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Archive for the ‘Top 5′s’ Category

Thierry Henry

Adel Taarabt

Andrija Zivkovic

Martin Jiranek

Demba Ba

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Following on from last week’s top 5 overrated players here are my top 5 underrated Premier League stars. When you ask fans which players they think are underrated, names like Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher regularly pop up. In fact, they have been described as ‘underrated’ so many times by journalists and pundits that they are bordering on being overrated if anything.

5. Michel Vorm

The first of two Swansea players in the list, Michel Vorm was plucked from mid-table Eredivisie side FC Utrecht for only £1.5 million last summer. He proved to be a brilliant find and was player of the year in his first season at Swansea. His promise was clear in his debut for the Swans. He made 10 saves in a performance that was largely overlooked due to the 4-0 scoreline in favour of Manchester City. This stat was never bettered for the rest of the season.

Vorm’s 143 saves made last year was only bettered by Wolves’ Wayne Hennessey, who had a shocking defence in front of him and a lot of action coming his way. Vorm is a very good shot stopper, and has gained the confidence of his back four making him very dependable. He has no weaknesses as a goalkeeper and if he continues his form then expect him to be adding to his 9 caps for Holland.

Vorm pulls of another magnificent save against Newcastle

4. Laurent Koscielny

Only 3 years ago Laurent Koscielny was playing in the French second tier. It took a while for the wiry centre back to be noticed, and he only moved to Lorient during the summer of 2009 when he was 24. Incredibly, Koscielny completed 100% of the tackles he attempted in his first season in Ligue 1 and this was enough to persuade Arsene Wenger to sign him for Arsenal the next summer.

He made a shaky start in the Premier League, and his lack of size was an obvious problem as he had a tendency to be shrugged off the ball too easily. He adapted well though, and last season became the key player in Arsenal’s backline. He is versatile, can play all along the back line having started his career as a right back. He is very quick, reads the game well allowing him to make vital interceptions and is coming into his prime at 27 years old. He finally received international recognition in November 2011 and was voted Man of the Match by the French Media in France’s quarterfinal loss to Spain at Euro 2012. His stock is rising, but he has only spent three years in the top flight of European football so he will only get better.

3. Kevin Nolan

Kevin Nolan and Leon Britton

Kevin Nolan must be Sam Allardyce’s illegitimate son or something. He follows him everywhere. Nolan spent 10 years at Bolton for making a big move to Newcastle only to get relegated. After three seasons on Tyneside he signed for West Ham, moving down to the Championship, once again joining Big Sam as West Ham captain.

Nolan’s ability sometimes gets overlooked. He is not a silky footballer and he is rarely good to watch, but Sam Allardyce knows how to get the best out of him. He plays to his strengths which lie in his physical prowess. The way West Ham play under Big Sam is perfect for him. He is dangerous in the air and a very good finisher. In his last season in the Premiership he grabbed 12 goals for Newcastle. He backed that up with another 12 goals for West Ham as they got promoted last season and has already got 2 in his first 3 games this season. Watch out for him this year because he is a nightmare to defend against.

2. Leon Britton

Leon Britton rarely gets the recognition he deserves, often playing second fiddle to the younger Joe Allen. The deep lying playmaker started his career as a trainee at Arsenal before becoming the most expensive 16 year old in the world when he moved to West Ham for £400,000 in 1998. Britton signed for Swansea in 2002. Remarkably Britton has represented Swansea in all four professional divisions in the English football league helping them rise all the way from League 2 to the Premiership.

Britton started 35 Premier League games last season and is a key reason why Brendan Rodger’s passing game was so successful at Swansea. He had the highest pass completion rate in Europe. Yes, in EUROPE. Ahead of Xavi and all the other tiki-taka famed Spaniards. His performances regularly go unnoticed at Swansea and hasn’t yet been capped by England. At 29 he is unlikely to make a huge impact at a so called ‘big club’, but England struggled to keep hold of the ball in midfield against Ukraine and they couldn’t go too far wrong picking the world’s most accurate passer to address that issue.

1. Lucas Leiva

Lucas

Lucas Leiva was very highly rated as a youngster. He captained Gremio in his last season in Brazil as well as Brazil U 20’s and he made his debut for the full Brazil side at 19. He signed for Liverpool as an attacking midfielder, but Rafa Benitez transformed him into a defensive midfielder following the departure of Xabi Alonso and Mascherano.

He struggled early on at Anfield and at one point was booed after a poor performance against Fulham. Still written off by many, he has become a very valuable player for Liverpool. Only one player made more tackles than Lucas at Liverpool last season, despite him only playing 12 games due to injury. He is a non-stop runner. His workrate is second to none and before he got injured the tireless midfielder was averaging 5.7 tackles a game. That is 1 tackle more than any other player in the Premier League and the season before he was top of the list for successful tackles. When he gets back from injury he will be an automatic starter for Liverpool, despite Allen, Sahin and Gerrard as competition.

