World Football logoWorld Football

EPL 100: Ranking the 100 Best English Premier League Players

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterAugust 12, 2013

EPL 100: Ranking the 100 Best English Premier League Players

1 of 104

    The English Premier League 2013-14 season is nearly upon us, and Bleacher Report brings you the top 100 players coming into the new campaign.

    The method used to grade and score the players will be revealed, while any new signings up until Sunday 11 August have been taken into account.

    Eager to see who the top-rated player is, how your team's new signings measure up to the existing crop or to check on any upsets?

    The rankings are designed to represent where the players are right now, meaning last season's play is a major factor in their scoring. Nemanja Vidic misses out on the top 100 despite getting some minutes under his belt in preseason because no one can be sure what state he's in at the moment.

    There's some room to wiggle too, and Shinji Kagawa is a great example of this: A poor 2012-13 season wasn't exactly his fault, and he stands to improve tenfold should David Moyes use him correctly.

Method

2 of 104

    In ranking our top 100 players for the coming 2013-14 English Premier League season, we produced a method of scoring each player out of 100 in accordance with his position and individual attributes.

    We selected the top five attributes critical to each position on the pitch, then weighted those attributes in order of importance to the position.

    For example, when it comes to deep-lying forwards, movement between the lines and the ability to link play is far more important than scoring headers, and that's reflected in the formula we created.

    Likewise, it's unfair to grade Andy Carroll on the same metric as Robin van Persie, so we created 18 different positions with different criteria to judge. Sweeper keepers like Hugo Lloris have been separated from regular keepers, there are eight types of midfielders and even surging centre-backs have been split from traditional ones.

    We won't reveal the full formula and basis for marking, but here's an example of exactly how the anchor defensive midfield role was analysed and graded.

     

    AttributeWeighting (out of 100)
    Anticipation/Positioning

    How aware is the player? We study his positional tendencies, how well he keeps the line of engagement and how quick he is to react to and pre-empt danger. You don't need to make a tackle/interception if you've cut the danger out before it's even reared its head.
    30
    Tracking

    When his team is in a two versus three or three versus four situation, on the back foot, how well does he cope with midfield runners darting forward? Does he capitulate and get mixed up or track the appropriate man expertly in a Sven Bender-esque manner?
    25
    Tackling

    Exactly what it says on the tin. How clean is the tackle, how does he approach it, how often does he commit fouls and earn yellow cards for poorly executed challenges? Is he forceful or timid?
    20
    Stamina

    When under the cosh, how well does the player cope with switching targets consistently in the face of long spells of possession and pressure? How's his engine—can he get up and down the field all day?
    15
     Passing

    Anchor midfielders don't have to be flashy passers, but it's still a big part of the game. Does he occasionally play above his station, or simply win the ball and lay it off as per his job description? Does he concentrate and hit short passes cleanly, or make mistakes in dangerous areas?
    10

     

    We graded 206 players on our metric to ensure we left no one out, with the top 100 making the official list.

    In the event of a tie, we've simply asked, "who would benefit a team more at this moment in time?" and ranked them accordingly.

Basis for Comparison

3 of 104

    Each player's score out of 100 is listed on his respective profile, and as a basis for comparison we've graded a few extra players at the very top of their game.

    Here are several world-class players topping their trade in different positions, enabling you to see how your beloved stars measure up.

    PlayerPositionScore
    Lionel MessiDeep-lying forward90.5
    Cristiano RonaldoWide forward90.3
    Arturo VidalBox-to-box midfielder88.8
    DanteBall-playing centre-back87.7

    It's important not to draw too much from these four scores or take them too seriously, and they are only presented to help the reader gauge the scale of the grading metric.

    The system used was designed for English Premier Players playing in English football, and as such it isn't tailored specifically for the Continent.

101-125

4 of 104

    So close, yet so far. These 25 players didn't quite make the cut but will still be honoured.

    NameClubPositionScore
    Artur BorucSouthampton 12572.7 
    Kolo ToureLiverpool 12472.7 
    Michael Dawson Tottenham Hotspur 12372.8 
    Angel RangelSwansea City 12272.8 
    Chris Smalling Manchester United 12172.9 
    Leon Osman Everton 12072.9 
    Mark Noble West Ham United11972.9 
    Kieran Gibbs Arsenal 118 73 
    Mohamed DiameWest Ham United117 73 
    Michel VormSwansea City116 73 
    Danny Rose Tottenham Hotspur11573.1 
    Moussa SissokoNewcastle United11473.2 
    John RuddyNorwich City11373.2
    Wojciech SzczesnyArsenal11273.3
    Sascha RietherFulham11173.4 
    Matthew LowtonAston Villa11073.4 
    Lucas LeivaLiverpool10973.4
    Jack RodwellManchester City10873.5 
    Ashley WilliamsSwansea City10773.5 
    Gary MedelCardiff City10673.5
    John Obi MikelChelsea10573.5
    James Milner Manchester City10473.5
    Phil JonesManchester United10373.5
    Bacary SagnaArsenal10273.6
    Nemanja VidicManchester United10173.6

100. Leroy Fer, Norwich City

5 of 104

    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 73.7

    Leroy Fer is a coup for Norwich City this summer, no question.

    He failed a medical at Everton in January with his price set at £8.6 million, and now the Canaries have secured his signature for a lower fee of £5 million.

    He's been playing as a No. 10 at times during preseason, and Chris Hughton will be hoping his Dutch international will be able to feed £8.5 million poacher Ricky van Wolfswinkel with enough chances to fire them to a midtable finish once again.

    Fer is a beastly player, capable of playing almost every role in central midfield, and combines immense strength and size with respectable pace and awesome aerial ability.

    He's definitely one to watch for the neutrals.

99. Jack Cork, Southampton

6 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying playmaker

    Score: 73.7

    Jack Cork faces a battle to keep his spot in the Southampton starting XI this season. Despite Cork excelling with them for two straight years, Mauricio Pochettino has brought in fresh, new options who will challenge him.

    The former Chelsea man's partnership with Morgan Schneiderlin has seen Saints become solid and pass-heavy in midfield, with Cork the general dictating play.

    He's effective in most formations and holds that "possession DNA" so many wish the England national team would adopt—Roy Hodgson could do a lot worse than call young Jack up to his squad.

    Even with a reduced number of starts this season, Cork will be an effective option for Southampton.

98. Adam Lallana, Southampton

7 of 104

    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 73.7

    If Adam Lallana could stay fit, we'd have an England international on our hands.

    His loyalty to Southampton and determination to play Premier League football with his boyhood club are admirable, and as a result he's the hero of the terraces.

    His first touch, technique and awareness are phenomenal, and there are few players in this league that can take a ball out of the air more cleanly than Lallana.

    He needs to up his goal tally in 2013, but that should come naturally with a succession of games under his belt. His movement off the ball is of the highest order, and if his teammates can find him regularly, he can reach double figures.

97. Davide Santon, Newcastle United

8 of 104

    Position: Full-back

    Score: 73.7

    Internazionale were nuts to let Davide Santon go for just £5 million, and he's well on the way to realising his potential in black and white stripes.

    He's adored at St James' Park for his all-action style, and the threat he carries—from either flank—is the envy of many top-flight full-backs.

    He is one of few who can claim they had an OK season last year under Alan Pardew, and he'll be feeling the pressure to excel on a regular basis to make Cesare Prandelli's squad for Brazil next summer.

    Stiff competition in the form of Mattia De Sciglio, Emanuele Giaccherini and Christian Maggio awaits. Can Santon have the season of his life and squeeze in?

96. Marco Van Ginkel, Chelsea

9 of 104

    Position: Central midfielder

    Score: 73.8

    Marco van Ginkel has taken one of the biggest risks possible this transfer window, swapping guaranteed first-team and UEFA Europa League football with Vitesse Arnhem for a shot at the Chelsea first team.

    According to The Guardian, he's been assured by Jose Mourinho he'll get games and has played a large part in the Blues' preseason preparations, drawing some glamorous comparisons to Chelsea hero Frank Lampard.

    He boasts a superb all-round game: wonderful engine, defensive work rate and commitment combined with vision, flair and creativity.

    These players are very hard to come by, and Blues fans are rightly eager to see him in competitive action for the first time.

95. Fabricio Coloccini, Newcastle United

10 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 73.8

    Newcastle supporters will enjoy one final year of Fabricio Coloccini, as he pledged his allegiance to them in thanks to the incredible support they've shown down the years.

    The shaggy-haired rock has been a mainstay at the heart of the defence for half a decade, experiencing both the highs of European football and the lows of relegation to the Championship.

    Aerially he's fantastic, while he also boasts wonderful awareness of what's going on behind him. He and Tim Krul have developed a good understanding, and it's only fitness issues—at both ends—that have stopped them becoming a dominant force together.

94. Tomas Rosicky, Arsenal

11 of 104

    Position: No. 10

    Score: 74.1

    What to make of Tomas Rosicky?

    He's a frustrating case, as when he's on form and injury-free he can unlock almost any defence in world football. Unfortunately, those days are few and far between, and Rosicky doesn't play to his full potential often enough.

    He's formed a fantastic, innate understanding with Santi Cazorla and drifts in and out of a central position in Arsene Wenger's 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 hybrid formation.

    The system suits him, the players suit him and the football plays to his strengths. All Arsenal fans can really ask for is a bit of consistency.

93. Steven Fletcher, Sunderland

12 of 104

    Position: Poacher

    Score: 74.1

    The last time we saw Steven Fletcher, he was writhing in pain on the turf donning a Scotland kit.

