Although his season peated out towards the end, Nani was fantastic for the Champions between August and February. He finished the season with the highest number of assists in the Premier League as well as scoring 9 goals from the wing. A creative player, his selfishness at times is reminiscent of a former forward Manchester United once had named Cristiano Ronaldo.
2. Nemanja Vidic
Once again Nemanja Vidic has been a rock at the heart of Manchester United’s defence. Not much gets passed the Serbian defender, and that which does usually results in just a free kick as the United centre back commits a professional foul. Solid in the air, he’ll be up against it on Saturday for the Champions League final when Lionel Messi and Barcelona keep the ball on the ground and run at Vidic and co.
3. Dimitar Berbatov
The Bulgarian scored a league high 7-match winning goals this season, and lead the league in total number of goals, with 21, alongside Carlos Tevez in the same city. Although the Bulgarian doesn’t run around anywhere near the amount of ground that Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney cover, his goals, and crucial ones at that squeak him into the top.
1. Peter Cech
Playing every minute in the Premier League for Chelsea this season, Petr Cech has been back to his days of old with some outstanding saves and performances this season. Keeping 15 clean sheets, only Joe Hart had more in the league this season. Despite finishing second in the league, it has been a disappointing and underachieving season for the Blues, but their goalkeeper did his job for the team.
2. Ashley Cole
Still the best left back in the Premier League, Ashley Cole was flying at the start of the season. Looking particularly great against the poorer teams at the start as he was freely raced forward with little fear he may be out of position and at fault for conceding a goal. Despite starting every league game for the London club this season, he failed to get on the scoresheet. Chelsea need to make a few changes to their team next season, but Ashley Cole is one that can stay put.
3. Didier Drogba
Despite only scoring 12 Premier League goals this season, Didier Drogba has only outscored this season’s total twice during his seven seasons at the club. It appears he won’t be making an eighth, and although he ended this season trophy-less, he put in a good shift for Chelsea. The Ivorian provided a large number of assists for the Blues, and despite his second half of the season being disrupted by the arrival of Fernando Torres, Drogba looked like their best player going forward all season.
1. Vincent Kompany
Pundits were relatively quiet about the performances of Vincent Kompany until the final couple of months this season. The only minutes he missed this season followed his fifth yellow card of the season that earned him a one match ban. Otherwise he was a big part of the defence that kept a league high 18 clean sheets this season. Rightfully selected in the PFA team of the year along with Nemanja Vidic at centre back. He has an FA Cup winners medal this season; how much more silverware will he pick up as a Manchester City player?
2. David Silva
Some games, it appeared everything that Manchester City did well going forward came through their Spanish World Cup winner. Their little signing from Valencia over the summer provided 9 assists and 4 league goals for the 3rd placed finishing side. His close control and dribbling skills are amongst the league’s best and he shall be a big part of the team looking to finish above Manchester United in the Premier League for the first time in their history in the coming seasons.
3. Carlos Tevez
The joint Premier League top scorer, Carlos Tevez provided another great season even if it did slow down at the end. Rumours are he may not be at Eastlands for the start of next season, which would be a big loss given the amount of effort he puts in and the number of goals he returns.
1. Robin van Persie
Despite missing the best part of 4 months of the season, Robin van Persie has had a storming 2011, scoring 18 goals in 17 Premier League starts since New Year’s day. His trusty left foot left Arsenal fans wondering what could have been at one point, should van Persie had been fit for a full season for the first time during his Arsenal stay. However, he was unable to prevent Arsenal dropping points versus Newcastle, West Brom, Birmingham and a whole host of other teams they were expected to beat to maintain their title chase.
2. Samir Nasri
A fantastic start to the season saw Samir Nasri weaving through defences, scoring 8 goals before Christmas from midfield. Although he only has 1 Premier League assist to his name this season, he has been involved in a lot of the good play Arsenal have produced this season. Perhaps overrated by being one of the 6 nominees for the PFA Player of the Year, Arsenal will be hoping they can get a full season of class out of Nasri in 2011/12.
3. Jack Wilshere
One of the breakthrough players of this season, the 2010/11 PFA Young Player of the Year has put in several good displays in the Arsenal midfield last season. He made a name for himself during his loan move to Bolton from January 2010, and aided with injuries to the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott helped Wilshere earn himself a place in the starting line up on a consistent basis. Only Alex Song has played more minutes than Wilshere in the Arsenal midfield this season. An aggressive player, Wilshere also has fantastic technique and earned an England debut in England’s first game after their disappointing World Cup and now has 4 caps to his name.
