Premier League: The most improved players in 2020/21

Heung-min Son does square celebration

Once the next matchday passes, we will be more than 20 percent through the new Premier League season. How time flies.

It has thus far been one filled with unexpected results and a gargantuan supply of goals, and within that some teams and players have flourished, whereas others have struggled to maintain their usual standards.

So with nearly a fifth of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign gone already, which players have shown the biggest improvement from last term?

GIVEMESPORT have ranked below the 18 players showing the greatest individual progression so far…

18. Tariq Lamptey

Tariq Lamptey celebrates

Tariq Lamptey offered flashes of brilliance after displacing Martin Montoya towards the end of last season but the Brighton wing-back has shown this term just how consistent he can be.

He’s started all but one of the Eagles’ top flight fixtures and has proved a relentless nuisance down the right flank, resulting in an assist against Chelsea and a goal against Tottenham.

There’s a clear focus and determination about the 20-year-old this season, and he’ll need that if he’s going to challenge the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James for England’s No.2 berth.

17. Max Kilman

Max Kilman in action for Wolves

Max Kilman’s brief runouts in the Premier League and the Europa League last season appear to have done him the world of good.

With injuries to Jonny and Marcal forcing Romain Saiss out to Wolves’ left wing-back slot, Kilman has come in at centre-half and barely put a foot wrong.

Wolves have conceded just one goal from the 23-year-old’s four outings this season, and he also grabbed an assist in a 1-0 win over Leeds. Kilman’s 92% pass completion rate is certainly worthy of note too. 

16. Jannik Vestergaard

Jannik Vestergaard celebrates

Jannik Vestergaard just couldn’t hold down a spot in Southampton’s starting XI last season, which in itself was quite telling of his form considering the Saints conceded the sixth-most goals of any Premier League side.

2020/21 has been a different story so far, however, with the towering centre-back starting all but two of Southampton’s Premier League fixtures. 

Capitalising on James Ward-Prowse’s lethal deliveries, the Danish international has scored twice, while ranking 11th for aerial duels won per match throughout the Premier League and second for clearances. 

15. Tanguy Ndombele

Tanguy Ndombele in action for Spurs

The only reason Tanguy Ndombele isn’t a little higher on this list is because he actually started his Tottenham career pretty well, scoring and assisting in his first two Premier League games. 

However, the influence of Spurs’ record signing drastically waned throughout the season, to the extent that he didn’t start any of their last nine top flight games and found himself left out of the squad completely for the final three.

The Frenchman’s form this season though suggests he’s back on the right track. While there are no standout statistics to underline this, he’s been a busy and productive presence in central midfield.

Jose Mourinho’s faith in him appears to be restored, and over the course of the campaign we should finally see what the former Lyon man is really all about.

14. Seamus Coleman

Seamus Coleman in action for Everton

Into his thirties, struggling to overcome a serious injury and under pressure from Djibril Sidibe to hold onto his first-team spot, the end appeared nigh for Seamus Coleman towards the end of last term.

The Irishman still looks far from recovering the explosive dynamism of his younger years, but he’s no doubt been a very steady presence at the back for Everton this season, and it’s quite telling that the Toffees’ two defeats of the campaign came in Coleman’s absence.

Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping his captain is back as soon as possible to pick up where he left off.

13. Ross Barkley

Ross Barkley celebrates

It’s amazing what the right move can do for a player and while Ross Barkley was by no means a disappointment in a Chelsea shirt, getting regular game-time at Aston Villa has reminded everybody of the level of talent in his locker.

The England international has already netted twice for the Villans, and just as impressively is averaging 2.3 key passes, 2 dribbles and 3.3 shots per match

It’s still early days but he looks like a good fit at Villa Park and the 26-year-old might just fancy his chances of forcing his way back into Gareth Southgate’s plans for the Euros next summer.

12. Patrick Bamford

Patrick Bamford celebrates

We weren’t planning to include in this list players who didn’t feature in the Premier League last season, but Patrick Bamford remains the exception for the simple fact his netting prowess appears to have increased since Leeds’ promotion.

The 26-year-old only managed 16 strikes in the Championship last term but has already eaten away at a big chunk of that total in the top flight, bagging six goals in just seven games

He’s also averaging more shots than last season and if Bamford keeps it up, Leeds will spend the season looking up towards the heights of top half rather than over their shoulders at the relegation zone.

11. Che Adams

Che Adams in action for Southampton

It always felt like just a matter of time before Che Adams’ hard work would pay off, having managed only four goals during his debut Premier League season after netting 22 in his final campaign with Birmingham. 

It’s certainly not unusual for Football League signings to need a season or so to acclimatise to the Premier League and that appears to have been the case with the 24-year-old; striking up a fantastic partnership with Danny Ings, he’s already provided two goals and two assists this term. 

And with Ings now sidelined for four to six weeks, Adams may have a chance to prove what he can do on his own up front. 

10. Andros Townsend

Andros Townsend in action for Crystal Palace

It’s still a bit of a mystery as to why Andros Townsend found himself pushed down the pecking order last season, having been a near permanence in Crystal Palace’s starting XI since his arrival in 2016. 