    He's yet to feature prominently in preseason under Paolo Di Canio, and with Jozy Altidore in place he'll be given every chance he needs to return to full fitness without aggravating his ailment.

    When he does come back, he'll score goals, no question. It's all he's ever done, be it in the Scottish Premier League, for struggling Wolves or for a serviceable Sunderland.

    He's as clear a poacher as they come, and as a result graded out very highly in his finishing and movement in addition to his thumping heading ability.

92. Jay Rodriguez, Southampton

13 of 104

    Position: Wide forward

    Score: 74.2

    Jay Rodriguez had a so-so debut Premier League season, and if he can turn sporadic success into long streaks of form he will become a serious weapon under Mauricio Pochettino.

    Under the pressure of a hefty price tag he struggled initially, but that was as much to do with expectation as it was to adapting to a new position—on the left-hand side of Nigel Adkins' 4-3-3.

    A traditional No. 9, much of his game changed in the first few months as he adapted to become a well-rounded wide player with searing pace and an eye for goal.

    He's developed fantastic chemistry with Rickie Lambert, and the former Burnley speedster uses his big-bodied teammate to create angles, lanes and opportunities.

91. Stephane Sessegnon, Sunderland

14 of 104

    Position: No. 10

    Score: 74.2

    Sunderland's talisman in chief, Stephane Sessegnon, will go down as one of Steve Bruce's greatest ever purchases.

    The Benin international combines great creativity and awareness in the hole behind the striker with power and strength on the ball. It's a wonderful combination and is extremely hard to deal with if you're tracking and covering the man.

    Sessegnon has felt the heavy burden of expectation, creating most of the team's openings for the past three seasons. If he plays well, Sunderland can win; if he doesn't, they rarely pick up any points.

    His sending-off against Aston Villa last season sparked fears the Black Cats would go down in his absence.

90. Arouna Kone, Everton

15 of 104

    Position: Deep-Lying Forward

    Score: 74.3

    The situation Arouna Kone found himself in this summer was absolutely ideal.

    Despite suffering relegation with Wigan Athletic at the end of last season, Roberto Martinez's appointment at Everton facilitated the Ivorian's move to join him at a bigger, better Premier League club.

    He walks into a footballing system he's had 12 months of experience in and is expected to take up his role as a deep-lying centre-forward in the 3-4-3/4-3-3 formation.

    His linkup play is heavily underrated, while he provides the size and presence his team can lean on if the going gets tough. Kone is expected to pick up exactly where he left off at the end of the 2012-13 campaign.

89. Steven Pienaar, Everton

16 of 104

    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 74.3

    Though not quite at his best last year, Steven Pienaar remains one of Everton’s key players and will once again be central to his side's offensive approach this season.

    While Leighton Baines received considerable acclaim for his creative return, it was Pienaar who carved out more chances from open play last season. In fact, aside from Baines, no other Everton player fashioned out half as much as the South African, and he will once again be expected to orchestrate attacks and unlock defences.

    It will be interesting to see if he remains purely on the left under Roberto Martinez. It’s well known how effective he is playing in tandem with Baines, but it was something David Moyes began tinkering with towards the end of last season.

    One or two Premier League defences appeared better prepared to stifle this partnership, and the fact Kevin Mirallas prefers cutting in off the left, as he did so well for Olympiakos, saw Pienaar moved around.

    He started switching to the right more often and even spent phases of play behind the striker. Wherever he features, expect him to once again have a large say in Everton's attacking fortunes.

88. Youssouf Mulumbu, West Bromwich Albion

17 of 104

    Position: Anchor defensive midfielder

    Score: 74.4

    Youssouf Mulumbu goes about his business in a quiet, tidy fashion which remains unappreciated by the large majority of English Premier League fans.

    He and Claudio Yacob formed a wonderful partnership at the base of Steve Clarke's 4-2-3-1 throughout the 2012-13 season, and the duo showed good understanding and versatility in moving to a 4-3-3, a 4-4-2 and a 3-5-2.

    He's strong in the tackle, tracks his markers well and never commits too early or too vigorously—you'll find it hard to get past Mulumbu, dribbling or passing.

    He's a Steve Clarke favourite due to his simple, direct style: retrieve the ball and start an attack in the simplest manner possible.

87. Andy Carroll, West Ham United

18 of 104

    Position: Target man

    Score: 74.4

    It's rare in football that a transfer results in three incredibly happy parties, but that's exactly what's happened in the case of Andy Carroll.

    Liverpool were desperate to get rid of his wages and were willing to recoup what was possible from a £35 million outlay, West Ham were desperate to keep him around given his popularity with the fans and tactical fit under Sam Allardyce, while Carroll found another club willing to pay him tonnes of cash on a weekly basis.

    Win, win, win.

    Carroll now enters the season under immense pressure, but strikers in his mould—aerially dominant in a side that is predicated on playing to his strengths—will never fail to have an impact.

    He's unplayable in the air and, if he can avoid ailments, could be a dark horse to be a top-five Premier League goalscorer in 2014.

86. Sylvain Distin, Everton

19 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 74.5

    We keep thinking Sylvain Distin is on the verge of slowing down, but somehow the former Portsmouth man pulls out another top-tier season.

    Now 35 and in his fifth year with Everton, Distin has formed a reliable partnership with Phil Jagielka that allows Toffees fans to feel confident about their side's defensive fortunes.

    The Frenchman boasts unbelievable athleticism, with a wonderful leap accompanied by pace you rarely see in a man so tall: As far as centre-backs go, he's one of the quickest in the business.

    Comfortable on the ball, happy moving in and out of the line and positionally very aware, he should fit right in under Roberto Martinez.

85. Javier Hernandez, Manchester United

20 of 104

    Position: Poacher

    Score: 74.5

    Mexican forward Javier Hernandez could be forgiven for harbouring frustrations at his lack of first-team opportunities last season, having averaged a goal every 90 minutes for Manchester United in the Premier League.

    Renowned for his finishing prowess, doubts had existed about Hernandez's ability outside of the penalty area. However, over the past 18 months, the Mexico forward has improved considerably in his all-round play.

    How long he will be content to play a backup role remains to be seen, but the addition of a new manager at Old Trafford offers hope that he may see an increase in playing time in the coming months.

    The 2013-14 season is a make-or-break campaign for Hernandez at Manchester United, with the striker in need of regular playing time. Given his phenomenal strike rate with both club and country, Hernandez remains one of the league's most feared forwards.

84. Mikel Arteta, Arsenal

21 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying playmaker

    Score: 74.5

    Mikel Arteta is a strange case.

    If he was played in his correct position, he'd soar up the rankings given his prowess in passing and patience on the ball. At Everton he was a regular in the assist column as a visionary No. 10 behind the striker, yet he's filling in at holding midfield for Arsenal, and it doesn't suit him.

    Props to Arteta for fulfilling the manager's wishes without questioning the logic, but if the Gunners wish to progress and win a title, they cannot do so with Arteta screening the defence.

    He's a pass master, both short and long, and controls the tempo extremely well to ensure the Gunners are dominant in possession.

    Arteta's low grading is unfortunate but accurate, and if Arsene Wenger were to move him forward and secure a true defensive midfielder to break things up, this Spaniard would be a lot higher on this list.

83. Ben Foster, West Bromwich Albion

22 of 104

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 74.6

    Ben Foster is a thoroughly underrated 'keeper who has consistently shone since leaving Manchester United.

    West Bromwich Albion pulled off one hell of a deal in luring him from Birmingham City after the club experienced relegation, and Baggies fans have been feeling safe and assured ever since.

    He's a vocal, vibrant character who celebrates every goal as if he scored it, pumping up the crowd and his teammates simultaneously.

    Wonderful reflexes, decent aerial presence and very safe hands are his trademarks, while he's also an emerging sweeper 'keeper—his anticipation and positional sense get better with every season.

82. Emanuele Giaccherini, Sunderland

23 of 104

    Position: Traditional winger

    Score: 74.6

    Emanuele Giaccherini is a stunning coup for Sunderland, who, after just about surviving relegation, have secured the signature of a reigning Serie A champion.

    The former Juventus man plays in almost every position imaginable, but preseason form indicates Paolo Di Canio sees him as a left-sided winger in a 4-2-3-1.

    He goes a long way to taking away some of the pressure placed on Stephane Sessegnon to create and lead the team in the final third, and Black Cats fans are really eager to see what Giaccherini can do on a competitive platform.

    He's got experience, know-how and hunger to make the Italy side for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

81. Rickie Lambert, Southampton

24 of 104

    Position: Target man

    Score: 74.6

    Rickie Lambert has been doubted at every level he's played at, but fortunately for Southampton he's made a career out of proving people horribly wrong.

    In League One he was a beast, but could he hack it in the Championship? Thirty-one goals later, Saints are heading for the English Premier League, but again he attracts extraordinary amounts of pessimism when it comes to predicting his goal tally.

    Fifteen goals was his emphatic answer, and now there can be no doubt: Lambert is a Premier League player who fits the modern mould of the complete striker.

    He was far too intelligent for the lower leagues, constantly moving and tormenting his markers before beating them in the air and firing the ball home from 40 yards.

    The former Bristol Rovers man boasts sublime technique, aerial prowess and super-human strength.

80. Rafael, Manchester United

25 of 104

    Position: Full-back

    Score: 74.6

    Rafael was a strong candidate for most improved player of the 2012-13 season, and Manchester United can finally feel convinced they've got a right-back who's a lock for the next decade.

