With the Barclays English Premiership rapidly reaching its conclusion, we have already seen which players have made the biggest impact. Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba are the stand-out candidates with their goal-scoring exploits this season. We shall have a look at certain players which have played a major part in their team’s success.
Cesc Fabregas has been the backbone of The Gunners this season and with the injury to talismanic dutch forward Robin Van Persie, added pressure has been placed on the shoulders of the young Spaniard. The playmaker has been in sensational form and has duly obliged with the extra pressure. Not only has he found his scoring boots this year, he also keeps on assisting many goals. Stats don’t lie and with – goals and – assists in the league this term, Fabregas is definitely up there with the worlds best.
Honourable mention: Thomas Vermeulan
James Milner could not have asked for a better season than the one he is enjoying right now with the Birmingham side. Milner has displayed his versatility before, but none so much like this season, where he has slotted into a playmaking position in central midfield with aplomb. It is almost certain that Fabio Capello will call up the versatile Milner, as he can play at either fullback position, right/left wing or in central midfield. Expect him to play an important role in South Africa with David Beckham and Aaron Lennon suffering with injuries.
Honourable mention: Richard Dunne
Joe Hart seems to be Fabio Capello’s biggest hope in the goalkeeping department for the World Cup despite Rob Green being the current No. 1. He has displayed many impressive performances in what is so far, an exceptional season for Birmingham. Hart has the knack of making vital saves and is a confident young man who marshals his defence very well. The on-loan Manchester City ‘keeper will be looking to extend his stay beyond this season as he is not guaranteed first team action at Eastlands, behind Shay Given.
Honourable mention: Lee Bowyer
David Dunne had a remarkable start to the '09-'10 season, scoring goals and being the driving force behind an average Blackburn Rovers' side. Dunne’s season was slightly hampered by injuries and while he has returned, even though not hitting his early season form, he is still Rover’s most vital player going forward and creating goal-scoring opportunities. The energy he brings to the midfield is immense and the Lancashire side will struggle to replace him once he decides to hang up his boots.
Honourable mention: Chris Samba
Kevin Davies is one of thee most feared strikers in England. His no nonsense attitude and general desire for the game makes up for his lack of finishing ability. Davies is an absolute monster in the air and will surely be giving Fabio Capello food for thought, while he decides what team to take to South Africa. Many believe he would do a better job as the centre forward rather than Emile Heskey. Davies will play a major part in keeping Bolton up.
Honourable mention: Gary Cahill
After a slow start, Steven Fletcher is beginning to get used to life at Turf Moor and the goals are starting to flow as well. The 24-year-old is also a candidate for the EPL young player of the year. Considering the different level of the EPL and the SPL, Fletcher has been doing very well and is a shrewd signing by ex boss Owen Coyle. He’s not been able to keep Burnley out of the relegation zone, but expect The Clarets to fight on till the last day of the season.
Honourable mention: Graeme Alexander
There’s only one man who can take the gong at Chelsea, and that would be their talismanic forward, Didier Drogba. The Ivorian has been in scintillating form, already netting 24 times in the league with a good amount of assists to go with it. Drogba has been the biggest asset of Chelsea’s improvement from last year and a lot has to be credited to him being injury-free this campaign. If the Londoners do take the league title, Drogba will have to keep up his amazing performances to inspire Chelsea to their first title since the self proclaimed "special one" has departed Stamford Bridge.
Honourable mention: Ashley Cole
When Wayne Rooney goes down injured, the whole of England winces and the same can be said of South African’s when our own prodigal son Steven Pienaar picks up a knock. Pienaar has been the most consistent player on Merseyside, not just the blue half. The South African has been brilliant all season for The Toffees although recently, he and the rest of the team have still improved and surged all the way up to 8th place, while looking to secure a Europa League place. "Schillo" as he is more affectionately known as back home has displayed performances linking him with moves to bigger sides, with Bayern Munich most notably been credited with interest.
Honourable mention: Tim Cahill
A captain is the most important part of a team and it’s no different with Fulham. Ex-Liverpool man Danny Murphy has been leading from the front and displaying performances of old. The Cottagers are now a Premier League force under the guidance of Roy Hodgson and Murphy’s performances at the heart of the midfield, has all but enforced this. Fulham, who has just progressed to the quarter finals of the Europa League, brilliantly eliminated Juventus will also be closely contesting a place in Europe’s B grade competition for next year.
