The Premier League boasts some of the best creative talent in world football. Overseas players have wowed English fans for years with their dazzling array of skills while, latterly, a new crop of home grown players look set to take on the continent at Euro 2020.
Sergio Aguero has played his last game for Manchester City, and what memories he leaves for the Sky Blue faithful, from the injury time goal which gave them a first Premier League title in 2012, to the brilliant brace he scored in his farewell match against Everton. He may well be replaced by Spurs striker Harry Kane who has, once again, won the Golden Boot. And if so, he’ll join a team which plays quick passing attacking football, with England’s Phil Foden now the focal point.
In the race to catch the champions in 2021/22, players such as Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Liverpool’s Diogo Jota will hit the headlines with match-winning performances.
But every team needs a quarterback. A defensive midfielder who can break up play, take a look up and deliver a pass to launch the next attack; and the English league has some brilliant players in that role. So let’s take a look at the guys who made the Premier League 2021 news without racking up the goals and assists.
Rodri: Manchester City
The Premier League 2021 betting odds here at SBOTOP were stacked towards the Sky Blue half of Manchester for the vast majority of the campaign, and the plaudits often went to Foden, the world class Kevin de Bruyne and defensive rock Ruben Dias. But while City’s attacking players swarmed over Premier League defences nationwide, Rodri sat a little deeper.
With Dias in inspired form it’s no surprise that City had the best defensive record in the league, and Rodri’s role in protecting the back four played a big part, while he still offered a serious threat from set-pieces. The former Atletico Madrid star is set to represent Spain at Euro 2020 where he has a good chance of picking up another medal to the collection he’s already won at City.
N’Golo Kante: Chelsea
Kante has been a key player in Thomas Tuchel’s resurgent Chelsea and did much to thwart Manchester City’s creative threat in the FA Cup semi-final, and Blues fans will hope he can do the same when the two teams meet in the Champions League final on Saturday.
Kante came to the attention of English football fans when he played a massive role in Leicester City’s 2016 Premier League winning team, and since then he has been one of Chelsea’s most consistent players. Former Blues coach Frank Lampard tried the Frenchman in a more advanced position, but he is better placed in a deeper role where he is always available to receive the ball and use it wisely.
Kalvin Phillips: Leeds United
Still only 25 year old, Phillips has just completed his seventh season at Leeds United where he has made almost 200 appearances as a mainstay of the side which climbed up into the Premier League for the fist time in 16 years. He started as a more attacking player but, at the start of the 2018/19, season head coach Marcelo Bielsa converted him into a defensive midfield player and he has blossomed into being one of the best in the business.
He’s adapted superbly to life in the top flight, and in the final game of the 2020/21 season Phillips scored his first Premier League goal in Leeds’ 3-1 victory over West Brom, and he’s made England’s provisional Euro 2020 squad. If he makes the cut then he’ll add to his seven international caps.
Much has been said and written about the impact on Liverpool of the goalkeeper Alisson Becker and centre back Virgil van Dijk, who helped to transform Jurgen Klopp’s free-scoring also-rans into runaway champions in 2020. But Brazilian midfielder Fabinho has been equally influential, and his superb positional sense, brilliant feet and great reading of the game make him one of Liverpool’s and Brazil’s most important players.
He’s versatile too, playing further forward if needed, and slotting into the back four during the Reds’ injury crisis.
Wilfred Ndidi: Leicester City
24 year old Nigerian star Wilfred Ndidi filled the gap left by Ngolo Kante and has done it brilliantly since his arrival at the KingPower Stadium in 2017. He’s a strong player, fierce in the tackle and with a brilliant rage of passing. Ndidi missed 12 games through injury this season and if he stays fit, then the Foxes will be challenging for a top four place again in the next campaign.
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