1. Luka Modric
Although Gareth Bale collected the PFA Player of the Year award, most of the things that worked well for Tottenham came through Luka Modric. The Croatian playmaker was involved in all the passing moves at some point, even if the stats show just 3 assists. 3 goals to his name too, he is what makes the Tottenham midfield click, and there’s a lot of good players in the Spurs midfield. Continues to be linked to Manchester United, but Harry Redknapp will do his best to make sure Modric remains at the club.
2. Rafael van der Vaart
Despite fading off towards the end of the season, Rafael van der Vaart is up there with Javier Hernandez as a candidate for signing of the season. What proved to be a bargain buy from Real Madrid, the Dutch World Cup finalist lead the club with 9 league goals to his name. Both a provider and goalscorer, van der Vaart works well with the other talented passers in midfield.
3. Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale had some hot and cold games for Tottenham this season. When he was hot, he lit up the game. He’ll be remembered for his hat trick at the San Siro against Inter Milan, before his season was ended by a crunching challenge from Charlie Adam. The Welsh winger’s pace and close control dribbling have seen him fly past midfielders and full backs time after time, and it appears only a matter of time before he gets a move to an even bigger side.
1. Dirk Kuyt
Finishing as the club’s top scorer with 13 league goals, Dirk Kuyt put in a solid season in what had been a struggle for the most part. Climbing their way back into sixth position under Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool fans appear to be heading into next season optimistically. Kuyt may be best remembered in this campaign for his hat trick versus Manchester United. It will be interesting to see how bigger role he will have next season given that Newcastle have Andy Carroll they can lump balls too up front and money they can use to bring in a natural right winger.
2. Jose Reina
Not the receiver of the Golden Gloves this season, but few goalkeepers kept more clean sheets in the Premier League than the 14 produced by Jose Reina this season. He came back into form after quite literally dropping 2 points against Arsenal in their league opener. He consistently performs season after season and this one was no exception.
3. Luis Suarez
Liverpool’s season started heading in the right direction after the January signing of Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan caused defences no end of problems during the 4 months he’s spent in this country. With 4 goals and a further 5 assists, Liverpool fans are right to be excited at what they can expect from the 35-goals-in-a-season Ajax man during next seasons campaign.
1. Leighton Baines
The Everton left back has provided 5 goals and 11 assists this season. Only Robert Huth and Brede Hangeland scored more goals from defence and only Nani and Cesc Fabregas provided more assists in the whole of the league. His set pieces and crossing ability are his obvious strengths, but in a season that Everton started slowly, Leighton Baines has been a consistent performer for the Toffees.
2. Leon Osman
Season after season Leon Osman goes unnoticed by most of the football community outside of Everton. A hardworking midfielder who was once the best player in their academy before injury struck many a year ago, Osman provided another solid season for the 7th-placed side. He setup a number of goals and chances for his team mates whilst also finding the back of the net on four occasions.
3. Marouane Fellaini
Marouane Fellaini played a key role in the Everton midfield earlier this season. Renowned for being clumsy, he does win the ball back for his side. In possession, he has flair and plays a good passing game. He did find the net on only one occasion this season, but if he stays fit for all of next seasons campaign Everton will be better for it.
1. Brede Hangeland
The big Norwegian defender has been solid again for Fulham this season. In a defensively-strong team that only Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea kept more clean sheets than this season, Fulham’s player of the season had to come down to a defender. To go along with his tackles, clearances and set piece defending, Brede Hangeland has also scored 6 Premier League goals from defence this season – no defender has more. Having been linked to Arsenal for a while now, it will be interesting to see if Fulham can maintain their player who turns 30 in the summer.
2. Clint Dempsey
An attacking midfielder who does his fair share of tracking back, Clint Dempsey lead the Fulham scorechart with 12 goals this season – twice as many as second top scorer, Hangeland. Often his goals have come against the weaker defences in the league, but that’s only aided his side to an 8th place finish this season despite being forced into changing their manager in the summer and losing last seasons top scorer Bobby Zamora for the majority of this campaign. The American has played a big part of the club’s success this season.
3. Aaron Hughes
Alongside Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes has been a solid partner in defence for Fulham. Clean sheets have come at tough places like Stoke and Newcastle, whilst they also shut out Chelsea at Craven Cottage. Mark Hughes kept the defence Roy Hodgson left him with and made it work. Next season, Hughes needs to find a striker who can outscore Hangeland.
