Four months in an unusual English Premier League season and it is fair to say that the teams and the fans have gotten a better idea of how the clubs are shaping up for a difficult 2020-21 season.
The unforeseen complexion of the league this season, with the global pandemic hampering the summer transfer window and making the pre-season non-existent, has duly brought both excitement and despair for the fans across the globe. As we approach the festive season - a hectic juncture - we talk about five players in the Premier League who have excelled contrary to mass expectations.
Sam Johnstone - West Bromwich Albion
Full time at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, December 15, saw the host, Manchester City, attempting a whopping 26 shot compared to the visitors’ (West Brom) five. And yet the full-time score read 1-1, much to the credit of one man, the former Red Devil, Sam Johnstone.
In 13 Premier League games so far, the Baggies have registered a solitary victory, which portrays a gloomy picture altogether, but the fact remains that Johnstone has arguably been their best player on the field. His notable performances include a penalty save from Bruno Fernandes against his former club, Manchester United, a 3-3 draw against Chelsea in the matchweek 3, where he made seven saves throughout the game. If not for the 27-year-old stopper, it’s difficult to see how the Baggies would have managed the four draws they have this season.
Jannik Vestergaard - Southampton
Southampton defender Jannik Vestergaard has been a sheer bargain for the fantasy managers, and it rightly explains how terrific he has been for the Saints this season. The towering defender, who is always a target for James Ward-Prowse from the set-pieces, has been a delight to watch, to say the least. Reliable in the air and confident while going forward, his presence has given Southampton the much-needed authority as they aim to finish within the European slots this season.
Jannik Vestergaard has more goals than Aguero, Firmino, Aubameyang and Martial this season by the way.— fredo (@fredoftbl) December 7, 2020
The 🐐 pic.twitter.com/hMvWpa12sl
During Southampton’s recent 3-0 win over a struggling Sheffield United team, his command over his backline was such that the Blades didn’t even manage a single shot on target. An absolute rock at the back, the Denmark international embodies all the traits that the current Liverpool centre-half, Virgil van Dijk, showed during his time at the St. Mary’s.
Jarrod Bowen - West Ham United
Arriving from Hull City in January 2020, versatile forward Jarrod Bowen showed glimpses of brilliance in the 2019-20 Premier League season. It is, however, in the current campaign that the 23-year-old has fully flourished. Deployed as an attacking midfielder, a right forward and even as a right-winger, Bowen has terrorized the opposition to mere perfection.
Jarrod Bowen has an increased conversion rate from 7.1% last season to 30.8% this season so far.— Fred ⚒🐬 (@_FredWHU) December 9, 2020
Baller. ⚒ pic.twitter.com/ACWXu2bSSJ
Four goals and two assists in 12 Premier League games may not look like a decent return for a forward, but his contribution goes way beyond that, with his crosses being one of the most dangerous assets. Bowen has attracted comparisons to the likes of Arjen Robben throughout his career as he, too, likes to cut inside and have a go.
Eberechi Eze - Crystal Palace
Signed from Queens Park Rangers for a fee reported to be around £17 million, it took time for Eberechi Eze to get into his usual self, but boy the wonders he has delivered since. A goal and two assists in 11 Premier League outings is once again below-par figure on paper, but watching him dancing around the defender with the ball at his feet is a sight for the savours.
Palace have been over-reliant on their star winder Wilfried Zaha, but inducing Eze into the team means that the Eagles now pose a greater threat while going forward and look fluid in their movements. Furthermore, not only is the 22-year-old a brilliant dribbler, his set-piece ability has garnered praises as well. Over time, he has become an important member of Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace team.
Pedro Neto - Wolverhampton
Two of Pedro Neto’s four Premier League goals have been the match-winners, and ironically, both have come against the London clubs (Fulham and Chelsea). Neto, who was terrific against the Blues on Tuesday, December 15, has already scored more goals (four) in 13 Premier League matches than he did last season (three goals in 29 games). Stepping up in the absence of Raul Jimenez, Neto has played in as many as six different positions this season and has delivered what was promised.
Pedro Neto’s 95th minute goal against Chelsea. pic.twitter.com/S0mvugggNb— 𝘔𝘰𝘰𝘯 𝘚𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘳𝘦 (@DiogenesDorm) December 15, 2020
Neto’s form this season has slipped under the radar as Wolves have been far from their usual self. The 20-year-old’s importance in this Wolves’ team can be underlined through the fact that three of his four league goals this season have come in a one-goal deficit victory. Needless to say how important he has become for Nuno Espírito Santo this season.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Michael Steele