Joe Allen, Tomas Rosicky and the Premier League's Most Underrated Players
Every club has them: players who perform consistently each week while their perhaps more high-profile teammates take the plaudits.
Successful sides are built around these players, and many thrive with their performances going under the radar; for example, it is only this season that Bayern Munich’s Toni Kroos is coming under an ever-increasing spotlight, despite making solid performances for the first team since 2010.
For my criteria, any player included must have featured regularly—at least 15 league appearances—for his club this season; this is to allow for a measure of consistency in analysis, as opposed to being based on a handful of top-quality performances.
So without further ado, here are the most underrated individuals at each Premier League club.
Arsenal: Tomas Rosicky
For all of their celebrated attacking talents—Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey included—one of Arsenal's most impressive performers this season has been understated Czech Republic international Tomas Rosicky.
Benefiting at times from injuries, and dips in form, from the aforementioned trio among others, Rosicky has re-established himself as an integral member of Arsene Wenger's squad; however, the 33-year-old remains an underrated option.
As per Squawka, this season Rosicky has made 23 league appearances so far this season and stands as Arsenal's third most creative player this season, having created 31 chances; the midfielder has also completed an impressive 61 percent of take-ons attempted.
Acknowledging the abilities of his long-serving charge, Wenger handed Rosicky a new two-year contract earlier this season, as per Alex Richards of The Mirror.
Aston Villa: Ashley Westwood
Flying under the radar somewhat while fellow midfielder Fabian Delph and striker Christian Benteke received the majority of the praise, Ashley Westwood has enjoyed another quietly impressive season for Aston Villa despite the club's disappointing campaign.
According to Squawka, Westwood has created the most chances for Villa this season with 54, while he also boasts the highest passing accuracy of any regular starter at the club with 84 percent.
Operating consistently in the engine room for the Midlands club, Westwood's impressive performances often go unnoticed, but the 24-year-old remains an integral component for manager Paul Lambert.
Cardiff City: Ben Turner
This season—despite a dismal overall record and impending relegation—two of the most consistent performers for Cardiff City have featured at the heart of the defence.
One of these is 25-year-old Englishman Ben Turner, who has featured 29 times for the Welsh club so far this season and rarely let the club down, to little fanfare; meanwhile, defensive partner Steven Caulker is consistently linked with moves to bigger clubs, such as February's reported interest from Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, as per Matt Law of The Telegraph.
Statistics, courtesy of Squawka, show Turner to be an imperious defensive presence, with an average of 12 defensive actions per game, along with a headed-duels success rate of 63 percent.
If manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unable to turn his club's season around, Turner would prove a shrewd option for any lower-level Premier League club, and his underrated status makes him a potential bargain for any suitors.
Chelsea: Cesar Azpilicueta
The most underrated player in Jose Mourinho's star-studded Chelsea squad is Cesar Azpilicueta, by far.
That isn't to say that the 24-year-old Spaniard isn't one of his most consistent performers, however, and since his conversion to the left side of the defence at the expense of Mourinho's once-favourite Ashley Cole, Azpilicueta has proved to be a hugely dependable figure.
A defensive-minded full-back—far from the typical mould these days—the ex-Marseille man is very much a Mourinho-type player. More often found sitting back rather than marauding into attacking zones, Azpilicueta has contributed hugely to Chelsea's stellar defensive record this season.
With a Squawka-attested average of eight defensive actions per game—as many as John Terry—and a 54 percent tackle success rate, the young defender is quietly impressing at Stamford Bridge this season.
Crystal Palace: Joel Ward
Proving to be one of many bright prospects within Tony Pulis' resurgent Crystal Palace squad this season, Joel Ward remains an underrated option.
A hugely versatile option, Ward has featured all across the defence for Pulis this season; as per WhoScored.com, the Englishman has featured predominantly on the right side of defence but has also been deployed at left-back, centre-back and in defensive midfield.
At 24 years old, the talented defender could find himself in Roy Hodgson's England plans in the future if he keeps his form up, with the manager often rewarding more underrated players with international opportunities, seen for example with Leon Osman's call-up in 2012.
Everton: Steven Naismith
An emerging force of late at Goodison Park, Steven Naismith is one of many underrated stars in Roberto Martinez's flourishing squad.
Affectionately named "Naimar" following his recent exploits, Naismith has benefited from recent injury problems faced by fellow attacker Romelu Lukaku. However, as proved by the recent 3-0 victory at home to Arsenal, the pair can combine to form a hugely damaging partnership.
As per Squawka, the ex-Rangers forward has an impressive shot accuracy of 69 percent so far this season—better than that of the prodigious Lukaku.
An intelligent off-ball footballer with a knack for finding the back of the net on important occasions—such as his equaliser against Aston Villa earlier this season—Naismith is proving an effective option for Martinez and remains one hugely underrated by many.
