EPL: A Starting XI of the Most Underrated Players in the English Premier League

Nabeel KhokharCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2011

EPL: A Starting XI of the Most Underrated Players in the English Premier League

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    All the teams in the English Premier League have their star players and those that catch the headlines in the media. But all the teams also have their unsung heroes, whose valuable contributions sometimes go unnoticed.

    All teams also have those players that should logically be their starting line ups, but just cannot seem to be able to get into the first teams or not be able to hold down a regular spot in them.

    What follows is a starting XI of, arguably, the English Premier League's most underrated players. 

    As a kick off to this slideshow, the manager of this team of underrated players, would be the league's most underrated manager. This title goes to Everton's David Moyes, who, if given the opportunity to manager a bigger club, would not be out of his depth.

Goalkeeper : Jussi Jaaskelainen

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    Bolton's 36-year-old Finnish goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen has kept goal for the club since 1997 and has been one of the club's longest and most consistent servants, having played 509 games in their colours.

    In the 2001-02 season after Bolton secured promotion to the Premier League, Jaaskelainen was voted the best goal keeper in the league by the league's sponsors, Barclaycard.

    Following consistent seasons, the Finn, in 2007 was voted Bolton's Player of the Year and also The Players' Player of the Year.

    In 2005, when legendary Finnish goalkeeper Antti Niemi retired, Jaaskelainen took over in goal as the first choice for Finland and has collected 56 caps since.

    Jaaskelainen, has and still is one of the most consistent and capable goalkeepers in the Premier League and his performances have come to Bolton's rescue many a time. However, he still is not considered as one of the league's top stoppers by top clubs.

    It is a surprise that Arsenal, with all their problems with goalkeepers in recent years have not turned to the consistent Finn.

    Tottenham Hotspurs have also ignored Jaaskelainen, as their keeper made blunder after blunder.

    Strangely the top clubs seemed not to be interested in acquiring one of the leagues most skilled goalkeepers.

Left Back : Stephen Warnock

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    Stephen Warnock was born in Lancahsire and came up through the ranks at Liverpool Football Club's Youth Academy. As a promising youngster he made his international debut for the England Under 16s and in 2004 proudly made his debut for the Reds.

    Warnock actually played his first season with Liverpool on the left side of midfield, but the following season moved to left back, where he battled with established star John Arne Riise for the starting berth.

    Such was the promise shown by Warnock, in August 2005, soon after breaking into the Liverpool first team squad, he was called up to the full England squad for cover at left back.

    The Liverpudlian went on to make 40 appearances for the Reds before loan spells at Bradford City and Coventry City brought his time at Anfield to an end.

    Warnock now plays his football at left back for Aston Villa, after a spell at Blackburn Rover where he 88 appearances.

    At Villa, Warnock has matured into a consistent left back, but has not been spectacular enough to gain anything more than one further England call up.

    Despite, his former club, Liverpool's lack of a solid left back, they have not come knock on his door asking him to return. Arsenal's loss of Gael Clichy, has not promoted them to inquire of Warnock's services either.

    Warnock is one the best left back's in the Premier League, however one of its most underrated,

Centre Back : Christopher Samba

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    In 2007, Blackburn Rovers brought Frenchman Christopher Samba from German club Hertha BSC for £450,000.

    The 1.96m tall powerful central defender made his Rovers debut in the FA Cup fourth-round tie against Luton Town, as substitute for Ryan Nelsen.

    The following season, Samba established himself as first choice in the centre of Blackburn's defence.

    Samba was used in the 2008-09 season as a secret weapon striker and made several starts in that unfamiliar position, and due to his towering frame caused defenses problems.

    However, it is as a central defender that the huge Frenchman has made his reputation. Last season, he was given the captain's armband and wore it with pride. He played with determination and his performances were strong and powerful.

    Samba is still not considered as one of the premier centre backs in the league; other lesser players have been subjects of huge transfer fees and intense media speculation on their future.

    The towering defender has received some interest from Arsenal, who need a dominating and imposing figure at the back. But as yet the Gunners have not made an offer and seem destined to overlook Samba in the continued search.

