With the Premier League season drawing to a close in rather unpredictable and dull circumstances, it seems an apt moment to reel through some of the players who have made the greatest impact this season.
Whilst there have been plenty of flops – notably Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria, and anyone that Liverpool brought in during the summer – there have been some shrewd moves too. These players are also likely to improve upon their showings next season as they bed into the Premier League.
10. Martin Kelly – £1.5m
Kelly’s Palace transfer was kind of swept under the carpet at Selhurst Park amidst the shock departure of Tony Pulis just hours later. You would have to wonder what attitude the Scouser would front when Neil Warnock took over and put the cat amongst the pigeons, especially as he was asked to play in unfamiliar positions. With Joel Ward at right-back, Kelly has adapted to the opposite side and impressed, showing the sort of form and consistency that had many rating him at Anfield. Despite seeing his position under threat from Pape Souare, Kelly will eventually make the transition to centre-back and make the paltry fee of £1.5m look like pocket change.
9. Dame N’Doye – £3m
If Hull stay up, plenty of credit will have to go to Steve Bruce and N’Doye for resurrecting what appeared to be a sinking ship at the KC Stadium. Goals against Villa, QPR and Palace have helped the Senegalese forward make an instant impact and rejuvenate a Hull side lacking that goal threat. Of all of the Tigers’ signings during the past two seasons, N’Doye is undoubtedly looking the finest.
8. Esteban Cambiasso – Free
Quite why the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan midfielder fancied a relegation scrap at the KingPower Stadium after a stellar career is beyond us, but we know that the Foxes would have been in a more perilous position than they are now without him! The Argentinian’s experience has been a major factor in Leicester’s recent good form and Cambiasso has proven his mettle in the bleakest of situations. His impact has been so profound that he was even nominated for the Football Writers’ Player of the Year.
7. Frank Lampard – Loan
Although Lampard hasn’t enjoyed the success he imagined he would after joining the champions, the former England stalwart has proven his unenviable class and importance to any top side. Five league goals and seven in total, including an extra special one versus Chelsea, shows exactly what Lampard brings to the table irrespective of who he plays alongside. Those goals and experience provided valuable momentum in a side that always seemed to be faltering, especially in the Champions League. His sheer presence will be sorely missed next.
6. Emre Can – £10m
One of few Liverpool summer signings that actually had a decent impact on the side, Can has shown adept versatility, patience and maturity during spells this season. His contributions at left-centre-back helped the Reds on their best period of the season at the turn of 2015, keeping plenty of clean sheets in the process. Can has endured tough moments this year but has given Brendan Rodgers something else to think about by offering himself as a valuable asset in a three-man backline. Wherever he plays during his Liverpool career, the 21-year-old will prove his worth.
5. Aaron Cresswell – £4m
Scouser Cresswell joined the Hammers to little fuss but has since given the supporters plenty to be optimistic about (in a sense). He’s made the left-back slot his own with commanding performances, matching the energetic sprints of fellow full-back Carl Jenkinson on the other flank. Along with a penchant for set-pieces, it was absolutely no surprise that Cresswell received ‘Hammer of the Year’ this season, standing out as one of the bright sparks in an otherwise drab ending to the campaign.
4. Fraser Forster, Graziano Pelle, Saido Mane, Dusan Tadic & Ryan Bertrand – ~£50m
Saints sold so many of their players that at one point Ronald Koeman wondered whether he had enough for a training session! Consequently the Dutchman recruited splendidly, bringing in almost half of the brilliant 2014/15 team for under £50m – a fraction of the income the club made on the likes of Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Calum Chambers. Each of these players could earn a spot on this list in their own right!
3. Alexis Sanchez – £35m
The streetwise forward brought fresh guile to Arsenal’s attack in the opening months of the season, becoming the Gunners’ talisman and leading them on in times of obscurity. His season hasn’t continued in quite the vein in which it began due to fatigue, a factor he will surely adapt to with a free summer and a year of experience under his belt. Arsenal look a true force with Sanchez in full flow, though he does need Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud to hit form so that the club can attempt to replicate Barcelona’s MSN of Messi, Suarez and Neymar.
2. Diego Costa – £32m
Another who hit the buffers as the season drew on, Costa would have run Sergio Aguero close for the Premier League golden boot had his hamstrings not been made of dilapidated rubber bands. Irrespective of his injury issues, Costa’s goals have helped fire Chelsea to the title in his debut season in England. At his and Chelsea’s peak there was no stopping the pair, scoring goals for fun and playing silky football. Quite how pundits have reacted to Chelsea’s boring romp to the title shows how much of a miss Costa has been for them in the latter stages.
1. Cesc Fabregas – £26m
With his infinite amount of assists and eye-catching link-up play, Fabregas had stolen the hearts of football purists during the opening months of the season. At just £26m, the same as Adam Lallana, Fabregas looks proper value even amongst Chelsea’s star-studded and expensively assembled squad. Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard have been superb, but it is Fabregas who has added that cutting edge, feeding Costa and co throughout an evidently exhausting campaign for the Blues.