    Full-backs, on our metric, are graded extremely highly on positional intelligence and how well a player judges when to go forward and when not to.

    That was Rafael's big weak point when he first came to England, and although it's not up to scratch just yet, it's definitely getting there.

    His offensive presence is still stronger than his defensive presence, but the latter part of his game grew leaps and bounds last year. Forced to face off against Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale inside the span of a month last season, he had no choice but to get better.

79. Cheick Tiote, Newcastle United

26 of 104

    Position: Anchor defensive midfielder

    Score: 74.7

    Newcastle United picked up quite the bargain in Cheick Tiote, signing the midfielder from FC Twente for just £3.5 million in 2010.

    He's featured heavily alongside Yohan Cabaye in central midfield for the Magpies, and it was no surprise when Chelsea were interested in both at the end of the 2012 summer window, as reported by the Metro.

    Tiote is a monstrous defensive midfielder who tackles cleanly and powers his way through games. He's bigger, stronger and far more aggressive than most, but don't underrate the technical side of his game—he's a solid passer of the ball too.

    Don't make him angry.

78. Sebastien Bassong, Norwich City

27 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 74.7

    If it weren't for Norwich City's stingy defence last season, their goalscoring issues at the other end of the pitch could have been fatal.

    Michael Turner and Sebastian Bassong lead an exemplary defensive line, and many fans were left stupefied when they comfortably shut out Manchester United in a 1-0 win in 2012.

    Bassong is the standout, and while he doesn't offer the same goal threat Turner does, he has many of the requisites a modern centre-back dreams of.

    He has extraordinary strength, brilliant recovery pace and an excellent ability to filter out wide and cover his full-back. He keeps his distances between players on the line extremely well, ensuring no man—not poacher, not target man—can bully the Canaries.

77. Jores Okore, Aston Villa

28 of 104

    Position: Centre-Back

    Score: 74.7

    The signing of Jores Okore represents a real coup for Aston Villa as they prepare for another big season, and many fans of other clubs were disappointed they didn't pursue the Danish centre-half as well.

    Especially when he only cost £4 million.

    Paul Lambert has recruited a monstrous young lad who has power, pace, a great leap and a wonderful positional sense.

    His recovery speed is something many in his position would crave, while his experience in the UEFA Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk, Chelsea and Juventus should be very useful while acclimating to the EPL.

    Okore walks into the Villa side as the best central defender on the books, giving Lambert a real selection dilemma when it comes to captain Ron Vlaar and up-and-comer Nathan Baker.

76. Pablo Hernandez, Swansea City

29 of 104

    Position: Traditional winger

    Score: 74.9

    If Pablo Hernandez can find an element of consistency he can be a top English Premier League winger.

    He went through spells last season of ingenuity and brilliance, but balanced them out by going missing on occasion.

    On his day he's electric, and Chelsea felt the full wrath of his capabilities in a hard-fought 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium, but he couldn't keep the intensity in his game for long stretches.

    Swansea have renewed their attacking forces and bought Jonjo Shelvey to do large chunks of running, meaning Hernandez won't be so heavily relied upon to spark things in the forward areas.

75. Chico Flores, Swansea City

30 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 74.9

    Chico is one of the most un-Spanish Spaniards to be playing the game right now.

    His outlook is physical, brutish and dominant, far removed from your typical Iberian centre-back who passes gracefully, Chico steams in and deals with danger the old-fashioned way.

    He's very strong in the air, uncompromising in the challenge and loves to step forward and intercept. He rarely tries a long pass, instead dumping it off to central defensive partner Ashley Williams or one of his more creative midfielders.

    He's a manager's dream, playing at maximum velocity every game, sticking his head in where it hurts and never overstepping his responsibilities.

74. Nacho Monreal, Arsenal

31 of 104

    Position: Full-back

    Score: 74.9

    Arsene Wenger secured the perfect signing in Nacho Monreal of Malaga last January, and the club have looked much stronger in that position as a result of the transfer.

    No longer does Wenger have to rely on Kieran Gibbs' highly susceptible legs, and Monreal's presence allows the manager to give Gibbs the appropriate rest he needs.

    Monreal is by no means a slouch, and the Gunners were fortunate to sign him for such a low price. He has spent the last season and a half tormenting opposing full-backs, whipping in dangerous crosses and snuffing out attacks in his own defensive third.

    He works incredibly hard, passes very well and looks like the all-round prospect Gibbs aspires to become.

    With a full preseason under his belt with the Gunners, expect even more from Monreal.

73. Ashley Young, Manchester United

32 of 104

    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 75

    Ashley Young has struggled to live up to his hefty £16 million fee due to a succession of injuries during his time at Old Trafford.

    But he's the sort of player who can thrive under David Moyes, and the Scot is likely to give his winger an extended stay in the first team given the contractual situation of Nani.

    His technique is superb, while Young continues to boast great pace, agility and trickery on the ball. He's taken the term "slippery" a little too far in some people's books, but he's still capable of delivering an inch-perfect cross or curling it round the keeper's finger tips from 25 yards away.

    Wilfried Zaha would be wise to look to him for some guidance on how to avoid hefty challenges and targeting from defenders.

72. Iago Aspas, Liverpool

33 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 75

    There'll be a lot of question marks regarding Iago Aspas' ability from the lay fan, but La Liga aficionados will know Liverpool have grabbed a bargain.

    Aspas was a star on a poor Celta de Vigo side last season and could have made the move to the English Premier League in January when he hit peak form.

    Instead he held out, helped save the club from relegation by a single point and scored 12 goals in the process. Job done, and Celta receive approximately £7 million for his services after wishing him well.

    He works insanely hard and boasts wonderful movement, dipping in and out of the forward line and pulling the strings for the strikers. He's got a wonderful leap and a remarkable heading ability given his size, while some good form in preseason has given Brendan Rodgers quite the selection dilemma.

71. Roberto Soldado, Tottenham Hotspur

34 of 104

    Position: Poacher

    Score: 75

    You're the club's record signing, and you've been brought in to fix a massive problem in the striking department—best of luck, Roberto Soldado.

    The former Valencia hit man arrives on the back of a 24-goal season in La Liga, and Spurs fans will be expecting instant impact and delivery from their shiny new signing.

    He's not the complete forward Andre Villas-Boas will have wanted, but he's a definite step up from the hit-and-miss Jermain Defoe and seemingly indifferent Emmanuel Adebayor.

    He'll need to brush up on his first touch and awareness quickly while maintaining his physicality and core strength. Give him the ball in the box and he will score.

70. Gary Cahill, Chelsea

35 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 75.1

    With the decline of John Terry and Jose Mourinho's apparent willingness to continue with the back line he inherited, Gary Cahill finds himself in a great position to stamp his authority on a starting role.

    Branislav Ivanovic will likely timeshare the right-back and centre-back slots, making Cahill, at the very worst, third on the central defensive depth chart.

    He's an assured passer who dominates aerially and, after developing a knack for scoring goals at Bolton Wanderers, has used that to great effect in a Chelsea shirt.

    Overhead kicks, volleys, thumping headers...you name it, he can do it. Super technique for a centre-back.

69. Aaron Lennon, Tottenham Hotspur

36 of 104

    Position: Traditional winger

    Score: 75.1

    Much was made of Gareth Bale's absence toward the end of last season, but it would be unfair to suggest Tottenham faltered solely due to the Welshman's ailment.

    Aaron Lennon provides the sort of natural width very few players do in the modern game, sticking to the right side of the pitch as a right-footed player and stretching it to make space for others.

    Both Bale and Lennon went down and Spurs' lack of depth on the wings was brought to the fore, with the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson unable to replicate their offerings and Andros Townsend out on loan at Queens Park Rangers.

    Lennon's crossing leaves something to be desired, but he can worm his way into the penalty area with his immense quickness and create from a narrower angle.

    He has the pace most wingers can only dream of.

68. Patrice Evra, Manchester United

37 of 104

    Position: Full-back

    Score: 75.1

    Twelve months ago, most Manchester United fans would have been open to offers for long-serving left-back Patrice Evra, with the 2011-12 season perhaps his most disappointing of his time at the club.

    It is to Evra's great credit, then, that he has rediscovered some semblance of his past form.

    The Frenchman was an important figure in his club's title win last campaign, contributing in both attack and defence as the Red Devils stormed to a big points advantage over their rivals.

    Interestingly, Evra also added goals to his game last year, scoring four times in the league as he proved to be a major threat in the air from set pieces.

    Evra's endless determination and desire to win have undoubtedly been a major driving force behind Manchester United's recent successes.

67. Wilfried Bony, Swansea City

38 of 104

    Position: Target man

    Score: 75.1

    Wilfried Bony, coming off a 31-goal season with Vitesse Arnhem, was one of the hottest striking properties on the market.

    Top clubs shied away, reluctant to take a gamble on a pricey Eredivisie talent, but Swansea bit quickly and paid the £12 million fee.

    Early form suggests Michael Laudrup has struck gold once again, as the debate over whether the Ivorian's goals came from poor defending or superb movement is gradually being settled—it's the latter, in case you were wondering.

    Bony has the ability to take the pressure off Michu's shoulders and contribute heavily to the team, boasting great close control and an excellent understanding in buildup play.

    He and Michu are already dropping in and out of each other's positions, driving defences up the wall.

66. Tom Cleverley, Manchester United

39 of 104

    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 75.2

    Tom Cleverley's meteoric rise to the Manchester United first team was inexplicably halted toward the end of last season by Sir Alex Ferguson.

