English Premier League's Top 10 Breakthrough Players of the Season
Every season new stars are made in the Premier League, and this season has been no different. Teams have been trumping expectations and players you might not have heard a whole lot about before the start of the season have played important roles.
Similarly, players of whom great things have been expected have stepped up to the plate and performed at a very high level.
So, here is a list of 10 players who have left their first mark on the Premier League in a big way.
Sir Alex Ferguson's £17 million move for Phil Jones last summer raised some eyebrows. United already had a top-quality centre-back pairing in Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, as well as good cover in Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, but Fergie has clearly invested well.
Phil Jones has proven to be incredibly versatile, slotting into centre midfield, as well as at wing-back. This versatility has been vital to United this season as they have suffered from a number of injury crises.
It didn't take Jones long to make his mark at United. He put in a string of impressive performances early in the season and made his England debut in October.
Jones has a lot of potential and could be the ideal man to take over from Rio Ferdinand as his career begins to wind down. In the meantime, he is a great utility player and a dangerous opponent from set pieces.
David Hoilett, known as "Junior," has been one of the few positives to come from Blackburn's season so far.
The midfielder has put in some great performances, including recently scoring both goals in Blackburn's crucial 2-0 win over Wolves.
According to Goal.com, the 21-year-old has been attracting some serious interest from the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. He could well be leaving Blackburn in the near future, regardless of which division they are playing in next year.
Hoilett has even been put on a list of 13 players to watch in 2012 by FIFA.
Swansea's signing of Michel Vorm is proving to be a real coup. The Dutchman has pulled off some spectacular saves and helped Swansea forge a remarkable home record.
The Welsh side have lost just twice at home and have conceded only 10 goals in 14 home outings—not a bad record for your first season in the Premier League.
According to Metro, Vorm has already been linked to Manchester United as a potential replacement for David de Gea. Swansea will be hard pressed to hold onto the 28-year-old, even if that particular link doesn't yield results.
Demba Ba was impressive for West Ham last season, scoring seven goals in just 12 appearances, but he has taken things to another level this season at Newcastle.
Ba has netted 16 times in 24 Premier League appearances so far and has helped make Newcastle United the surprise package of the season.
At 26 years old, Ba is in his prime and could be a player of vital importance for a good few seasons to come for Newcastle United.
Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge is looking to be a great signing. Spirited away from Manchester City, the Birmingham native is fast becoming a fan favourite at Chelsea.
A successful loan spell with Bolton last season, which saw him score eight times in 12 games, helped the striker gain some valuable experience and allowed him to prove that he has the goal-scoring ability Chelsea need.
He has continued his good form this season, netting nine goals so far, and creating two more. He still has plenty that he can improve on, but he is fast establishing himself as a key part of the new Chelsea side that will need to develop over the coming seasons.
Tim Krul has been outstanding for Newcastle United this season, pulling off save after save to help Newcastle to a string of impressive results.
Newcastle's success has relied on a solid defence, and Tim Krul has been key to that solidity. The Dutchman secured himself the No. 1 spot last season and has made himself an attractive proposition for plenty of big clubs.
Scott Sinclair has turned heads this season at Swansea with some impressive and effective skills. The 22-year-old winger has netted seven goals and certainly seems to have the potential to do great things for Swansea over the coming seasons.
His first season with Swansea—their promotion-winning campaign—saw him find the goal 27 times. Whilst he has not been able to recreate that goal-scoring record this season, he has still made a name for himself as part of a Swansea outfit that plays exciting, flowing football.
There have been calls for the Englishman to be given an opportunity at the international level. If he continues to perform well, he could well receive a call-up just in time for Euro 2012.
He hasn't received a huge amount of media attention, but Leon Britton has been fantastic for Swansea City this season. In fact, in January, he was proven to be statistically the best passer in Europe. His 93.3 percent completion rate was ahead of Xavi's 93 percent.
The diminutive midfielder is 29 years old and has looked at home in the heart of Swansea's midfield in his first EPL season, starting 26 of 28 games so far.
He has been key to Swansea's success this season, allowing them to play some of the best football in the Premier League and go toe-to-toe with the likes of Arsenal.
Kyle Walker was sent out on loan to several clubs over the last year, and the time away from North London seems to have served him well.
The Tottenham right-back has flourished this season, making such an impression that by November he was called up to the England squad.
Defensively solid, Walker is also adept at getting forward and looks to be a serious attacking threat on the right wing.
Walker is one of several candidates for England at right-back, and the competition for the international spot is only going to help him improve over the next few seasons.
Grant Holt joined Norwich City when they were languishing in League One. He then helped them to back-to-back promotions, scoring goals by the dozen in the process.
However, it is this season, his first in the Premier League, which has allowed him to make his name. The 30-year-old has been used as a substitute far more often than in previous seasons, but he has still managed 10 goals and impressed neutrals with his effort, skill and physicality.
He has made the step up to the Premier League with ease; he has never looked out of his depth and it's not like he has been scoring against easy opposition.
He has netted against Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea and is proving to be a thoroughly competent target man.
Whilst it's too early to be screaming for him to be called up to the England squad, if he continues to perform at the same level and Andy Carroll doesn't pick his game up, I know who I would rather have at Euro 2012.