There have been a number of players this season who have shown great quality whilst playing for some of the smaller or underachieving teams in the Premier League this season. This article looks at some of the standout players who ply their trade for teams in the bottom half of the table.
Curtis Davies (Hull City)
Curtis Davies has been a rock for Hull City this season. After having a hard time with injuries and struggling to find form, the centre-back has rejuvenated his career at the KC Stadium. This is Davies’ seventh season in the Premier League, but it his first for five years as a regular. The Hull captain leads his team in successful clearances (279), aerial duels won (124 of 223), interceptions (94) and blocks (30), an area which he ranks within the top five in the Premier League. Davies has been a key part of the nine clean sheets that the Tigers have kept this season. Going forward he has scored four goals, two of which have come on the team’s run to the FA Cup final. If Davies is able to help keep his side up and lead them to an FA Cup win, he will be remembered as one of the great Hull City captains.
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa)
Fabian Delph has been in good form for Aston Villa this season. The former Leeds man has taken a while to establish himself since joining Villa, but he has been at his combative best this season. Delph has put in 93 tackles, the 11th highest number in the Premier League. He has also been involved in the most ground duels (322) and won possession the most (204) at Villa and the 8th most for both categories. Delph has not only been about tenacity, his teammates clearly trust him in possession as he has had the most touches (1875) at Villa. He scored his first Premier League goals this season and has three to his name, including a winner against Chelsea. All of his goals have come in games that Villa have won. The fact he has played in all games he has been available for is testament to his importance in manager Paul Lambert’s plans.
Jason Puncheon (Crystal Palace)
Jason Puncheon joined Crystal Palace on loan initially towards the end of the window. He then made that permanent in January after a string of good displays. It took the former Southampton man a while to get going, and he didn’t score until January, but since the turn of the year he has helped Palace towards safety. Puncheon has scored six goals since the start of the 2014 making him the club’s top goal scorer. He leads the team in shots on target (27) as well as chances created (46). Of his six goals, three of them have come in 1-0 wins, gaining his team nine points on his own. Another two of these goals came in a huge 3-0 victory at Cardiff as Puncheon helped his team to victory. When he has scored for Palace, they haven’t lost, which is a good record for any player to have. With Palace now having won 11 games and looking likely to stay up, Puncheon has played a massive role in the Eagles’ good fortunes under Tony Pulis.
Wilfried Bony (Swansea City)
Wilfried Bony joined Swansea for a club record fee of £12 million in the summer. The Ivorian had a fantastic scoring record for Vitesse, and was expect to link up with Swansea’s talisman Michu in a potent partnership which would push the Swanns even higher up the table. Unfortunately, Michu has spent most of the season injured and the Swans find themselves in a relegation fight. Despite this, Bony has performed admirably, especially against the big teams. He’s taken the most shots (96) at Swansea and the most on target (33). He has 11 league goals this season, which makes him the top scorer of all the bottom half teams. Of his goals, 10 of have come against teams currently in the top half of the table. His 17 goals in all competitions is a very respectable figure, and he will go to the World Cup with some confidence.
Ashley Westwood (Aston Villa)
Ashley Westwood has had a strong season for Aston Villa this season. The midfielder has been picked whenever available for the Villans, and has been excellent alongside Fabian Delph. Villa have operated in a number of systems, but Westwood has mainly played in a defensive midfield role. He leads Villa’s total passes (1413), accurate passes (1177) and possession won in the midfield third (129). The role that he plays is a much understated one, but it has allowed other players to excel. Westwood is in the top 10 for chances created in the Premier League with 58. He is one of only two bottom half players in this list, the other being Robert Snodgrass. He has also created the joint most clear cut chances at Villa with six. Villa have given a number of younger players a chance in recent seasons, and Westwood is a player who has capitalised on that chance.
Special Mentions: Winston Reid (West Ham), Steven Caulker (Cardiff City), Adam Johnson (Sunderland).