Each Premier League Side's Biggest Hit of the 2015/16 Season
We're getting to that point of the season when forms are being filled out and players of the year are being decided, and with this Premier League campaign quite unlike anything we've seen before, the results will be interesting.
The remarkable Leicester City look as though they could be dominating when it comes to picking up the gongs, but what about everybody else?
You'll all have an opinion, but here are our biggest hits for every Premier League side in 2015/16 so far.
Arsenal: Mesut Ozil
This looks as though it is going to be a season of missed opportunities for Arsenal, but for much of the campaign, they couldn’t complain about the chances Mesut Ozil created for them.
For a large portion of the season, the German was in inspired form, seemingly creating a new synonym for the word “assist” and making many of his critics eat their words—something that Gunners fans were never slow to remind people of.
He was already a fine player in his own right, of course, but the number of the German’s doubters who turned into believers in 2015/16 reached a huge figure, and he can be immensely proud of the displays he turned in over the campaign, even if they look set to go unrewarded with any additions to his trophy cabinet.
Aston Villa: Jordan Ayew
Erm… well at least the corner flags turned up every week, eh?
Aston Villa’s mess of a season could not have gone much worse, with relegation having long since become a near-certainty and thousands of fed-up fans having to endure meek, characterless performances from their team every week.
If we have to pick a best player of their campaign, though, Jordan Ayew deserves a mention thanks to some eye-catching displays and the suggestion that he at least cared about the club as they slid towards an inevitable and pretty distasteful doom.
He can get the nod as the best of an awful bunch.
Bournemouth: Charlie Daniels
Only midfielder Andrew Surman has figured more times for Bournemouth this season than left-back Charlie Daniels, whose regular attacking forays have been a key ingredient of the success story that has emanated from the south coast.
Eddie Howe's side now seem certain to have secured Premier League survival, and with Daniels weighing in with three goals from the penalty spot, the former Chesterfield, Leyton Orient and Gillingham man has been a huge part of that.
Many of these suggestions are close calls, with some clubs having numerous cases that deserve to be highlighted. Chelsea aren’t one of them.
In a messy, at-times remarkably bad season, only the Brazilian Willian could truly claim to have kept fighting for the cause. Plenty of the more high-profile players turned in a series of lethargic performances that saw their own manager Jose Mourinho turn against them pre-sacking, as they were hugely off the pace in the Premier League.
Demonstrating a fantastic ability from set pieces, Willian was often the best thing about the Blues, with his work ethic often vital given that two or three of his team-mates spent many matches barely moving.
Crystal Palace: Yohan Cabaye
Crystal Palace's season has fallen decidedly flat, and they are now the only team in English football's 92 to be without a league win this year.
They threatened a European place for a while, though, and one of the key driving forces behind that was the stylish French midfielder Yohan Cabaye, an ever-present on some of those "best summer signing" lists last summer and a creative force used to help some of his side's quicker players tick.
He could still inspire the Eagles to FA Cup glory, too.
Everton: Romelu Lukaku
Ross Barkley has had probably his best Everton season to date, but this was the campaign that Romelu Lukaku established himself as a top-class elite-level centre-forward, and that cannot be ignored.
The Belgian has been at his brilliant best for the vast majority of the campaign, becoming only the fifth player to reach 50 Premier League goals before the age of 23—joining Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo in an all-star cast.
Finally becoming willing and consistently able to tap in to his many gifts, Lukaku has been the best thing about a largely disappointing Everton Premier League season, even if redemption could arrive in the form of the FA Cup.
A fitting parting gift from the forward?
Leicester City: Riyad Mahrez
It could easily have been Jamie Vardy, but arguably the record-breaking striker only comes in third here, with the metronomic midfielder N’Golo Kante taking second place and the ultimate honour of being the biggest hit in Leicester City’s stunning season going to Riyad Mahrez.
The Algerian winger showed glimpses of his potential as he helped the Foxes stay in the division in 2014/15, but in this campaign, he should eventually be crowned the Player of the Year. He's produced a series of stunning displays in which his tricky wing play has mesmerised everyone, not least the defenders marking him.
Mahrez has been brilliant, driving opponents back and offering a fantastic outlet for Claudio Ranieri’s side as they have continued to defy mounting expectations.
If they are to eventually, amazingly, lift the Premier League title then few players will have deserved it more than Mahrez, who has been one of the most talked-about players of the season in any division.
Liverpool: Roberto Firmino
This is a tough choice in what has been a season of ups and downs for Liverpool, but the Brazilian Roberto Firmino deserves some recognition for very quickly adapting to English football in his first Premier League campaign.
Undoubtedly helped by the October appointment of Jurgen Klopp, the former Hoffenheim man has overcome a slow start to quickly become one of the Reds' main men, with his all-action style proving perfect for Klopp's relentless style of play.
Eight goals since the beginning of 2016 has helped, too.
Manchester City: Fernandinho
Another tough call that is ultimately won by a Brazilian, Manchester City's biggest hit of the campaign was a difficult one to discover.
Ultimately, though, the consistency and energy of midfielder Fernandinho wins the day, with the 30-year-old having made more league starts than any other City outfield player this season and contributing a crucial goal as his club won the Capital One Cup.
Sergio Aguero might claim the goals and the headlines, but his fellow South American has had an excellent campaign.