    After playing solidly throughout the start of 2013, Cleverley managed 61 minutes against Chelsea in the FA Cup and subsequently wasn't seen for a month.

    Burnout on young legs? A niggling injury? Your guess is as good as mine, but United fans had grown to love him and look forward to seeing him back on the pitch for the coming campaign.

    He mixes an all-action style of tenacity and combativeness with the finesse of a ball-playing midfielder. He's got a cracking strike to excite the fans and works extremely hard for his team.

    With no midfield reinforcements to speak of as it stands, Cleverley is set for another season entrenched in the reigning champions' XI.

65. Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle United

40 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying playmaker

    Score: 75.2

    Newcastle's Yohan Cabaye is now under pressure to perform well and retain his starting spot in France's starting XI.

    That's good news for the Magpies, who will expect a season full of creativity, leadership and goals from the centre of the park.

    Like so many of Alan Pardew's key players the 27-year-old struggled with injury issues throughout the 2012-13 campaign, and without their talisman the club struggled to control games and create from central areas.

    Cabaye brings set-piece prowess, good positional awareness and a spark of creativity and ingenuity.

64. Theo Walcott, Arsenal

41 of 104

    Position: Wide forward

    Score: 75.3

    After scoring 14 and assisting 10 in the English Premier League last season, you might have expected Theo Walcott to be pushing the top 25 in our rankings.

    But a big part of a wide forward's job is keeping his cool in order to make the correct decision, and Walcott still struggles with that despite six years of experience in England's top tier.

    He wants to play as a central striker, and while he can be devastating against lesser defences, he's too limited (technically and physically) to play as a centre-forward against the best sides in Europe.

    His raw pace is suited to the wider areas, where he can isolate full-backs and hit them one vs. one on the counter, and if he learns to make the right choices at high speed, he can be a late-blooming elite-tier wide man.

63. Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United

42 of 104

    Position: Ball-playing centre-back

    Score: 75.4

    Two injury-ridden, sub-par seasons from Rio Ferdinand and we thought he was on the way out, but over the course of the 2012-13 campaign, he leveled out as one of the better Premier League centre-backs.

    He put his troublesome back ailments on the shelf and managed his fitness carefully, turning in 26 league starts and making an effort to guide the younger central defenders on the team.

    Ferdinand participated in the thrilling encounter with Real Madrid and looked at home over the course of 180 minutes, while also contributing heavily to Sir Alex Ferguson's plan to nullify Gareth Bale at White Hart Lane.

    Rio stepping up meant Manchester United barely felt the loss of Nemanja Vidic.

62. Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal

43 of 104

    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 75.5

    Aaron Ramsey enjoyed a real uplift in form for the final six weeks of the 2012-13 season. The reason? A multitude of factors, but playing him in a box-to-box role—rather than on the right wing—had a big say in proceedings.

    He'll be surprisingly high on this list if you've not been watching him closely in 2013, but we can assure he's primed and ready to start growing after a rocky few years post-injury.

    The Welshman had been terribly off-colour since the Ryan Shawcross incident, and for one so young to have something so horrendous happen, it's easy to see why his play seemed rusty and tentative.

    He's finally coming out of his shell, and Arsene Wenger must be delighted to have his future star back with a smile on his face.

61. Brad Guzan, Aston Villa

44 of 104

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 75.6

    Many look at Christian Benteke's 19-goal haul in the English Premier League last season and suggest that's what kept Aston Villa up, but were it not for Brad Guzan's heroics they'd have been dead and buried a long time before May.

    He re-signed with the Birmingham club after being released last summer. Paul Lambert promised him a shot at the first team and Guzan believed him, but no one expected it to come as soon as the third league game.

    After some poor errors from Shay Given, the American was given his chance and never looked back, quickly blossoming into one of the finest keepers in the country.

    His reflexes are brilliant, but what really stands out is his aerial ability. So confident is he to come out and claim crosses, Villa were unfathomed by the height and set-piece prowess the likes of Stoke and West Ham present.

60. Tim Howard, Everton

45 of 104

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 75.7

    Tim Howard continues to show the sort of consistency that leads us to believe he can emulate the other great U.S. shot-stoppers that have played in the EPL in the past.

    At 34 years of age he's as good as ever, ensuring Everton fans need not worry about who minds the sticks or organizes the defensive line from behind.

    Howard has a true propensity for the wonder save, often pulling off outstanding reflex or fingertip stops on his line to deny clear goalscoring opportunities.

    There was a time during his short stint at Manchester United when it seemed he just wouldn't make the grade, but David Moyes took him in and a constant platform allowed him to grow.

    He'll need another great campaign to hold off Brad Guzan in the national side.

59. Lukas Podolski, Arsenal

46 of 104

    Position: Wide forward

    Score: 75.7

    Lukas Podolski enjoyed a good, solid debut season as a wide forward in Arsene Wenger's 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation.

    He pulled in 11 goals and nine assists in the league, netting particularly crucial strikes at Liverpool and Montpellier and bagging a hat-trick of assists against West Ham.

    We graded him highly on his finishing, as his ability to smash one in from the tightest of angles is rivalled by few, while his decision-making is also relatively strong in comparison to those in his field.

    He's not blessed with extraordinary pace nor supreme muscle but manages to engineer good situations for himself and others on a regular basis—a clever player.

58. Alvaro Negredo, Manchester City

47 of 104

    Position: Poacher

    Score: 75.7

    Alvaro Negredo is a tad expensive at €20 million, but the presence of former teammate Jesus Navas should ensure the Spaniard is a success in his debut season with Manchester City.

    He scored 25 league goals last year in Spain's top tier, and they came in all different shapes and sizes, benefiting from a varied buildup in a very creative team.

    His pure finishing skills and instinct in front of goal is superb, but that won't see him straight into first-team contention given the blossoming partnership of Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko.

    It should be a tough season for Negredo, but he's more than capable of making a serious impact on all fronts for Manuel Pellegrini.

57. David De Gea, Manchester United

48 of 104

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 75.7

    When David De Gea was voted into the PFA Premier League Team of the Year, it was fine reward for two seasons of intensive work since joining the club in 2011.

    Having been heavily criticised on a regular basis since joining the club and briefly deposed from his first-choice goalkeeper role in the process, the Spaniard should be commended for his attitude in fighting to turn the tide of public opinion.

    Now, following a near-immaculate second half of the past campaign, he is finally being acknowledged as the outstanding goalkeeper that he is by the English media.

    De Gea's shot-stopping skills have never been doubted—he is simply outstanding. However, having bulked up considerably, he is now a far more dominant force in dealing with crosses than he was upon signing with the Red Devils two years ago.

56. Ramires, Chelsea

49 of 104

    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 75.7

    Ramires is quickly becoming one of the more versatile players in the English Premier League, but we've graded him in his more natural position of box-to-box midfielder.

    Energy and stamina is an important part of the role, and it's fair to say few can rival Ramires in his ability to get up and down the pitch at great speed.

    He is, in basic terms, a physical phenomenon, and it would hardly be a surprise if his Chelsea medical revealed a third lung on the scan.

    Technically he's a little hit-and-miss: capable of some sublime moments—á la Camp Nou—but also some horror shows in terms of mis-controlling the ball or dribbling straight out of play.

    But his work rate, attitude and physical abilities make him a comfortable addition to any top side.

55. Asmir Begovic, Stoke City

50 of 104

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 75.8

    Asmir Begovic was an inspired signing by Tony Pulis after Portsmouth fell into financial ruin, picking the Bosnia and Herzegovina international up for a mere £3.25 million.

    He's since been linked with Manchester United—particularly when David De Gea was having trouble settling into English Premier League life—and will command at least six times that fee if he eventually leaves the Britannia Stadium.

    Begovic is one of the better goalkeepers when it comes to reflex saves on his line, while he's also adept at barking orders and squeezing his defensive line out early after a set piece.

    He's decent enough in one vs. one situations, though is sometimes left engaging the opponent in a slightly haphazard fashion.

54. Olivier Giroud, Arsenal

51 of 104

    Position: Target man

    Score: 75.8

    Olivier Giroud had a decent debut Premier League season, notching 11 goals and three assists from 24 starts.

    On the surface it looks good, but the Frenchman's irritating tendency to shoot from anywhere on the pitch—hence the paltry conversion rate of 9.7 shots per goal—can anger the Emirates crowd.

    Toward the end of the season he looked much better, adapting physically to English football and exuding far more confidence on the ball.

    Arsenal fans have high hopes that Giroud can be a very good player next season, and with no strikers currently signed, he'll be the focal point once more.

    His linkup play, technique and aerial presence are all top notch.

53. Etienne Capoue, Tottenham Hotspur

52 of 104

    Position: Anchor defensive midfielder

    Score: 75.8

    Etienne Capoue has been added to Tottenham Hotspur's ranks by Andre Villas-Boas, creating immense depth in the holding midfield position.

    The Frenchman faces a battle to make his nation's 2014 FIFA World Cup squad considering the level of competition in his area of expertise, but should he excel at White Hart Lane, he will make the cut.

    Capoue has made his name as a crunching defensive midfielder who operates superbly in a 4-1-4-1 formation. He's the ideal anchor in a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3, while he could also form a serviceable portion of a double-pivot.

    He can also drop in at centre-back, but only on an emergency basis. Signing the former Toulouse man is confirmation that AVB will not risk another season without sufficient midfield numbers.

     

    **note: this deal is expected to be completed as the player completes his medical, as BBC Sport have reported. Should the deal fall through, Capoue will be removed from the rankings.