Centre Back : Robert Huth

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    German central defender first came into the English Premier League when Chelsea, under Claudio Ranieri, signed him as a teenager.

    After Ranieri left The Blues, new manager Jose Mourinho had others in mind for his central defense and Huth saw his chances of playing time diminish. In the light of this the giant German moved to Middlesbrough after making 42 appearances for the Londoners.

    In the 2009-09 season, Huth was made captain at Middlesbrough but after a year moved on to Stoke City.

    At Stoke, Huth's stock has risen, yet he has never been recognised enough for a move back to one of the bigger clubs. Last season, the German solidified his position at Stoke and scored a remarkable nine goals.

    His international career has also not taken off, with 2005 being the year where he made the most international appearances; ten in all.

    Huth is a powerful presence in both penalty boxes and a danger from set pieces. He athleticism and power have made him a favourite at Stoke but he is still underrated in the Premier League. Another solid season next time out may well change that.

Right Back : Branislav Ivanovic

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    The Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic arrived from Locamotiv Moscow to Chelsea in January 2008 and has to date made 113 appearance for the Blues.

    Been a versatile defender, Ivanovic has played in the centre of defense, as well as at right back. And it is in this position that he is most identified with.

    The Serbian is tall at 1.88m but is by no means a giant, but he aerial ability may well be that of one. Ivanovic is formidable in the air and really excels at set pieces. As a defender, he is strong and tough tackling.

    Invanovic is also comfortable going forward and possess a decent delivery when crossing.

    Despite these traits, he finds it tough to hold down a regular first team spot and never convinced his previous managers that he should unquestionably be their first choice.

    As a defender and in particular at right back, the Serb is one of the league's most underrated players.

Wide Midfield : Leon Osman

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    Leon Osman is one of the real unsung heroes of the Everton team. Where his teammates, like Tim Cahill, Louis Saha, Jack Rodwell and other take the spotlight, the hardworking grafter Osman is working tirelessly in the background.

    Osman has been at no other club except Everton, having come up through its youth ranks and has made 269 appearances for the Toffees.

    The solid Englishman is the lynch pin in Everton's midfield, he is always available and rarely gives the ball away. He fitness, stamina and energy are examples to others and his commitment is second to none.

    Osman always chips in with goal, consistently averaging close to seven a season, with an equal number of assists. He is a great battler and his appetite and attitude to the game is exemplary.

    His current manager David Moyes, thinks very highly of him and he is a first team starter when available. However, if Osman ever came onto the market, his value would not be significantly high and certainly less than many that are half the player he is.

    Osman is one of the League's most underrated players.

Central Midfield : Lucas

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    The Liverpool central midfielder came into his own last season and was Liverpool's Player of the Year. Bought by ex-manager Rafa Benitez, early on Lucas was the butt of the fans' and the medias jokes but he stuck to his task and worked hard.

    Lucas's self belief and mental character is phenomenally strong; many other players would have let their heads drop following all the criticism and sometimes abuse he received.

    Since the departure from Anfield of Xabi Alonso and particularly Javier Mascherano, Lucas has stepped up to the plate and been a wonderfully composed, strong and consist performer.

    Still only 24 years old, Lucas now plays like a Premier League veteran. Last season, he finally convinced fans that he is worthy of their support and love with performances of determination and grit. Despite his young age, he was an example to the other youngsters in the squad.

    But with the arrival of Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson and the wealth of midfield talent at Liverpool, Lucas may well find himself far down the pecking order when it comes to securing a place in central midfield.

    Liverpool would do well to not underrate the impact Lucas could have for the Reds next season.

    Only time will tell, but currently Lucas is the most underrated central midfielder in the Premier League.

Central Midfield : Ramires

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    In August 2010, Chelsea paid Benfica £17 million for the services of Brazilian central midfielder Ramires.

    The Brazilian has had to contend with a different system of play at Chelsea and also a squad full of world class talent competing for first team football.

    At Chelsea in the midfield there are the likes of Yossi Benayoun, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda and John Obi Mikel to name only the established stars.

