EPL 100: Most Controversial Picks from Premier League Player Rankings

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterAugust 14, 2013

EPL 100: Most Controversial Picks from Premier League Player Rankings

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    B/R's EPL 100 has caused quite a stir, as fans furiously debate the rankings and lay down their individual arguments as to why players are too high, too low or just right.

    With more than 650 comments on the piece after just 48 hours, it's difficult to read and reply to everything, but common themes have emerged with regard to which were the most controversial picks.

    Here, we analyse and explain them, giving readers a little more insight as to why the decisions were made.

No Nemanja Vidic

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    Understandable concern was raised when Nemanja Vidic's name did not appear among the top 100 players.

    That's not to say the Serbian is not one of the top players in the Premier League. In fact, he's a top-15 player at his peak—but that's the issue: his injuries have left him in a state which we cannot determine at this point in time.

    December 2011 saw him have knee surgery after a horrendous twist in the turf left him with an ACL tear, forcing him to miss the entirety of the 2012 season post-Christmas.

    He returned for the 2012-13 campaign, but made sporadic appearances as injury issues struck once more. At 31 years of age these problems stack up, and we weren't willing to compromise the integrity of the rankings by "guessing" his grade.

    After all, how can you fairly grade a man who you haven't recently seen play?

    Preseason, in addition to the Community Shield win over Wigan, were the only chances to watch him in action, and they did not serve as adequate grounding.

Philippe Coutinho in 7th

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    For Philippe Coutinho to achieve seventh place in the EPL 100 is a remarkable leap of faith, considering he's only played half a season in England.

    The high ranking for the Brazilian surprised many—even some Liverpool fans—but he scored obscenely well on the metrics we set out.

    He's played both as an inside forward from the left and as a No. 10, and we graded him in the latter role as he scored highest. It's the approach we took with many versatile players, as it's only fair to give them the best possible chance.

    His vision, touch, technique, use of space and ability to pass is already at the highest level, hence his remarkable impact at Liverpool in just four short months.

    The EPL 100 is not built, in any way, on reputation and historical achievements, only a player's raw attributes and fit to his team at this moment in time. Coutinho is an absolutely ridiculous talent, and he has the entire 2013-14 Premier League season to prove it so.

New Arrivals Scoring so Highly

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    A few have questioned whether it's fair to include new Premier League arrivals in the rankings, particularly when they score extremely highly, á la Victor Wanyama, Jesus Navas and Stevan Jovetic.

    The list wouldn't be nearly as much fun without those inclusions, but the pretense that it's difficult to accurately grade a new player coming into the EPL is extremely valid.

    However, it's the same process every professional scout, coach and manager goes through when mulling over a new signing, and it's part knowledge, part identification of talent and part luck in every single instance.

    "How do you know Wanyama is better than Youssouf Mulumbu before he's kicked a Premier League ball?" is a legitimate question, and you have to factor in what you've seen from the new player in other leagues.

    Wanyama has excelled on the UEFA Champions League platform, scored against Barcelona and dominated Juventus for 20- to 30-minute spells with Celtic. His size, physique and natural instincts (the way he moves and reacts to what's happening around him) all point toward a successful Premier League career.

    There is no exact science to it, but it's not just a gut feeling or a guess either, and that's represented throughout every level of football. After all, Sir Alex Ferguson spent £7 million Bebe.

Cesar Azpilicueta in 51st, Rafael in 80th

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    The debate over which is the best right-back in the English Premier League generally centres on two names: Rafael and Pablo Zabaleta.

    The EPL 100 graded Zabaleta out as the best full-back in the league, but what surprised many was that Azpilicueta landed 29 spots above Manchester United full-back Rafael.

    To explain, the criteria under which full-backs were marked must be taken into account, and the attribute they were graded most heavily on was positional sense.

    It's incredibly important for full-backs to be able to gauge when to go forward and when not, an inability to do so could render their side vulnerable to a counterattack or leave them extremely lopsided.

    Even something as simple as stepping 10 yards forward at the wrong time can alter a team's midfield shape, making it difficult for them to create in the usual manner or pattern.

    Rafael had a remarkable 2012-13 season and his positional sense came on leaps and bounds, but it's not up there with the better players in the league just yet. Zabaleta and "Dave" both boast excellent awareness and that tipped their scores over Rafael's.

    Azpilicueta and Zabaleta are also far more reliable as "stand-alone" full-backs—meaning they could slot into most systems, formations and styles with ease without jeopardising their team—but Rafael still has room for improvement in this area, too.

Shinji Kagawa in 9th

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    Shinji Kagawa had a seriously disappointing 2012-13 season, but the fault and blame lies with Sir Alex Ferguson and his inability to fit his playmaker into a preferred formation.

    Based on last season alone Kagawa would not be in the top 100, but the EPL 100 is based on where players are right now, leading into a fresh campaign.

    Kagawa showed flashes of brilliance despite being stuck out on the left, and with Wayne Rooney's future uncertain, it stands to reason that the Japanese ace has a shot at playing in David Moyes' first team as a No. 10.

    If he does he will wreak havoc, but that's all it is at the moment—an "if."

    It's the same sort of gamble taken in grading new arrivals, and the question marks are legitimately raised.

    But Sir Alex Ferguson predicted a big 2013-14 season for Kagawa in February, and given that the legendary Scot is still working with the club, we're inclined to believe there's a certain plan afoot.

    The Bundesliga winner and two-time Kicker Team of the Season entrant should prove all his doubters wrong this year.