Fulham: Steve Sidwell
Fulham have endured a dreadful season so far, and one of the few consistent performers for them has been English central midfielder Steve Sidwell.
Hugely unfashionable in the pantheons of his compatriots, Sidwell has been an underrated force throughout his career, including spells at Chelsea and Aston Villa.
With his side facing relegation this season, the 31-year-old is the club's top scorer with six goals; often coming from a deep-lying midfield position, this is an impressive feat.
Hull City: Maynor Figueroa
An unfashionable side garnering an increasing amount of praise this season, Hull City arguably have a squad full of underrated players.
However, following widespread praise—and despite a disappointing lack of international recognition—team-mates such as Curtis Davies, Tom Huddlestone and Shane Long miss out in this list in favour of defender Maynor Figueroa.
A free signing, from Wigan in the summer Figueroa is proving to be one of the bargains of the season, and his understated performances across the defence have contributed hugely to Steve Bruce's side's impressive season.
Liverpool: Joe Allen
Still derided by many, Welsh midfielder Joe Allen is beginning to fulfill his much-vaunted potential at Liverpool this season, following a rocky period suffering from a long-term shoulder injury.
Nicknamed—in perhaps a rare misjudgment from manager Brendan Rodgers—the "Welsh Xavi" upon his arrival at the club, as reported by Steve Millar in the Daily Star, Allen initially impressed with his composed performances in the centre of midfield. However—now attributed to his injury—his form dipped significantly and in turn so did his stock with sections of the Anfield faithful.
Returning this season, Allen has proved to be an invaluable option for Rodgers, particularly in higher-profile fixtures, where the 24-year-old is utilised to flood the midfield with his canny ability to intercept play and keep possession.
Allen is the most successful Liverpool midfielder in terms of defensive work, winning 54 percent of his defensive duels, per Squawka.
Slowly winning over Reds fans with his performances, Allen remains the most underrated player in Rodgers' talented squad.
Manchester City: Fernandinho
Detailing his view on last weekend's title bout between Liverpool and Manchester City, BBC Sport's Robbie Savage called Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho the Citizens' "unsung hero":
It is [Yaya] Toure who grabs the headlines because of his rampaging runs but Fernandinho is an unsung hero for City because of the energy he brings to their team, his mobility, and the amount of work he puts in.
Savage's praise is indicative of the impact the 28-year-old has had at the club since joining for a BBC Sport-reported fee of around £30 million in the summer.
However, the energetic ex-Shakhtar Donetsk man remains an underrated player by many, with his performances often being outshone by the goalscoring exploits of midfield partner Toure.
Manchester United: Chris Smalling
Manchester United's squad have, on the whole, endured a torrid first campaign under new manager David Moyes.
It has seemingly come into light that a large proportion of the squad inherited by the Scot from previous manager Sir Alex Ferguson is not up to scratch, and a projected £200 million "war chest" has been speculated by many, including Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail.
One player who has performed admirably throughout the season, amid criticism, is defender Chris Smalling.
As per Squawka, the natural centre-back has won 61 percent of his defensive duels so far this season; this includes a 60 percent tackle success rate and a 63 percent headed-duels success rate.
Furthermore, as the Englishman has been deployed at right-back often this season, a 75 percent success rate when it comes to taking the ball past an opponent is hugely impressive.
While Moyes may look to bolster his defensive options in the summer, with Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra possibly joining Nemanja Vidic on a list of depatures, one player the 50-year-old can rely on is Smalling.
Newcastle United: Mike Williamson
In an under-performing squad full of big-name players, the performances of Newcastle United centre-back Mike Williamson go under the radar quite often.
An old-fashioned English centre-back, Williamson is by far the most underrated of those in the Tyneside club's first-team, but in his 29 appearances so far this season he has proved his defensive capabilities.
According to Squawka, the 30-year-old has won 62 percent of his defensive duels this season, and this includes a commendable 65 percent headed-duel success rate, winning 125 out of 191 match-ups.
The centre-back also averages at 10 defensive actions per game, and this ranks him as the most effective of Newcastle's defensive players this season.
He may not have the big-money price tag of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, or the cultured reputation of Fabricio Coloccini, but Williamson is a hugely underrated performer for Alan Pardew's side.
Norwich City: Nathan Redmond
A 20-year-old signed from Birmingham City in the summer, few could have expected fireworks from Nathan Redmond in his first season for East Anglian club Norwich City.
However, despite his club dwelling near the bottom of the Premier League table, Redmond has become an important player for the Canaries.
As per Squawka, Redmond is Norwich City's third most creative player, having created 32 chances for his team-mates, only behind striker Gary Hooper and principal playmaker Robert Snodgrass.