Honourable mention: Mark Schwarzer
Stephen Hunt has been one of the better acquisitions made by recently departed boss Phil Brown. The Irish winger has been in good form, involved in many goals and even picking up a few himself. The tricky wide man brings a different edge to the Hull attack and was subject of a speculated move to Wolves. If Hull City does indeed get relegated, expect Hunt to be picked up by a Premiership team.
Honourable mention: Kamil Zayate
It would have to be said that Javier Mascherano is one of the better defensive midfielders in the league and he has not disappointed again this season. The Argentinean has been one of the very few positives in a shocking campaign for The Reds. A good passing range together with tenacious tackling makes him the stand out player in the Merseyside team.
Honourable mention: Pepe Reina
Defence is not something that is associated with the Eastlands club this season, but Shay Given has been an excellent addition to the backline, something not achieved with the purchases of Kolo Toure and Joeleen Lescott. The Irish ‘keeper has made some vital saves and has been kept just as busy as he was in the goals of Newcastle. Im sure Fabio Capello wishes he was English.
Not so Honourable mention: Carlos Tevez
The reigning champions seem to once again have the best player in the league. Wayne Rooney was always considered amongst the world’s best strikers for his tireless work rate and pace. This season "Wazza" has added an extra dimension to his game, his poaching abilities as well as his heading. This has led to Rooney leading the goal scoring charts with 26 goals. However, a great deal of credit needs to go to the brilliant Antonio Valencia. It has to be said that Rooney has finally started playing as a centre forward and making runs beyond defenders. With the extra edge that has been added to his game, Wayne is certainly the best striker in world football at the moment.
Honourable mention: Patrice Evra
The South Coast club is the first Premier League club to enter administration and relegation is all but confirmed for Avram Grants men. The stand-out performer in what has been a disastrous season would have to be, Nadir Belhadj. The Algerian has been in good form and is one player that does not deserve to be involved in a relegation battle. The attacking left back is surely too good to go down and will be snapped up by a better side in the summer. His ability to defend well, along with making attacking runs, makes him part of a rare breed of players.
Honourable mention: Jamie O’Hara
Ryan Shawcross got an England call-up last weekend, hours after horrendously breaking Aaron Ramsey’s leg. The lad has been amazing this season and that’s where the attention should be focused. A product of the Manchester United youth setup, Shawcross has come a long way in becoming one of the best upcoming English central defenders. In recent times his been linked with a return to United and with a move to the old enemy, Liverpool.
Honourable mention: Nigel Etherington
It's now a well known fact that when Darren Bent plays regularly, he will score. The former Spurs and Charlton Athletic man, is a natural finisher and takes most chances that come his way. He is unlikely to catch Wayne Rooney in terms of goals scored, but his performances surely makes him a candidate to travel to South Africa and will be confident of taking the opportunities if given.
Honourable mention: Lorik Cana
Another English striker pops up as the star of their team and this must surely impress Capello and his assistant Franco Baldini. Jermaine Defoe has been absolutely fantastic this season in his second spell with the London-based club. Defoe has benefited from playing alongside the selfless Peter Crouch and is willingly taking most of the chances coming his way. He should be the favourite to start alongside "Wazza" in South Africa if Fabio changes his philosophy of one big and one small as he did against Egypt.
Honourable mention: Tom Huddlestone
England’s number one stopper has been the standout performer in a very disappointing campaign for Zola’s men. The lad has been very busy between the sticks and has played a massive part in keeping The Hammers just above the relegation zone. Green will play a massive part in a season where I believe the boys from London will stay up. He must be confident of securing his plane ticket to the rainbow nation.
Honourable mention: Scott Parker
Roberto Martinez would probably see the season so far as being satisfactory, caught up in the relegation battle but can surely sleep easier than a few other managers. Hugo Rodallega has scored some vital goals for The Latics this season, with strikes against Liverpool, Sunderland and Chelsea. The Columbian is a good-old, strong centre forward who can turn a defender very well. His vital strikes should lead Wigan to safety.
Honourable mention: Charles N’zogbia
Another captain that’s leading by example in the middle of the park is the tenacious Karl Henry. The Wolves captain has been a force in the midfield this season and is surely a much improved player than when he was at Stoke City. Henry is a local lad, born in Ashmore Park and is a boyhood supporter of Wolves, who has had a very good season mopping up in front of the defence. He is a good short passer of the game.
Honourable mention: Matthew Jarvis