed by many, but he is a very good finisher, can score goals from varying distance, is very good in the air and causes havoc in the penalty area, deceptively quick as well, he can stretch defences.
Again Fletcher is another player whose progress has largely been ignored or unnoticed by most, but should he continue his goalscoring exploits, he wont remain under the radar for very long. Fletcher would do well for a top-six club such as Liverpool or Tottenham.