15 Most Valuable Players in This Season's Premier League
The concept of a Most Valuable Player award is a much more subjective one in football than it is in American sports.
The broken-up nature of American football, baseball and basketball lend themselves far more easily to statistical breakdowns than the far more fluid play of soccer.
That sport has always gone for the far less scientific Man of the Match award, based more on viewer perception and delivering at key moments rather than hard number-crunching of a 90-minute performance.
The major end-of-season prizes are handed out based on polls, again without a great deal of thought given to percentages and ratios.
However, advances in the way statistics are gathered and logged mean that footballers' performances can now be analysed in greater detail than ever before. But things such as distance covered and touches of the ball still don't always tell the whole story.
With that in mind, here is a ranking of the 15 footballers who could be in the running for this season's Premier League MVP, if such an award existed. The list includes by default the six nominees for this season's PFA Player of the Year award—Sergio Aguero, Joe Hart, Scott Parker, Wayne Rooney, David Silva and Robin van Persie.
The likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Papiss Cisse, who have been brilliant since arriving in January, are ineligible as they have only played half the season.
Remember, this is a ranking of individual players and does not necessarily reflect how their respective clubs have done this season. Then again, it is perhaps no coincidence that both Manchester United and Manchester City have three players each on the list.
As there is sure to be a great deal of disagreement, feel free to add your own nominees below.
15: Clint Dempsey
Fulham attacker Clint Dempsey had only scored three league goals going into December. Now he has 16 to his name and has also greatly helped his team's cause by being fouled 60 times, allowing the London side to make full use of their array of gifted set-piece takers.
The Texan has always been one of the Cottagers' key players—he was arguably their star man when they had their thrilling run to the Europa League final two years ago.
His goalscoring exploits have helped Martin Jol lead his team to 10th as the season draws to a close, and there is every chance they could even crack the top eight on the Dutchman's first season in charge.
14: Patrice Evra
With Jonny Evans's impressive form at centre-back in the long-term absence of Nemanja Vidic, perhaps he should be the one to who earn a nod for the Manchester United defence. However, the stats tell a different story.
Patrice Evra is regarded by some as having a poor season for the champions, but while wearing the captain's armband in Vidic's stead, he has actually performed very well according to the figures.
No other players has contributed to more clean sheets than the Frenchman's 16 this season. With 66 tackles won, 46 passes intercepted and four assists, he fully deserves his place in this countdown.
12: Thomas Vermaelen
The Arsenal defender has missed several games this season but is still the Premier League's top-scoring defender with six goals, two more than the next nearest players, John Terry and Leighton Baines.
The Belgian has always had a decent goalscoring record, but his defensive attributes have also been on show, having made five last-man saving tackles, more than any other defender.
Arsenal have conceded 43 goals this season, more than any other team in the top 10 except Fulham, but Vermaelen has made a telling contribution at both ends of the pitch this season.
12: Emmanuel Adebayor
For all his undoubted talent, taking Emmanuel Adebayor on loan from Manchester City was something of a risk for Tottenham.
There were question marks over the Togo striker's attitude and work ethic, which saw him leave Arsenal under a cloud and got him frozen out of the City squad.
He has more than repaid the faith shown in him by manager Harry Redknapp, scoring 13 goals and setting up another 11 for Spurs so far this season. He has been so good, in fact, that it is hard to imagine Spurs not trying to sign him on a permanent basis now.
11: Antonio Valencia
The Ecuadorean winger missed a good chunk of the first half of the season through injury, but he has certainly made up for lost time. In just 23 league appearances this season, he has racked up 13 assists, equal with Silva as the most creative player in the division.
He has only scored four goals, but one of those was a vicious swerving strike from a wide angle that broke the deadlock in the final 10 minutes of a match away to a stubborn Blackburn fighting for their top-flight status. It is those sorts of goals on which titles are won.
Valencia has beefed up somewhat during his long absence from injury last year, and that has been reflected in his defensive ability, as he has made 43 tackles. He has even filled in at right-back on occasion.
10: Michel Vorm
There are many goalkeepers who deserve honourable mentions for their performances this season. Wolves' Wayne Hennessey has made more saves than any other keeper (166), but the club are still rooted to the bottom of the table.
Ali Al-Habsi has pulled off some incredible stops in the Wigan goal, Tim Krul has been the foundation of Newcastle's impressive back five and David de Gea has been great for Manchester United after an uncertain and error-prone start to life at Old Trafford.
But props must go to Vorm, the Dutch international who has made a hugely impressive 125 saves for Swansea City.
He has been a major factor in the Welsh club looking certain to avoid relegation on their first season in the Premier League. And there can be few things more valuable than that.
