As we’ve reached 2015 after a busy Christmas fixture schedule for English sides, I felt the need to look back at the highlights of the Premier League season so far and what have been the standout stories, teams and players, for me, this campaign with twenty games played.
Chelsea’s new signing is the key to the title – and it’s not Fabregas.
Despite a slight blip lately, Chelsea start 2015 top of the table but now level on points with Manchester City – but that doesn’t reflect their dominance. Chelsea have only lost two games, like City; to their bogey side Newcastle and to London rivals Spurs, but Mourinho’s men have looked, overall, far more convincing than their title rivals.
The Blues’ summer signings have all been exquisite and have no doubt played their role in Chelsea beginning to run away with the title – Costa, Fabregas and Luis have been very good when called upon.
None of these players have topped their final signing though – Nemanja Matic. The Serbian holding midfielder has been in fine form throughout the season and if the Premier League finished now he would be in contention for the Player of the Year Award.
Matic allows Cesc to get forward and provide the outstanding amount of assists (13 so far) he has this season, whilst the tall Serb provides assistance to the defence behind him, clearing up pretty much anything (or anyone!) who comes in his territory. An example of this being the one game Chelsea have lost this season – Newcastle. Which player was missing through suspension? Matic. They missed him massively.
During that game Jose Mourinho partnered Mikel with Fabregas, a duo that didn’t seem to work well, as Fabregas didn’t get forward as much as he would of liked and as a result didn’t influence the game as much as Mourinho would’ve liked.
Matic isn’t just a useful defensive midfielder who can break up play and realease the ball, which is a common opinion. He’s intelligent; his positioning is world-class; he tackles; and most importantly he can look up and always looks to get the ball moving forward. He also has an incredible break of pace and his strength is phenomenal.
For me, Nemanja Matic has been the standout performer in the standout team of the Premier League season so far.
The best 5 transfers of the season:
Before and during the early stages of the season their was an influx of talent into the Premier League. We saw the likes of Costa, Di Maria, Falcao, Song, Sanchez and Pelle make switches from various leagues across Europe and shine. My top five acquisitions, and it has been difficult to decide on, are:
5.) Dusan Tadic – 1 goal, 7 assists.
The Serbian midfielder was excellent at the beginning of the season, he highlighted the class and elegance Southampton had as a team, early form that had the Saints sitting in 2nd place. He’s might not be quite at the level he’s been at in recent weeks but I have no doubt we’ll see him return to his best form in 2015. Tadic has the third highest amount of assists in the Premier League this season, behind Fabregas and Sigurdsson. Good player.
4.) Diafra Sakho – 8 goals, 2 assists.
Sakho caught my eye after his performances against Hull and Liverpool early in the season. He went through a great run of scoring in seven games. Like Tadic, his form has dipped a bit, but that’s partly down to injury. Nevertheless he makes the list as he has contributed tremendously to the Hammers form this season and has been a standout player which is remarkable, especially considering he was a relatively unknown quantity when he arrived in London.
3.) Diego Costa -14 goals, 1 assist.
Costa’s record speaks for itself and it’s clear why he is one of the top 3 transfers of the season – he scores goals. Simple as that. The Spaniard (or Brazilian) is the striker Chelsea have so desperately needed for the past two years. He’s tough, agile, a great finisher and makes exceptional runs for players to pick him out, which they have been. His rough style of play made him the most suitable candidate for the Chelsea front-line; this is something that can also be a downfall for him as he has picked up 7 yellow cards in 16 appearances, but without the evident fire in his belly, he probably wouldn’t be the same player.
2.) Cesc Fabregas – 2 goals, 14 assists.
Everyone who has watched Fabregas knows that he is still a top quality player. Barcelona must be missing him and Arsenal will be regretting they didn’t re-sign him, but their loss has certainly been Chelsea’s gain. The Spanish orchestrator has already equalled and then some the highest number of assists from last season (Steven Gerrard – 13), and has been pivotal in Chelsea being able to win matches. His partnership with Matic is the best in the league and for £27million, he seems a bargain.
1.) Alexis Sanchez – 10 goals, 6 assists.
Any of my top 3 could have been at the top of the pile, but I didn’t choose Fabregas because he has Premier League experience and I didn’t choose Costa because he’s playing in the best team in the league. This is Sanchez’s first season in England in an under performing Arsenal side. Without Sanchez in the team Arsenal could be in 9th or 10th place, or perhaps lower. He’s provided goals and assists, he has immense dribbling and his work-rate is second to none. The Chilean has been exceptional and I have no doubts that he’ll continue to be throughout 2015. What a player.
The De Gea vs Courtois debate:
This has been the debate of the season, for me. Both goalkeepers are world-class but both sets of fans and neutrals have been arguing who is the better keeper and who tops the table of best goalkeeper in the Premier League. There’s no doubting that these two are the best in the league (cue some deluded, in my opinion, Spurs fans chucking Lloris in there).
Both the Manchester United and Chelsea keeper spent time at Atlético Madrid where their talents were showcased for the likes of Ferguson and Mourinho to admire and give them the number 1 shirt at each club.
At the moment De Gea is the keeper who is in better form, he’s played with a makeshift back 4/5 in front of him for the majority of the season and has been forced into numerous saves per game. Those of you who watch football consistently would have seen his heroics against Merseyside clubs Liverpool and Everton, where he essentially gifted his team the 3 points on both occasions. Whereas Courtois has played with the best defence in the league protecting him. He’s pulled off the odd important save but hasn’t had the chance to perform as well as De Gea.
Courtois is the younger of the two and has a certain elegance about him, he dominates his box and is an excellent shot stopper. He will certainly be the best keeper in the world within 3-4 years. De Gea on the other hand is agile, an even better shot stopper and is dramatically improving. If Courtois does get to the top soon enough, De Gea will be his toughest competitor (along with Manuel Neuer of course).
That’s it; a few talking points from the season so far that I felt the need to have my say on as the new year gets underway. Of course I don’t expect you all to agree with me, but there’s one thing we can certainly agree on – we’re in for a great 2015.
By Sean McPolin – @