Every Premier League fan has their favorite (and non-favorite) players.
That's simply part and parcel of what it means to be a modern fan, and the footballers within the league know full well that the fans think this way about them.
So, who are the league's favorite players? Here are some thoughts.
Arsenal fans might want to think otherwise, but the reality is that right now—given all the hype and expectation around him—Mesut Ozil is their favorite.
He's the goal-creating superstar who the Gunners believe will end their title drought and give them a new sense of hope. He's the playmaker whom Arsenal believe will make all of their players (even the not-so-good ones) worthy of succeeding in England and Europe.
Ozil brings a slew of new fans to Arsenal simply due to his reputation. Give him the remainder of this season at the Emirates, and he'll be a clear favorite.
More than Robin van Persie ever was.
With Christian Benteke vowing to stay on at Aston Villa for the near future, the bustling Belgian international takes the top spot as the fans' favorite.
He's been an absolute revelation since moving to Villa Park and is the sole reason why Paul Lambert's men avoided relegation last season. For that alone, the fans are indebted to him, and their fear of him leaving over the summer window showed just how much he matters to the club.
Despite other contenders, Benteke clinches it.
There's a number of Chelsea players who probably could have earned selection here—Petr Cech or John Terry being the biggest—but Frank Lampard is the right choice.
With over 600 appearances for the club and listed as their all-time leading goal scorer, there's little doubting how much Lampard has endeared himself to the West London faithful. When he does eventually hang up the boots, he will be sorely missed indeed.
The rest of the Premier League might slowly be catching up on Mile Jedinak's tenacious tackling and all-round midfield dominance, but Crystal Palace fans certainly aren't surprised. They've seen it for some time now and have fallen in love with the Australian international as a result.
The Eagles' captain was a standout for the club in 2012-13 and has been ultra-impressive to start this season against some of the elite clubs in England.
No wonder the Daily Mirror is reporting that Palace want to try and wrap up a new deal.
With fan favorite Marouane Fellaini having left Merseyside to go and be with former manager David Moyes, dynamic left-back Leighton Baines will take the mantle as the fans' favorite throughout this season.
Having created more chances than any other player—yes, any other player—in Europe last season, Baines is clearly one of the best players in the Premier League.
The fact he said "no" to United simply makes Everton fans love him more.
German Sascha Riether won a lot of people over last year at Fulham.
He won over the Cottagers' management (who signed him on a permanent deal at the end of the season) and, perhaps more importantly, he won over the fans.
Earlier in the year, Riether was quoted by The Daily Mail as saying:
I wanted to become a starter [at Fulham] and I managed to do that. I am proud I have become a fans' favourite. But of course, I can still do better, and that's what I am trying to do...the club is very friendly and I have received a warm welcome.
A class-act moment from an incredibly classy player.
The man known as "Elmo" was another loan recruit turned favorite last season, and the fans were certainly happy to hear a permanent deal had been agreed.
A dynamic player with a fantastic smile, it's easy to see why.
Being: Liverpool could very easily have just been Being: Steven Gerrard.
Gerrard is the exact epitome of everything Liverpool stands for.
He's tough, talented and one of the better leaders in world football. He refuses to give in and refuses to concede defeat, and the fans love him for it.
The fact that he's a one-club man is simply the icing on the cake.
With Mario Balotelli gone, there's no doubt about Vincent Kompany taking the top spot as the fans' favorite. Yaya Toure comes close, and perhaps Sergio Aguero, but Kompany is in a league of his own.
The Belgian defender is a fantastic leader on the pitch, and whenever he's not in the starting side, City are clearly a different team to when he is marshaling the troops.
That's why City will love Kompany more than he will know.
Belgium will agree on that, too.
Every year, a new wave of people become Manchester United fans.
Call them bandwagoners. Call them new people falling in love with one of the biggest clubs in world football. Either way, there's new fans every year.
