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Premier League Exceeding Expectations XI

The Premier League season is currently 11 games deep at the time of writing this. It’s fair to say the league is wide open!

The ‘usual suspects’, such as Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah, have been continuing to showcase why they are some of the highest rated footballers in the world. However, amongst these world class players, there are numerous players that have seemingly went under the radar so far.

Fringe players, bargain signings and youth products. There are plenty of players that have exceeded expectations so far this season. Here is my select XI.

Goalkeeper: Emiliano Martinez

Following an injury to Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal last season, Emiliano Martinez was called up on to step up to the first team and boy did he take his chance. Emil kept an impressive nine clean sheets in 23 appearances before being told he was surplus to requirements and was sold to Aston Villa in the summer for a rumoured £17M

Since joining Villa, Martinez made nine league appearances keeping four clean sheets. A 44% record which is already an improvement on last season for Villa. One of those clean sheets coming in a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United in which he saved a John Lundstram penalty.

A shrewd piece of business to bring him in and a solid start to life as an Aston Villa goalkeeper earns him a place in the side.

Right-Back: Tariq Lamptey

Possibly one of the most innocent looking footballers in the Premier League. Criminal to think he received a red card this season. Anyway, moving on…

Since Chelsea allowed the youngster to leave Stamford Bridge in the summer for £3M, Lamptey has impressed on a consistent basis for Brighton. Graham Potter has favoured a three-back formation with Lamptey playing as the right wing back and it’s fair to say he has excelled in the role.

His blistering pace and low centre of gravity makes him a threat against any side. Not to mention his offensive and defensive attributes.

So far this season, Lamptey has made 10 Premier League appearances picking up a goal away to Spurs as well as three assists against Newcastle, Chelsea and Manchester United

Still only 20 years old, Tariq certainly has the potential to become one of the best in the league in his position. Could we see him in the England set up soon enough?

Centre-Back: Eric Dier

Since joining Tottenham in 2014, Dier has played a lot of his football as a midfielder however since the arrival of Jose Mourinho, his game time became somewhat limited up until injuries disjointed the Spurs squad. Most notably, defensive injuries.

Eric Dier slotted in at centre half as cover and has excelled in that position ever since, even more so this season.

His physical presence and natural ball playing ability has been a key part to Tottenham’s impressive start to the season and even more so, they’re remarkable defensive record. Five clean sheets from 11 Premier league matches with Dier certainly playing a huge part in that.

Dier averages 60 passes per game according to Premier League.com with a 85% pass accuracy which is often pivotal to starting attacks for Mourinho’s side.

Currently 26 years old, Dier still has time on his side to develop his game and potentially become one of the best defenders in the league.

Centre-Back: Kurt Zouma

Prior to the arrival of Frank Lampard as Chelsea boss, Kurt Zouma’s Chelsea days were seemingly over. Zouma arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2014 and has since had three spells out on loan; Saint-Etienne, Stoke City and Everton.

However, Lampard found his defensive options significantly limited and was almost forced to play Zouma due to lack of options; but, that decision has turned out to be a managerial master class… maybe a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

Kurt has impressed for Chelsea this season alongside Thiago Silva. The French defender has played 10 times in the Premier League, scoring four goals. A pretty remarkable goal return from your centre half!

Similar to Eric Dier, Zouma’s physical presence makes him an intimating defender for any attacker. His strength and ability to win aerial duals has been an important factor for Chelsea’s promising start to the season.

Chelsea have kept five clean sheets this season which is the most in the league, joint with Tottenham. Could he force his way back into the French national team?

Left-Back: James Justin

James Justin was signed by Leicester as cover for right back however defensive injuries, many of them at that, have forced Brendan Rodgers to tinker with the players he has at his disposal and Justin has been one of those.

Currently playing at left back, James Justin is starting to show the undoubted potential he has and replicating the form he previously shown at Luton Town, albeit in a lower league.

Justin has played in all 11 of Leicester’s Premier League fixtures, registering a goal and an assist in the process – alongside five appearances in the Europa League.

Leicester currently find themselves fourth in the Premier League table and the offensive nature of their full backs has certainly played a big part in their domestic success thus far.

Another young England defender with everlasting potential.

Midfield: Pierre-Emile Højbjerg

What a signing this man has turned out to be!

Pierre joined Tottenham in a £15M deal from Southampton and has been a staple in their midfield since.

As a defensive midfielder, his role is to protect the back line, retain possession and start the attacks. All three attributes that he has certainly shown so far this season.

On average, Hojbjerg makes 71 passes per game with a 90% pass accuracy. Whilst these stats are often deceiving due to the nature of the passes, Hojbjerg’s ability to play a diagonal cross field ball has been showcased throughout the season. The Danish international also has one assist to his name so far.

