EPL: The 10 Most Improved Premier League Players
Unlike the PFA, I personally think any individual awards should be reserved until the last remaining weeks of the English Premier League season. Voting for PFA Player of the Year, and PFA Young Player of the Year takes place in early March. The problem with early voting is that players aren't judged on the most crucial part of the season.
Not to take anything away from Gareth Bale, he has been a great player in the Champions League, but has been less than prolific in domestic league play. Hardly displaying the character consistently throughout the year that merits Player of the Season material. Nemanja Vidic for example has been the most consistent and best defender this year. Charlie Adam was recently an outcast at Rangers, is now billed as the Scottish Xabi Alonso.
Jack Wilshere has been phenomenal and has forced his way into a top club at only 19 years old, but have his contributions been as decisive for Arsenal as Javier Hernandez's have been for Manchester United? Even young Joe Hart who has played an instrumental part in landing City in their first final in over thirty years.
Although some players who deserved their moment in the lime-light were not recognized by the PFA, their contributions have not gone unnoticed. Here is the list of the top ten most improved EPL players.
Matt Jarvis, Wolverhampton
When 24 year old Wolverhampton winger Matt Jarvis was called up to represent England against Wales, some skeptics questioned Fabio Capello's decision to include the Wolves winger.
However to those who have followed the Premier League this year, the inclusion of Matt Jarvis in the England squad will have come as no surprise.
Jarvis has been a revelation this year, and one of the few positives for Mick McCarthy's Wolves. When/if Wolves go down, don't count on Jarvis sticking around Molineux.
Vincent Kompany, Manchester City
Last year Vincent Kompany was close to being washed away by Sheikh Mansour's drive to create a real life fantasy football team. A talented Belgium international, Kompany arrived at Eastlands in 2008 with a lot of potential, but found chances hard to come by.
The 2010-2011 season has seen Kompany emerge as a world class defender, and some pundits to call for Kompany to be considered for PFA Player of the Year.
As one of the few consistent and reliable performers for City this season, whoever is in charge of City next year should build around the clubs most valuable asset, Vincent Kompany.
Daniel Sturridge, Bolton
In 21 appearances for Manchester City, Daniel Sturridge netted five times for the Sky Blues. At Chelsea, Sturridge netted only once in 26 matches. Since joining Bolton in January Sturridge has seen his stock rise by scoring seven goals in nine appearances.
Sturridge was regarded as one of the top prospects for England in the future, but performances for Chelsea and City made many people speculate if Sturridge was the real deal.
Sturridge has certainly proved many of his critics wrong and has excelled when given opportunities at the Reebok stadium. If Chelsea do clear out some of the older veterans in the squad this summer, including Nicolas Anelka, and Didier Drogba, a front line including Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge will surely be one of the most feared attacks in the EPL.
Alex Song, Arsenal
There will never be another Patrick Viera, and since the Frenchman left the club, Arsenal have struggled to plug the gap in the middle of the park.
Holding midfielders typically never get the credit they deserve, but Song has been vital for Arsenal this season. Despite the Gunners chance of winning any silverware going from slim to none, had Song not been included in the Arsenal squad, Arsenal might be further away from the title than they currently are.
Alex Song is the puzzle piece that allows creative players like Nasri, Fabregas, Arshavin and Walcott to attack. Unlike midfield generals like Italy's Gennaro Gattuso, and City's Nigle de Jong, Song is a talented footballer all around, and not just a tackler.
Arsenal still have a lot of work to do if they ever want to be considered a serious threat for the entire season, but the selfless work Song puts in will be one of the key reasons for Arsenal attaining any glory.
Charlie Adam, Blackpool
Scotsman Charlie Adam has been the key reason for Blackpool's early season success. The conductor in the middle of the park, Adam pulls the strings and leads by example. The importance of Adam's prescience is similar to the importance of United's midfield maestro Paul Scholes.
Charlie Adam surely deserves credit for his role at Blackpool, especially if he leads his team to survival in the Premier League.
A host of tops clubs were linked with the services of Adam in January, and regardless of how Blackpool finish, Adam will most likely look elsewhere to maximize his full potential while he still has his prime footballing years ahead of him.
Joey Barton, Newcastle United
England's mustache sensation Joey Barton catches a lot of flack for his rocky history, but has come along way from his cigar stubbing on players eyes days. Arguably one of the top English midfielders currently playing, Barton has certainly silenced the majority of his critics.
The pugnacious midfielder has put in some fine displays, and camera interviews to justify his claim of being the best midfielder in the EPL.
Barton may have some ways to go before people out side of Newcastle agree with his claims, but this season he has proved that he is as good as a footballer as he is a instigator.
Seamus Coleman, Everton
Nominated alongside Samir Nasri, and Luis Nani, Seamus Coleman has been one of the few consistencies in the Toffees turbulent season.
Having played predominately as an attacking right-back for Blackpool for a few games last season, David Moyes has allowed Coleman to showcase his talents by deploying him on the right wing.
The fearless Irishman has proved his worth alongside some of the EPL's brightest talents, and has not looked out of place in doing so. The best is yet to come from Coleman, and his breakout season will likely have some big clubs sniffing around Goodison Park for the young midfielder.
Luis Nani, Manchester United
Last year Manchester United fans couldn't help but cringe at the sight of Nani's name on the starting XI. Now if Nani is not included on United's team sheet fans can't help but wonder why.
Nani came into a side overshadowed by his fellow countrymen Cristiano Ronaldo, and struggled to play without fans demanding the exact same quality as Ronaldo.
Nani has grown immensely into his role at Old Trafford and has performed consistently in Europe, as well as the League, something PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale has failed to do.
Nani is enjoying his football and is constantly improving his shooting, crossing and decision making. His repertoire of skills and fancy footwork dazzles crowds and shakes defenders. The assurance and guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson will only elevate Nani's game as he continues to reach the next level.
Chris Baird, Fulham
Considered a liability for the past few seasons, Chris Baird has cemented his place in Mark Hughes back-line. In previous seasons, Baird's lackluster and hapless performances saw him relegated from the Fulham side, and on numerous occasions labeled the worst player in the Premier League.
Baird couldn't be blamed for wanting to drift off into the lower leagues in an effort to remain anonymous, but Baird pulled himself together and turned around his fortunes completely.
Now a dependable, and consistent addition in Fulham's defense, Baird has proved that hard work and dedication is all that is needed to turn ones fate around. Baird has chipped in with a cracker or two this season as well, and has proved how far he has come from his previous title as worst Premier League player.
Lucas Leiva, Liverpool
I have been harping on Lucas since I first saw him play in 2007. Dubbed the next Kaka, I was not sure what then coach Rafa Benitez saw in the Brazilian, and up until this year I still failed to see what all the fuss was about the Brazilian born midfielder, without any of the Brazilian flair and magic.
Lucas has gone from joker to midfield lynch pin, and one of the one first players on Liverpool's team sheet. Having taken the absence of Steven Gerrard to his advantage, Lucas has revitalized his Liverpool career.
By nature I still want to keep harping and ragging on Lucas, being a Liverpool player and all, but I certainly cannot deny the adversity Lucas has overcome to get to where he is now.
I always thought Lucas was just another South American midfielder destined for failure in the fast and physical EPL, but Lucas has emerged as a tough and combative midfielder, while at times showcasing some of the natural traits that Brazilians are inherently blessed with.
New management and the guidance of Kenny Dalglish has certainly played a part in bringing out Lucas's talents, and proving many critics wrong along the way.