52. Paulinho, Tottenham Hotspur

53 of 104

    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 75.9

    Paulinho arrives at Tottenham Hotspur with a fantastic reputation.

    He helped Corinthians win the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup against Chelsea, then formed a superb double-pivot with Luiz Gustavo to aid Brazil in securing the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

    He's moved into a more expansive role in domestic football over the past 12 months—even playing as a No. 10 toward the back-end of the season—and brings immense versatility and strength to Andre Villas-Boas' midfield.

    AVB is believed to be itching to play his beloved 4-3-3 formation, the one that went so well at FC Porto and so horribly wrong at Chelsea. He was wise enough to hold fire and wait until he had the right peripherals before installing it at White Hart Lane, and now he is free to do so.

    Paulinho is primed for a monumental impact, not just as an individual, but in sparking a change in philosophy.

51. Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

54 of 104

    Position: Full-back

    Score: 75.9

    When Chelsea went in unopposed to sign Cesar Azpilicueta from Marseille for just £7 million, many questioned why several other UEFA Champions League clubs weren't rivalling the Blues for his signature.

    "Dave," as the fans call him at Stamford Bridge, stands to lock down the starting right-back berth at Chelsea for the next several years, bringing high work-rate, studious defensive ability and attacking flair to the lineup.

    He's within a shout of taking up a permanent fixture in the Spanish national side following Alvaro Arbeloa's fall from grace and continues to improve as a player.

    Azpilicueta's great positional sense and inhuman amount of stamina pushed him up above most other full-backs in our rankings.

50. Christian Benteke, Aston Villa

55 of 104

    Position: Target man

    Score: 75.9

    Aston Villa fans rejoiced on July 19 as Christian Benteke withdrew his transfer request and signed a new four-year deal with the club.

    After an astonishing maiden Premier League campaign in which he bagged 19 league goals to keep the club afloat, the Belgian was heavily linked to Tottenham Hotspur in a £20 million move.

    But Paul Lambert talked him into staying, and again he forms the focal point of an up-and-coming team who are looking to finish in the top half next season.

    He's the complete, all-round striker; he runs channels, holds it up, heads it, shoots from long distance and boasts amazing close control and technique.

    His ominous preseason form has the Villa camp excited—he scored a 33-minute hat-trick against Crewe—and the fans are ready to pin their hopes on him once again.

49. Tim Krul, Newcastle United

56 of 104

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 76

    Newcastle were circling the drain late last season, and one of the main factors in their horrendous form was the season-ending injury to world-class goalkeeper Tim Krul.

    Krul dislocated his shoulder during the 3-0 loss to fierce rivals Sunderland, forced to sit on the treatment table as the Magpies scraped clear of relegation.

    Over the past 24 months, Krul has grown into a fantastic goalkeeper: first-choice for the Dutch national team under Louis van Gaal and a future UEFA Champions League shot-stopper for whatever the club.

    He commands his box superbly, while his agility and reflexes on his line allow him to make some spectacular stops. His long lanky frame enables him to get to balls normally out of reach for most keepers while his strong frame enables him to fend off defenders in the air.

48. Victor Wanyama, Southampton

57 of 104

    Position: Anchor defensive midfielder

    Score: 76.1

    The signing of Victor Wanyama for Southampton is nothing short of a tremendous coup on Mauricio Pochettino's behalf, as the Kenyan could have easily signed and slotted into Manchester United or Liverpool's first XIs.

    He's one of the strongest players in the game and boasts fantastic defensive instinct and awareness, comfortably shielding his defence by stepping out to make an interception.

    He's forceful in the challenge and can mix it with the best. Wanyama's engine is good and he shows decent ability to track runners when his side is being counterattacked.

    The only aspect of his game that let him down in our grading was his passing, as he can sometimes commit the cardinal sin of not double-checking his intended ball before committing. Teams can pick up easy interceptions in dangerous areas, and he will need to address this while with Southhampton this season.

47. Edin Dzeko, Manchester City

58 of 104

    Position: Target man

    Score: 76.1

    Edin Dzeko looks a man on fire in preseason, forging a fantastic Balkan relationship with Stevan Jovetic and banging home the goals.

    If he takes that confidence into competitive fixtures, defences across the country will once again fear the towering Bosnian striker.

    His linkup play and close control is looking exemplary, while he graded out particularly well for his aerial dominance and heading skills. With an extra yard of pace he'd have every attribute under the sun.

    The addition of Jesus Navas has brought value to Dzeko's presence on the team sheet, giving him curling crosses to utilise with his large, muscular frame.

46. Michu, Swansea City

59 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 76.2

    What an unbelievable debut Premier League season Michu enjoyed.

    Those acquainted with La Liga were not the least bit surprised when he smashed home 18 league goals and schooled English defences with his sublime movement.

    He's expected to cool off a little in 2013 but still remains a prolific threat—especially now that he's playing off target man Wilfried Bony, a £12 million acquisition from Vitesse Arnhem.

    Of all the deep-lying forwards we graded, Michu's heading ability was a cut above the rest. He boasts remarkable agility considering his somatotype and remains dominant in aerial situations.

45. Fernandinho, Manchester City

60 of 104

    Position: Surging defensive midfielder

    Score: 76.2

    At £30 million Fernandinho is the biggest risk Manuel Pellegrini and Txiki Begiristain have taken this summer, but all signs point toward the former Shakhtar Donetsk player being a success.

    He provides the perfect tonic to Yaya Toure in holding midfield, displaying a reserved nature that should allow the Ivorian to burst forward with more regularity and cause damage.

    Fernandinho loves to push forward and break tackles too and did so to great effect against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League last season, but he can be caught out if a team plays into the space behind him—á la Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16.

    He was so desperate to move to Manchester City he waived £4 million owed to him by Shakhtar in order to enable the move, and a big season at both Premier League and UCL level could see him make a late run at the Brazilian 2014 FIFA World Cup squad.

44. Simon Mignolet, Liverpool

61 of 104

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 76.3

    Simon Mignolet—the man who has sparked so much fuss surrounding Pepe Reina and his circumstances at Liverpool.

    The club felt, after three years of error-ridden performances from their usually-stellar Spaniard, that his approximate wages of £110,000-per-week weren't manageable and recruited a replacement to ensure Reina would exit the club.

    Reina ended up fleeing to Napoli, and in his place the Belgian arrived. For £9 million he's an absolute steal, as consistently excellent performances over the past several seasons have successfully steered former club Sunderland away from relegation.

    He faces stiff competition from Thibaut Courtois for a place in the national team and clearly felt he needed to be playing at a higher level. It doesn't get much better than a packed Anfield stadium on a Saturday afternoon.

43. Phil Jagielka, Everton

62 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 76.4

    Some of Everton's defensive displays were masterful last season, and Phil Jagielka is at the heart of it all.

    The former Sheffield United man graded extremely well on our metric for aerial presence, tracking of markers and runners as well as his awareness of what's going on around him.

    A true leader, he marshalls the line, sets how high up the team play, takes the ball forward and delegates tracking assignments. He put in a number of outstanding individual performances last season, in particular against Queens Park Rangers to secure a vital point.

    Another season at this calibre and he's well on his way to Brazil should England qualify.

42. Daniel Agger, Liverpool

63 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 76.5

    Daniel Agger did the work of two men last season, continually covering for a sub-par Martin Skrtel and bailing him out.

    Playing left centre-back is also pretty tough with a wildcard like Jose Enrique on the flank, and the Dane did well to keep a struggling Liverpool defence afloat.

    He should be set for a much more comfortable season in 2013, and fans will hope to see more commanding performances from him in an aerial sense.

    He's been named vice-captain by Brendan Rodgers in an effort to stave off lingering Barcelona interest, so fans will be looking to him with a renewed sense of expectation and optimism.

41. Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle United

64 of 104

    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 76.6

    Hatem Ben Arfa's been out injured for so long some have forgotten he exists.

    When he's fit and raring to go he's borderline unplayable, combining searing pace with quick-thinking and superb long-range shooting.

    The technique he boasts when striking, crossing, passing or dribbling is sublime, and he's one of the few wingers in the world almost every full-back fears.

    He missed huge chunks of last season and was worked back into the side slowly in April but failed to get back up to speed. He should hit the ground running in 2013 and have a big say in how far Newcastle can climb.

40. Kevin Mirallas, Everton

65 of 104

    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 76.7

    There were times last season when Kevin Mirallas was simply out of this world.

    His goal against Stoke City, in which he took the ball from inside his own half, turned the defence inside out and slotted home with aplomb, is what he should be doing on a regular basis if he weren't so prone to knocks.

    The amount of times Mirallas would hop onto the sidelines shaking his head or nursing his ankle was frustrating for Everton fans, as they know they have an electric talent on their hands who needs to be playing every game in order to make their side a force.

    He boasts wonderful acceleration, top-end speed and his close control at pace is remarkable.

39. Dimitar Berbatov, Fulham

66 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 76.8

    We were surprised, after grading every player in the system, that Dimitar Berbatov came out so high. You probably will be too.

    But that just goes to show how thoroughly underrated he is by all—bar Fulham fans—and how easy it is to forget what a magician he can be when he gets on the ball in the right areas.

    It wasn't long ago that he was playing for Manchester United, busy winning the Premier League Golden Boot after a solid 20-goal haul, and his game hasn't declined due to the fact its founded on technical abilities.

    His awareness, ability to create space and unbelievable technique make him a real asset for Martin Jol, and most will agree the Cottagers pulled off a real coup on deadline day in 2012 to grab the Bulgarian.