1. Stewart Downing
The former Middlesbrough winger (and central midfielder towards the end of his stay) has been very effective down either wing for Aston Villa this season. The Premier League has credited him with 9 assists this season; alongside the 7 goals he has put into the net. Although Ashley Young has been involved in both creating and scoring goals also, Downing was a more consistent player of the two. Downing and Marc Albrighton were a good combination on the wings early in the season until Ashley Young was dropped back to the left wing and Albrighton dropped from the starting 11. His performances this season have got him back into Fabio Capello’s starting 11 also.
2. Ashley Young
Another solid season for Ashley Young; 7 league goals and 11 assists for the winger and forward who is constantly linked with a move away from Villa Park. His diving (backed up by being the player to win the most free kicks in the Premier League this season) as well as his constant arguing with officials remain the same. If he could maintain a level of consistency then Ashley Young would be a top player and playing for a top four club by now. Overall, Young’s played well this season for a team that underachieved and looked like heading for a relegation battle at one stage.
3. Darren Bent
The player who prevented Aston Villa getting sucked into a relegation battle was the January signing of Darren Bent. What looked like a rip-off price at the time turned into somewhat of a bargain considering the price and return Chelsea got from Fernando Torres. Bent scored the goals to fire Aston Villa into a midtable finish, himself the highest-scoring Englishman in the Premier League this season. His departure from Sunderland was also noted as the Black Cats slid down the league after January and had difficulties finding the back of the net at times.
1. Darren Bent
The sale of Darren Bent to Aston Villa in January coincided with Sunderland’s drop in form. His 8 league goals had fired Sunderland into the top half with talk of European qualification. Injuries to other strikers didn’t help the Black Cats’ run in, and even though he was misfiring in December, Darren Bent was a focal part of Sunderland’s early season form.
2. Phil Bardsley
The right back-come-left back has given a do or die effort for Sunderland this season. He even scored a cracking late winner at Aston Villa. There weren’t too many players who played well throughout the majority of the season for Sunderland, but Bardsley was one that did.
3. Titus Bramble
When things were going well for Sunderland, Titus Bramble was a rock at the back. There end of season form coincided with an injury to Titus Bramble that kept him out from April. Sunderland then went 7 games without keeping a clean sheet before recording one at West Ham on the final day. Bramble has clean sheets against Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal to his name. Not bad.
West Bromwich Albion
1. Peter Odemwingie
What turned out to be the bargain of the season, Peter Odemwingie turned out to be a bargain buy for £1 million as he returned 15 goals for a West Brom side that finished a Premier League high 11th. Having scored on his debut in a 1-0 win over Sunderland, it seemed like destiny from the start that he would come good. But for misfiring at times, most notable a penalty miss on New Year’s day versus Manchester United., Odemwingie was a top player this season, even winning the Premier League Player of the Month award on 2 occasions.
2. Chris Brunt
The wingers left foot provided 11 assists throughout the season, 10 of these before the turn of the year. His 4 goals are somewhat short of the 9 he scored in his first Premier League season, but Chris Brunt has been one of West Brom’s best players this season. He delivers spot on crosses effortlessly, making him a big factor in their attacking game.
3. Jerome Thomas
Jerome Thomas has been a real threat down the wing for West Brom this season. Contributing to 8 assists, and adding 3 goals himself, the former Arsenal youth enjoys running at defenders and cutting inside onto his stronger foot. Playing in a team that has only kept 2 clean sheets this season, going forward has been the key and Thomas been good at that.
1. Andy Carroll
Despite a January sale to Liverpool, Andy Carroll’s goals in the first half of the season for Newcastle are what lead them to safety in their first season back in the Premier League. Promoted clubs need a goalscorer and he provided Newcastle with just that. Aerial ability and a good left foot saw him score 11 league goals for the Magpies including a hat trick against Aston Villa. A £35 million sale to Liverpool in January should see Newcastle bring in a few new faces in the summer.
2. Cheik Tiote
The Ivorian midfielder has been a great find for Newcastle. In his first season in English football, Cheik Tiote has been a solid part of the Newcastle midfield. He runs effortlessly up and down the field, although will need to work on his tackling for next season having picked up a Premier League record 14 yellow cards in a single season. Will be remembered mostly for his strike in Newcastle’s dramatic comeback to draw 4-4 with Arsenal.
