EVERY PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS UNSUNG HERO OF 2020/21 - PART 2
More so than ever, the Premier League is packed with a plethora of talent from top to bottom.
The run-in for the culmination of the 20/21 season is not too far away, meaning the discussion for the player of the season is gathering momentum with star players such as Bruno Fernandes, Ilkay Gundogan, Harry Kane and Jack Grealish being talked about potentially winning the award – and rightly so.
However, there are a number of players in the league that have greatly contributed to their team’s successes without really getting the appraisal they deserve. With that here is part 2 of every Premier League club’s unsung hero of the campaign so far…
Liverpool – Curtis Jones
When discussing England’s brightest prospects, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Mason Greenwood are the names typically brought up. And whilst they are phenomenal talents, Liverpool’s Curtis Jones should arguably also be in the conversation.
Only recently turned 20, Jones has developed a calming side to his game that will enable him to become a key figure in the Premier League champions’ side. When first breaking onto the scene in cup competitions, it was clear that he always had the creativity and ball striking ability, but now he’s developing into a physical machine and possesses a wonderful balance of playmaking and creating. Although still raw, Jones has matured into a useful tactical player that Klopp can deploy in the midfield or even on the left wing, where he can cut in and cause problems for the opposition. His development has proved to a silver lining in what has been a disappointing campaign for the Reds.
Manchester City – Rodri
Manchester City are on track to win their third Premier League title in four years despite rarely playing with a natural centre forward. The unpredictable positional rotation of the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan has made for some entertaining viewing when watching Pep Guardiola’s side. But a player that perhaps doesn’t quite get the praise he deserves is Rodri.
Although not the typical perception of a Spanish central midfielder, Rodri is tall, lean and physically imposing, as well as being an energetic, combative and tenacious midfielder who excels in regaining possession as much as he does with the ball. This season he has become a mainstay in Guardiola’s eleven, boasting the most passes of any Premier League player. Covering lots of ground as well as providing security against counterattacks by rarely moving ahead of the ball, Rodri has brilliant anticipation and is particularly effective at dispossessing opponents by nipping in to steal the ball as a pass approaches an opponent.
Manchester United – Scott McTominay
Key to Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer’s turnaround as Manchester United boss has been none other than Scott McTominay. The Lancaster-born Scot has formed a formidable midfield partnership with Fred, with the two demonstrating a palpable understanding with one another. Described as “undroppable” by his manager, McTominay has vastly improved his pass selection this season, rarely losing the ball and completing a high number of passes. By keeping things simple, he circulates the play enabling United to keep control of a game.
Furthermore, McTominay has developed his ability to progress play as well as providing compactness in defensive transition protecting the centre backs when the full backs push forward. When he does go forward, McTominay has proved to be a real goalscoring threat, netting seven goals in all competitions this campaign – only Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford have scored more for the club. Along with aiding Scotland to European Championship qualification for the first time in 15 years, his form and consistency have made him Manchester United’s most reliable central midfielder.
Newcastle United – Issac Hayden
It hasn’t been a particularly enthralling season for fans of Newcastle United. In fact, having experienced an uninspiring run of form over the last couple of months and with Fulham projecting in the right direction, they are in serious danger of relegation.
Despite their struggles, a bright spark in their underwhelming campaign has been Issac Hayden. Newcastle’s Mr. Consistent is a true professional and works his absolute hardest even when times are tough. Defensively solid and competent on the ball, Hayden is arguably one of the most underrated midfielders in the league, with only Toon fans recognising his quality. He could also be key in helping Arsenal loanee Joe Willock settle in, with the two similarly coming up through the ranks in North London.
Sheffield United – Jayden Bogle
Before the season started, not many would have predicted the Blades would be rock bottom of the Premier League after 25 games. Perhaps that’s a testament to the remarkable job Chris Wilder has done with the squad he has. It’s probably not quite a Premier League level side, but Wilder manged to get them working and grinding out results.
Summer signing Jayden Bogle is a player that potentially does have Premier League level ceiling though. Since joining from Derby County, the 20-year-old has impressed with his attacking output from the right wing-back position, scoring three goals – only Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick have more. In what has been a poor season for the Blades, Bogle has certainly caught the eye.
Southampton – Stuart Armstrong
At one point in the season, Southampton looked like they were amidst a battle for the European places. But after being ravaged by injuries the Saints went on a six-match losing streak which saw them slide into the bottom half. They still have the FA Cup to play for and one man who will be key to their search for a trophy is attacking midfielder Stuart Armstrong.
Providing the link between midfield and attack, Armstrong has three assists to his name this campaign and provides technical quality usually from the left of a 4-4-2. He has shown his versatility for manager Ralph Hasenhuttl by filling in on the right or in the centre in a deeper position, due to injuries in the squad. The Scotland international is also dangerous going forward, with only Danny Ings and James Ward-Prowse outscoring him for the Saints.
Tottenham Hotspur – Serge Aurier
It’s been quite the renaissance for Serge Aurier at Tottenham this season. After Spurs completed the signing of Matt Doherty from Wolves in the summer, the future of Aurier looked set to be elsewhere. But with Doherty struggling in a back four, Aurier was given another chance under Jose Mourinho and impressed the ‘Special One’.
The Ivorian full back has cut out his rashness and clumsy tendencies that he was previously renown for and has matured into a reliable full back for Mourinho. Unfortunately, a recent foot injury is currently keeping him sidelined and with Spurs’ struggling form of late, they’ll be hoping he is back sooner rather than later.
West Brom – Sam Johnstone
Despite an appalling goal difference of -36 and conceding 55 goals, West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone has put in some consistently impressive performances in the between the sticks. It’s an ugly thought to imagine how many more goals Sam Allardyce’s side would’ve allowed without the Preston-born keeper.
It’s been a poor season for the Baggies, who look set to be relegated from the Premier League for a fifth time, despite the change in manager after 13 games. With 12 months remaining on his contract in the summer, it’s vital West Brom tie Johnstone down at the club if they wish to gain promotion back to the top tier of English football.
West Ham – Vladimir Coufal
What a coup Vladimir Coufal has turned out to be. £5 million is all it cost for David Moyes’ new reliable right-back, who joined fellow Czech international and close friend Tomas Soucek in East London. Whilst Soucek has garnered plaudits for his goalscoring threat, commonly labelled as Moyes’ ‘new Fellaini’, not enough have recognised the significant impact his teammate Coufal has made.
Since joining in October, Coufal hasn’t missed a game for the Hammers and has helped in forming a solid defence at the London Stadium. He has been key to their scintillating form that currently sees them sitting in the Champions League places. The 28-year-old has also shown his qualities going forward, providing three assists – the most of any right-back in the Premier League.
Wolverhampton Wanderers – Leander Dendoncker
Wolves haven’t quite lived up to expectations this season following back-to-back 7th place finishes. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have particularly struggled going forward since the unfortunate head injury to talisman Raul Jimenez. But a player who has consistently put in solid performances for the West Midlands side is Belgian international Leander Dendoncker.
Dendoncker has shown his versatility since joining the club from Anderlecht by playing either in the midfield pivot or as one of the centre backs in a back three. On some occasions this campaign, he has kept highly rated Ruben Neves out of the eleven, showing how much his manager values him.