    He could still be plying his trade at a UEFA Champions League club with ease.

38. Oscar, Chelsea

67 of 104

    Position: No. 10

    Score: 76.8

    Oscar may be the least heralded of "The Three Amigos," but that doesn't mean he's unappreciated or underrated by the fans.

    Throughout his short career so far he's proven to be ridiculously versatile, playing as a No. 10 and a right-winger in a 4-2-3-1 and a box-to-box central midfielder in a 4-3-3.

    He's most at home behind the striker in a central position, so that's where we've graded him, and he impressed in that role for Brazil this summer in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

    His low centre of gravity makes him tough to barge off the ball despite his small stature, while his understanding of the game and how to create and manipulate space is top notch.

    Andre Schuerrle looks set to threaten Oscar's position in the side, and the Brazilian will need to have a big season to keep the £18 million German out.

37. Matija Nastasic, Manchester City

68 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 76.9

    In a trade, of sorts, with Fiorentina last season, Manchester City acquired little-known centre-back Matija Nastasic and shedded the unwanted Stefan Savic.

    Savic has gone on to prosper in purple, while Nastasic has stunned in sky blue: The 20-year-old was a criminal omission from the PFA Young Player of the Year Awards after becoming the mainstay in City's defence.

    The Serbian international shows Laurent Koscielny-esque reading of the game and, as a result of seeing things earlier than most, negates his smaller stature.

    He's seen off bigger, more physical opponents such as Christian Benteke and quicker, more instinctive players such as Theo Walcott.

    Nastasic is already one of the Premier League's best central defenders.

36. David Luiz, Chelsea

69 of 104

    Position: Surging Centre-Back

    Score: 77

    Critics of David Luiz—and there are many—were left flabbergasted after some fantastic performances in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

    Moving forward he was confident and brought creativity that Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho simply could not, while at the back he was more assured than ever and made a unbelievable goal-line clearance to keep the Selecao in control in the final.

    He returns to Chelsea still the terrace hero of seasons past, and with dodgy rumours regarding his sale firmly quashed, he can look forward to cementing a first-choice partnership in the heart of the Blues' defence with either Branislav Ivanovic or Gary Cahill.

    Expect big things from Luiz as he continues a meteoric rise in football fans' estimations.

35. Ashley Cole, Chelsea

70 of 104

    Position: Full-back

    Score: 77.4

    Ashley Cole was quite content to stick around at Chelsea for another season, and the fans are happy to continue watching him roam the left flank.

    He's far more defensively orientated than most top-level full-backs, and it's refreshing to see a modern defender so conscientious when it comes to defending his flank and mopping up any danger.

    He picks the right time to go forward but perhaps doesn't have as much of an impact in the final third as some would like: Whether that's down to a lack of chemistry of Eden Hazard, tiring legs or basic instruction, we can't be certain.

    Jose Mourinho returns and will be odds-on to get the very best out of Cole once again.

34. Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea

71 of 104

    Position: Target man

    Score: 77.5

    Unless Wayne Rooney signs, the sight of Romelu Lukaku taking a place on the bench for Chelsea on the opening day against Hull City will anger the Stamford Bridge faithful.

    His 17 goals from 20 starts for West Bromwich Albion was arguably the most impressive haul across the entire English Premier League, and the time is right to let him lead the line ahead of Fernando Torres and Demba Ba.

    He's the complete forward, but at just 20 years of age still has massive room for growth. Physically he can be unplayable, but he has a surprising amount of top-end speed and a wonderful eye for a pass.

    He could effectively play in any of the forward roles—be it poacher or deep-lying—but we've graded him as a target man as it suits his burgeoning attributes the best.

33. Frank Lampard, Chelsea

72 of 104

    Position: Central midfielder

    Score: 77.5

    It's hard to believe Chelsea nearly let him go.

    Chelsea's record goalscorer Frank Lampard signed on for another year before season's end, with Roman Abramovich finally caving to public opinion.

    He's worth it, no question, and his strike tally of 203 goals is only going to improve with another campaign at Stamford Bridge coming up.

    Jose Mourinho has a wealth of options in midfield and will likely rotate to keep everyone fresh. This suits Lampard down to the ground at 35 years of age, as, despite his incredible fitness levels, he is experiencing a natural physical decline.

    His ability to arrive in the penalty area late and lap up easy goals will never diminish, though.

32. Mousa Dembele, Tottenham Hotspur

73 of 104

    Position: Surging defensive midfielder

    Score: 77.5

    Mousa Dembele came to the English Premier League as a striker/second forward but, over the course of his time at Fulham and now Tottenham Hotspur, has converted to a holding midfielder.

    It's an odd switch, and one you won't see replicated on a wider scale, but Dembele has all the attributes to play as a prototypical surging holding midfielder in 2013.

    His reading of the game is superb, and he's taken his former ability to open holes from the No. 10 position and transitioned it to an ability to close them on the other side.

    In possession he's graceful, assured and plays accurate, snappy passes.

    Dembele has developed a taste for tackling, but relies more on his positional sense than anything else to snuff out danger as early as possible. His size is an advantage when he chooses to steam forward, and his forward's background means he seldom gets a nose bleed when appearing in and around the box.

31. Leighton Baines, Everton

74 of 104

    Position: Full-back

    Score: 77.5

    Leighton Baines was the English Premier League's best left-back last season, prompting clamours for him to start on a consistent basis for England.

    Going forward he's a menace, playing neat triangles and give-and-gos with Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini to wreak havoc down the left-hand side for the Toffees.

    Under Roberto Martinez his role will likely be similar, as even if the Spaniard switches to a 3-4-3, Baines basically plays as a wing-back anyway.

    Defensively Baines didn't score as highly as several full-backs, but his crossing tipped him over the edge; He was the most accurate crosser in the Premier League last year, and created a bucket-load of chances for the key attackers around him.

    Watch out for the "Baines underlap" becoming an actual footballing term.

30. Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City

75 of 104

    Position: Full-back

    Score: 77.6

    Pablo Zabaleta just grades out as our best full-back, and rightly so.

    The Manchester City right-sider is a consistent and professional presence on the team and boasts an immense understanding of the game.

    He knows when to go forward and when to drop in, is capable of forming a three-man defensive line in a formation switch and can deputise in midfield or on the wing.

    He is one of Mark Hughes' best signings ever not only for his footballing abilities, but also his willingness to mentor players off the field who are struggling.

    He did a fantastic job abating Carlos Tevez throughout his bad spells but remained exemplary on the pitch. Remarkable.

29. Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham Hotspur

76 of 104

    Position: Suring centre-back

    Score: 77.7

    Jan Vertonghen was an inspired signing by Tottenham last summer, securing a true ball-playing centre-back for a relative bargain fee.

    He's become a key player at White Hart Lane, marshalling the high defensive line and surging forward to create mismatches in the midfield.

    His cameos at left-back for club and country have enabled him to stretch his legs and run with the ball at his feet, and now he's got a taste for it.

    At the back he's dominant in the air, switches targets extremely well and uses his pace to chase down runners. His absence at the start of the season, caused by horrendous conditions in the Barclay's Asia Tour, is a huge blow for Spurs to take.

28. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool

77 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying playmaker

    Score: 77.8

    Steven Gerrard enjoyed something of a renaissance last season after Brendan Rodgers cleverly crafted him a regista-esque role.

    He was suffering further forward due to that injection of pace disappearing, but he can still thread the eye of a needle with a pass from 50 yards, and Liverpool used that to their full advantage.

    With speedsters to run the channels and a hardworking Jordan Henderson to occupy the markers in front of him, Gerrard found it easy to drop in, collect the ball from his centre-backs and wreak havoc.

    Teams needed to focus on putting a man on Gerrard—á la Duda on Ilkay Gundogan, for example—but only Southampton's Mauricio Pochettino was wise enough to devise a plan to stop him. Saints won 3-1, inflicting the Reds' only defeat across the final 12 Premier League games.

    Doubts about Gerrard's durability have been shelved for now, as he can expect to prosper in this role for another two seasons yet.

27. Morgan Schneiderlin, Southampton

78 of 104

    Position: Anchor defensive midfielder

    Score: 77.9

    Morgan Schneiderlin enjoyed the Mecca of debut English Premier League seasons in 2012-13, notching up an astonishing average of 4.1 tackles and 3.9 interceptions per game.

    He's truly at home in Mauricio Pochettino's high-pressure system, and the Frenchman has been given the freedom to step out and harass midfielders at will.

    His incredible engine ensures he's back in position in time to make the next vital action, while the #preseasonuncovered campaign run by Southampton proved he has excellent close control too.

    It was no surprise to see Arsenal linked with a £10 million bid for him by The Sun, given his tremendous form over 36 games.

    He's only going to get better too.

26. Andre Schuerrle, Chelsea

79 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 77.9

    Andre Schuerrle joined Chelsea this summer on the back of a stellar Bundesliga campaign with Bayer Leverkusen.

    The Werkself, with Sami Hyypia at the helm, shocked many by constructing a brilliant team capable of matching UEFA Champions finalists Borussia Dortmund all the way in the league.

    Schuerrle was a huge part of the team, contributing 11 goals and seven assists from the left side of a 4-3-3 built on pace and power on the counterattack.

    Schuerrle stands to fit in with Jose Mourinho's way of playing—also built on explosive, direct attacks—extremely well. He will likely avoid any kind of double-marking due to the star-studded presence of Eden Hazard and Juan Mata on the same team.

