We are bombarded every day, through all mediums available to the Press, about the ‘kings’ of the Premier League, and their awe-inspiring exploits. The names Van Persie, Bale, Mata and Suarez are synonymous with success, goal-scoring prowess, and an ability to make the big stage look like a playpen.
But while these players certainly deserve our admiration, with the four above among those to fight it out to be named Player of the Year, there are other brilliant players who often work outside the obvious spotlight, pulling the strings of their relevant clubs.
Their performances this season ensure that the Premier League remains the most diversely talented league of clubs in the world. Here is a selection of the very best from the rest:
5. Ben Davies, Full-Back, Swansea City
It has been quite a year for the 19-year-old Welshman. Following a crippling ankle injury to first choice left-back, Neil Taylor, Ben Davies was given the chance to prove his worth to new boss Michael Laudrup.
The young man stepped up, beating back the competition from new signing Dwight Tiendalli, and solidified his place in the Swansea starting eleven. He has played almost every match in the current league campaign, and has become an established player, despite his young age.
He also scored his first league goal in the 3-1 win over Stoke City in January, making him the Swans’ youngest ever Premier League goal scorer. And to think, before he signed a new deal in November, Davies was still on £400-per-week. Big things are expected.
4. Christian Benteke, Striker, Aston Villa
Yet another talented Belgian to add to the ever growing roster is the 22 year-old giant, Benteke. Plying his trade for relegation-threatened Aston Villa, he has been a goal scoring revelation, with more than a few bigger clubs now surveying his obvious talent.
A physically dominating presence up front, Benteke has eked out 12 goals and provided four assists for the struggling West Midlands club.
Whether Villa can avoid a crippling relegation depends strongly on the 6’3 Belgian’s exploits up front, while his longevity at the club will certainly hinge on the outcome.
3. Santi Cazorla, Attacking Midfield, Arsenal
The diminutive Spaniard had the immediate task upon signing for Arsenal in the summer of easing the pain of losing their star man, Robin van Persie to their bitter rivals Manchester United.
While his impact on the North London club has not been as spectacular as the Flying Dutchman, his effect has been felt strongly. Putting in numerous hard working shifts, his agility and keen eye for a defence splitting pass has seen him become a strong fan favourite.
A crucial attacking fulcrum for this transitional Arsenal squad, Cazorla’s 11 goals and 8 assists have aided their assault on a coveted top four spot. With Arsene Wenger’s track record, it could be ill advised to bet against them securing Champions League football again, especially with Cazorla pulling the strings from midfield.
2. Rafael, Full-Back, Manchester United
You would be hard pressed to find a better right back anywhere in the league right now than Man Utd’s 22-year-old Brazilian, Rafael.
He has been terrific in on the domestic front for the champions elect, and the sight of him haring down the wing, assisting in attacks, is now a common one. Although he struggled in Europe, especially against the unstoppable force that is Cristiano Ronaldo, the maturity and experience he may lack on the biggest of stages will improve with time.
When he signed for United along with his twin brother, Fabio in 2008, it was said that Rafael was the lesser of the two full-backs. This is certainly not still the case four years on, and while is brother has time to improve, it is Rafael who is leading the way out of the two, and arguably out of all right backs in the Premier League.
1. Marouane Fellaini, Midfield, Everton
Although with his extraordinary bouffant of hair, he is hard to miss on the pitch, it seems as if his stunning form all season has not been picked up by the bookies taking bets on player of the year. With a unique ability to play in almost every central outfield position for Everton, he has often been a one man army for the Merseysiders.
His aggression, awareness, and leadership qualities have all shone through on what has been an outstanding season for the Belgian, a season which has seen him net 11 times and set up 6 goals for his teammates.
It is unfortunate that his decision to ‘assault’ Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross in the 1-1 draw in December will be the defining feature of his season for most fans. He deserves real recognition for his exploits this season, and the chance for him to play in European premier competition.
It has been mooted that Man Utd and Chelsea may be willing to oblige the big Belgian, and attempt to prise Everton’s record signing away. Regardless of the future, his form this year certainly warrants the adulation he receives from the Everton fans, and his place at number one on this list.