The Premier League is the most watched league in the world and everyone has an opinion about everything. Most people agree on things like Dominic Calvert-Lewin is having a good season, or that Thiago Silva has improved Chelsea’s defence immeasurably; most people are also able to pick out excellent individual performances, such as James Maddison’s performance against Brighton.
But there are a number of players who have contributed to their team without getting the recognition that they probably deserve. Here are three such players:
Che Adams – Southampton
Adams took a while to get settled in a Southampton shirt. The striker, who signed for £15m in July 2019, only managed four goals from 12 starts last season. He has a similar goal return this with four from thirteen, but his all-around game has improved drastically.
He has developed more into a complete forward which has made him the perfect partner for advanced forward, Danny Ings, largely because his output has improved. This season, he has received 11.6 passes per game more than he did last season and this has seen him become more of a creative outlet.
Adams’ total passes received is up to 20.2 per game from 8.6 and being more involved has suited him – he has an increased number of successful passes in the final third (7.3 from 2.6), is creating one more chance on average per game, and creates a chance every 63 minutes to the 85 he had last season; he has already got two more assists than he did in the entirety of the 2019.20 season.
Adams has made himself irreplaceable for Southampton this season and, whilst Ings remains the goal scoring threat and Ward-Prowse is drawing the plaudits for his assist potential. It is Adams improved form that has ultimately contributed to the Saints fine start to the season. Adams took over a year to score his first but since then he has not looked back.
The heatmaps below show how his movement is incredibly similar between the two seasons. And, whether it be that he needed time to settle or that he has benefited from a year of top coaching from Hasenhüttl, it is clear his improved output is down to an improvement as a player.
Jack Harrison – Leeds United
For all the furore surrounding their return to the league, most Leeds fans would have gladly taken the start to the season they have had. They sit in 13th after 13 games, eight points above the relegation zone and have drawn plaudits for their attacking style of football.
The team lead the way for shots per game with 12.1 and third in the league for total possession with 60.7%; one player who has contributed to both these stats is winger Jack Harrison. The Manchester United youth product has 139 successful passes in the final third and thirteen crosses. This is second and first respectively for Leeds and has contributed to Harrison being the main creative force at the team with four big chances created.
Jack Harrison’s route to the Premier League is an excellent story. The former Liverpool and Manchester United trainee is now in his third season on loan at Leeds from Manchester City; he signed for City from their New York franchise, New York City FC, after coming through the American collegiate system and being drafted first overall in 2016.
Harrison has established himself as one of Marcelo Bielsa’s main men, starting 12 of 13 league games this season and contributing six goal involvements so far.
Harrison displays some excellent qualities of a winger; he is quick, skilful (he has 16 successful take-ons at a rate of 65.4%) and can deliver a good cross. However, he also has an eye for goal. Under Bielsa, Leeds are capable of counter attacking as well as controlling possession and, when they do counter, Harrison has the ability to cut inside and create space for a shot. His shots map shows this is the case and it culminated in a fabulous goal against Newcastle in game week 13.
André-Frank Zambo Anguissa
Fulham’s much maligned recruitment policy on return to the Premier League in 2018 ultimately cost them their place in the league; they spent a lot of money on a lot of rubbish and looked lost on the pitch.
One such signing was Cameroonian international André-Frank Zambo Anguissa who spent the majority of the season looking more like a £30 player than a £30m one. A season at Villareal followed whilst Fulham battled back to the Premier League, and he has slotted straight back into their midfield with aplomb.
The former Marseille man has been on top form this season and he tops the Fulham charts for successful dribbles per game (3.2), tackles per game (2.8), and interceptions per game (2.1); he also sits third for completed passes per game (40.1) and has chipped in with two assists.
Fulham’s recruitment this season has been up there with the best in the league but the best bit of business they did was holding on to Anguissa who was, at one point, touted with a move to Real Madrid. His ability to win the ball back and retain possession has been invaluable in the Cottager’s quest for Premier League survival.
Anguissa sits behind only Allan Saint-Maximin and Adama Traore for successful dribbles and Fulham average 14.8 successful dribbles per game – a league high – and he has drawn comparisons to former Fulham man, Mousa Dembélé (the Belgian one).
The Belgian is regarded by many as one of the most underrated players to play in the Premier League and one of Fulham’s best of all time and the fact that the comparison to Anguissa is even warranted shows how valuable he has been this season. In his final season at Fulham, Dembele averaged, per game, 63.7 touches, 2.2 successful dribbles, 3.6 attempted tackles, and 5.9 successful recoveries.
Anguissa outscores him on all of these points (65.5 touches, 4.3 attempted tackles, and seven recoveries) Anguissa is not as involved as much all over the pitch as the heatmap below shows, but Fulham should look to tie him down to a long-term contract lest a bigger team come sniffing around.