Nonetheless, the former Tottenham and Newcastle man has forced his way back into Roy Hodgson’s plans this term and as well as some solid output with one goal and two assists already, it’s his defensive contributions that will have impressed the Eagles gaffer the most.

Only Everton signing Allan has made more tackles than Townsend in the Premier League this season.

9. Pablo Fornals

Pablo Fornals celebrates

Pablo Fornals’ first season at West Ham could be described as indifferent at best with his bursts of impressive quality being too few and far between.

But amid an unexpectedly strong start for the Hammers bearing in mind the calibre of opposition they’ve already faced, the Spaniard has registered four goal involvements in seven games

The 24-year-old still has a knack of drifting in and out of matches, but David Moyes clearly trusts him to work hard for the cause and if he keeps producing goals and assists, he’ll remain an important part of West Ham’s first XI.

8. Hector Bellerin

Hector Bellerin in action for Arsenal

It’s no secret that Hector Bellerin has all the hallmarks of a top level modern day full-back but after two seasons disrupted by injury problems, there was inevitable concern over whether the Arsenal defender would ever remain fit enough to show how talented he truly is.

Ultimately that still remains to be seen but having enjoyed a proper start to the season this time around, the 25-year-old looks to be making up for lost time.

As well as providing two assists and playing every minute of Arsenal’s Premier League campaign so far, Bellerin has helped the Gunners to two clean sheets, with just seven goals conceded overall. 

7. Pedro Neto

Pedro Neto takes a shot

Considering he’s just 20 years of age, Pedro Neto’s performances have slipped a little under the radar.

It speaks volumes that Nuno Santo has sold Diogo Jota and pushed Adama Traore to the bench to help make room for the attacking midfielder in his starting XI, and Neto has repaid that faith in abundance.

As well as providing one goal and two assists, Neto has averaged two dribbles and two key passes per match, while completing 91% of his passes.
Very impressive form from the youngster.

6. Heung-min Son

Heung-min Son celebrates

Heung-min Son was pretty fantastic last season, finishing the campaign with 21 goal involvements and winning the goal of the season award for his solo effort against Burnley.

Nonetheless, while 2019/20 was a little stop-start for him due to injury problems and two red cards, the South Korean looks ready to really take the Premier League by storm this time around.

He’s currently the division’s joint-top scorer with eight goals and has also laid on two assists to help Spurs to third in the table – just two points away from top spot.

5. Callum Wilson

Callum Wilson celebrates scoring for Newcastle

Last season was a tough one for Callum Wilson. As Bournemouth plummeted out of the top flight, their star striker picked up more yellow cards (10) than goals (8).

But despite Newcastle not exactly being a goal-friendly team under Steve Bruce, the occasional England man has hit back in style this year, rising to fifth in the Premier League’s scoring charts with six strikes in seven games

And with those goals spread out across four matches, there’s been an impressive consistency to Wilson’s early-season form too.

4. Harry Kane

Harry Kane warming up

We already knew Harry Kane was brilliant, which is why he’s not made it into our top three.
Nonetheless, and especially considering how the Tottenham star’s strike rate dropped down a gear during the last two seasons, his form in 2020/21 has been nothing short of incredible.

Kane’s still providing a very healthy supply of goals with six already this term, but the real difference has come through his newfound capacity to supply with real potency, registering the most assists of any Premier League player – a whopping eight.

If Kane maintains those numbers throughout the season, he’ll boast 76 goal involvements in the Premier League alone.

3. Wilfried Zaha

Wilfried Zaha takes a penalty

2019/20 was a difficult season for Wilfried Zaha, representing an almighty step back after notching up ten goals and five assists during the previous campaign. 

But this term, the Ivory Coast forward is back to producing at the levels that arguably justify Palace’s £80m valuation of their star man.

Indeed, while Zaha’s clearly modified his game to focus much less on carrying the ball – this season marks his lowest ever return for successful dribbles in the Premier League by quite some distance – he’s been lethal in the final third, bagging five goals and one assist.

Should that level of output be maintained, the Premier League’s top clubs will surely come sniffing in the summer.

2. Diogo Jota

Diogo Jota scores for Liverpool

One man’s trash is another’s gold.

That’s a pretty harsh way to describe Diogo Jota, but there’s no doubt Nuno was losing faith in the Portuguese attacker, starting him in just three of Wolves’ final six Premier League games of last season and then allowing him to leave for Liverpool.

The Reds’ swoop initially raised eyebrows but it’s already looking like a masterstroke; Jota’s found the net in his last three appearances for Liverpool across all competitions, including a stunning Champions League hat-trick against Atalanta.

He’s added goal threat to Liverpool’s starting XI and there’s a convincing case for him replacing Roberto Firmino as the false nine over the next run of games.

1. Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin

We saw signs of real improvement after Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival at Everton midway through last season but Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been nothing short of sensational since 2020/21 kicked off.

The Toffees striker is the Premier League’s joint-top scorer with eight goals and that’s the result of some clear modifications to his game, chiefly operating within the width of the penalty area and focusing on scoring within the six-yard box.

The big test is whether Calvert-Lewin can keep it up, but with James Rodriguez supplying him he’s got a fantastic chance.

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