3. Kevin Nolan
Kevin Nolan’s return to the Premier League was a good one. When he went down with Newcastle in 2009, he was written off as he looked past it. Following a successful promotion campaign last season, Nolan scored a dozen goals from midfield in this seasons Premier League, including a hat trick against rivals Sunderland. A clever midfielder, but like Newcastle, he missed the services of Andy Carroll when the striker left for Liverpool; scoring just twice after.
1. Robert Huth
In partnership with Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth has been a rock at the back of the Stoke City defence that kept 9 clean sheets this season. The former Chelsea defender also co-lead the league with Brede Hangeland by scoring 6 goals from defence; scoring twice in their 3-2 victory over Sunderland.
2. Jon Walters
Jon Walters’ work rate really won over the Stoke City fans this season, as well as his brace at Wembley that helped book Stoke City into the FA Cup final. He comes across as an aggressive player on the field, but I hear he’s a gentleman off of it. He plays with a passion and banged in half a dozen goals for Stoke this season; only striker Kenwyne Jones scored more in the league.
3. Matthew Etherington
There’s often a notable difference in the Stoke City side when Matthew Etherington plays. Their results aren’t as good. Perhaps not as productive as last season, Etherington still helped himself to 5 goals and 7 assists in 2010/11. Stoke were often criticised for their long ball game in the past, but with Etherington that was never the case. They get the ball down to Etherington on the left wing who enjoys running at players. With the addition of Jermaine Pennant this season, who narrowly missed out on this list, Stoke City have had two penetrating wingers in their side.
1. Stuart Holden
The young American midfielder is involved with most of the good play in the Bolton midfield, both going forward and helping to win the ball back for his side. Bolton spent a lot of the season in the top half, but after Stuart Holden was injured at the hands of Jonny Evans in mid-March, Bolton won just 2 of their remaining 9 fixtures, losing the other 7. When he’s fit, he makes the side click and if Bolton can find a better player to replace Fabrice Muamba next season there will be something for Owen Coyle to build his side around.
2. Daniel Sturridge
As a January loan signing from Chelsea, Daniel Sturridge scored 8 Premier League goals in his 12 appearances. That’s twice as many as Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka have scored since he moved up north. Only Johan Elmander (10) scored more league goals for Bolton this season. His pace has been something Bolton have lacked up front in recent seasons, whilst he’s linked up well with Kevin Davies during his short stay.
3. Kevin Davies
The only Wanderer to start every Premier League game this season, Kevin Davies has given his side another solid campaign. Coming up with another 8 goals, Davies has disrupted defences up and down the league once again this season, giving away and winning a large number of free kicks for his side.
1. Paul Robinson
Called into action on a number of occasions for Blackburn this season, Paul Robinson’s saves certainly won Blackburn more points than his errors cost them again this season. Still prone to the rush of blood to the head (needlessly charging towards Javier Hernandez and conceding a penalty when the Mexican was going away from goal last weekend springs to mind), Robinson’s 8 clean sheets saw his side pick up valuable points as they narrowly avoided relegation this season. His performances lead to bright England prospect Frank Fielding seeking a move away from Lancashire to sign for Derby County.
2. Junior Hoilett
Junior Hoilett, or David to his mother, brought both excitement and goals to Blackburn Rovers fans this season. Well, only 5 league goals to his name, but no other player in the Rovers side scored more in the 2010/11 season. Keeping the likes of Mame Biram Diouf and Roque Santa Cruz out for the best part of the second half of the season, the 20-year old Canadian appears to have a bright future ahead of him at Ewood Park with the lack of goalscorers currently on the roster.
3. Chris Samba
A rock at the back, despite being at fault for a few goals this season, Chris Samba has cleared a number of long balls and set pieces in the heart of the Blackburn defence this season. He added 4 goals to his name this season and remained with the 1994/95 Premier League champions despite the strong rumours a move to Arsenal looked on the cards during the January transfer window.
1. Charles N’Zogbia
The left winger and playmaker was key to Wigan’s survival when he scored 5 in 5 heading into the final game of the season. A great dribbler of the ball who constantly takes defenders on. His 7 assists went along side his career-high 9 league goals in a single season. His free kick against West Ham is what started the comeback which ultimately lead to their survival when they won their final 2 games. Bigger sides will be sniffing around during the summer, but N’Zogbia is the key to this Wigan side.
