MVP?: Samir Nasri and the Top 10 Players of the 2010-11 Premier League Season
Arguably one of the most competitive years in Premier League history, the 2010-11 season has enthralled us.
With tight battles to avoid relegation, qualify for European football and win the league, the Premier League has once again lived up to its billing as the most athletic and exciting league in the world. Much of this credit must of course go to the star players, the big names who have kept their teams in contention. With two-thirds of league football complete, it's time to see the top 10 players who have excelled this season and carried their teams to success.
10. Johan Elmander (Bolton Wanderers)
Bolton has excelled this season, currently sitting in eighth, and much of their success can be attributed to their Swedish target man. Elmander has often been criticized for his inability to finish in the box, but he silenced all of his critics with six goals in the opening 13 games of the season, and the Premier League Player of the Month for November.
In addition to his goals, Elmander has been a willing runner, creating havoc for opposing defenders, and has gelled in perfectly with Owen Coyle's fluid passing style. He has, cooled down, however, since his hot start to the season, with nine goals and three assists in 26 games, definitely a respectable tally.
9. Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
The Welshman had a breakout season last term, ending his infamous run of 24 games without a victory in style. He has continued the stellar form he ended 2009-10 with (which earned him a Premier League Player of the Month victory in April) into this season, with 7 goals in the league so far. Most importantly however, he has been a source of much of the offensive initiative at White Hart Lane, with much of Tottenham's attack developing through Bale's left side. Few will ever forget his single-handed annihilation of defending champions Inter Milan in the Champions League. With transfer rumors circulating around the 21 year old, loyal Hotspur fans will be hoping to hold on their budding super star for as long as possible.
8. Clint Dempsey (Fulham)
Fulham have underwhelmed this season, failing to reach last year's illustrious heights (most notably being a Diego Forlan goal away from winning the Europa League). With the departure of Roy Hodgson, Fulham initially struggled, battling to escape the relegation zone. In midst of the slump, however, Clint Dempsey shined, with his 10 goals putting him on level with superstars like Didier Drogba and Darren Bent. The fire, passion, and dedication with which Dempsey plays his game has inspired his teammates, won over fans, and clearly placed him at a leadership position at Craven Cottage. Dempsey has also been integral in Fulham's recent run of good form (which has carried them 4 points clear of the relegation zone), with 4 goals in his last 6 Premier League matches.
7. Andrew Carrol (Newcastle/Liverpool)
Liverpool's most recent signing was a critical member of Newcastle's resurgence to Premier League football. Carroll tallied 11 goals and 6 assists in 19 games before suffering injury, which has kept him from featuring for his new club. His strength, athleticism, and heading ability make him an ideal target striker, and his clever touches and intelligent passing greatly supplemented Newcastle's recently invigorated attack. With his recent transfer,ranking him as the 8th most expensive transfer of all time and the most ever expensive British player, it remains to be seen whether Carroll will be able to excel at a club with a greater ambition and expectation. If he continues the form that brought to him Anfield, in the first place, Liverpool and England fans may have finally found the solution to their woes up top.
6. Florent Malouda (Chelsea)
In the early stages of the season, when Chelsea was dominating other teams, Malouda was arguably the best player in the Premier League. While he has not been able to maintain his superstar level form, he has often been the only bright spot in a Chelsea attack which has regressed with age. Malouda's tireless running down the flanks and in the offensive third, coupled with his selflessness and ability to find his teammates with his much improved passing has made him Chelsea's player of the season so far. He has also contributed statistically with 9 goals and 4 assists in 25 games. The arrival of the widely heralded Fernando Torres does however represent a threat to his playing time, and as such the Frenchmen has already been linked with several moves away from Stamford Bridge over the summer.
5. Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)
The old cliche reads "Defense win championships", and United have epitomized this statement, with their 10 clean sheets an important reason behind their current position at that the top of the league. Vidic has been the foremost member of the back, with his defensive steel and leadership shining out amongst his teammates. In addition, as captain, Vidic has led his team, with his calm and stability a critical factor in United's famed ability to comeback in many games in which they were behind. Vidic has also chipped in with 4 goals, only two less than that of a certain Wayne Rooney. If Vidic does end up lifting the Premier League trophy this spring, it will be the least he deserves for his solid play as the best defender in in the league.
4. Rafael Van Der Vaart (Tottenham)
When Van der Vaart arrived at White Hart Lane this summer from Madrid, many had already ruled him out as an effective player, and critics doubted his ability to succeed in the athletic and fast paced Premier League. However, he has rediscovered his form with Tottenham this season. The link between the midfield and the attack, the Dutchman has contributed an astounding 11 goals and 7 assists in 19 games. His clever passing and vision of the field have made his teammates better players, and it is no surprise that under his wing, players like Bale and Lennon have developed from solid players to great ones. Van der Vaart's play has also had a direct correlation with his team's success, with Tottenham exceeding expectation in both the Premier and Champions Leagues.
3. Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)
Often the brunt of the jokes and abuse last season for his inability to score and lethargic demeanor by both Manchester and non Manchester fans, Dimitar Berbatov has transformed into a completely different player this season. In addition to scoring goals in the big games (3 goals against Liverpool), Bebratov has been consistent throughout the year with 19 goals putting him at the top of the scorers list this season. What has been most impressive about Berbatov's accomplishment is that he has managed to score these goals without taking a single penalty. He has completely eclipsed strike partner Wayne Rooney in 2010-11, and as the best player on the best team it will be no surprise if Berbatov does come away with the Player of the Season Award come April.
2. Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
Since his switch from local rivals United to City, Tevez has always been looked upon as a cult hero for the Citizens. Roberto Mancini's side, which is surprisingly still in the running for the Premier League title, is heavily dependent on their Argentine talisman, with his 18 goals a little less than half of the team's total for the season. His link up play with teammates his teammates, as well as never ending running has made him invaluable to the team. Often the only source of any offensive ingenuity at the Eastlands, Tevez has clearly matured as both a player and a leader, setting an example for his teammates. If City do win the title, it will be with no doubt thanks to the Argentine's exploits.
1. Samir Nasri (Arsenal)
When the league started this season, few expected Arsenal to sit ahead of Chelsea, Liverpool, and City, as well as only 4 points away from first place. Many expected the team, without the injured Thomas Vermaleen to suffer, possibly even dropping from the top 4 and a Champions League position. With 12 games left to the season, however, Arsenal sit only 4 points off the title, despite having suffered issues with injury throughout the season. In addition to Vermaleen, Arsenal has often been forced to play without captain Cesc Fabregas, Dutchman Robin Van Persie, and the speedy Theo Walcott. Their absence has vacated room for the Frenchmen Nasri to step up in his third season for the Gunners. His statistics may not seem too impressive, 9 goals and an assist in 20 games, but it is his presence and creativity that have made him an invaluable figure at the Emirates this season. Nasri's ability to take over games (the 2-1 victory over Fulham comes to mind), his pinpoint passing, deft touch, and wonderful vision have eased Arsenal fan's worries of a life without Fabregas. Overall it is his ability to carry his team that has made him the Player of the Season thus far.