Notable mentions: Edin Dzeko (Manchester City), Ashley Williams (Swansea), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Leon Osman (Everton) and Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland)

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This is not a list of the 5 worst players in the Premier League. Each player’s position on the list is based on their talent in relation to how highly rated they are by the media and fans. So don’t expect to see names like Marouane Chamakh or Emile Heskey. I know they are not very good, but they aren’t rated very highly either. Here is my top 5, let me know what yours is too?

5. Ashley Young

Ashley Young has been a huge disappointment. When he signed for Manchester United in a high profile £16 million move from Aston Villa, so much was expected of him. Unfortunately he had a largely underwhelming first season at Old Trafford. He started brilliantly with a couple of assists in his League debut against West Brom and two goals and three assists in the Red Devils’ famous 8-2 win over Arsenal. Since then, though, Young has tallied just one goal and one assist for United. He is very talented, but infuriatingly inconsistent. At the end of last season, he went through a rather deplorable phase of regularly hitting the turf as though he’d suffered a one inch punch from Bruce Lee, which would be all well and good, if he could only stick one in the back of the net.

Ashley Young misses his penalty in the Euro 2012 quarter final shootout against Italy

4. David De Gea

Manchester United paid £17 million for 20 year old David De Gea last summer. Finally, Manchester United had signed a replacement for the legendary Peter Schmeical. Attempts to replace him with the likes of Fabien Barthez and Raimond van der Gouw failed spectacularly. Ok. fine. Edwin van der Sar was a fantastic player for  Man U for 6 seasons, but every Manchester United goalkeeper that plays at Old Trafford will eventually be compared to The Great Dane. David De Gea has time on his hands, but he hasn’t come close to either van der Sar or Schmeical. He is a wonderful shot stopper, but he is nervy when dealing with crosses prefers an extravagant punch to an easy catch which puts his team under unnecessary pressure. He has a lot to prove, especially with the £17 million price tag to live up to.

3. Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott has been overrated since Sven-Goran Eriksson unfortunately thrust him into the limelight by selecting him as a 17-year-old for England’s 2006 World Cup squad. In hindsight it was completely ridiculous. He hadn’t even played in the Premier League. He really struggled to cope with the attention that was thrust on him. Not too easy when you are dubbed the English Thierry Henry. The hat-trick in Croatia propelled Walcott to new levels of adulation, but he’s struggled with consistency ever since then. His most irritating trait is to run the ball out of play without any pressure from the opposition, and his crossing at times is very poor. Walcott with his pace, can be sensational but the good performances are too rare for him to match some of the hype that surrounds him.

2. Gareth Barry

I am not completely sure how Gareth Barry became an England regular. He went through a purple patch that lasted about 4 games under Fabio Capello where people thought he was the English answer to Xavi. Barry was a relatively big fish in a small pond at Aston Villa but at City he is a tiny fish in the biggest of Oceans. I don’t know how well that analogy works, but I am sure you understand what I mean. He is not as good as many make him out to be. Liverpool even tried to ship Xabi Alonso off to Arsenal to accommodate him at one point. Unbelievable. He is a good passer of the ball, but much of it is lateral and makes little impact. He has no distinguishable attribute that separates himself from most other Premier League midfielders, and is now just an older, less talented Jack Wilshere.

1. Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale scores a hat-trick against Inter Milan mugging off Maicon in the process

A hat-trick at the San Siro 2 years ago had people comparing Gareth Bale to Lionel Messi. Let’s just put that into context: Messi scored 50 League goals last season and got 27 assists. Gareth scored 9 with 10 assists. Now I am not seriously suggesting that Gareth Bale or anyone for that matter should be compared with Lionel Messi, bar Cristiano Ronaldo who brings that on himself, but many people in the last couple of seasons have done so. He is still a very good player, but he is nowhere near as good as most make him out to be. Bale took the Premier League and Champions League by storm in 2010-11 season but now the opposition has caught up and Bale has regressed. He has pace, size and all the athleticism you could ask for in a winger but lacks the intricate technical skill required to be elite. His preferred move is to kick the ball 10 yards in front of his opposition number and then to beat them to it. The more experienced and intelligent Premier League defenders have got wise to this keeping him quiet in the big games. It’s a shame that the ageing Maicon didn’t have this inside info otherwise Gareth Bale may not have been top of this list.

