Premier League XI: Unsung heroes
Cesar Azpilicueta, Micah Richards & Michael Carrick are three of the Premier League's most under-appreciated stars
In football it is easy to overlook the contribution of certain players. As long as there is football there will always be talismanic players, but as spectators we often fail to give credit where it is due to outstanding players who deserve their share of the limelight.
It is important to recognise these performances, so as the season draws to a close I’ve constructed a starting XI of players whom I feel aren’t given enough praise for what they have done in England’s top flight this season.
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan | Aston Villa
In 1995, Manchester United beat Ipswich Town 9-0, marking the biggest winning margin in Premier League history. This record would have undoubtedly been obliterated if it were not for Brad Guzan in Chelsea’s 8-0 drubbing of Aston Villa this season. The American is an excellent shot stopper and only beat Jussi Jääskeläinen to the position because of his consistency.
Right-back: César Azpilicueta | Chelsea
When Azpilicueta, or ‘Dave’ as his teammates call him, was signed by Chelsea, everyone assumed he would remain in the shadow of Branislav Ivanovic - but he has proven his doubters wrong. A marauding full-back, his approach play with Juan Mata this season has been exemplary and he is a real asset to Rafa Benitez's side.
Centre-back: James Collins | West Ham
It's true that Collins frequently chips in with the odd own goal, but he scores considerably more at the right end. A talented header of the ball, Collins regularly beats 'keepers, as evident from his two brilliant goals against Manchester United in the FA Cup this year. The Welshman displayed his defensive talents by successfully taming and frustrating the Premier League’s best in the form of Luis Suarez in last week’s 0-0 draw at Anfield.
Centre-back: Laurent Koscielny | Arsenal
Like many other players in this underrated XI, Koscielny’s talents are unrecognised while the few mistakes he has made persist in the public’s image of him. Koscielny is a highly skilled international, who not only is a good header of the ball, but has the vision to pick out the Arsenal engine room in the form of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla. It seems Bayern Munich have recognised Koscielny’s talents and have expressed considerable interest in the French centre-back, according to reports.
Left-back: Micah Richards | Manchester City
Richards has struggled to get regular appearances ahead of Pablo Zabaleta this season. Gifted though Zabaleta may be, Richards is still incredibly unlucky to be left out of the Manchester City starting XI. Richards was even less fortunate to be left out of the England squad at last year’s European Championships, while he and Kyle Walker are worthy rivals, Richards' talent is far superior that of Glen Johnson.
Right-midfield: Nathan Dyer | Swansea
This season it has been difficult to talk about Swansea and not mention Michu in the same sentence, yet no-one talks about those supplying him. With considerable flair and the eye for decisive through-ball, Dyer has a way of carving open defences single-handedly, acting as the invisible hand behind Michu.
Centre-midfield: Mark Noble | West Ham
Noble, who is likely to miss the remainder of the season due to injury, is the player that no-one seems to give credit to at West Ham yet without him, they struggle. Noble was a tailor-made replacement following the departure of Scott Parker to Tottenham, as he sweeps up all loose balls in the centre of the park with an efficiency that is unequalled in the league.
Centre-midfield: Michael Carrick | Manchester United
Carrick is perhaps the most underrated midfielder in the game. It is true he has been nominated for PFA Player of the Year, but spectators fail to realise how big a cog he is in the Manchester United mechanism, in the same way that Sergio Busquet’s contribution is ignored at Barcelona. Perhaps the reason why Carrick goes unnoticed is because he experienced a dip in form that lasted several years, he is now also sitting deeper in a more defensive orientated role, which means he scores less goals. Carrick has been integral to United’s campaign this season with a 90% pass completion rate.
Left-midfield: Victor Moses | Chelsea
It is easy to understand why Moses has received less media attention for his achievements this season, with Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar in such mercurial form. Moses received player of the tournament at this year’s African Cup of Nations; a great accolade given the level of talent in the African game.
Striker: Andreas Weimann | Aston Villa
Weimann is the lesser-publicised half of the strike duo that has kept Aston Villa hovering above the relegation places for much of this season. Alongside Christian Benteke, the Austrian has terrorised Premier League defences and threatened 'keepers from distance with his fierce and powerful striking ability. It is unlikely that Weimann will remain at Villa Park for much longer, even if they do stay up. Given his form this season, it would come as no surprise to see some of the Premier League's big guns come calling.
Striker: Andy Carroll | Liverpool (on loan at West Ham)
There is no denying it, Carroll isn’t worth half of what Liverpool paid for him. Nevertheless he remains one of the Premier League’s most dangerous strikers. Because Carroll’s price tag was so high, it was made impossible for him to live up to the expectation, we then somehow considered him to be a bad footballer, and this was unfair. Carroll doesn’t fit in with the style of play that Brendan Rodgers seeks to implement at Liverpool, but at West Ham under Sam Allardyce, Carroll is flourishing and showing his true potential with five goals in his last seven games.
Substitutes: Simon Mignolet (Sunderland), Daniel Agger (Liverpool), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea), Mikel Arteta (Arsenal), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham), Rickie Lambert (Southampton).
Who have I missed out? What are your thoughts? Get in touch and let me know. You can follow me on Twitter: @TobiaCharles
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