5 Most Under-the-Radar Performers This Season
We are already two months into the 2013-14 season and players are already beginning to find that their campaigns are being judged as early successes or failures.
However, in the rush to crown players as stars of the campaign, some impressive performers are overlooked—with only a limited amount of column inches available.
Who, then, have been the "under the radar" stars of the season so far?
Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton)
While Luke Shaw has received plaudits from all around on the left flank, Clyne's progression at right-back has gone somewhat under the radar this season.
In the early weeks of the season, teenager Callum Chambers filled in well at right-back, but the return of Clyne has added much to Southampton both as an attacking and a defensive unit.
The former Crystal Palace player is growing as a top-flight player, becoming a far more consistent performer than at the start of last campaign.
If he can maintain his current form, expect people to start taking note ahead of future England squad selections.
Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)
At one stage, things were looking pretty bleak for Ciaran Clark.
Nathan Baker beat him to a starting spot alongside captain Ron Vlaar for the opening day win over Arsenal after impressing toward the back-end of last season.
But injuries have granted the Irishman a route back into the side and he's taken full advantage, making it clear to his manager that he's worked hard on his positioning and physical strength over the summer.
He's no longer suspect in aerial tussles and closes his angles—particularly when the ball is sent wide to the byline—better than anyone else on the squad.
Aymeric Laporte (Athletic)
French defender Aymeric Laporte has been a terrific success this season, playing at both left and centre-back for his club to equal effect.
His performances have already drawn wider attention, with the 19-year-old having already earned a call up to the France Under-21 for European Championship qualifiers.
Laporte is excellent with the ball at his feet, a fact that has been known for some time. However, it has been his imposing nature in aerial challenges that have been a pleasant surprise.
He is not the quickest defender, but he reads the game well and, gradually, is becoming a more confident and commanding figure at first-team level.
Kim Young-Gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande)
Korean defender Kim Young-Gwon has been sensational this season for a Guangzhou side that are favourites to win the AFC Champions League over the next fortnight.
Kim has been the best central defender in Asian football in 2013, showing impressive ability in the air and technical ability when defending.
It is no surprise, then, that he has become an important player for the South Korea national side.
The elegant central defender will almost certainly head to Europe in the next 12 months, with coach Marcello Lippi's praise sure to provoke interest. Any such move will certainly be well-deserved.
Giulio Donati (Bayer Leverkusen)
Following the departure of Dani Carvajal in the summer, it was interesting to see where Leverkusen would turn in search of a replacement right-back.
The Bundesliga side, though, swiftly moved to sign Inter Milan youth Donati.
Donati was an outstanding member of the Italy Under-21 side that performed well at the European Under-21 Championship earlier this summer and has continued that form in the Bundesliga since joining.
The Italian is less attacking than his predecessor, but is an intelligent defender.
His positional sense has proved exemplary and he has been a key player in what is statistically the third best defence in Germany.
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