9: Scott Parker
Last season's Football Writers' Association Player of the Year was perhaps a surprising selection for this year's PFA award, which is voted for by the players themselves, as he has not had to be the same all-action dynamo he was when trying to save West Ham from relegation last season.
However, a look at his destructive performances for Tottenham this season tell you why he is so valued by his fellow professionals. Parker has made 74 tackles, 85 interceptions and blocked 23 shots in his debut year at Spurs. He was rewarded for his efforts by being handed the England captaincy against Netherlands recently.
When Spurs have missed Parker, either through suspension or injury, they have simply not looked the same side, and that's the very definition of a valuable player.
8: David Silva
It has been a season of two halves for the Manchester City playmaker. As the club laid waste to all before them before Christmas, Silva was the creative fulcrum of Roberto Mancini's expensively assembled side.
Although it would appear that the rigours of a full Premier League campaign have taken their toll—Silva's delightful chip over West Brom's Ben Foster last week was his sixth of the season, but only his first of 2012—he has still registered a joint-high 13 assists this term.
For such a diminutive playmaker, the fact he has made as many successful tackles as crosses—28 each—is also quite impressive.
7: Vincent Kompany
A lot of credit for City's defensive record has to go to the much improved Joleon Lescott, who is finally looking like the player he was when he was signed from Everton for £22 million almost three years ago. But the linchpin of City's defence has been Kompany.
The Belgian centre-back has taken on the extra responsibility of being club captain with relish and has been a true leader both on and off the pitch.
His count of 47 tackles from 27 games may not sound phenomenal, but when you consider his 66 interceptions and 22 blocked shots, it is easy to see why he often does not need to make tackles at all.
How Kompany was omitted from the shortlist for Player of the Year by his fellow professionals is a mystery. Hopefully the Football Writers' Association panel will see sense when making its nominations.
6: Juan Mata
It should not really be a surprise to see a World Cup-winning player thrive in the Premier League, but Juan Mata's first year in England with Chelsea has been a joy.
The Spaniard has been an exemplary performer for Chelsea all season, even through their lowest ebb under former manager Andre Villas-Boas.
With six goals, 11 assists and 55 successful crosses, Mata has already established himself and a bona-fide Premier League star.
5: Leon Britton
That's right, a second Swansea player. That in itself is a mark of just how well Brendan Rodgers' side have played on their first Premier League campaign.
The midfielder is not, on the face, any good at all when looking at the stats: no goals scored, no assists.
But, at the business end of the season, the Londoner still boasts a pass completion percentage rate of 93 percent, more than any other player across Europe's top five leagues. It is not for nothing that he has been nicknamed "The Wandsworth Xavi."
In the 3-0 win against Blackburn Rovers last weekend, Britton completed every single one of his passes, the second time his has posted a 100 percent completion rate this season. Without him, Swansea simply could not play the style of football that has served them so well.
4: Sergio Aguero
It's been quite a debut year for the Argentina striker in England. The two goals he scored against Swansea on his Manchester City debut were the first of 21 he has netted to date. Those goals have come from just 45 shots on target, a conversion rate of almost 50 percent.
Another striker who makes himself busy without the ball, Aguero has made 17 successful tackles and intercepted opposition passes 16 times.
It's hard to believe, considering his status as an established star, that Aguero is still only 23 years old. As such, he finds his name on the shortlist for the PFA's Young Player of the Year award as well as the main prize.
3: Wayne Rooney
The 2010 double-Player of the Year (PFA and Football Writers' Association) is currently in the scoring charts, having netted 24 times for Manchester United from 64 shots on target.
Six of those goals have been penalties, more than any other player, so the England striker should be grateful to Ashley Young for that.
Rooney has only registered a surprisingly low four assists for the defending champions this term, but he has been making a telling contribution in other areas. Ever willing to track back and do his fair share of defending, Rooney has won 14 tackles, intercepted 17 passes and blocked seven shots, too.
2: Joe Hart
There are half a dozen goalkeepers who've made more saves in the Premier League this season than Manchester City and England's No. 1, who has made 91.
However, no other keeper has kept more than Hart's 14 clean sheets this term, something that has contributed greatly to City having the stingiest defence in the league (in addition to scoring the most goals).
Hart turns 25 years of age this week, and it seems we can look forward to another decade of his excellence between the sticks.
1: Robin Van Persie
An absolute shoo-in for this at the top of this list, Van Persie is destined to be this season's top scorer in the Premier League.
He is also the hot favourite to win the PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday, and no wonder. The Dutchman has scored 27 goals so far this season for Arsenal, 11 of which ultimately sealed victory for the Gunners.
Van Persie has also laid on 10 assists for teammates and fired 70 shots on target to date this season, more than any other player.