It’s been an unpredictable and exciting start to the Premier League campaign and eight games in the division looks to be taking shape. That means Leicester, West Ham and Crystal Palace will be in a direct battle for fourth spot and Chelsea’s battle against the drop will be go down to the wire.
Seem ridiculous? That’s because it is. It has been the oddest opening to a top-flight season in years with the leaders on a reasonably low 18 points over a fifth of the way in and the champions making the worst start to a title defence in history.
So far it has been the likes of Jamie Vardy, and Dimitri Payet who have stolen the headlines, while it has taken the likes of Sergio Aguero and Mesut Ozil a little while to catch up. But while Leicester’s attacking players and Alan Pardew’s Palace revolution have been stealing the headlines, who have been the players quietly going about their business but still enjoying barnstorming seasons?
Here we run the rule over some of the league’s unsung heroes and give them a bit of the credit they deserve, because, quite frankly it’s not cool to like Jamie Vardy and Joe Ledley anymore, it’s expected.
Everyone associated with Arsenal is on a high after that amazing win over Manchester United. It’s all about Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and this new centre-forward they have discovered called Theo Walcott.
The Gunners’ midfield options are the envy of teams across Europe but one man who has gone about his business in a typically understated manner this term is Hector Bellerin. The Spanish right-back has made that position his own despite the attentions of the vastly more experienced Mathieu Debuchy and continues to develop as a real talent.
Bellerin’s pace is both an attacking and defensive weapon that makes the north Londoners a much more difficult proposition for their opponents. He has averaged an impressive 7.52 rating with whoscored.com so far this term and is the league’s top-rated right-back.
Arsenal’s striker issues, the patchy form of their attacking players and Wenger’s strange decisions have been at the forefront of all conversations surrounding the Emirates, it’s time the 20-year-old’s name was pushed to the front of the queue.
Watford’s start to life back at football’s top table has been steady but their defensive record has been heroic. The Hornets have conceded just seven times all season, that is the best record in the Premier League.
Strangely, that defensive assurance has emanated from a man so many associate with being a walking disaster. Gomes’ time at Spurs was ill-fated and littered with mistakes but it is often forgotten how many good performances were sandwiched between those errors, such is the life of the men between the sticks.
He has rebuilt his career at Watford and his three clean sheets already this year are testament to his hard work. The Brazilian underlined his excellent start with one of the saves of the season and a penalty stop at Bournemouth last week.
Wes Hoolahan is a man bun and a macchiato short of being the ultimate hipster footballer. Now 33 (when did that happen?), the Irishman is a legend at Carrow Road and has taken on cult status. He can also play a little bit too.
Under Alex Neil he has thrived in the number 10 role and is second only to David Silva in the assist rankings, with an impressive five already this term. He’s also grabbed a goal for himself, which mean he has been involved in half of his side’s Premier League strikes.
His manager recently came out and proclaimed Hoolahan to be playing the best football of his career, and that’s hard to disagree with. Don’t think the diminutive Dubliner is workshy either, it’s his desire to win the ball back along with his technical ability that make him more than a luxury player.
He may not be a totally unsung hero but he certainly deserves more credit than he is currently getting and it’s great to see a player peaking in the twilight of his career.
Tim Sherwood is proving a victim of his own brashness at Aston Villa at the moment and he is in serious danger of turning into a parody of himself once again. The former Spurs boss rather naively presumed he could turn up in the Midlands, buy a load of players and then transform a team into an attacking, positive top-flight outfit.
Her seems to have failed to realise that first they need to be hard to beat, something Villa aren’t.
Nevertheless, this bold approach has suited one of his summer signings. Amavi has shone since his arrival from Nice and the 21-year-old is ranked as the division’s top overall player by stats site Squawka.
The Frenchman has been excellent in the tackle, making 29 in just eight games this term and winning well over half of his defensive duels. He has also been good with the ball at his feet, producing more take ons than any other full-back in the league. Standing out in a shaky Villans XI is difficult and to do so at such tender years shows the future is bright for the youngster.
Much was made of Everton’s perceived defensive crisis and with Leighton Baines and Bryan Oviedo both missing for the start of the campaign they were set to be forced to utilise an unknown youngster at left-back.
Up stepped Brendan Galloway. Having played just 10 games for MK Dons in League One prior to signing for the Toffees it seemed a giant leap for the Zimbabwe-born England youth international, however, it barely warranted a small hop.
Galloway has been pivotal to Roberto Martinez’s side’s great start this year. He looks calm and assured on the ball and defensively he is magnificent. He made a game-saving tackle against West Brom a few weeks ago and was a beacon of calmness in the Merseyside derby, oh and left-back isn’t even his first choice position. Everton fans may want to start working on some lyrics to another Beatles classic to warn Jose off another of their emerging talents.