Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Unsung Premier League players of the 2011/12 season

They may not be superstars yet, but they are important players who perform consistently away from the glare of the spotlight. This is not an article about the 'stars' of the Premier League, this is about those 'unsung heroes' - players who more often than not are plying their trade at the less glamours clubs in the Premier League.

However week after week these players put in stirling performances for their clubs, often performing above and beyond expectations, but failing to receive the acclaim or recognition they deserve, in comparison to many of their fellow professionals at the Premier League's more high profile clubs.

No doubt some of the players about to be mentioned will go on to grace a bigger stage, but in the meantime let us take our hats off to those up and coming footballers who this season have produced the sort of displays that have made fans from all across the league sit up and take notice. With just one weekend of fixtures remaining I have compiled a list of my 'unsung' Premier League players of the 2011/12 season:

1/ Michel Vorm - Swansea City

Vorm has had an outstanding season for the newly promoted Welsh side. The Dutch international was signed by the Swans on the 10th August 2011 from FC Utrecht for a fee of £1.5 million. This season Vorm has kept 13 cleen sheets. His debut for the club against Manchester City on the 15th August 2011 yielded in a 4–0 defeat. Although Vorm conceded four goals, he also made eleven saves - more than any other Premier League goalkeeper, in a single game, in the whole of the 2010/11 season. So far this season Vorm has made 123 saves, second only to Wayne Hennessey of Wolves, but his saves to shots ratio is a staggering 73%. Vorm has also just been named in the Netherlands' 35-man provisional squad for the Euro's 2012.

2/ Anthony Pilkington - Norwich City

Norwich’s very own wing wizard has been in fine form this campaign, notching up 8 goals from the left of midfield. Signed from League One side Huddersfield on the 6th July 2011 for an initial fee of £2million, not many were expecting the the Blackburn born 23-year-old to take to the Premier League so quickly, but Pilkington has established himself as a key player in Paul Lambert’s squad.

3/ Stephane Sessegnon - Sunderland

The 27-year-old midfielder joined Sunderland on the 29th January 2011, and although the ex-Paris Saint-Germain man struggled in his first season in the Premier League, this season he has been a revelation. Playing in his favored role just behind the lone front-man, he has been a key member of Martin O’Neill’s resurgent Sunderland squad, and the Benin born midfielder has produced the sort of displays that his reputation promised. He has scored 7 times and provided 9 assists so far this season.

5/ Tony Hibbert - Everton

Everton’s mister reliable has played a key role in the Toffees’ 2011/12 campaign. Robust and adept in a number of positions along the defensive line, the 31 year-old Merseyside-born full-back has been central to another successful PL campaign, under the stewardship of manager David Moyes, who continues to work wonders on a shoe string budget and a paper-thin squad. Hibbert is Everton's current longest-serving player, and the only player who has been at the club throughout the entire reign of David Moyes. Hibbert also has 3 assists to his name this season.

4/ Yohan Cabaye - Newcastle United

The 26 year-old French international signed for Newcastle on 10th June 2011 from Lille for an undisclosed fee, and has had an immediate impact on what has been a fantastic season for the Magpies. The no nonsense midfielder is the Premier League's top tackler with 111 and a 70% success rate. Cabaye also has 4 goals and 6 assists to his name in 33 Premier League appearances this season.

6/ Jonas Olsson - West Bromwich Albion

Powerful and dependable, West Brom’s Swedish centre-back has been putting in some big performances this season. The Baggies currently lie in a respectable 10th position in the Premier League, and have conceded 49 goals in 37 games so far. Without their 6'4" former NEC Nijmegen man this stat would have been far higher. Olsson also has 2 goals and 2 assists to his name in this seasons campaign.

7/ Ashley Williams - Swansea City

The Tamworth born 27 year-old defender is the 2011/12 Premier league's top passer with 2,474 and an outstanding completion rate of 85%, in his 36 appearances for the South Wales club this season. Although much has been made of Swansea’s fluid attacking approach, their back line has been just as crucial this season. Williams’ physical presence and reading of the game have been key for the Swans defence, which has been breached significantly fewer times than most of the sides around them. Williams has also represented the Wales national team on 32 occasions.

8/ Victor Moses - Wigan Athletic

Fleet-footed winger Victor Moses was signed from Crystal Palace in January 2010 for a fee of £2.5million. A product of the well oiled Palace academy, Moses career at Wigan began slowly. However following the departure of Charles N'Zogbia last summer, Moses became a regular starter for Wigan this season. He has been in 'electric' form and is statistically the Premier League player to have completed the most number of runs/dribbles in the 2011/12 season. His form had without doubt contributed to a fine end of season for the North-West club, who looked in danger of being relegated only a few months ago. His direct attacking style of play has seen him get on the score sheet 6 times this season.

9/ James McLean - Sunderland

The Northern Ireland born Sunderland winger was signed by Steve Bruce on the 9th August 2011 for just £350,000 from Derry City. Although McClean did not make his first-team debut until Martin O'Neill's first game as manager of the Black Cats in December 2011, he has since become a regular at Sunderland. On the back of some impressive performances for the Teesiders the club offered him a new three year contract in March of this year, just three months after making his first start. He has gone on to represent the Republic of Ireland, making his debut against the Czech Republic back in February and Giovanni Trapattoni has just confirmed that McClean is to be a part of the Irish UEFA Euro 2012 squad. Since his move to Sunderland, Mclean has chipped in with 5 goals and 3 assists in the 22 league games he has featured in.

10/ Grant Holt - Norwich City

On 24th July 2009 Holt joined the Canaries from Shrewsbury Town for a fee thought to be in the region of £400,000. He was voted Norwich City's Player of the Year in 2009/10 and 2010/11 and helped them gain automatic promotion to the Premier League last season as he hit 21 league goals for the Carrow Road outfit. In his first PL season Holt has netted 14 times and helped Norwich finish their season in a very respectable mid-table position. He is now pushing for a place in Roy Hodgson's England squad for the up and coming Euro Championships.

*These statistics are courtesy of Opta Sportsdata and ESPN Soccernet.

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