As the Premier League approaches its first ever winter break, the table in England’s top flight is finally starting to take shape. With reigning champions Manchester City favourites to win a third successive title, it looks as if Arsenal are the closest contenders under Mikel Arteta. Those that bet on the English Premier League will know how hard it is to call a winner this early though.
City’s new striker Erling Haaland has been the difference maker. Having hit double figures in his first eight games, the Norwegian is a goal machine and looks destined for the Golden Boot, whilst Liverpool and Manchester United have suffered inconsistent starts to the new term.
With so much money spent over the summer, there is an array of experienced Premier League stars that have upped their game this season. With that in mind, read on as we look at some of the most underrated players that have improved drastically this season.
A fan favourite at St. James’ Park since his arrival from the MLS, Miguel Almirón has embraced what it means to be a Newcastle United player. While not the most technically gifted, the diminutive Paraguayan is a popular figure with Geordies for his industrious work rate and positive attitude.
When the Magpies were taken over by a Saudi consortium, many expected the side to evolve and fortunately, Almirón has done the same. Having bettered his goal tally for an individual season already for Eddie Howe this term, the 28-year-old is making himself un-droppable, despite so much money being spent in the North East over the last two transfer windows.
“His work ethic is just incredible,” Howe said. “Out of possession, you’ve almost got an extra man with the amount of running he does.”
“Touch wood, I always think you can help players to get in better goalscoring positions,” he added. “We’ve repeated lots of phases of play; that’s what we do. We’ve worked on his finishing from certain positions but the player has given everything and is getting his rewards.”
Should he come back from injury in time, many expect Richarlison to lead the line for Brazil at the World Cup over the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino, which is the highest praise possible for Tottenham Hotspur’s new striker. After making the switch from relegation-threatened Everton, many thought his £60 million transfer fee was a gamble, but Antonio Conte has reaped his rewards with the 25-year-old, adding a new dimension to the already impressive attacking options at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Richarlison has combined well with the established duo of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, adding creativity from wide areas alongside Dejan Kulusevski, who completed a permanent move from Juventus in the same window after initially arriving on loan. While Spurs have struggled to stamp their authority as genuine title contenders, the signing of Richarlison is certainly a huge step in the right direction, as Conte looks to end the trophy drought in the white side of north London.
In a difficult summer for Leeds United, Jesse Marsch has had to deal with the departures of both Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, who joined Manchester City and Barcelona respectively after a difficult season at Elland Road. While it looked at the start of the season as if they hadn’t missed those players, reality has kicked in, and the American coach could be in for a difficult run after the World Cup. Fortunately, one of the senior players at Leeds, Rodrigo, has stepped up to the mark this season.
The Spaniard has been at the club since they were promoted under Marcelo Bielsa, arriving from Valencia as a more traditional striker, but after gradually dropping into more of a number 10 role to accommodate for the returning Patrick Bamford, Rodrigo has flourished. Having already scored five goals this season, he is quietly going about his business, and will need to keep delivering the goods if Leeds are to avoid another relegation dogfight.