Not only does Hojbjerg have the attributes, he also has the character and leadership capable of driving any team forward. One yellow card to his name this season also goes to show how well disciplined he is.

Midfield: James Ward-Prowse

Given that Southampton are currently fifth in the Premier League and only four points from top, I thought including one of their players was a must and James Ward-Prowse has had an excellent start to the campaign.

When the midfielder’s name is mentioned, ‘free kick specialist’ comes to mind; however, there’s much more to his game than what meets the eye. Ward-Prowse has featured in all 11 of Southampton’s league fixtures so far this season, contributing four goals and three assists.

Now, I don’t want to exaggerate too much in this article, but if Ward-Prowse is standing over a set piece, just know there’s a very high chance it will result in goal. Especially from free kicks, his ability to get the ball up and over the wall with such power and accuracy is a skill that not many footballers possess.

According to infogol, Ward-Prowse has completed 620 passes out of 718 leaving him with a 86% pass accuracy. Which given the attacking role he plays, is an outstanding stat.

Another English player excelling this season.

Midfield: Andre-Frank Anguissa

Given the position and form that Fulham currently find themselves in, the inclusion of one of their players may come as a surprise. However, Anguissa is certainly enjoying his second spell in the Premier League.

Anguissa has played a part in all 11 of Fulham’s Premier League fixtures, picking up two assists along the way. Not a big return but given his role in the team, it’s not to be frowned upon.

The Cameroon international’s role at Fulham is that of a defensive midfielder and he is perfectly suited to fulfil it. Not only does he have the outstanding physical attributes to dominate almost any premier league attacker, his range of passing is equally as impressive.

On average, Anguissa completes 52 passes per game with an accuracy of just under 90%. Not only is he a good passer of the ball, his ability on it is also exciting to watch at times with quick feet and the ability to beat a man when the situation arises. Similar to Hojbjerg, his disciplinary record is also exemplary for any player in his position.

A player with a potentially big career ahead.

Right-Wing: Daniel Podence

Whilst the stats from Podence’s start to the season aren’t particularly impressive, he’s had a positive impact on the Wolves side with an increase in playing time.

Podence is known for being a particularly small player, hence being so tricky to defend against. Very similar to what I said about Lamptey, his pace is a huge asset to the Wolves side and despite not being overly strong, he’s incredibly difficult to get off the ball with his outstanding agility and balance combination

The Portuguese winger has made 10 Premier League appearances so far this season registering two goals and an assist.

If given a regular run in the team, Podence will continue to improve and show the full potential that he has.

Left-Wing: Diogo Jota

Diogo Jota made the switch to Liverpool in the summer and many fans, myself included, presumed his game time would be very limited with the likes of Salah and Mane ahead of him.

However, with injuries and busy schedules, Jota has been given a fair run of games in the Liverpool side and has been outstanding in almost every outing.

The Portuguese has played a part in nine of Liverpool’s Premier League fixtures and has bagged himself an impressive five goals in 501 minutes of football. Not only that, he’s also showcased his talent in the Champions League with four goals in six appearances which when considering the game time, is a goal every 90 minutes.

His pace and unpredictability makes him one of the best attackers in the league as he is more than capable on either side of the pitch due to the fact he simply does not have a weak foot.

According to Infogol, Jota has an 2.5 xG (expected goals) and a 1.5 xA (expected assists). With Mane, Salah and Firmino all back in the starting lineup for Liverpool, it will be interesting to see how Klopp handles Diogo however there is no doubts when it comes to his ability to change a game.

Still only 24 years old, the sky is the limit for the Portuguese international.

Striker: Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Very little needs to be said about this fella. He’s been outstanding so far this season and is once again, another young English player showcasing their undoubted ability.

Calvert-Lewin’s best goal return so far in his career came last season where he scored a respectable 13 goals in 36 league appearances. His best goal return by some margin which comes as no surprise as it was his first real run in the Everton side.

However, so far this season, Dominic has already scored 11 goals in only 11 games which currently makes him the Premier Leagues top scorer and clear of Jamie Vardy and Mo Salah by two goals.

Not only has Calvert-Lewin improved his finishing ability, his all round game has been nothing short of remarkable. His ability to hold the ball up is second to none and for a man of his size, he’s certainly got the speed that many defenders are wary of!

Dominic has taken 36 shots in the league this season, with 21 on target and 11 of those resulting in goals. An outstanding return from a striker who was struggling in League Two only five years ago.

Another player with huge potential and a big positive for any England fans!

Honourable mentions

Which players have impressed you the most this season? Let us know!

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