Every Premier League club has that one player that embodies the club, how it plays, and in some cases, whether others around him even play or not. So, we’ve accumulated a list containing those players from each Premier League club, found some interesting correlations between the footballer and the club’s form, and took a moment to laugh at Manchester United.
Arsenal: Olivier Giroud
Giroud’s form was surprisingly good, to say the least, at the beginning of the season when Arsenal started out brightly. He started a good many games off the bench, as competition between him and the ‘false 9’ Theo Walcott rose at its peak. Wenger preferred to use Walcott against slow defences, and Giroud in tightly-packed ones.
The French international had a crazy period after scoring against Leicester in the club’s 5-2 rout of the newly declared champions; so crazy it seemed to be perfectly poised to sound out his critics right when they were downplaying Arsène Wenger’s decision not to buy a ‘world-class’ centre-forward.
During that period, he scored a whopping 19 goals in 25 matches in all competitions. His scoring spree stopped after the Liverpool thriller, in which he scored two and arguably should’ve gotten the game-winner.
However, that was the highest point for both the Frenchman and the Gunners this season. Since then, it’s been a slow and steady fall from the top of the Premier League table, after all the hype that had surrounded the team. This was the best year for them to go all the way, and they probably would’ve done it with a more consistent striker.
After all the theatrics during the midway stages of the season, Giroud would simply prove not good enough.
Aston Villa: Gabriel Agbonlahor
Agbonlahor’s failure to return to full fitness seems legitimately like something even a non-league player could achieve. This event just highlights the fact that every single minute thing that could’ve gone wrong has gone wrong for this Aston Villa team. Their battling cry (or slogan, I should say) has significantly changed over the course of the season, so much so that it’s been a bit hard to keep track. The last noticeable one said this: “Proud History. What future?”
Well, if players like Agbonlahor can’t gain fitness, then good luck returning to the Prem.
Bournemouth: Callum Wilson
Wilson’s year started even brighter than Giroud’s. With 5 goals in 8 appearances in the beginning of the season, he invigorated the spirit of Bournemouth with his spectacular continuation of the form from last year’s FL Championship.
However, an injury in the team’s game against Stoke at the Britannia ruled him out for seven months, and in his absence, Bournemouth could not accomplish the stellar season that looked likely with his presence. The newly promoted side will finish the season off just above the relegation zone, something they will definitely improve upon if they can keep their star striker at the club and healthy.
Chelsea: Eden Hazard
The Belgian forward decided to go missing (often quite literally) during the Blues’ disaster of a campaign. Chelsea, as well, haven’t looked like themselves during his absence, and probably might not be in the position they are in now had their superstar not been niggling with injuries throughout the season, in addition to suffering a dip in form.
However, during the 2nd half of the game against Tottenham at the Bridge, the Chelsea of old reverberated. All of a sudden, after scoring a brace the previous weekend against Bournemouth, Hazard was running past everyone. His sensational late equalizer just reminded us of the quality that this player still possesses.
How we missed that Eden Hazard.
Crystal Palace: Yannick Bolasie
Last year, Bolasie was one of the guys that lit up the Premier League. He was simply unplayable at times, inventing tricks and flicks on the fly; it looked as if even he didn’t know what he was going to do next. This created a massive confusion amongst even the best of Premier League defenders that he came up against, and most of them surrendered to his ingenuity.
However, Bolasie’s form which propelled Crystal Palace to the top half of the table has since disappeared this time around. He’s missed a good many games through injury, and hopefully, Palace’s star man will enliven us with his Brazilian-esque skills again next season.
Everton: John Stones
Stones’ form at the beginning of the season was a testament to his calmness and composure, even in the most dire of situations. Chelsea made the worst decision in the history of transfer dealings by openly declaring their pursuit of the Toffees’ player, which Roberto Martinez didn’t hesitate to raise his voice against.
However, as the Transfer Window has closed its shutters, Stones has only shown glimpses of what his prospective future holds. The player has been an excellent distributer of the ball in some games, while in others, his touches have looked somewhat unnecessary and time-consuming.
Everton’s form hasn’t been an impeccable idol of consistency, and there’s correlation between their performance and that of their young defender.
Leicester City: Jamie Vardy
It doesn’t cease to delight even when you’ve heard it 5,219 times.
Jamie Vardy was playing with Stockbridge Park Steels, a non-league team, in 2007, after being rejected by his local club Sheffield Wednesday. Before that point, he was balancing life as a footballer and a factory worker in order to pay his bills. Just to give you an idea of what life was like for him at this stage, he was earning an incredulous £30 a week playing for Stockbridge.
In June of 2010, he moved to Halifax Town under Neil Aspin, the club’s manager and a long-time admirer of Vardy. At the end of the 2010-11 season, Vardy was nominated the Player’s Player of the Year as he helped his side achieve the Northern Premier League Division title. Then came a new chapter in his life, as he moved to Fleetwood Town, the Conference Premier side. It was here that he was spotted by Leicester’s former manager Nigel Pearson, and Leicester paid £1 million for his services, a record for a non-league player.
And this is where the fairy-tale as you and I both know it starts. He took his time to adapt to his new team, making somewhat of a breakthrough at the end of last season, when his searing pace and impeccable finishing first caught the eyes of the world. This season, he’s taken his game up a notch, broke the record for the most goals scored in consecutive games in the Premier League, by scoring in 11 straight games. His team has been utterly unstoppable this season, characterized by the striker himself. He is an embodiment of the Leicester spirit, and the Premier League title might only be the beginning of this Leicester fairy-tale.
What a story, though, eh?
Liverpool: Phillipe Coutinho
The Brazilian has been the heart of this Liverpool team this season. His form has only been getting better and better after Klopp’s takeover, and his mesmerizing all-round qualities have drawn comparisons with all-time greats.
