Every season you get a handful of players that surprise everyone. Previously known as horribly inconsistent, failing to fulfil their potential or just downright useless, certain players prove everyone wrong and shine. Darren Fletcher is the prime example, as last season he excelled in the Manchester United midfield with his work rate and determination. Stephen Ireland is another one. So who are the Fletcher’s and Ireland’s of this season?
Obviously any lists on the most improved players are going to be subjective, so any other suggestions are more than welcome. The only rules are that they must have played in the Premiership last season (that rules the likes of Birmingham’s Roger Johnson and Scott Dann), and that’s it. Some players in this team have made the leap from bad to good, or from good to great. Here are my Top XI most improved players in the Premier League so far this season (all stats are Premiership appearances and goals only).
(Birmingham, 26 games, 9 clean sheets)
Last season, Hart was a victim of Man City’s new found wealth, as Shay Given arrived at Eastlands. He has always been tipped for greatness, but his decision-making and inconsistency was a problem before. At Birmingham this season, Hart has been great, helping the team reach eighth in the table and virtually booking a place in Capello’s squad for the World Cup in the summer.
(Everton, 26 games, 5 assists)
Included just above Gareth Bale, because while the Tottenham defender has only just starting excelling at White Hart Lane and earning rave reviews, Baines has been doing it all season. Quick with good delivery into the box, the Everton defender can attack as well as defend and has a chance to break into the England squad, with the injury to Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge’s decision to omit himself from the squad.
(Stoke, 24 games, 2 goals)
Shawcross’ form this season has caught the eye of Fabio Capello, who named the defender in his squad to face Egypt tonight. Possessing great leadership abilities, Shawcross has an outside chance of making the trip to South Africa. Needs to work on his tackling skills though, after that horror tackle on Aaron Ramsey last weekend.
CB – Michael Dawson
Dawson’s has been a colossus for Tottenham this season and proved a more than able performer in the absence of King and Woodgate. Dawson has worn the captain’s arm band on occasions this season, underlining his great leadership qualities and you do sense that he isn’t too far away from an England call-up under Fabio Capello.
(Chelsea, 22 games, 1 goal)
Ivanovic’s versatility has proved to be a key ingredient in Chelsea’s success this season. Able to play anywhere across the back four, the Serbian is dependable, if not spectacular, and has done well deputising for the injured Jose Bosingwa this season.
(Stoke, 23 games, 3 goals, 7 assists)
Out of favour at West Ham, Stoke signed the winger for £2 million a year ago. Etherington has proved to be a bargain for Tony Pulis and Stoke. Possessing a great left foot, good pace and trickery, Etherington ripped Arsenal apart in the FA Cup win in January and has helped Stoke advance far into the FA Cup, whilst ensuring they sit comfortably at mid-table in the Premiership.
(Arsenal, 22 games, 1 goal)
The Cameroon international has been a revelation in the heart of the Arsenal midfield this season with his tough tackling and good passing skills. Song has done a good job of protecting the Arsenal back four, and while he still has a lot to learn, the 22 year old is a player who could be the lynchpin of Arsenal’s midfield for years to come.
(Aston Villa, 25 games, 4 goals, 11 assists)
Milner’s switch to the centre of the Villa midfield has improved the England international’s form this season. Milner’s work rate, pace, skill and versatility have proved a valuable asset for Villa this season, notably with the improvement in his assists. Milner currently has 11 assists this season, second in the Premiership after Cesc Fabregas.
(Tottenham, 18 games, 3 goals, 8 assists)
I know that Lennon was in fine form last season for Spurs, but he has definitely improved even more this season. He has always had pace to burn and the trickery to be an excellent player, but Lennon’s improving all-round game has led to him being a cert to go to South Africa (depending on the extent of his injury) and the title of the best right-winger in the country at the moment.
(Fulham, 23 games, 8 goals)
Previously known for putting the ball into Row Z instead of the back of the net, Roy Hodgson has kept faith with Zamora at Fulham and he has been rewarded. The target man has scored 13 goals so far this season (with 8 of those coming in the Premiership) and has been this year’s Carlton Cole because of his ability to lead the line and bring others into play.
(Everton, 24 games, 13 goals)
Saha has always been a good player, but has been unfortunate with injuries. His problems staying fit led to Moyes signing the striker from Man United last season, in what was perceived as a gamble. After scoring 6 goals in the Premiership last season, Saha has doubled that tally so far this season and has done well leading the line for Everton, and is even keeping the likes of Yakubu out of the side.
Subs: Gomes (Tottenham), Gareth Bale (Tottenham), Maynor Figueroa (Wigan), Jonny Evans (Man United), Lucas Leiva (Liverpool), Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham), Craig Bellamy (Man City), Carlton Cole (West Ham).
Is there anyone who should/should not be on this list?
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