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5. Pablo Hernandez

Valencia to Swansea for £5.55m

Hernandez is another very astute signing made by Michael Laudrup. Like all Spaniards, his technique is brilliant, very much in the same vain as Michu. He may not have the same impact, but for £5.55m he is another bargain. He has spent the last two seasons vying for his place on the right wing at Valencia. Firstly, he was stuck behind Joaquin, but last year he made more of an impact starting 30 games. He bagged 5 goals and 5 assists which is a healthy return for a right winger.

He will fit right in at Swansea as Michael Laudrup has signed a number of talented Spaniards. He hopefully won’t take too long to settle into his stride. His ability to pick out an angled through ball cutting in from the wing will delight a player like Michu who will run onto those all day. He will blend seamlessly into Swansea’s version of tiki-taka. Swansea sold Scott Sinclair to Manchester City for £8m and have picked up a very able replacement for only £5.55m.

4. Charlie Adam

Liverpool to Stoke for £5m

Many may see this as a controversial choice for my top 5, but I think Charlie Adam could do brilliantly at Stoke. He joined Liverpool after a fantastic first season in the Premier League with Blackpool the year before but like a couple of others in this list, last season was one to forget.

At Blackpool, Charlie Adam was the fulcrum of their midfield. Everything went through him. Last season he had more of an all round role to play. He played second fiddle to Gerrard, which is something he is not used to and couldn’t really adapt to. At Stoke he will be the playmaker again as they do not have too much creativity in their midfield. He will be able to get on the ball as much as possible and dictate play. His ability to play balls through to their wingers will be key. Stoke are very dangerous on the flanks as they have Pennant, Etherington and now Michael Kightly who are great crossers of the ball.

Stoke’s strength is quite obviously in their physical presence. They are brilliant in the air and always a real danger from set pieces. Adam is a master of the dead ball. 10 out of 14 of his assists at Blackpool came from set plays. Stoke will thrive on this slightly different presence in their midfield, and especially on the quality of his set piece delivery.

3. Clint Dempsey

Fulham to Tottenham for £6m

At 29 years old, this represents Dempsey’s last chance for a big move. He took his time in the hope that he would secure Champion’s League football eventually compromising with Tottenham in the Europa League. At £6m he is an absolute snip for Spurs.

After his brilliant performances last season, Dempsey has been understandably linked to a number of clubs over the summer. He scored 17 Premier League goals for Fulham, which is an incredible achievement for a player thought of as an attacking midfielder. The truth is that he spent a lot of time up front last season, but its his ability to time his run into the box that has made him so lethal. In the Premiership, Frank Lampard has been noted as one of the most prolific attacking midfielders but he never managed 17 goals in a season.

His versatility will be a huge asset to Tottenham, he can play up front on his own and can chip in with goals from all across the midfield. He is very composed on the ball, a great dribbler, and he has excellent vision providing many chances for teammates in the final third.

2. Dimitar Berbatov

Manchester United to Fulham for £4m

Berbatov hardly figured for Manchester United last season with the emergence of Javier Hernandez and Danny Wellbeck and with Robin Van Persie arriving he was surplus to requirements this year. Fulham have lost their two best players in Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey. However, in Dimitar Berbatov they have made a fantastic addition. He won’t need time to settle in in London and Martin Jol has already coached him at Spurs and will know how to get the best out of him. In 2010-2011 he was the Premier League’s joint top scorer with 20 goals. He has the ability to completely destroy teams, most notably with a memorable hat-trick against Liverpool and a five goal haul against Blackburn.

Berbatov has been accused of being lazy in the past and drifting in and out of games, but he likes to be centre of attention and at Man U he was always second choice behind Rooney and Ronaldo. He has a silky touch and is brilliant at floating in between midfield and attack. He was never given the licence to roam at Man U and if given a free role at Fulham he could be very effective.

1. Gaston Ramirez

Bologna to Southampton for £12m

Gaston Ramirez has been highly rated ever since he signed for Bologna in 2010. Over the summer he has been heavily linked with both Tottenham and Liverpool, so it was strange to see him end up at Southampton.

Southampton have strengthened well over the summer, Nathaniel Clyne and Steven Davis the most notable conclusions. The left footed Uruguayan is their marquee addition though, the icing on the cake as it were. As an attacking midfielder he can play on either wing and through the middle. Ramirez is blessed with great dribbling ability, technique, decision-making and a playmakers vision. He has a decent turn of pace and has a strong left foot that allows him to operate very effectively on the left wing. He likes to drift in from the flanks as a playmaker and its perhaps his vision which has seen him tipped to become a top player. He made over 50 chances for Bologna last season and that is the sort of creativity that will help Southampton avoid the drop.

There is an element of inconsistency in his game as he is relatively raw, at 21 years old. His form will only increase with maturity though and he will be a very exciting player to watch at Southampton. Bags of skills and tricks, it may be like having a mini Zola at St Mary’s. This signing is so far out of left field that it just has to be my number one on deadline day.

 

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