Never doubted for his quality, many doubted Coutinho’s ability to perform on a consistent basis. After Rodgers’ sack, he’s been doing that for his team, most significantly in European competitions, where he’s been involved in almost all of Liverpool’s attacking plays.
Coutinho seems like the perfect player suited to Klopp’s system, but whether he stays beyond this summer is still unclear, amidst reported interest from Barcelona.
Manchester City: Yaya Touré
Like it or not, Yaya is the perfect depiction of Manchester City’s form. The interim-captain in Kompany’s absence, at times he’s been supernatural, and in others, he’s simply looked uninterested.
When he gets his game going, Agüero scores goals, De Bruyne becomes an assist-legend, and Sterling actually keeps the ball in play while going past people. Regardless to say, Fernandinho also gets his tackles right.
The City team revolves around Touré’s form, and it clearly shows in the good game they’ve played this season. Hopefully, Pep can do something to fix the world-class Ivorian’s attitude on the pitch, or find a new core of the team who can actually stay fit throughout the season.
Manchester United: Anthony Martial
The Frenchman arrived at the club under severe criticism of his $59.7 million transfer. He handled the pressure with aplomb, scoring the third and most crucial goal against Liverpool on his debut for the club to put the game to bed.
He has been the ever-present spark in this Manchester United team since then, though it is clear that he still hasn’t reached his full potential yet. He has done enough to salvage Louis Van Gaal’s job for this season, be it to the pleasure or sadness of Manchester United fans.
Newcastle United: Georginio Wijnaldum
If Newcastle do stay up at the conclusion of this season, this man deserves as much of the credit as does Rafa Benitez. Even when Steve McClaren was at the club’s helm leading them to God knows where, Wijnaldum provided the Magpies with some hope in games that needed hope, and it is arguable whether Newcastle would be in a guaranteed relegation spot if he didn’t get the goals and assists that he did.
He hasn’t been at his best since Benitez was hired, but he can still be a game-changer for the Toons.
Similar to Newcastle’s savior, Mbokani has picked up the slack of Cameron Jerome’s poor form this campaign. Jerome has only scored 3 goals in 18 appearances this campaign, contrary to the 18 goals he scored in 35 appearances in the Championship during Norwich’s promotion to the Prem.
While Mbokani’s goals haven’t been astronomical, they have been important ones. Crucially, manager Alex Neil will need his striker to score against Watford midweek if they are to have any hopes of staying in the top division.
Southampton: Dusan Tadic
Tadic’s importance to this Southampton is best noticeable now when he’s piling on the assists. His runs off the ball to give his team more width have been vital as well. While football is a game of numbers, Southampton wouldn’t be scoring the same amount of goals that they do if Tadic was injured. Not least because they don’t have a viable replacement for him. Unless you are a big fan of Jay Rodriguez.
Stoke City: Jack Butland
Stoke City aren’t the same without their big man in goal. Just look at the results they’ve been having recently. Butland has kept 10 clean sheets in 31 games this season, which is something to admire, given Stoke aren’t really a defensively sound team. His heroics have propelled Mark Hughes’ side well into the top half of the Premier League table, and his absences will be keenly felt over Stoke’s remaining games, as well as England’s Euro campaign, should something happen to Joe Hart. Though Fraser Forster will not see it the same way.
Sunderland: Jermain Defoe
Who else but the revered Jermain Defoe could be Sunderland’s embodiment? Honestly, Sunderland would be worse off than Aston Villa if the Englishman had not been there, and it’s evident that he possesses a technical prowess that’s the mark of a world-class striker. The only problems he’s had in his career is staying fit, and Big Sam will need every single minute that he can get out of Defoe.
Swansea: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Sigurdsson’s a different class when he’s given room to operate near the opposition penalty area. He’s been Swansea’s heart and soul this season, and it was no consequence that his dip in form during the midway stages of the season affected the team’s performances heavily.
Sigurdsson’s lack of consistency though can be a problem at times, and Swansea definitely need a backup for when their creator-in-chief is not in-tune.
Tottenham Hotspurs: Harry Kane
“One of our own”, they call him. Kane’s slow start to the Premier League season saw many doubt his heroics last term, and some even wrote him off as a one-season wonder. How many of those England have seen!
However, his bounce back to where he now leads the Golden-Boot race with 25 goals is a sign of his quality. Some of his best goals have come at times when the club was in dire need of something special. If Leicester hadn’t chosen this year to write their fairy-tale, Kane could easily have swept the Player of the Year Awards.
Watford: Odion Ighalo
Ighalo was the in-form player at the start of the season, his partnership with Troy Deeney was terrorizing for opposition defences, and they could find their way through even the best ones. His record of 14 goals this season is an excellent return given he’s playing for a side in the bottom half of the table.
If nothing else comes out good for him at the end of this season, at least he can move to Manchester United.
West Bromwich Albion: Darren Fletcher
The former Manchester United veteran has now established himself in the midfield of West Brom. He’s made 37 appearances this season and set the tempo for every Baggies’ attack. A 78.3% pass completion percentage just shows how calm and composed he is in possession of the ball. Fletcher has been the anchor in a season to forget for West Brom, as they toil just above Bournemouth in 15th place in the table.
West Ham: Dimitri Payet
Payet’s form has been sensational since his move from Olympique Marseille. He’s propelled West Ham up the Premier League table with his heroics; whether it be from free-kicks or astonishing runs. With 9 goals and 10 assists to go along with the influence he has on West Ham’s performances overall, he was a legitimate contender for the PFA Player of the Year, again had Leicester not chosen this year to write their fairy-tale.
However, he is one of those people that you could watch all day and never get bored. Hopefully, he takes this stellar form into next season, wherever that may be.