2. Ali Al-Habsi
7 clean sheets in what is a weak Wigan defence, Ali Al-Habsi is prone to mistakes, but has also been a fantastic shot stopper in the Wigan goal. Only Ben Foster and Rob Green were called into more saves than the Latics goalkeeper on loan from Bolton Wanderers.
3. Hugo Rodallega
Joint-top scorer with Charlies N’Zogbia, Hugo Rodallega has had another fine season up front for Wigan. It was his header against Stoke that propelled Wigan to dramatic safety on the final day of the season and without his goals, Wigan would perhaps not have been in with a chance of staying up on the final game of the season. Wigan need to find someone other than N’Zogbia to setup Rodallega over the summer and then they can look for the Colombian to score even more goals in the future.
1. Matty Jarvis
The winger has had a fantastic season by Wolves’ standards, even earning himself an England cap in the process. He causes full backs problems and has provided a number of goals and chances to his team mates this season.
2. Kevin Doyle
The hard working striker who constantly closes down defenders helped himself to 5 goals before injury struck in mid-March. Following that, Wolves’ form immediately took a turn for the worse and relegation looked on the cards going into the final 3 games of the season and the final 3 minutes of the season before Stephen Hunt’s goal rescued Mick McCarthy’s side.
3. Steven Fletcher
His 10 league goals lead Wolves’ goalscoring chart this season. His brace against West Brom started back-to-back wins for Wolves which ultimately kept them up. When you’re down the bottom of the league, you need a goalscorer, and Steven Fletcher has been that for Wolves with his side picking up points in all of the matches he scored in in 2011.
1. Ben Foster
Birmingham City’s goalkeeper kept 9 clean sheets this season – more than any goalkeeper outside the top 8. It still wasn’t enough to keep the Carling Cup winners in the Premier League next season. He also made the most saves in the league this season, which goes to show how much time Birmingham spent defending this season. Alex McLeish refused to change his 4-5-1 formation during the run in and that ultimately cost his side survival. Birmingham often looked a better side in games they played a 4-4-2 formation. An injury to Nikola Zigic towards the end of the season did not help their cause.
2. Craig Gardner
A player who wore his heart on his sleeve for Birmingham. Also the one who fired them into the Carling Cup final. His eight league goal of the season on final day wasn’t enough to keep his favourite team in the top flight of English football, but left him as the club’s top scorer; 1 less than their 3 strikers (Nikola Zigic, Cameron Jerome and Kevin Phillips). His aggression in midfield lead to a few yellow cards, but that along with his performances and goals have earned him recognition by many pundits.
3. Roger Johnson
He was a rock in defence alongside Scott Dann for Birmingham, both this and last season. Their defence had been key to their 9th place finish last season and they were going strong until the latter picked up a season-ending injury at the start of the new year. Provided the back four remain in tact for their Championship campaign next season, I expect Birmingham to challenge for automatic promotion straight back into the Premier League.
1. Charlie Adam
Charlie Adam ran the show in midfield for Blackpool, and everything seemed to be coming from or through him during their good start to the campaign. A lack in results for Blackpool reflected in the lack of form by Charlie Adam after strong rumours of a move away from the club in January. He scored 12 goals from midfield, whilst setting up 9 goals for team mates. Was excellent from set pieces, as he was in the Championship the following season. A move back into the Premier League looks certain for Charlie Adam this summer.
2. David Vaughan
Whilst Charlie Adam got all the attention at Blackpool, David Vaughan was also excellent in midfield for Blackpool. He didn’t get the opportunities from set pieces and only had 2 goals to his name, but his hard work and involvement with the team work was an integral part of what can be considered a successful campaign from the Seasiders given that the majority of us wrote them off before they’d even kicked a ball in the top flight.
3. DJ Campbell
Finishing the campaign as the club’s leading goalscorer with 13, the hero in their Championship playoff semi final victory over Nottingham Forest, DJ Campbell showed his goal poaching instincts on a number of occasions this season. Although he wasted a large number of opportunities, he was definitely a big threat to defences which included goals against Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham. Darren Bent was the only Englishman to score more goals than DJ Campbell in the Premier League this season.
West Ham United
1. Scott Parker
In a team that has underperformed and woeful throughout, Scott Parker is the one player who’s manage to shine in this West Ham side during their car crash of a season. His work rate and determination. Throwing himself in front of shots. Being their driving force in midfield. And even finding time to score 5 goals of his own. Scott Parker has been the rare positive to come out of The Hammers side this season. But which Premier League side will pick him up in the summer?