With the season nearly done and dusted, Pies thought it timely to present unto you a list of the players we’ve been most impressed by over the course of the 2017/18 Premier League campaign.
Remember, we’re not necessarily talking about the best players here, but those instead who have been good enough to make indelible marks in our wider consciousness.
Presented in no particular order…
Martin Dubravka (Newcastle)
After arriving on loan from Sparta Prague in January, Dubravka immediately staked his claim with an inspired debut performance against Manchester United, and has gone from strength to strength ever since.
Commanding, assured and reliable in the air, Newcastle have mustered four wins in six matches (and two clean sheets) since the Slovakian international ‘keeper took over the No.1 jersey, and have very nearly secured their top-flight survival as a direct result.
Word has it that the Toon have a deal in place that allows them to sign Dubravka on a permanent basis for just £4million at the end of the season.
While we’re loathe to use the term, that appears to be the very definition of a ‘no-brainer’.
Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)
Doucoure looks nailed-on to win the Hornets player of the season award after (somewhat quietly) putting in a phenomenal shift this year.
The French midfielder is currently ranking inside the Top 15 in the division for tackles made, passes completed, overall touches, total appearances and minutes played. He’s also pitched in with seven goals, including a couple of proper belters.
In short, he’s involved. Constantly and consistently.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Hardly the biggest turn up for the books, but it just wouldn’t be right to gloss over Salah’s collosal individual contribution to the Liverpool cause this season.
After getting himself back on track at Roma, the Egyptian was cherry-picked by Jurgen Klopp who lined him up and let him loose on the poor, unsuspecting defenders of the Premier League.
As well as the searing pace and the relentlessly direct ethos Salah already had, he’s also added a ruthless finish and a lucidity under pressure to his game that had previous gone intermittently missing.
And all to devastating effect, as his 39 goals in 44 appearances (in all competitions) duly attests.
Ashley Barnes (Burnley)
The Clarets have locked down the ‘best of the rest’ position (7th) by virtue of being incredibly economical this season.
Thanks to a water-tight back-line, Sean Dyche’s frugal team have racked up points without scoring many goals – barring Brighton, they’re the lowest scoring side outside of the relegation zone – making it vital that Barnes hoovers up his chances as, when and where they fall.
The 28-year-old may have only scored eight league goals so far, but that amounts to almost exactly 25% of his team’s overall tally (31).
To be honest, it’s probably Burnley’s collective effort that deserves inclusion on this list, so Barnes is acting as something of a paragon here.
Still, he doesn’t tend to miss many of the big openings, and even has a happy knack of tucking away the speculative ones as well.
Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)
Whisper it, but Arnautovic is starting to get his act together. At the age of 28, the burly Austrian striker has finally put away the perpetually petulant man-child of his youth and is finally becoming the Poor Man’s Ibrahimovic he was meant to be.
Since the turn of December, Arnie has scored nine goals and laid on four assists for the Hammers in the space of 17 games, all the while using his blend of raw brawn and slinky technique for the power of good, not evil.
Also, his ongoing tit-for-tat spat with ex-manager-turned-nemesis Mark Hughes is just a fine thing to behold.
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
While this season has been a bit of a duffer for the Blues, there have been a least a few positives. Willian has been largely decent throughout, and Azpilicueta has proved that he’s just as utterly dependable at centre-half as he is everywhere else he’s been asked to play.
Oh, and the Spaniard has also chipped in with two league goals and a more-than-healthy six assists.
Not bloody bad for a player who is fast becoming a great all-round, multi-faceted defender.
Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield)
Speaking of unfaltering and dependable centre-backs, Schindler has proved to be exactly that in a tough but competent debut Premier League campaign for the Terriers.
In his first season as a Premier League, the German has amassed more successful tackles (78) than any other centre-back in the top flight and is also right up there in terms of aerial duels, clearances, blocks and interceptions
He’s proved his calibre game after game and won’t be short of suitors should the unthinkable happen and Huddersfield get sucked back into the Championship.
Son Heung-Min (Tottenham)
One of 2017/18’s true breakthrough acts, the Spurs forward has successfully made the transition from ‘dependable squad option’ to ‘indispensable mainstay’ under Mauricio Pochettino.
The South Korean has proved almost every bit as important going forward as Harry Kane, contributing 12 league goals from a wider, more fluid position – almost doubling his entire Premier League goal haul in one hot season.
Keep up the good work, Son.
Pascal Gross (Brighton)
Beloved of the Fantasy Football set for his class-beating price-to-point ratio, the German string-puller has proved a key creative stimulus for Brighton tucked in behind Glenn Murray.
As previously mentioned, Brighton have only mustered a collective 25 goals from open play so far this campaign (29 overall) and it’s telling that, with five goals and eight assists, Gross has been directly involved in 13 of them – that’s roughly 52%.
If the Seagulls stay up, which looks increasingly likely, Gross deserves a hefty portion of the credit.
Leroy Sane (Man City)
At his best, Sane is positively scintillating. The lithe German winger has that Eden Hazard-esque quality of being able to silently glide away from defenders like a fine mist.
It always strikes us as notable that the majority of City’s quick-break plundering goes through Sane, who has been installed as Pep Guardiola’s main attacking vessel at the age of 22, which in turn has instilled the youngster with a new vigour – a confidence.
Sane has offered nine league goals and 12 assists this season, but we get the distinct feeling in our waters that there’s a lot more to come.
At this juncture, we guess we should mention Kevin De Bruyne who has also been essential for the most part – though we all kind of knew he was brilliant already.
Honourable mentions: Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle), Andrew Robertson (Liverpool), Ben Davies (Tottenham), Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Raheem Sterling (Man City), Mark Albrighton (Leicester City), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Danny Williams (Huddersfield), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United).
Anybody we’ve missed? Feel free to admonish us severely down yonder…