There’s certainly been no shortage of thrills and spills as we approach the halfway stage of this year’s Premier League season. With acrimonious Chelsea fans damning their sides’ terrible start to the domestic calendar, it is unlikely heroes Leicester City who are sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Everton also chugging along nicely with strong starts to their respective campaigns.
And whilst pundits may bemoan the league’s dwindling lack of ‘quality’ since the exits of high-profile stars such as Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez, there have still been plenty of unknown entities who have increased their stock thanks to impressive performances on the pitch this season. Here at ComeOn! we take you three players who we feel have shown the greatest improvement on the field.
Jamie Vardy – it was only a formality that this man would be the first player to make our list. After equalling Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in ten consecutive Premier League matches this season, Jamie Vardy has become the darling of English football, with the press and English national team supporters alike, clambering to the hopes that the 28-year-old striker can be the man to make the country’s dreams come true at next year’s European Championships in France. After his humble beginnings as a part-timer for non-league minnows Stocksbridge Park Steels, the Foxes forward has gone from sheer obscurity to being ranked the third best player in Europe according to Whoscored.com this season (Patrick Aumamyeng and Robert Lewandowski are first and second if you’re asking). And after netting a total of 13 goals so far this season, the four-time capped Englishman is now 2/1 to win the Premier League Golden Boot this season.
Odion Ighalo – Much like Vardy, Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo was practically invisible to the English footballing world before his arrival to Watford in 2014 from Italian outfit Udinese. It was to his benefit that the 26-year-old hit the ground running during his maiden season at the Brewers, netting an impressive 20 league goals last year in England’s second tier. And despite his impressive performances in a yellow shirt not going unnoticed, it was deemed unlikely the African international would be able to continue his goal scoring exploits in a higher division. But continue he has. After already scoring 7 goals so far this season, Igahlo’s strength, dynamism and ability in front of goal has been one of the main reasons why his newly promoted side are currently defying all expectations this season, sitting in 13th position in the Premier League, 7 points clear of the relegation zone.
Chris Smalling – It’s true to say London-born Chris Smalling has had his fair share of critics following the demise of his Manchester United side following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. Smalling was one of a core of four or five players who were hung out to dry by the fans during David Moyes’ disastrous season with the club when the Scotsman guided United to an all-time low Premier League finish of 7th. But following the arrival of LVG in 2014, the former Maidestone United defender has clearly been one of the main beneficiaries of his appointment, with his performances in a red shirt this season and indeed the back end of last season, the main reason behind United’s impressive defensive record in the Premier League.
After going from a player who many thought should be nowhere near Roy Hodgson’s 25 man squad in France next year, such is Smalling’s improvement for club and country, it is looking increasingly likely he will be the main man to partner either Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka or John Stones at the centre of England’s defence when the Euro 2016 action gets under way in June next year.