Every season the hype increases. The expectation rises. Sure, the bums in the media (including us) are to blame, but as ticket prices and cable & satellite subscriptions all continue to spiral; it won’t be changing any time soon.
But what’s really great is when players exceed expectations. Here are 11 who look like they might do just that…
GK – Mignolet
When Mignolet’s name first started appearing on the Sunderland team-sheet I thought who is this guy and where did Craig Gordon go? Well, Mignolet has been almost the opposite of Gordon. A low key, low money buy who has proved his worth for Sunderland. There are of course better keepers out there, but most are often celebrated and praised, from the big clubs (De Gea, Reina) down to the small (Vorm). Mignolet rarely gets much press but is, and this is the best adjective for a goalie, stable.
LB – Leighton Baines
Everyone likes Baines, but few talk about him amongst the top players, but look at his success for Everton. He has played 160 games since joining Everton 5 years ago, and has regularly been amongst their players of the year. This season is no different, with the left back chipping in 4 goals for the club.
DC – Laurent Koscielny
A typical Wenger signing coming good at a time when many were questioning his approach. Koscielny had only a few years of top flight football, and was very much unproven. Not anymore. He may not be a big a name as his partner in defence Vermaelen, but he has been just as solid.
DC – Fabricio Coloccini
The Newcastle captain must take much of the plaudits for the Toon’s great season. After some tough years at Newcastle, and failing to impress in his first few years the Argentine is now living up to his potential by guiding the Toon’s back-line and whole team.
RB – Ashley Williams
Promoted teams punching above their weight need a leader, and luckily for Swansea they have had one this season. Williams hasn’t played in every game, but has remain ready whenever he is called upon. Unglamorous but solid, and that’s why he’s in the team. Usually more of a Centreback but he’ll play where I tell him.
LM – Matthew Etherington
The whole of Stoke’s team could be on a list like this. They are all unglamorous journeyman, Etherington as much as any, but yet Matty can still be seen up and down the wings and launching pinpoint crosses. The clubs only real Left winger for several years now, and regularly making over 40 apps for the club.
MF – Leon Osman
The epitome of underrated. Quiet, workmanlike Osman has been a stalwart in the Everton starting line-up for 6 or 7 years now. Not exactly the same player as Arteta, but was still expected to fill some of the role of the departing Spaniard. A big ask? Not for Osman, who has played 25 games and scored 4 goals this season, which is almost identical to his stats from last year, or the year before that. Mr. Consistent.
MF – Wes Hoolahan
Costing just £250,000 the dynamic man in the middle has dragged Norwich up the field, and up the table all season. Was inducted into Norwich’s Hall of Fame last month, but gets only limited recognition outside East Anglia. If he keeps playing like he is that may change soon.
RM – Moussa Dembele
Dempsey may grab the headlines, but Dembele is just as important to Fulham’s attack. An exciting player who has adapted well whether used as an attacking or defensive midfielder. Man United and others have noticed.
FW – Grant Holt
Gaining praise more often now, but still often referred to with qusi-praise, like ‘old fashioned’ ‘powerful’, ‘right place, right time’, all of which seem to euphemisms for big, clumsy oath. But this goal the other week showed Holt can score in more ways than just muscling the ball in. His 13 goals leave him in 7th in the top scorers charts. Not bad for a first year in the Prem.
ST – Yakubu
Blackburn are in trouble, but they would be in so much more trouble if it weren’t for Yakubu. As I type he has just knocked in his Second against Liverpool, and I wouldn’t bet against him having completed his hat-trick by the time you read this. After his mediocre spell at Everton, I thought the Yak was Championship bound. I was wrong, and even if Blackburn do go down expect their 16 goal striker to stay up. Now has 126 goals in the Premier League, that’s more than Drogba and Ian Wright. Time to show the Yak the respect he deserves.
I’m sure you’ll all disagree so let us know who would make your team, and who should be on our subs bench.