A pacey, dynamic winger mature beyond his years, Redmond can look forward to a promising future in Norfolk; conversely, if the club were to be relegated from the Premier League, his nature as an underrated performer may land a mid-table outfit a true bargain.
Southampton: Steven Davis
Northern Irishman Steven Davis has proved a solid performer at every club he's been at so far in his career.
In fact, he could far from be considered underrated during his spell at his first professional club, Aston Villa. In 2006, Davis was named Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year, and Players' Young Player of the Year at the Villa end-of-season awards, as per Martin Harris of IrishFA.com.
Moving from Rangers to Southampton following the Scottish club's financial condemnation in 2012, Davis has flown under the radar somewhat on the Southern coast.
As per Squawka, this season Davis has created 48 chances for his team-mates—only Adam Lallana and Ricky Lambert have created more for the club this season.
With midfielders Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin, and arguably even James Ward-Prowse, receiving plaudits for their displays this season, Davis represents an underrated party within a hugely fashionable squad.
Stoke City: Glenn Whelan
Within Stoke City's no-nonsense squad, one player who sticks out—or perhaps, doesn't—as an underrated player is defensive midfielder Glenn Whelan.
Instrumental in Stoke's 1-0 home victory over Arsenal at the beginning of March, earning the man-of-the-match award per WhoScored.com.
Whelan's performances often go unnoticed due to his role in the Stoke first team; patrolling the areas in front of the back four, the Irishman is tasked with mopping up any loose balls before they reach the more dangerous areas in between Ryan Shawcross and Marc Wilson.
As per Squawka, the 30-year-old has an average pass success rate of 86 percent, the third-best in the Stoke squad behind midfield partner Steven N'Zonzi and bit-part loanee Oussama Assaidi.
Sunderland: Jack Colback
English utility player Jack Colback makes his way onto the list for his understated contributions to the Mackem cause this season.
The versatile redhead has been deployed all over the pitch by managers Paolo Di Canio and Gus Poyet this season, and his ability to adapt to various roles is a testament to his quality—that he hasn't quite nailed down a consistent position lends to his underrated status.
Adept in possession with a bite in the tackle, Squawka attributes Colback with a pass success rate of 88 percent and a 51 percent tackle success rate.
With his contract due to expire this summer, Colback should have no trouble finding a new club, and ChronicleLive.co.uk most recently linked him with a move to rivals Newcastle United.
Swansea City: Leon Britton
Part of Brendan Rodgers' much-admired Swansea City side of the 2011/12 season, Leon Britton became known, along with Joe Allen, as one of the most formidable passers in the Premier League.
Such is Britton's ability that he was ranked the best passer in Europe midway through that season, famously above Barcelona's Xavi, as per The Telegraph.
However, while Allen became known as the "Welsh Xavi" following his £15 million move to Liverpool, Britton stayed with Swansea and has remained an understated figure within the Welsh side's first-team squad.
This season, Britton played a bit-part role under former manager Michael Laudrup but has been used more increasingly by interim-coach Garry Monk; the Englishman has now made 21 appearances this season.
The 31-year-old is still plugging away with a 90 percent pass success rate, per Squawka, and—having been reinstated under Monk—operates as the lynchpin within an ambitious, attacking side.
Tottenham Hotspur: Michael Dawson
While often derided by many sections of the Spurs support, Michael Dawson has arguably been the club's best defender this season.
With Dawson in the centre of defence, Spurs have kept 11 clean sheets, as both managers Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood have looked to the Englishman in an attempt to solidify an injury-ravaged squad.
The 30-year-old has averaged at 11 defensive actions per game, as per Squawka: three more than second-best Younes Kaboul.
West Bromwich Albion: Youssouf Mulumbu
Following the bizarre sacking of Steve Clarke earlier this season, West Bromwich Albion fans haven't had much cause for celebration under new manager Pepe Mel.
However, the one consistent performer under both managers has been DR Congo international Youssouf Mulumbu, who—in his favoured position of defensive midfielder—has kept things simple as his new manager has tried to make his stamp upon his adopted charges.
The 27-year-old has made 99 interceptions so far this season and has an impressive pass success rate of 85 percent, as per Squawka.
While not many deserve plaudits this season, as West Brom remain in a relegation struggle, Mulumbu has performed admirably to little fanfare. If the Midlands club were to be relegated, many a top side would be remiss to ignore his talents.
West Ham United: Mark Noble
It's not often a midfield general can be labelled underrated, but West Ham United's Mark Noble goes about his job with consummate professionalism and deserves much more recognition than he currently receives.
With big-name domestic players such as Kevin Nolan, Joe Cole, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing often cluttering Sam Allardyce's squad—and arguably his wage bill—Noble remains one of few Hammers players whose name is on the teamsheet on genuine merit.
As per Squawka, the 26-year-old is the London club's principal playmaker, having created 52 chances this season.
He's a player to build your squad around.
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