English Premier League: 5 Players Who Have Exceeded Expectations This Season
As the year 2011 comes to an end, it's time to look back on the year's pros and cons. From Barcelona's great domestic and European successes to the Manchester clubs' exits from the Champions League, this year has been filled with almost everything.
The end of the year is also the rough midpoint of the 2011/2012 Premier League season.
It's nearly impossible to describe how amazing this campaign has been. Who would have thought that Manchester City would be at the summit of the league, and—even more shockingly—that they would beat city rivals United 6-1? And what about United's own outstanding 8-2 victory versus Arsenal?
In addition to these startling score-lines, there have been a bunch of players who have completely surpassed expectations since August. Many are from newly-promoted sides, while others are former underachievers from the top teams.
Without further ado, here's a list of five Premier League players who have exceeded expectations this season.
Team: Swansea City
At the beginning of the season, very few Premier League fans had ever heard of Ashley Williams. Now the Welshman is considered one of the top center-backs.
Williams has arguably been Swansea's most important player in their maiden EPL campaign. The defender has been great at the back, helping the Swans to eight clean sheets in 18 games.
While the 27-year-old was part of the Championship Team of the Year for the past two years, his superb performances this season have taken everyone by surprise.
Team: Aston Villa
While Aston Villa haven't been at their best this season, Gabriel Agbonlahor has been great, having already scored five times and assisted seven times.
It's nice to see Agbonlahor playing so well after his poor 2010/2011 campaign. Under Gerard Houillier, the English forward found playing time limited (compared to past seasons) and was mainly deployed on the wing. In 25 league appearances, Agbonlahor scored just three times.
After 17 league games this season, the striker has already surpassed his previous goal tally. It looks like Alex McLeish, even though he hasn't had the best start to his managerial reign at Villa, has helped revive Agbonlahor.
Team: Manchester United
When Phil Jones was transferred to United for an estimated fee of £18m, most people felt that Sir Alex Ferguson had a made a bad decision. And they had every right to, as Jones was a 19-year-old center-back from Blackburn Rovers.
But the purchase, despite its enormous sum (at least for a young, inexperienced defender), has proved to be a great decision. Jones has started 14 of United's 18 EPL games and played a part in all six Champions League matches.
One of the main reasons for Jones' success is his versatility. The English defender has played in numerous different positions for the Red Devils this season, which has helped cover for United's vast injury problems.
Team: Newcastle United
Most Premier League fans were unfamiliar with Yohan Cabaye upon the Frenchman's move to England. Newcastle fans certainly had mixed feelings regarding the move, as the Toon paid an estimated fee of £4.5m (undisclosed by club).
After starting all but one league match this campaign, Cabaye has clearly made an impact at Newcastle. Although his statistics show him scoring just once and assisting twice, he has played a huge part in the Magpies' superb early-season form.
Cabaye has been great in the center midfield position for Newcastle, contributing in both attack and defense.
Team: Manchester City
David Silva moved to Manchester City in 2010 after six seasons and over 150 appearances with Valencia CF.
At first, life in England proved to be a challenge for the Spaniard. But Roberto Mancini stuck with the midfielder and it paid off, as Silva was named City's player of the month three times in a row late in 2010 (October, November, December).
On the whole, despite garnering lots of praise, Silva's 2010/2011 campaign was good, but not outstanding. And that is why his performances this season (2011/2012) have taken everybody by surprise.
Silva has been unbelievable so far this season and is now being considered as one of the world's best. In just 18 league games for the Citizens, the Spaniard has assisted eight times and scored five.
While winning the Premier League is certainly at the top of Silva's mind at the moment, he will be looking to keep his outstanding form in order to secure a spot in Spain's Euro lineup next summer.