There are players in the Premier League who don’t get the plaudits they deserve. Every team has one, and it is normally the player who is a consistent performer, keeping things ticking over without stealing the limelight.
These players are recognised and appreciated by their teammates, but often ignored by the media - Michael Carrick as case in point. This article looks at five unsung heroes in an attempt to give them the recognition they deserve.
Mikel Arteta | Arsenal
First up is Mikel Arteta, who this season was made Arsenal’s vice-captain after the departure of Robin van Persie and was asked to move into the deeper lying midfield role. This was due to the exit of Alex Song and the arrival of the influential Santi Cazorla, and he has stepped into this position with ease.
He has played in all but four of Arsenal’s league games this year and is one of the best passers in the game, totalling over 100+ passes in nine games this season which is currently the league’s best. He is the link between the attacking players and the back four and is the heart beat of all the attacking plays for the Gunners.
Arteta doesn’t gain the plaudits he deserves due to Arsenal possessing quality such as Cazorla and Theo Walcott, but his consistency and his ability to dictate the play and conduct the pace Arsenal play at, which enables them to retain possession, could yet ensure Arsenal a top four position and Champions League football next season.
Pablo Zabaleta | Manchester City
This season would have to be regarded as Zabaleta’s best, even if the rest of the Manchester City squad haven’t hit the heights of last season.
He is arguably one of the best right-backs in the league this year, if not the best. He struggles to gain the plaudits again due to the quality within the City squad, but he is definitely one of the fans' favourites.
Zabaleta never gives in and constantly puts 100 per cent into every game he plays and every challenge he makes. He is comfortable attacking down the wing as much as he is defending against the opposition, and has chipped in this season with three goals, including a match winner against Stoke in the 5th round of the FA Cup.
The consistency he has shown this year is something that the rest of the squad have struggled to produce. He might not scored many goals but his ability to stop others from scoring is just as important. The club is very close to his heart and due to his commitment and consistency, he deserves some recognition and I hope he makes the Premier League Team of the Year.
Jonas Gutierrez | Newcastle United
This Argentine international would have to be one of the most loyal players in the game; he’s been through the good times and the bad at Newcastle, including their relegation to the Championship. Loyalty is a characteristic which is becoming less important for players in the modern game, as more players are willing to leave ailing clubs for larger wages, but not Gutierrez.
He offers Newcastle versatility and has played in a variety of positions, including all four in midfield and even as an emergency left-back this season. He’s not the most skilful or quickest players around but his ability to link-up with his teammates shows that his passes can be as good as taking on a defender.
Gutierrez isn’t the most prolific midfielder either having only contributed one goal to his team's cause this campaign - scoring in the 3-2 win against Chelsea at St. James' Park. However, like Zabaleta, he is fully committed to every game and is competitive in every game.
Sylvain Distin | Everton
Distin is entering the latter stages of his playing career, but he has and always will be a model professional, playing for Newcastle, Manchester City, Portsmouth and Everton, winning the FA Cup with the south coast club in 2008.
He is a strong physical presence in the heart of defence and is a match for any striker in an aerial battle. In addition to this, his pace across the ground makes him the perfect centre-back to play a sweeping role.
Distin has formed a strong partnership with Phil Jagielka and has ensured they are one of the strongest centre-back pairings in the Premier League.
His performances for Everton last year won him Everton's 'Players' Player of the Year' award, which shows his teammates admire the contribution and solid base he offers the club.
Jonny Evans | Manchester United
Jonny Evans has been impeccable this season, picking up an average of 2.71 points when he has been on the pitch, making him the most valuable player in the league. The stats speak for themselves and show that, although Robin van Persie might score the goals and be regarded as an integral member of the team, Evans is just as valuable to the team.
He used to look very nervous when playing, however in the past couple of seasons he has definitely come of age, which is partly due to the injuries to club captain Nemanja Vidic. Evans now looks calm and composed when in possession and is able to pick out the either Michael Carrick or Paul Scholes in midfield, when he passes the ball forward.
He will probably never score a hat-trick in a game or score a match winner, but he has now matured as a player. He offers United a solid base to start their attacks from and allows his teammates to know if the other team attacks, he is no longer a liability. This season he has been immense and I hope his development continues under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson.
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