    Ramires has to demonstrate to his manager that he warrants a starting place above these others. However, the Brazilian has grown in confidence and found his feet at Stamford Bridge.

    The former Benfica star has stamina and extremely high levels of fitness and it appears as if he never stops running. When employed further up the pitch, Ramires has shown a propensity to be able to break into the box and fire off a shot and scored twice.

    With all the other big names around him, Ramires has still been able to break into the first team on occasions, but has not held a place down consistently.

    His ability should not be underrated, and Ramires has all the talent to be a consistent first team performer at any other top club. But it seems at Chelsea, there are other lesser players whose importance to the team is deemed more needed and important.

    Ramires, at Chelsea is very underrated and due to this, he is not a midfielder that is rated as highly as he should be and certainly higher than lesser players in the league. 

Wide Midfield : Matthew Jarvis

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    Matt Jarvis is a 25-year-old English winger playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers. Jarvis is a good old fashioned winger, with quick feet, an excellent turn of speed and a wonderful delivery.

    Since Wolves got promotion, Jarvis has shown that he has a considerable amount of quality and is very comfortable with the level of football played in the Premiership.

    Last season, the winger had a very productive campaign on the Wolves flanks, scoring five goals and providing eight assists. The tricky little winger is not one that looks to cut inside on every occasion; when getting the ball, he looks to take on his opponent, get past him and knock in a useful cross.

    His form has seen him called up to the full England squad earlier this year and if he continues his form, he will get plenty more opportunities to be called up.

    Coming from a not so fashionable club, Jarvis is competing with other quality players in the league in his position. But his talents are underrated and a move to a bigger club would allow him to shine on a larger stage.

    Currently, Jarvis is one of the league's most underrated wide players.

Support Striker : Niko Kranjcar

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    This extremely gifted and technically excellent Croatian, has become the forgotten man at Tottenham Hotspurs and of the Premier League.

    Niko Kranjcar was brought to Spurs from Portsmouth in 2009 after an injury to fellow Croat, Luka Modric.

    The level of skill and technical ability that Kranjcar possession is nothing short of sublime, he has the ability to beat his man with pure skill and, although no slouch, does not depend on pace to do so.

    He has a ferocious shot and can cause the goalkeeper problems when striking from distance.

    However, since moving to White Hart Lane, Kranjcar has only made 37 appearances for Spurs and has never broken into the first team on a consistent basis.

    It could be that the emergence of Gareth Bale and the continuing rise of Modric has hindered Kranjcar's progress, but surely there is a place in a Spurs team, that was short on goals, for this talented Croatian.

    Other Premiership teams have expressed fleeting interest in ending Kranjcar's Tottenham misery, but no offers have been made.

    Manager Harry Redknapp, does not rate Kranjcar high enough to even give him a place on the bench at times, this has led to him almost disappearing off the radar for other clubs.

    But, without doubt, Kranjcar is one of the most underrated players in the league.

Striker : Roque Santa Cruz

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    Since his ill fated move to Manchester City, Roque Santa Cruz has played little football for Eastlands based club. A succession of injuries has not helped, but like so many other highly rated players that came to City with great reputations, he has also completely lost his way.

    He carved out a goal scoring reputation with Bavarian giants Bayern Munich 31 goals in 155 appearances and improved on this while at Blackburn Rovers.

    It was in the North East of England where the Paraguayan soared and gained the reputation of a top class and extremely dangerous striker. He netted 23 times in 57 games for Rovers.

    Santa Cruz uses all his 1.91m height and stature when challenging for balls in the box and his quick feet, have also made him a lethal finisher.

    Having been brought to City by his manager at Blackburn, Mark Hughes, it was always going to be tough for Santa Cruz when Hughes left so soon after and before the Paraguayan was able to establish himself in the side.

    Currently, the all the top strikers at City are higher in the pecking order than Santa Cruz, and manager Roberto Mancini, does not rate him that highly. Santa Cruz is a striker of wonderful ability and far more of a team player than the likes of Mario Balotelli.

    Santa Cruz still has much to offer to City, but is currently one of the most underrated strikers in the league.