Premier League as we all know is the most watched league in the world and deservedly so for all the drama and excitement it provides coupled with unmatched competitiveness at both ends of the table and of course the plethora of quality on show – week in week out. In this era of social media and football blogs where each and every moment on the pitch and off it is scrutinized and written/talked about, there are a few aspects about football in general and the Premier League in particular, that always manage to go under the radar. And a few players somehow don’t get talked about or in this case praised about as much as they should for the work they so stealthily but effectively do on a football pitch. The following top 5 is purely a personal list – you can always list your own top 5 in the comments section.
5. George Boyd – Burnley
Burnley, one of the promoted teams that was widely expected to go straight back into the second tier of English football, are getting their act together now. The Clarets are on a good run at the moment with 8 points from their last 6 games meaning they sit 8th on the form table and a point away from the danger zone. This steady rise in the table will undoubtedly coincide with the improvement of midfielder Boyd and vice-versa with the midfielder now regarded the most vital player in their starting 11. Boyd has been doing all the dirty work for Sean Dyche with all the sweeping and getting stuck in when the team needs him to. He ranks 3rd among the league’s successful tackles with a total of 50 with a success rate of 48%. With 4 goals and 18 open play chances, the 29-year old has been productive at the other end too earning rim the right to be called one of the best underrated performers in the league so far.
4. James Tomkins – West Ham United
West Ham has exceeded expectations thus far. Even the most ardent of the Hammers faithful would not have predicted such a good first half of the campaign which has led them all believe they have a genuine chance of finishing in one of the European places when the curtains are drawn to a close. 4 points off the fourth spot going into game-week 22 is a massive achievement and Sam Allardyce has been able to get the best out of his side for a consistent period in the league. There are so many positives to take from that period but the key aspect to his team’s showing in the first 21 games is their solidity and assurance at the back which has been provided by James Tomkins at the heart of their back-line. Tomkins has averaged an astonishing 12 defensive actions per game with 144 clearances, 11 blocks and 27 interceptions in 15 appearances making him an invaluable asset to Big Sam and his Irons.
3. Jose Fonte – Southampton
Southampton is another team that has proven all the naysayers wrong with their consistently brilliant displays in terms of defensive discipline and grinding out results. The South Coast side boasts the meanest defence in the country with only 15 goals conceded in 21 games that also includes 10 clean sheets. Though their front man, the Italian Pelle has hogged the limelight for all his exploits in front of goal, the Portuguese captain has conducted the proceedings from the back ensuring they possess the stability to take the game forward to the opponent with their incisive passing and movement. After the departure of big names in the summer in Lallana, Shaw and Lovren the club was tipped to go down by many but the new boss, influx of talent and a rejuvenated Fonte have all played a vital part in the side’s improvement on all areas to now be considered a genuine contender for the top four places.
2. Stewart Downing – West Ham United
Another West Ham man who’s had his best season on a personal level in the top flight at the age of 30. Downing has developed or in his case, realized his actual potential, to an incredible extent in the league. His statistics are on par with world beaters in Fabregas and Hazard in terms of chances created over 21 games with Downing managing to create a staggering amount of 56 chances from open play. 4 goals and 7 assists do not tell the whole story as the Downing has also showed the flexibility to operate on either flanks and the nature to defend and help his full back out when needed with 12 interceptions and a duel success rate of 46%. He has also been a neat passer in the league with an overall pass accuracy of 86% comprising a right mix of short and longer passes with the average length close to 20 meters. The English winger has come a long way from a disappointing stint with Liverpool and could now be touted as the key to West Ham’s relatively low chances of finishing in the top 6.
1. Lukasz Fabianski – Swansea
This season has seen so many exceptional performances between the sticks while the most memorable and also talked about performances were David De Gea’s showing against Everton earlier in the season and Hugo Lloris’s display against Manchester United towards the end of 2014 which certainly won those sides the points they did, while a host of other equally spectacular performances typically sliding under the radar. Especially, Fabianski and his saves have gone unnoticed, who in my opinion has been the best goalkeeper in a league that has Thibaut Courtois, David De Gea and Hugo Lloris – 3 genuine world class players in that position. Numbers do not lie as Lukasz Fabianki has made 64 saves in 21 appearances – 3 per game, second only to Robert Green. He’s made 40 diving saves and managed to keep 8 clean sheets and only Fraser Forster has managed more (10). His 103 successful claims and average of 3.05 saves per goal in 21 appearances puts him heads and shoulders above his counterparts and miserably underrated for being so.