By Chris Wright
With the end of the 2010/11 season just beginning to crown over the horizon, Pies presents a tip of the bonnet to the top flight’s most improved players throughout the course of this campaign…
(P.S – We’ve consciously tried to steer clear of the obvious choices, i.e, the Bale, Wilsheres and Nasris of this world, to give some of the Premier League’s ‘lesser lights’ their moment in the spotlight.)
11. Joey Barton, Newcastle
A divisive Marmite character who, according to Joey Barton, is hands down the best English midfielder in the business.
Pies wouldn’t go quite that far, but the snarling Newcastle schemer has undoubtedly been in fine fettle this season – filing several truly immense displays (and interviews) along the way, all the while running the jagged edge between unhinged genius and complete shit-for-brains thuggery.
10. Johan Djourou, Arsenal
While the recurring stat vis-a-vis the disproportionate number of goals that Arsenal have shipped without Djourou in the side is vastly distorted by the fact that is was usually the woeful Seb Squillaci that stood in for him, the Swiss centre-half has undoubtedly come along leaps and bounds this term after seeing the first few years of his burgeoning Emirates career stymied by a wretched string of injuries.
9. Chris Baird, Fulham
The man was an unmitigated liability a few years ago, with a series of hapless performances seeing him forcibly ejected from the Fulham first string and labelled as ‘easily the worst player in the Premier League’ on several occasions.
At that point, you could have forgiven him for disappearing back into the relative anonymity of the lower leagues, but Baird got his act together and has, in the space of two seasons, turned it around completely.
He sure-as-scheisse isn’t fashionable, but the sheer fact that Baird is now a dependable mainstay in Mark Hughes’ backline – even chipping in with the odd thunderous goal or two from time to time – shows just how far the Premier League’s ‘worst player’ has come on.
8. Dimitar Berbatov, Man Utd
After two years of near-merciless haranguing from the United support, Berba has somehow managed to pull 21 league goals out of the bag this season without really altering his game or attitude to any great lengths.
Sure, he’s still prone to pranging the odd sitter and do little more than saunter for games on end but the guy’s been leading the Premier League goal-scoring table for months on end –