This season has been possibly one of the most turbulent in the history of the Premier League. The only team I can remember that was in a similar position to Leicester’s is Ipswich Town when they finished fifth in the 2000/2001 season after being promoted to the Premier League. Unfortunately, they were relegated the season after. This piece isn’t about teams though; instead, I decided to share who I think have been the standout players in England’s top flight this campaign.
The players that have stood out for me are from the Leicester City squad; what a season they are having! Every football fan expected their magnificent run to come to an end already but they continue to pull results out of the bag. They’ve put so much pressure on the bigger teams with their combative, well organised style of play and with a tricksters like Mahrez in their ranks and a goalscorer like Vardy, they’ve been a joy to watch.
Speaking of Jamie Vardy, he’s certainly been one of the league’s better players this season. He’s smashed Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring 11 goals consecutively in the Premier League – a record he held for 13 years. His pace and cool finishing earned him an England call-up late last season and this season he has kicked on further. Scoring 16 goals has put him up there with the big goal scorers in Europe and he’s certainly making a name for himself. His constant harrying of defenders, his never ending pressure on the players around him, his quality in front of goal and his electrifying pace have caused the most experienced Premier League defenders countless problems. It’s an obvious one, but he has to be included.
The second Leicester player who has really impressed me is the central midfielder N’Golo Kante. All I can say is what an engine! He is up and down the pitch like a race horse and his presence in that Leicester City midfield has been impeccable. Not only has he got the endurance to continue that admirable work rate for 90 minutes, but he has the quality alongside it. He can use either foot, he’s good at running with the ball and he has an eye for a pass. All that for £5.6million. The 24-year-old Frenchman has impressed a lot of the big pundits this season and the Foxes may have to fend off interest in him in the summer.
The next one on my list is another Leicester player – only joking – it’s Watford’s Odion Ighalo. Again, another striker who has scored consistently this season and in a newly promoted team. His strength and pace has caused a lot of defenders more problems than they probably anticipated. With fourteen goals this term, Ighalo has been so important for Watford; his goals have won games that no one thought the Hornets would be able to get a point from, never mind three. His teamwork and partnership with captain Troy Deeney has proven lethal during and together they’re a real handful. Easy inclusion.
Next up is West Ham’s Dimitri Payet. Wow! The Hammers bought the 28-year-old from Marseille in the summer, albeit a well-known player in Ligue 1, he still came with a point to prove and certainly wasn’t expected to hit the ground running like he has. Now he a name that is on everyone’s lips. He made the Ligue 1 Team of the Year twice during season’s 2012/13 and 2014/15; it is not the most highly regarded league in the world, no, but let’s not take anything away from him. His move to West Ham came off the back of one of Payet’s most successful seasons with Marseille as he made the most successful through balls in the top 5 league’s in Europe, only to be pipped at the final stages by some Argentinian bloke called Lionel Messi. Never heard of him either.
Payet’s form since coming to London has been electrifying and the way he has fitted into the Premier League has embarrassed some of the more high profiled names who take time to adjust to it. Back fit playing again after a while out through injury, Payet looks to be back to his usual electrifying self. What a player.
Last but not least is another Englishman; Stoke City’s number one goalkeeper Jack Butland. The 22-year-old has kept 9 clean sheets this season already, with his all-round performances being highly praised. Butland was number two behind Asmir Begovic last season and has had to patiently wait for an opportunity to impress; an opportunity he has most definitely taken following Begovic’s move to Chelsea. He has an old head on young shoulders, and despite being so young, it’s clear to see that he has a big future in the game.
I was fortunate enough to go and see Butland this season and at one point in the match I mentioned to my friend that I think he’s the finished article but one mistake will test him because at the moment he hasn’t made one. About 20 minutes later, the ball was laid back to him and Firmino of Liverpool was closing him down at pace, he smashed the ball at Firmino’s back and the rebound was unbelievably saved by Butland. The reaction time from him kicking the ball and him then retaining it calmly was unbelievably quick. England’s number one Joe Hart has some strong competition on his hands, that’s for sure.
I could have included a hell of a lot more players, and it was tough narrowing it down to five, but there you have it anyway. Do you agree with me? Comment below!
By Thomas Seabridge – Derby County fan – @