    He's walking into a system that suits him, he's first choice and on form—expect a big year from the £18 million man.

25. Sandro, Tottenham Hotspur

80 of 104

    Position: Anchor midfielder

    Score: 78.1

    When Sandro fell to the ground at Loftus Road in January clutching his knee, it was pretty evident he was in immense pain. The subsequent announcement that he'd be out for the rest of the reason was no surprise.

    This was the crushing blow in Tottenham's season, the one that may well have cost them a place in the UEFA Champions League for the 2013-14 campaign.

    Sandro's influence is huge, but not in the obvious way as with many who play in the role Claude Makelele has made so famous in the 21st century.

    Spurs had no one else on the roster even remotely capable of replacing his eye for an interception and crunching presence in front of the back four, and they couldn't afford to purchase a replacement such is his quality.

    He remains one of the world's best screening midfielders and should be primed to start fresh in August.

24. Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool

81 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 78.2

    Brendan Rodgers made an inspired signing in January in the form of Daniel Sturridge, taking a relative gamble to bring him to Anfield for £12 million.

    In just 11 English Premier League starts, the England international grabbed 10 goals and three assists, earning a starting spot in Roy Hodgson's national side after excelling in Luis Suarez's absence.

    He and Philippe Coutinho destroyed Newcastle United 6-0 in the back end of April, then bagged a hat-trick for himself at Craven Cottage to affirm his burgeoning talents.

    He's a wicked finisher from anywhere within 20 yards from goal, but his technique is also fantastic. He likes to drop in and out of the line rather than play exclusively on the shoulder, and his passing game improves with every weekend gone by.

23. Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea

82 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 78.2

    Branislav Ivanovic has been a mainstay in the Chelsea defence since signing in 2008, offering consistency, reliability and versatility.

    He's monstrous in the air and boasts incredible movement and agility when jockeying for position and space. His goalscoring record from corners is incredible, and perhaps his most important ever goal came in the dying minutes of the UEFA Europa League final against Benfica.

    Flying forward from full-back, he is better than most converted central defenders, but he still has his limitations on the technical side of the game.

    That doesn't hinder him when marshalling the middle, though, and he uses a traditional blend of brute force and powerful moves to get the better of his markers.

22. Stevan Jovetic, Manchester City

83 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 78.4

    Again, given Stevan Jovetic's prowess in many positions, it was difficult to pin down how he should be graded.

    He looks set to feature as a second striker more often than a wide man, though, and he played large chunks of the season just gone with Fiorentina as more of a seconda punta.

    Never seen Jovetic play before? You're in for a treat, as he combines immense technical prowess with intricate touches and long-range bullet strikes.

    His injury-riddled past is a worry, but he came through the entirety of the 2012-13 campaign unscathed and blossomed as a result.

    He's a Manchester City player €25 million later, and he should go a long way toward replacing Carlos Tevez—only with significantly less miles on the clock and zero likelihood for tantrums.

21. Hugo Lloris, Tottenham Hotspur

84 of 104

    Position: Sweeper keeper

    Score: 78.4

    Hugo Lloris was a surprise signing at Tottenham given the presence of Brad Friedel, but Andre Villas-Boas' move for the French goalkeeper was well justified by season's end.

    AVB wanted to install a high defensive line at White Hart Lane and had nearly all the tools to do so: Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen have the pace and awareness to play it, but Friedel is not your prototypical sweeper keeper.

    Lloris is, and he excelled all season in storming out from the edge of his area to mop up long balls and hopeful punts.

    Rather than play in goal, Lloris is more the very last line of defence, using his feet in buildup play and confidently claiming crosses and high balls early on.

    It's a valuable commodity to have, and the Frenchman is only going to get better.

20. Vincent Kompany, Manchester City

85 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 78.6

    Vincent Kompany needs to put a dismal 2012-13 season behind him and lead Manchester City into a new lease of life.

    Injuries and a severe drop-off in form hampered the Belgian's performances last year, and if it weren't for the remarkable growth of Matija Nastasic, City may well have been further off the pace.

    On form, Kompany is one of the world's best central defenders. Aerially he is superb, while he also represents a commanding presence in defence and adjusts the height of his line extremely well.

    He's got that sliver of pace so many centre-backs crave, while he's also developed excellent ball-playing skills as a byproduct of deputising in defensive midfield.

    Kompany is not the highest-ranked defender on this list due to poor form over the past 12 months, but there's every chance he will be this time next season should he impress in the manner we all expect.

19. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal

86 of 104

    Position: Box-to-box midfielder

    Score: 78.7

    "Jack Wilshere will be a world-beater...if he can stay fit." How tired are we of hearing this phrase uttered?

    Nevertheless, it rings true: Wilshere has missed large chunks of playing time due to long-term injuries, and fans are simply hoping he's getting them out of the way early in his career.

    Despite being just 21 years of age, what he has shown us so far is beyond superb. He offers the current crop of England players something no one can replicate—an ability to get his head down and take players on or keep it simple in the possession game.

    Roy Hodgson wants to build his side around him, Arsene Wenger wants to do the same. His engine, physical style and mindful presence on the field are already at a top, top level.

18. Jesus Navas, Manchester City

87 of 104

    Position: Traditional winger

    Score: 78.7

    Signing Jesus Navas was a remarkably smart move by Manchester City, solving one of their biggest problems from last season by recruiting a superb player for a respectable price.

    Homesickness concerns aside, Navas looks set to rip the English Premier League to pieces with his near-unrivalled pace. He's more a traditional winger than anything else City have on the roster, and that should allow them to negate the width problems they've experienced for two or three seasons.

    His crossing brings renewed value to Edin Dzeko's presence in the side, while Alvaro Negredo will undoubtedly prosper given they've played together in Sevilla.

    A natural wide presence will also unlock more space for the likes of David Silva, Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri to work with.

17. Joe Hart, Manchester City

88 of 104

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 78.7

    Joe Hart had what many consider to be a below-par campaign last year, but he still picked up 18 clean sheets in the league for Manchester City.

    He made a couple of gaffes and his England form wasn't great, but three consecutive Premier League golden gloves? Some achievement, it must be said.

    His agile, reflex-based style is something few can match, and in the words of national boss Roy Hodgson, "produces the save that a normal goalkeeper wouldn't," courtesy of ESPN.

    He takes good command of his defensive line, screams at them all day long to pull together or push out and can even give captain Vincent Kompany a real earful if he doesn't like what he sees.

    Sven-Goran Eriksson made the right choice in choosing Hart over Andreas Isaksson five years ago, setting the Citizens up with a keeper who can mind the posts for more than a decade to come.

16. Marouane Fellaini, Everton

89 of 104

    Position: Anchor defensive midfielder

    Score: 79

    Marouane Fellaini is facing a lot of questions this summer.

    Will the Belgian secure a move to Arsenal or Manchester United as talkSPORT suggest? How will he fit in Roberto Martinez's free-flowing system (if he stays), and which position will he play?

    Whatever the outcome, one thing is assured: Fellaini is good enough to take on any challenge—be it at Everton still or at a top club in David Moyes' United.

    He played an unorthodox role last season, just behind the striker, and the other side of his game really came to the fore. He was the target for his centre-backs to aim at, and no opposing player could outmuscle him.

    It's well-documented that the Belgian prefers to play as a holding midfielder, so we've graded him in that position. Should Martinez adopt a 3-4-3 at Goodison Park, there's no room for a burly No. 10.

15. Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal

90 of 104

    Position: Centre-back

    Score: 79.2

    It was a tough season for many of the usual suspects at centre-back, be it due to injury or loss of form, but one man in particular rose to the very top of the game.

    Laurent Koscielny grades out as our top central defender, and deservedly so—the Frenchman put fitness issues firmly behind him to carry Arsenal's back line at times.

    His reading of the game is exceptional and his execution in tackling is superb, but what makes him stand out from the rest is his target identification and tracking of runners.

    His ability to switch seamlessly between runners—and give his fellow defenders a shout to tell them what he's doing—snuffs out several attackers per game.

    He's comfortable fanning out wide and serviceable in the air, making last-ditch challenges and bailing on Wojciech Szczesny on multiple occasions.

14. Santi Cazorla, Arsenal

91 of 104

    Position: No. 10

    Score: 79.4

    Arsenal's 2012 marquee summer signing, Santi Cazorla, lit up the Emirates Stadium on a consistent basis last season.

    The Spaniard arrived for around £15 million after helping his old club, Malaga, into the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the team's history, and from the first whistle he became a key player under Arsene Wenger.

    He has that typical Iberian flavour to his game, controlling the ball with ease and making the extraordinary look simple. At times he can be accused of slowing attacks down a little too much, but he spent much of the first season adapting to a different pace on the pitch.

    Outside the box he's a menace, so reliable in possession to help create sustained pressure yet capable of scoring and assisting too.

    If Arsenal are to progress this season, Cazorla needs to stand up once again.

13. Petr Cech, Chelsea

92 of 104

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Score: 79.4

    Petr Cech is still a consistent, world-class goalkeeper and looks set to mind the sticks at Chelsea for several more years to come—much to the frustration of Thibaut Courtois.

    The young Belgian keeper has been sent on loan to Atletico Madrid for the third consecutive year in a bid to continue to improve rather than waste away in reserve playing cup games.

    At 31 years of age, Cech is still young for a No. 1 and continues to impress with his super reactions and fantastic command of his defensive line.

    He's experienced a lot of managers who have brought a lot of new ideas, but Cech has remained his usual old self and really takes charge at the back.

