With over half of the season already gone; It's time to discuss the league's surprise top performers. Whether they have performed below average in previous seasons or they are a new introduction to the world's best league, the time has come to give credit to the little fish in the big pond.
Between the sticks, it's the enormous frame of Fraser Forster, not David De Gea. The Spaniard has obviously shown lots of improvement, but I do feel it's a little too easy to praise a man who arrived at the then undisputed Champions of England for a League record £17.8 million for a goalkeeper. Forster however joined a Southampton side tipped for relegation and now 12 clean sheets later, he's helped the Saints in to a Champions League spot.
The right back role is occupied by Antonio Valencia. A sentence I wouldn't have thought even possible at the start of the season. Adapting to a wing back role isn't for everyone, and it forced Luis Nani out on loan to Sporting Lisbon. But, both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia have decided to stick it out at Old Trafford and try their hand in a new role, both of which are excelling at. Physically strong and lightning quick, Valencia has all the attributes of a quality right sided defender, and has proved a helpful member of the Manchester United squad.
The first of the two central defenders is another Southampton player, and that's Jose Fonte; definitely a surprise in my book. From underwhelming and consistently error prone to calming and solid figure in just a season. He's certainly a key factor in Southampton's stunning season as it's their defensive reliability making St. Mary's a difficult place to go.
The other centre half is youngster Kurt Zouma, who has managed four clean sheets in his six Premier League games so far for the Blues. At just 20 years of age, the France Under 21's star arrived with huge potential and a lot of expectation but has more than coped with this and may be given more Premier League play time with the very average performances of Gary Cahill.
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Occupying the left full back role is West Ham's Aaron Cresswell. A new introduction to the Premier League, the young Englishman has slipped seemlessly into a strong West Ham side currently in 8th place. Cresswell has started every Premier League game for the Hammers and has already achieved 3 assists and a goal, and it may not be too long until we see the 25 year-old in the England squad.
The right midfield sees Burnely's George Boyd. Perhaps not everyone's first choice player, nobody works harder than the Scotsman. He covers every blade of grass in every game, which has earned him the local nickname 'Marathon Man'. four goals and two assists so far is impressive considering his Burnley side sit just four points off the bottom of the table.
The first of the central midfielders is another West Ham player; Stewart Downing. Full credit must go to the England man for turning his career around. He looks to be playing with increased confidence in an advanced central role in Sam Allardyce's new 4-4-2 diamond formation.
Currently boasting five goals and seven assists, the former Middlesbrough and Aston Villa man has already nearly doubled his stats from two seasons at Liverpool, in just the one at Upton Park.
Alongside him is Tottenham's Ryan Mason. Slight of build and agile, the young man has a surprisingly venomous shot, as proved by his only Tottenham goal in the Capital One Cup this season against Nottingham Forest. He's also added two assists in the Premier League in his 18 appearances so far; a statistic even the 23 year-old would not have been expecting at the start of the season.
Mason is able to dictate the play and spray passes around the field as well as not being shy of a tackle and having the heart of a lion when he stood his ground against the 6"4 Belgian powerhouse Christian Benteke in the fiery match between the Spurs and Aston Villa earlier in the season.
Another of the biggest surprises is Leicester's Jeffrey Schlupp. Although four goals and three assists in all competitions is arguably not overly impressive; these have been vital goals including the equalizer during Leicester's stunning comeback against Liverpool on New Year's Day and the injury time winner against Tottenham to send the Foxes through to the next round of the FA Cup.
The former left back has excellent close control and electric pace, and has taken the step up into the Premier League with great confidence. He is arguably the key man at the King Power Stadium and could be the difference between survival and relegation.
The strikers are somewhat more predictable. Firstly, Harry Kane. He has received much praise over the last few weeks and months, and deservingly so. He has 23 goals in all competitions, including 13 in the Premier League.
The 21-year old is adored by Spurs fans as "one of their own". He has had to be patient and has earned a starting spot the hard way by going out on loan to four clubs already. With very limited striking options at Tottenham; Kane looks set to be leading from the front for many years to come, unless of course he is tempted away from his boyhood club, but this would prove very difficult.
The last player on the list is QPR's Charlie Austin who has managed a staggering 13 Premier League goals in 22 games.
This is even more impressive considering the Englishman has struggled with injuries this season as well. There were many question marks about whether Austin could replicate his excellent goal scoring form from the Championship into the Premier League, only worsened by missing a penalty late on against Hull and failing to secure a point on the opening weekend. Both strikers are yet to play for England at senior level, but with the Euro 2016 qualifiers approaching; they will surely find opportunities to prove themselves at the highest level.
Six of these players are English. Does this suggest an increase in home grown talent which has been so heavily slated in recent years or is it simply that we set the expectations so low for English players, that we are simply shocked when they perform on par with the wealth of foreign talent in the Premier League?
Who else has impressed you this season who you wouldn't have expected?
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