And all of those new fans are falling in love with Robin van Persie.
Long-term fans will quickly rubbish RVP as the fans' favorite—opting for Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic or Rio Ferdinand. But with every passing game that the Dutchman endears himself to the fans, more and more people around the world are dubbing Van Persie as their favorite player.
Top 6 shirt sellers in UK: van Persie 25%, Gerrard 8.2%, Rooney 6%, Kagawa 5.8%, Suarez 3.1%, Scholes 2.7% (via http://t.co/iwSPNcgy67)— Jersey Grade Ori (@Jersey_GradeOri) March 7, 2013
Fabricio Coloccini is a leader, and the Newcastle United fans love it. And as it turns out, it seems those fans were key in keeping him at the club this year.
According to The Guardian (via ESPN), Coloccini was on the verge of leaving the club before the fans urged him to stay. And while there were obviously a slew of other factors that led the Argentinian to stay on Tyneside, the fan support was clearly an important factor indeed.
My relationship with Newcastle was very important in making my decision [to stay]. All the fans in the street, when they stopped me, they asked me to stay and those things sometimes make the difference...Newcastle is a special club for me, of course.
He might not have cult status just yet, but Ricky "The Wolf" van Wolfswinkel (which becomes even longer when you say it like that) is quickly becoming a fan favorite.
Norwich fans might not have had a lot to cheer about over the past few years, but the Dutchman could very well change that this year. He's the type of player that continues to bring fans through the gates, and if he can ensure the Canaries a strong finish this season, he will certainly have won over more than just the next generation of fans at Carrow Road.
Southampton fans are flush with options for their favorite player. The arrival of Dejan Lovren, Pablo Osvaldo and Victor Wanyama doesn't help that, either.
But goal-scoring phenom Rickie Lambert is the No. 1 choice.
The "working-class hero," if you like, Lambert is proof that you don't have to be a world-class player at age 21 and attract huge transfer fees to be a top-class player.
And a top-class player he most certainly is.
Peter Crouch is just one of those footballers you can't hate.
He doesn't appear to have any skill. He doesn't appear to be a goal-scoring threat. He resembles a malnourished stick insect more than a footballer.
And yet Crouch has proven himself to be a very, very good player.
Plus, he has a cool robot dance. That always helps.
Without Steven Fletcher, Sunderland would have been relegated last year. You'll most likely be able to say the same thing about the Black Cats this year, as well.
No wonder the fans love him. Love who, sorry?
Steven Fletcher. Steven Fletcher. Steven Fletcher. Steven Fletcher.
Ashley Williams is a tough, inspirational leader for Swansea City.
He's seemingly refused interest to join the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United, and has no doubt endeared himself to the Swans' faithful as a result.
He just didn't quite do the same to Liverpool fans in their recent 2-2 draw. Although had he done it against Cardiff, he might well have been club president.
Here's the "incident" for those that might have missed it.
With Gareth Bale having left North London for the bright lights of the Bernabeu, Tottenham Hotspur fans are seemingly in need of a new favorite player. Christian Eriksen seems like a frontrunner, but that will take at least a season. So until then, big Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen takes the top spot.
Much like Lambert, Vertonghen rarely puts a foot wrong, yet doesn't get the recognition that others might. He's one of the legitimate unsung heroes of the league.
But not to Spurs fans, he isn't.
Gareth McAuley might not be a West Brom player for much longer, according to reports from The Birmingham Mail, but he's still a big favorite of the fans.
He's a fighter at the back and a complete central defender.
Plus, he just scored West Brom's first goal of the season. That helps too.
Kevin Nolan is a cult hero among West Ham United fans.
We don't know why, but similar to his ability to pop up at the right time for the Hammers in front of goal, he simply connects with the fans like few other players can.
And if he stays at West Ham until he retires, like reports from The Daily Mirror suggest, he'll most certainly remain the fans' favorite for a lot longer still.
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