The "under the radar" team of 2012/13 by Stu Montagu
As the season draws to a close there has been, and surely will be for some time yet, plenty of discussion about which of the international superstars of the Premier League has sparkled brightest this season. That’s fine and dandy but far away from the fanfares and front-pages there is another tier of players that have had seasons well worth acknowledgement from those outside their respective changing rooms or home sections.
Here, with no piece of statistical irrelevance left uninvestigated, TLW presents to you the definitive selection of lesser heralded but really quite effective players from this season’s Premier League:
As a glow of satisfaction washes over those associated with Aston Villa it would be easy to forget just how dire the situation was looking for them before spring reared its tardy head over the horizon. Goals from Benteke and a late injection of form from Agbonlahor may be what sticks in the memory as this campaign is put to one side but Guzan’s efforts may well have been just as vital. During a trying season where they were often on the ropes he managed to get them through to the bell on a number of occasions. One singular moment of individual brilliance in tipping a Chris Samba header stands out in a season in which Villa fans have named him their player of the season.
The former Marseille man has attracted very little in the way of hype but since the arrival of Benitez he has been a crucial part of Chelsea’s fight to finish third. Chelsea tend to attack down the right more often than the left and the sight of the adventurous Spaniard joining up with Hazard, Mata or Oscar as they drift wide is a common one. Offering good quality crosses to the forwards and with only three players contributing more assists or passes per game for them in the league, he has made a telling contribution to the efforts this season.
There may have been peaks and troughs to the performances of Jose Enrique this season but for a player many thought was on his way out the door it has been a redemptive season of mostly positive contributions. His pace and upper body strength mean that it’s rare for wingers to get the best of him and solid defensive performances are now the norm. He may not be the perfect full-back for Rodgers but the occasional superb through ball and charge forward have brought goals, assists and have provided the new Liverpool manager with a solid performer throughout most of the campaign. Scoring the best goal of the season is also nothing to be sniffed at.
One of the major reasons why Everton have, once again, punched above their wage budget and a player that typifies the way Moyes wants to play his football. Not only is he aggressive and committed but he also allies that with an under-rated ability on the ball. The only outfield player to have completed more successful long passes than him in the Premier League this season is Steven Gerrard. It will be no surprise at all if his efforts are rewarded with a move away from Goodison this season to a club with loftier ambitions.
West Brom may well have turned the engine off around the turn of the year, and have been coasting ever since, but they will still be delighted with an 8th place finish, a lot of which is down to a good defensive unit. Now aside from some impressive heading from attacking set-pieces McCauley hasn’t really caught the eye but I can only imagine the amount of unseen work that he’s put in this season; I mean, he plays alongside that calamitous nihilist, Jonas Olsson! When he’s not threatening to cut off people’s Johnson’s and throwing marmots in baths Olsson generally occupies himself with kicking chunks out of forwards and getting himself in bad positions. For working with that and keeping West Brom’s record as impressive as it has been McCauley is definitely deserving of a place in this side.
As you’d expect from a Frenchman with one of the most German names imaginable, there is a little more to Morgan Schneiderlin than meets the eye. Southampton’s swashbuckling attacking football has impressed many neutrals this season but whilst his team-mates have grabbed the headlines their defensive midfielder has gone about his work effectively to allow them to play. No player has more interceptions in the league and only Lucas Leiva has managed to nudge past him for the amount of tackles he gets through in a match. Throw five goals into the mix and we one of a growing bunch of players proving that the steps from League One to the top tier may not be all that great after all.
Jonathan De Guzman
The way in which Michael Laudrup has taken last year’s surprise success from Swansea and built on it has been as unexpected as it has been pleasing. Massive credit has been given to signing of the season, Michu, for his input into this League cup winning campaign but, on the quiet, the arrival of his Canadian born-Dutch declared colleague has also added great value to the Swans. Having worked with him previously at Mallorca Laudrup won’t have been surprised with his quality delivery from set-pieces, calm and sensible use of the ball and eye for a goal. With eight goals from midfield, three of which came in their League Cup run, it’s a sure thing that his team-mates will be delighted with his contribution this season. Well, apart from Nathan Dyer maybe?
One of an ever-increasing contingent of former Leeds Utd players at Norwich (one can only presume the East Anglia tourist board has a big advertising presence in Yorkshire) Snodgrass has been arguably the best thing about the Canaries this season. The Scotsman is not only a major factor behind the danger that they pose from crosses from the flanks, set-pieces in wide areas and corners but has also shown he has the ability to go past a defender with good footwork. Add into the mix his nose for goals in open play and from dead-ball situations and his value to his team is easy to understand. Don’t let his strangely half-asleep face fool you; this lad can be a lively one.
There are people living off the land in the furthest reaches of Tibet that have never even heard of football that are still aware that everything at Goodison Park comes down the left hand side. This is not a revelation. That said, in a season where The Toffees have once again had consistency and workrate allied with that little touch of class at the heart of their success, Pienaar has typified their output. Not even Baines has managed as many assists as the South African and it is this almost symbiotic pairing that have also been the major source of their chance creating passes. Their effectiveness is taken for granted now: it is today as it was yesterday and it will be tomorrow. It still deserves a nod to its class though, so it gets one here.
In one of the strangest seasons imaginable for the residents of the DW Stadium it would be hard not to sympathise with the likes of Kone, Maloney and McCarthy if they felt those situated behind them had let them down somewhat. In a season in which Wigan have conceded more goals than any other side their Ivorian number nine (who disgracefully insists on wearing number two) has done more than most to ensure they kept punching above their weight. Bringing a focal point to the intricate short passing and also being a target for longer vertical passes and crosses he performs a role that ensures it’s difficult for the opposition settle into defending one style of attack. His 9 goals this term went a long way to helping them live to fight another premier league day but, alas, defensive calamity ensured Wigan took another path.
Nobody of sound mind and sound stomach would want to imagine a Sam Alladyce wet dream but here, made real with flesh and bones, stands that very thing. Despite some injury setbacks the combination of Carroll’s abilities and Allardyce’s style of football has been as perfect a match as anyone could expect. Everybody knew that West Ham were going to be sending out a claret and blue war elephant that would stampede through enemy ranks causing chaos and panic but this season has also seen glimpses of a little more refinement. Pirouettes in the area, sweet volleys with his weaker foot and getting involved with direct free-kicks have all been added extras at Upton Park recently. He may never have been a £35m player but he’s been invaluable to West ham.