There are the players that surprise no-one with their brilliant performances throughout the season, but what about the players that you wouldn’t you expect to be impressed by? Here are 5 of mine.
For any newly promoted team, the goalkeeper faces the almighty task of being the last line of defence, that is needed more than ever. After a season when he relatively coasted through games in the Championship, he now faces world class strikers, who need only the smallest of margins to score. Fortunately for Cardiff, despite a difficult season David Marshall has kept them in with a chance of survival with some spectacular saves.
Marshall has made an incredible 95 saves thus far this campaign, the most in the Premier League unsurprisingly, winning points on his own at times; last weekend’s performance in the last 20 minutes against Norwich is a good example of this. The need to be reliable is pivotal as well – giving away easy goals by dropping crosses is the last thing a team fighting relegation needs – and Marshall has done this with a 99% claim success rate.
Interesting Stat: David Marshall made 11 saves against Tottenham earlier in the season.
Often seen as the athletic and hardworking English midfielder that lacks on the technical side, Jordan Henderson has started to change the perception people have of him this season with some very impressive performances.
When Coutinho and Sturridge – two important players for Liverpool – were out injured, Henderson stepped up and took on the role of the creative midfielder for the Merseyside team. Creating 44 chances and obtaining 6 assists, Henderson created 33 and 4 respectively in the whole of last season; also, the rate of his creativity is noticeable, as Henderson had only created 11 chances between August and the end of October.
Henderson is also Liverpool’s highest pass maker with 1091 completed and the style of some of his passes have also caught the eye with a number of audacious balls – most notably his assist for Suarez against Cardiff.
Interesting Stat: Jordan Henderson’s 44 chances created makes him the most creative English player in the Premier League this season.
Rewarded with an England cap earlier in the season, a poor performance against an excellent Chile team saw Rodriguez denounced as ‘not good enough’, but his form since his debut for the national team suggests otherwise.
7 goals in 13 league games – making him Southampton’s top goal scorer with 10 – is a prolific run of form for a player positioned out wide. The ability to get the timing correct when drifting in from the wing to get on the end of a pass or cross is excellent however, and makes Rodriguez’s goal tally less surprising.
Interesting Stat: Out of the 7 clear cut chances Rodriguez has had this season the striker has scored 6 – a conversion rate of 86% which is only bettered by Yaya Toure (for those with 15 plus shots) in the Premier League.
At the start of the season, Crystal Palace’s squad looked to possess many players that looked out of place in the Premier League. A player who has completely shaken that tag throughout the campaign is Joel Ward.
The former Portsmouth player has managed to play both right-back and midfield with complete ease and the consistency shown in his debut season has to be applauded. Pulis has noted that the energy in midfield since Ward has moved to midfield has impressed him greatly, but with Joe Ledley signing last week Ward is likely to move back to right-back where his work rate will be just as appreciated with full-backs becoming more and more involved with attacks in modern football.
Ward’s strongest attribute is his defensive ability and the performances have seen Palace fans suggesting him as a realistic option for England. His strength and tall physique is evident in the fact he has won 125 ground duels – the most for Crystal Palace – and fits into the ideology Pulis likes, without becoming bracketed as ‘anti-football’ type player that happened to number of Stoke players over the years.
Interesting Stat: Joel Ward has won the joint most tackles in the Premier League this season (74).
Now, this may sound a strange claim to include the German international in this list, but after a difficult first start with Arsenal many football fans in England wrote Mertesacker off. The towering defender has proved those that questioned him very wrong this season though with consistent performances which has seen Arsenal’s transformation into surprise title contenders.,
Mertesacker’s lack of pace is still there, but his reading of the game is impeccable and the calmness he also possesses has seen Arsenal stop conceding silly goals that became costly over the last few seasons. Facing a nervous last 10 minutes while 1-0 ahead, Arsenal are able ground out these results and obtain all 3 points despite not playing for their full potential. Metresacker is the leader without the armband that Arsenal have been lacking.
Interesting Stat: Per Mertesacker has the joint highest passing accuracy (93%), alongside his defence partner Koscielny, showing Arsenal’s importance of playing it out of defence.