Gone Under The Radar! A Premier League XI Featuring Underrated Talents
We are only six games into the current Premier League season and although it’s early days, there is a pattern building upon how the season would shape up. Manchester clubs have dominated the league so far, with City and United tied on 16 points, with the former topping the table only on superior goal difference. Defending champions Chelsea, after being stunned on opening day by Burnley, have found the rhythm and are just three points off the summit.
As the season has progressed, plenty of players have earned plaudits for putting in wonderful performances whereas others have been criticised for not being up to the mark.
Here we take a look at those players who have always consistently performed, regardless of the team’s overall showing and perhaps deserve more appreciation than they have been shown.
Lukasz Fabianski- Swansea City
Tottenham Hotspur are still looking for their first Premier League win at Wembley and Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was one of the prime reasons why they didn’t grab one when he faced them. Fabianski, 32, earned a valuable point for Swansea with his goalkeeping skills which included everything- Shot-stopping, positioning and reaction saves.
So far, Fabianski has played six games for the Welsh club this season. The acrobatic Pole has made 19 saves this season keeping 3 clean sheets. His worst game came against Manchester United when he conceded four. But the goals were purely due to his team’s mistakes and not his.
Right-back: Antonio Valencia- Manchester United
Right-backs in the Premier League have always been an underrated lot with their contributions being overlooked quite often. One such right-back is Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia.
Valencia, 32, has always been incredible for Manchester United but that doesn’t stop him from falling into the category of PL’s underrated players. An epitome of consistency, he has turned into one of the best defenders with his tackles and interceptions coupled with his already sound attacking skills.
The Ecuadorian has created 4 chances this season, boasting an 86% average pass accuracy. Against Everton, he scored a thunderbolt to open United’s scoring. United went on to win 4-0.
Centre-back: Jamaal Lascelles- Newcastle United
Jamaal Lascelles is turning out to be a true leader for Newcastle United. Hot on the heels of his header in the 1-0 win at Swansea, he then scored another header to deny Stoke City a point. A steady defender at the back, the 23-old has won 5 tackles this season with a success rate of 100%. He has made 4 interceptions, 28 clearances and 4 blocks. Certainly deserves more praise than what he’s receiving!
Centre-back: Federico Fernandez- Swansea City
It was a proper rear-guard action at Wembley as Paul Clement’s Swansea withstood a huge amount of pressure from Tottenham, with Fernandez leading from the back. Apart from Fabianski’s goalkeeping brilliance, Fernandez was also a key reason why they got a point against Spurs.
A stalwart at the back, the Argentine has brought a sense of stability to Swansea’s defence. However, on Saturday, against Watford, Swansea lost 2-1.
Left-back: Cesar Azpilicueta- Chelsea
While the wider football world seems blind to Cesar Azpilicueta’s attributes, Chelsea know his abilities very well. Versatility is the name of Azpilicueta’s game. He was an integral figure in Jose Mourinho’s 2013-14 title-winning season as well as Antonio Conte’s triumph last term.
Azpilicueta, 28, has started this season so well, having struck a fantastic partnership with striker Alvaro Morata. He set up two of Morata’s goals against Stoke on Saturday, while Chelsea found the net through the same combination against Leicester City and Everton as well.
He is without any question, the most underrated player in the Premier League, if not world football. What is most impressive though is that he does this all with a smile on his face and very little recognition from the media.
Oriol Romeu- Southampton
Defensive midfielders are often overlooked due to the unglamorous nature of their role, but Oriol Romeu has rebuilt his career after a doomed spell with Chelsea in his formative years. The unassuming Spaniard is unlikely to get many plaudits for doing the dirty work in the middle but at Southampton, he has become one of league’s best defensive midfielders.
Romeu has completed 366 passes this season with a pass accuracy of 84%. He is yet to score a goal.
Mario Lemina- Southampton
Romeu’s midfield partner at Southampton, Mario Lemina has all the qualities to be the ingredient to spark some life into Southampton’s build-up play. Under former manager Claude Puel, Southampton were accused of playing with an overly cautious approach. But under Mauricio Pellegrino, there is every chance of that approach changing, especially with Lemina in the team.
The Gabon international is not a Paul Pogba or a Mousa Dembele but is a tenacious midfielder capable of keeping things ticking in Southampton engine room. Lemina put on a classy display at Crystal Palace, while he was brilliant in the 1-0 loss to Manchester United.
Idrissa Gueye- Everton
Perhaps the closest alternative to N’Golo Kanté in the Premier League, Idrissa Gueye has won over Everton fans with his consistent performances in the midfield. The midfielder, who got relegated with Aston Villa, has been a defensive force throughout last season, with his speed and stamina.
The Senegal international is highly underrated. He not only has the ability to tackle but also to hold onto the ball and make the team play. The small things a player like Gueye does don’t show up on the stat sheet as much but his contributions will again be vital for Everton.
Christian Eriksen- Tottenham Hotspur
Mauricio Pochettino is a lucky manager to have a gifted player like Christian Eriksen. From needling pin-point passes to sublime through balls and to scoring 30-yard scorchers, Eriksen is a complete player.
The Danish playmaker is neither Spurs’ most revered player, nor the man who typifies their style, but he definitely provides the extra flair in the attack. He has started this season with 2 goals and 2 assists, and he registered a whopping 12 goals and 23 assists in 48 games last season.
Rarely given the credit for his influence on the team, Eriksen, without a shadow of doubt, is a criminally underrated player.
Matt Ritchie- Newcastle United
Newcastle endured a slow start to their Premier League campaign with two defeats, but Benitez’s men won three games in a row to propel themselves up the table, before losing to Brighton on Sunday. And one of the reasons for their upturn in fortunes has been Matt Ritchie, who has registered 4 assists in 6 games.
Despite his small stature, Ritchie’s quick feet and pace make him a menace for opposition defences. The Scotsman is simply proving indispensable to the squad, and with the qualities he has, there is every possibility him getting better and he could make a move away if a bigger club comes calling.
Roberto Firmino- Liverpool
Roberto Firmino isn’t a typical striker by any definition of the word, due to his versatility. The Brazilian’s movement is genuinely excellent when Liverpool are on the attack and this is especially evident when he is played in a central role.
While the 25-year-old is admired for his contribution to Liverpool, there are not many who are discussing the forward in the same breath as other Premier League elites in the position, such as Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Sergio Aguero.
A hard-working and a technically brilliant footballer, Firmino has scored 2 goals and 2 assists this season in the league.
Of course, there are areas of his game in which Firmino will need to continue improving if he is to carry on being so important to Klopp’s plans. But at just 25, for all the attributes and talent, he doesn’t get the recognition he truly deserves.