    His game isn't built on agility, so it's feasible to suggest the Czech international can continue for another three or four years at this calibre with ease.

12. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

93 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 80.1

    The Manchester City faithful will never, ever forget Sergio Aguero's name—not after this spine-tingling moment that had all but Manchester United fans jumping up and down.

    The 2012-13 season wasn't fantastic for the Argentine, but he remains one of the best players in the English Premier League and should bounce back this year.

    He was another who was difficult to categorise when grading him due to the fact that he plays so many roles so well—wide of the striker, in a withdrawn role or even as a prima punta.

    He'll better last season's tally of 12 goals with ease under Manuel Pellegrini.

11. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

94 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 80.4

    Given Wayne Rooney's extraordinary season of switching positions, it was difficult to pinpoint his actual role to effectively grade him.

    Settling on deep-lying forward (despite him playing as an orthodox central midfielder late in the season), his ability to make plays from the front and work with a strike partner really stood out.

    Forming a prolific partnership with Robin van Persie early in the season then later dropping in to fulfil necessary roles deeper on the pitch has earned him top marks on our metric.

    He's a world-class player, no doubt, and the rise of RvP has allowed many fans to forget how much of an influence the England international can have on a game.

    His pass to RvP at Old Trafford against Aston Villa last season—to effectively seal the Premier League title—was nothing short of astonishing.

10. Michael Carrick, Manchester United

95 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying playmaker

    Score: 80.8

    Michael Carrick has gone from zero to hero over the course of three seasons. At the end of the 2012-13 campaign, pundits and fans alike were singing his praises.

    If Robin van Persie was the turning factor in the title win this year, Carrick was a close second in terms of influence on the pitch.

    He has developed into a pass master—both short and long—controlling the tempo, opening up pockets of space and supporting his teammates with a deep option at all times.

    His tackling has never been a strong suit, but being left as the last midfielder fairly often has enabled him to hone his positional sense and awareness to elite levels.

    Carrick has peaked, he's as good as he's going to get, and Manchester United fans will just be hoping he stays at this level for a long time a la Andrea Pirlo.

9. Shinji Kagawa, Manchester United

96 of 104

    Position: No. 10

    Score: 80.9

    Shinji Kagawa was criminally misused by Sir Alex Ferguson throughout the 2012-13 season. As a result, the Japanese star failed to kick on and become the world-beater he was at Borussia Dortmund.

    Fans have high hopes that David Moyes will utilise him as a talisman from the No. 10 position, and if he does, he will unlock the Japanese ace's game-changing abilities and attributes.

    There are few better at finding space between the lines than Kagawa, and his first touch is simply to die for. Ping it in to the former Cerezo Osaka midfielder's feet, and watch him wreak havoc, flummoxing defensive midfield lines and bringing others into play.

    His shooting leaves a little to be desired, but as far as playmaking midfielders go, he's up there with the very best...if he's used correctly.

8. Yaya Toure, Manchester City

97 of 104

    Position: Surging defensive midfielder

    Score: 81

    Yaya Toure has essentially created a new role for players to aspire to, and a new role for managers to utilise when the going gets tough.

    His ability to defend as a more traditional holding midfielder yet pick a pass from 50 yards is impressive, but what sets him apart is his incredible athleticism and ability to "break" games.

    There is nothing like the sight of Yaya Toure running at full speed, and defensive midfielders dread the thought of the Ivorian tearing toward the penalty box with the ball at his feet.

    He is physically superior to almost every other player on the pitch, and that, combined with his enviable technique, makes him the complete player.

    One thing he must work on is his defensive work rate and his identifying of the right time to surge forward and when not to—that's what kept him out of our top five.

7. Coutinho, Liverpool

98 of 104

    Position: No. 10

    Score: 81.4

    Philippe Coutinho likely features a little higher than many were expecting, but don't doubt his quality—he is absolutely nuts.

    It's a rare treat to see someone so able to create and exploit space in even the most organised defensive structures, and he proved on many occasions last season that he's too hot to handle.

    Fellow colleagues Iago Aspas, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez will be hyped going into the season as the difference-makers for Brendan Rodgers' side, but Coutinho is the key player here.

    If he performs consistently over the course of the season, the Reds could be in for a series of cricket scores.

    Opposing players gravitate toward him wherever he's playing, and just as they think they're odds-on for the tackle/interception, he produces a wonderful through ball to put his striker one vs. one with the goalkeeper.

    It's very, very difficult to plan for players like this.

6. David Silva, Manchester City

99 of 104

    Position: No. 10

    Score: 83.6

    By most accounts, David Silva had a poor 2012-13 season.

    His form dipped in and out as he tired, prompting suggestions he was being overused, over-relied upon and subsequently became exhausted.

    Roberto Mancini's torrid tactics didn't help the Spaniard last year, but you can bet Manuel Pellegrini will get the very best out of a player who can, on his day, absolutely steal the show.

    That day didn't come around often enough last season, but if he can replicate the form shown throughout the 2011-12 campaign, Manchester City will be in for a trophy-laden year.

    Silva has an ability like no other in the English Premier League—not even Juan Mata—and he can produce some of the most jaw-dropping reverse passes and intricate dinks inside the penalty area you'll ever see.

    Twenty yards from goal with a yard of space, this man is guaranteed to pick out a pass that will hurt you. It's gob-smacking at times.

5. Eden Hazard, Chelsea

100 of 104

    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 83.9

    Arriving under the heavy burden of a £32 million price tag, Eden Hazard showed maturity beyond his years not only to cope with the pressure but thrive under it.

    He took the bull by the horns, beating Wigan Athletic on the opening day of the 2012-13 season almost single-handedly, then contributed heavily to an unbeaten run of eight games to cement the Blues' spot at the top of the table.

    His form dipped alarmingly in midseason, but at 21 years of age that's natural. The ruthless sacking of Roberto Di Matteo and terrace-wide dislike of new instalment Rafa Benitez hardly helped either.

    Hazard is poised to improve again in the coming season, being used opposite either Andre Schuerrle or Oscar in Jose Mourinho's 4-2-3-1 formation.

    His raw pace and acceleration will serve the team extremely well in a counterattacking setup, so expect an improved goal tally from the Belgian in what represents the biggest season of his young life so far.

4. Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur

101 of 104

    Position: Inverted winger

    Score: 84.1

    Gareth Bale carried Tottenham Hotspur at times last season, shouldering the responsibility of three players' positions to give them a fighting chance of UEFA Champions League football.

    They came up short in the end, but the second half of the 2012-13 season showed Bale's immense work rate and willingness to graft for the team—as well as his unbelievable technique and quality on the ball.

    He scored 21 Premier League goals from an assortment of positions in midfield, drifting across the advanced line to find space and take advantage of weaknesses.

    Few defenders successfully shackled him, and Sir Alex Ferguson had to commit three players (Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones and Rafael) to mark him out of the game when Manchester United visited White Hart Lane to achieve a 1-1 draw.

    He's set to continue his exponential growth in the 2013-14 season.

3. Robin van Persie, Manchester United

102 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 84.4

    Robin van Persie enjoyed a spectacular debut season with Manchester United, assisting them in wrestling the English Premier League title away from fierce rivals Manchester City.

    He put his injury concerns behind him from the word go, firing in 26 league goals and tallying up eight league assists while simultaneously changing the very fabric of United's game.

    Plenty of preseason speculation centred on how he'd fit into the side, and common consensus maintained that RvP's arrival could change the role of Wayne Rooney.

    But Ferguson sprang a big surprise, naming a 4-4-2 lineup in almost every league fixture and allowing both RvP and Rooney to dip in and out of the forward line at will.

    They essentially played as two nine-and-a-halves, and opposing centre-backs found it immensely difficult to deal with.

2. Luis Suarez, Liverpool

103 of 104

    Position: Deep-lying forward

    Score: 84.5

    The big question surrounding Luis Suarez ahead of the 2012-13 season was whether or not he could become the 20-goal striker Liverpool so badly craved.

    He answered his doubters with an emphatic "yes," combining his already stellar buildup play and movement with a deft finish and confidence in front of goal.

    Twenty-nine goals and five assists later, no one is doubting him, and he rightly comes in second place in our rankings ahead of a host of world-class names.

    His ability to play behind the striker, between the lines, as a false-nine or from either flank makes him an incredibly versatile and sought-after commodity, and Arsenal are seriously testing the Anfield club's resolve with some monstrous bids for his services.

    No matter which kit he dons next season, he's going to be a goal machine.

1. Juan Mata, Chelsea

104 of 104

    Position: No. 10

    Score: 87.1

    Juan Mata enjoyed a stellar 2012-13 season and looks primed to enter the new one an even better player.

    As No. 10s go, he is the cream of the crop, with his vision and ability to pick the unbelievable pass every time escalating him to the very top of our rankings.

    Mata is the undoubted talisman of Stamford Bridge, and despite the presence of other stars such as Eden Hazard and Oscar, he comfortably shines brightest in the eyes of the fans.

    It's moments such as this, a world-class through ball in behind a deep Manchester United defence to allow Demba Ba to score the winner, that affirm his majestic talents on the ball.

    Accolades have simply fallen into his lap since joining Chelsea in 2011, and that trend will likely be set to continue under the stewardship of Mourinho.

    Expect to see Mata in the No. 10 role of a 4-2-3-1 formation, pulling the strings and creating openings just like Mesut Oezil did at Real Madrid in a similar setup.

     

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
get the App on the App Storeget the App on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices