The Best So Far

Halfway through an intriguing season, the PMP blog takes a look at the best performers in each department so far this season, namely goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and attackers.
Note: The article is solely the opinion of the author and is open to debate and constructive criticism. I’ve also tried to ensure that not more than one player from a team is picked for each position to ensure a more fair assessment. Cheers!
GOALKEEPERS
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
In spite of the plethora of (very expensive) talent at Roberto Mancini’s disposal, it is a youth academy product that has been one of the most important members of the Man City squad this season. His performances have been helped by a solid defence line in front of him, but he has been excellent throughout. He is also yet to concede a goal in an England shirt in 16 appearances, which speaks volumes of his quality.
Michel Vorm (Swansea City)
Arguably one of the buys of the season, Vorm was signed by Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers for what now seems to be a bargain fee of £1.5 million. He has been in sublime form in the league and has kept 9 clean sheets, second only to the Man United combination of David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard. While he was on the bench for the Netherlands in the World Cup 2010 Final, it will be surprising if he doesn’t feature more regularly for the Dutch at Euro 2012.
Tim Krul (Newcastle United)
Another Dutchman who’s been superb in the Premier League this season is Newcastle keeper Tim Krul. After having to play second fiddle to Shay Given for much of his Newcastle career, he finally got his chance last season and he hasn’t disappointed. While his record has had a few blips in the last few weeks, most recently conceding 5 against Fulham, he has been a major factor in the Toon Army’s ascendance this season.

David De Gea/Anders Lindegaard (Manchester United)
It is evident from the number of appearances these two have made this season (19 and 10 respectively) that there is no established no.1 at United yet. Moving on after the retirement of Edwin Van der Sar has been tough, but Sir Alex Ferguson has two superb keepers in De Gea and Lindegaard and he has rotated them wisely so far. Combined, they sit atop the clean sheets column with 11, and can surely only get better with more experience.
Brad Friedel (Tottenham Hotspur)
The tall, bald American just seems to go on and on. Even at 40, he’s still plying his trade with potential title challengers and only 2 teams have conceded fewer goals than his. Friedel has always been a great keeper, and one often wonders why he never moved to a ‘bigger’ club earlier in his career. Getting him for free after his contract expired with Aston Villa was a shrewd bit of business by Harry Redknapp, and in Friedel you’re always guaranteed quality.
DEFENDERS
 
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
Roberto Mancini’s captain has been nothing short of immense in the heart of defence in City’s so far excellent season. Much like his counterpart Nemanja Vidic who plays for their crosstown rivals, he has been hugely influential and has helped City construct a serious title challenge for the first time in years. His central defending partner has alternated between Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure, but Kompany has been ever-present and ever-impressive at City.
Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
He may seem a surprise inclusion, considering Arsenal’s relatively poor defensive record this season (worst out of the top 6). But Koscielny has come a long way from the howler that gifted Birmingham the Carling Cup almost a year ago. He has had to deal with his defensive partner Thomas Vermaelen being injured for much of the season, but has still performed admirably and has been arguably the most improved player this season in the league.
Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United)
Newcastle’s shaggy haired captain has been different class this season. His partnership with Steven Taylor saw Alan Pardew’s men concede only 8 goals in their first 11 games. The team went through a small slump towards the end of 2011, largely because Coloccini missed a few games through injury. But his full recovery has seen a return to winning ways for the Magpies, and we can expect him to help his team fight tooth and nail for a Champions League spot this season.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur)
For a long time now, BAE has been the first choice left-back for Harry Redknapp, and this could be considered is breakthrough season of sorts. He is the only player (apart from Brad Friedel) to have started every single Premier League game for Tottenham. He has provided the perfect defensive foil to Gareth Bale’s marauding runs down the left flank and the two of them have formed one of the most dangerous wing-play partnerships in the Premier League.
Phil Jones (Manchester United)
It’s often hard to believe that Phil Jones is only 19 years old. He has not been faultless this season, obviously, but his rapid rise to prominence surely couldn’t have been foretold by even the most optimistic of fans at the start of the season. He has proven to be a handy player as he can play in various positions and the fact that he has started more Premier League games than any other United player shows the immense faith that SAF has in the boy’s ability. One for the (immediate) future, without a doubt.
MIDFIELDERS

 

Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
Once a player who could hardly get a game for Spurs, Bale is now one of the most sought-after players in European football and his performances completely justify this tag. He has picked up where he left off last season, and has already scored as many league goals as he did in the whole of the 2010-2011 campaign (7). The most astonishing thing is that he’s only 22 and surely has several years of tormenting defenders ahead of him.

David Silva/Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
Two players, so different in style and stature but both so vital to Man City’s excellent run in the league this season. Toure has proven to be much more than just a defensive spoiler, and has shown his goal-scoring prowess when deployed in a more advanced role. Silva has been the perfect playmaker for Sergio Aguero, already claiming 12 assists and 5 goals from an attacking midfield position. I have included them as a pair, because when either one plays, City are undoubtedly good, but when they play together, they’re unstoppable and Roberto Mancini must be desperate for the African Cup of Nations to be over and done with and have his midfield maestro Toure back.
Nani (Manchester United)
Not many people gave Nani a chance once Cristiano Ronaldo left United, and he was even on the verge of leaving the club in January 2010. But a sudden change in attitude and a new-found conviction have made him one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most important players. He already has 7 assists and 6 goals this season and has been a consistent performer for the Red Devils, and will look to continue in this vein during the title push.
Juan Mata (Chelsea)
In a season that has seen Chelsea perform way below par, Mata has been one of the few bright sparks for AVB in his debut season at Stamford Bridge. Since transferring from Valencia, he has bagged 6 goals in all competitions as well as 9 assists and has become a regular starter. With the rest of the team not being too convincing, Mata’s contributions will be vital for Chelsea to achieve at least a top 4 spot.
Leon Britton (Swansea City)
Swansea as a team have brought a refreshing style of play to the Premier League, but one player who has particularly caught the eye is Leon Britton. With a 93% pass completion rate, the diminutive playmaker has been the driving creative force of the team, and his partnership with Joe Allen has seen the Swans exceed expectations as far as their debut Premier League campaign is concerned. More of the same, and Swansea’s survival is all but guaranteed.
ATTACKERS
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
As with his former teammate Fernando Torres, there was no doubt that Atletico Madrid were letting go of a supremely gifted striker when ‘Kun’ transferred to City for almost £40 million. But that has been money well spent, as Aguero has formed a deadly partnership with everyone he’s been paired with in the City front line. 14 league goals and 5 league assists later, Aguero is arguably the first name on Roberto Mancini’s team sheet.
Demba Ba (Newcastle United)
Demba Ba has been, without a doubt, the best buy of the summer. He cost £40 million less than Sergio Aguero and has scored a goal more. He has been in prolific form and it’s no surprise that he was awarded the Barclays Player of the Month Award for December 2011 for his performances. He has one of Alan Pardew’s most valuable assets, and his absence due to the African Cup of Nations will no doubt be a big blow to Newcastle’s Top-4 bid.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
After open rebellion last season, Wayne Rooney has got his act together and has very much been the driving force for United this season. People may point to certain games where he hasn’t created chances or scored any goals, but it’s his passing and link-up play that are so important to a lot of what United do. In all of last season, he scored 16 goals. This time, he’s got 17 at the halfway point. A superb return to form for (arguably) United’s most valuable player.
Robin van Persie (Arsenal)
In almost 8 years at Arsenal, RvP has amassed 118 goals from 258 appearances and this in spite of being ravaged by injuries for much of his spell with the Gunners. This season, he has finally had an uninterrupted run in the team, and along with taking over captain duties, he is the Premier League’s top scorer with 19! He fell one goal short of Alan Shearer’s record of 36 PL goals in a calendar year, but has almost single-handedly kept Arsenal in the hunt for a top-4 spot. If he continues like this, Arsene Wenger could face a struggle to hold on to the Flying Dutchman.
Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham Hotspur)
A few eyebrows might be raised at this inclusion, but it is by virtue of the fact that, after a rotten start, Spurs’ steady climb up the table has been largely due to Adebayor’s arrival and excellent performances. The numbers prove that he has indeed proven to be the missing piece in Harry Redknapp’s Champions League-chasing jigsaw. Adebayor has scored 9 goals and provided 7 assists since his loan from Man City. Redknapp will be desperate to sign him on a permanent deal, but it seems unlikely that City will sell to an immediate rival. But while he can, Adebayor will no doubt continue to make valuable contributions whenever he plays.




Honourable mentions – 
GK – Pepe Reina (Liverpool), Simon Mignolet (Sunderland), Asmir Begovic/Thomas Sorensen (Stoke City)
DEF – Micah Richards (Man City), Younes Kaboul/Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur),  Steven Taylor (Newcastle United)
MID – James Milner (Manchester City), Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
ATT – Edin Dzeko (Manchester City), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea), Aiyegbeni Yakubu (Blackburn Rovers)

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