Manchester United: Anthony Martial
The latest of Manchester United’s curious post-Sir Alex Ferguson seasons has seen question upon question heaped on manager Louis van Gaal, but one thing that can’t now be questioned is the decision to shell out on Anthony Martial in the summer.
The young French forward may have had occasions when he has looked a little raw, but that is to be expected of a forward who only turned 20 over the course of the campaign. The former AS Monaco man has quickly become the best thing about an admittedly poor United side, and for that he has be lauded.
Quick, agile and possessing an excellent finishing ability, Martial looks well-suited to English football, and—whoever their manager ends up being—perhaps United’s summer recruitment drive should focus on bringing in a player to complement his many skills.
Newcastle United: Georginio Wijnaldum
It's another "best of a bad bunch" situation, but the Dutchman Georginio Wijnaldum takes Newcastle United's award for an impressive first season in England—one that doesn't deserve to end in relegation.
The former PSV Eindhoven man enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon against Norwich City in October when he hit four goals, part of an overall tally of nine that will be deemed hugely important should the Magpies end up staying in the Premier League.
Norwich City: Jonny Howson
Norwich City would have expected to battle relegation this season, and midfielder Jonny Howson has been a vital cog in their machine as they have sought to avoid it.
The former Leeds United man has been a consistent presence in Alex Neil's side, with only Robbie Brady starting more Premier League matches for the Canaries than the Yorkshireman, who has also contributed three goals.
One of the recognised leaders in the side, Howson has matured into a fine Premier League midfielder.
Southampton: Virgil van Dijk
A strange season for Southampton seems to be back on the rails after an alarming slump at the halfway point, and Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk has been key to that effort.
The former Celtic man moved to the south coast from Glasgow in the summer, and his stylish defending has quickly won over the Saints fans, who have also been impressed with his contributions in the attacking third of the pitch.
Van Dijk has been excellent, and the 24-year-old can rightly be regarded as one of the best signings of last summer.
Stoke City: Marko Arnautovic
Stoke City signed Marko Arnautovic for just £2 million in September 2013, which, when you look back on it, might well be one of the best deals in recent Premier League history.
The Austrian may have taken some time to settle, but he has been at his explosive best this season, with goals in the Potters' home wins over Chelsea and both Manchester clubs.
Possessing an ego to match his talent, the 26-year-old has shown a willingness to work hard this season, and both he and his club have reaped the rewards.
Jack Butland deserves a mention, but Arnautovic deserves the award.
Sunderland: Yann M'Vila
Once regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe before rapidly going off the boil, Frenchman Yann M'Vila has come back to the fore with Sunderland this season as he's scrapped away in their fight against relegation.
Making more league starts than any other Black Cats player, the 25-year-old has regularly dominated midfield battles up and down the country, and it would be no surprise to see interest in him in the summer should his team be relegated.
Swansea City: Ashley Williams
There are few certainties in Premier League football, least of all this season, but one of them is that Ashley Williams will be playing at the back for Swansea City and impressing pretty much everyone as he does so.
The club stalwart has been an ever-present in this campaign, and although it is not a season that has gone to plan for the Welsh side, he has once again been a rock at the heart of their defence.
He'll be captaining Wales at Euro 2016, too, and you can bet he'll be impressive there.
Tottenham Hotspur: Dele Alli
Having been given a season to adapt to Mauricio Pochettino’s methods, Tottenham Hotspur’s players have responded with a fantastic campaign in which the possibility of a league title has become a growing one, but their biggest hit of 2015/16 is someone who was only added in the summer.
Dele Alli arrived from Milton Keynes Dons with an excellent reputation but perhaps the belief that he was going to be a little raw having only played third-tier football in his career, but the young Englishman has been so good that there are now several calls for him to be given a starting berth by his country in the Euro 2016 finals in the summer.
Striking up a fine partnership with Harry Kane, Pochettino has honed Alli’s tenacity and drive from midfield, and the Spurs manager uses Alli as the front-runner in his relentless pressing system that has got on top of several opponents this season.
Put simply, he’s been a revelation.
Watford: Heurelho Gomes
This is tough on Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, who have combined to form a deadly partnership that has been one of the key reasons why their side will stay in the Premier League, but this one just goes to the Hornets goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
The Brazilian has mended his reputation in England after being seen as something of a flop at Tottenham, with his fine saves and command of the penalty area making him one of the top stoppers in the country in 2015/16.
West Bromwich Albion: Darren Fletcher
His career looked over when a troublesome illness decimated his time at Manchester United, so Darren Fletcher deserves huge credit for getting back on track and becoming such a respected captain for West Bromwich Albion.
The tenacious Scot has become the leader for Tony Pulis' Baggies, who have put together an impressive late-season run to ensure that they stay in the Premier League for another campaign.
West Ham United: Dimitri Payet
Perhaps a little overlooked because of the miracles going on elsewhere, West Ham United’s season has nonetheless been hugely impressive, with summer signing Dimitri Payet leading from the front thanks to his performances of astonishing style and grace.
An almost instant hit at Upton Park—which has rarely sounded better despite being in its last year of use—the Frenchman has become the darling of east London. He has spent the season embroidering games with moments of quality—most eye-catchingly of all, a fantastic ability from free-kicks.
Manager Slaven Bilic has utilised Payet intelligently, with the two combining to forge an alliance that has provided the Hammers with one of the best teams they’ve had in their recent history, with Mark Noble, Manuel Lanzini and Winston Reid also enjoying fine seasons alongside Payet.
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