The Premier League has seen a lot of individual performances improve over the course of the season, here is my top five most improved in the Premier League!
Francis Coquelin – Arsenal
The French defensive midfielder has been at Arsenal since 2008 and has been both in and out of the team and out on loan multiple times. But during the second half of this season Coquelin has been a revelation in the Arsenal first team, providing the mobile defensive midfield option that fans have so desperately craved for the last few seasons.
With Gooners crying for the money to be spent on an out-and-out defensive midfielder for as long as anyone can remember, Arsene Wenger was under mounting pressure to find an option – Krystian Bielik was bought in and it was underwhelming to say the least for the fans. Coquelin was brought in from the shadows and has been the answer to Arsenal’s defensive midfield problems thus far.
His passion, defensive positioning and tackling has seen a new lease of life enter the Arsenal first-team. He is also one of the longest serving players at the club, having been at the club since 2008 but only making 43 appearances in the previous seven years, in which he also had loan spells at Lorient and SC Freiburg.
This season started late for Coquelin as he joined Championship side Charlton in November on an initial month-long loan which was extended through December, he was recalled after making five appearances due to the injury crisis at Arsenal. Manager Arsene Wenger said:” I saw that he made huge improvements in training so I sent him on loan for match practice.” On December 28th he made his first Premier League start in 23 months against West Ham, after impressing he retained his spot against Manchester City where he impressed further and he has been an important member of the starting eleven ever since.
Jordan Henderson – Liverpool
For me this is the biggest improver on the list. Bear in mind that in 2012 that Henderson was told by Brendan Rodgers that he could leave Liverpool but opted to stay. It was around that time that many Liverpool fans were calling for the midfielder to be sold, just a year after his £20million move to Liverpool but they must be glad that Rodgers kept his faith in the Sunderland born midfielder.
Fast forward three years and Henderson has been made Liverpool vice-captain and is looking the most likely to be made captain after Steven Gerrard departs for LA Galaxy in the summer, which would make him one of Liverpool’s youngest ever captains at 25.
Henderson has been a regular in Liverpool’s team this season, playing a part in all but one of their league games. He has shouldered the responsibility of vice-captain excellently in Gerrard’s recent absences as he started captain throughout February, a run which saw Liverpool unbeaten.
His versatility has been a big help in his Liverpool career, meaning he can play right wing, right midfield, right back, as well as the centre midfield role which he has made his own. His hard-working attitude, alongside his improved technical ability make him a fan-favourite at Anfield these days, which was never made more obvious than when the unveiling of Henderson as vice-captain was greeted with such positive feedback.
Nacho Monreal – Arsenal
Arsenal signed Monreal in 2013 as competition for first-choice left back Kieran Gibbs and initially made a decent start to his career in North London but a dip in form saw the Spaniard go down in the mind of fans, who have always seen Gibbs as first choice.
Monreal found a new lease of life earlier this season after being put at centre back after an injury crisis forced Arsene Wenger’s hand in putting the 29-year-old in an unfamiliar role, where he did a good job. This experience helped Monreal both tactically and physically which he has now been able to put into practice back into his more preferred role on the left side of defence.
The criticism for Monreal was unfair I felt, he became a magnet for criticism which was very harsh. Even if he played well there were sections of fans who would blame Monreal for the entire teams failings. Of course he had his struggles but ask a left back to play in a position they’re unfamiliar with and there will be struggles but he was by no means the root cause of Arsenal’s woes.
Since being put back in at left back Monreal has seen himself retain his role at the expense of Englishman Gibbs, even scoring an important goal in the recent victory against Manchester United which summed up Monreal’s turnaround. Monreal has been the most consistent and picked member of The Gunners back four this term and he has personified Arsenal’s upturn in form.
Harry Kane – Tottenham
Harry Kane started to make a name for himself at the end of last season when he scored three goals in three games but was still a relative unknown in the Premier League. This season he has propelled himself to be the third highest top scorer in the Premier League with 16 goals, just two goals off top scorer Diego Costa.
His form has seen Kane thrust into the spotlight and he is set to receive a call-up to the England team in the next round of international fixtures with England taking on Lithuania in a Euro 2016 qualifier and a friendly in Italy four days later.
Kane has scored 26 goals in 41 games this season. He has also won two Player of the Month awards and has undoubtedly been one of the start players of the season – not bad for someone who had only scored 21 goals in his senior career before this season.
Kane has also helped Tottenham’s cause beyond goal-scoring this season. After scoring a hat-trick against Asteras Tripoli in a Europa League group stage match, Kane had to go in goal after Hugo Lloris was sent off with no substitutes remaining – unfortunately conceding the only goal Tottenham conceded all game. But we were here to talk about his goal-scoring exploits, not his goal-saving!
Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool
The Brazilian playmaker is a firm favourite at Anfield but his career at Liverpool has been littered with inconsistency so far since his £8million move from Inter Milan. By the way, I am still very confused as to why they let Coutinho go for such a low prices for the calibre of player he is.
Recently Coutinho has flourished in the Liverpool team in the flowing attacking midfield role that he takes up. He has been pulling the strings in the midfield and chipping in with goals too, three of his recent goals coming against Bolton, Southampton and Manchester City all being nominated for their respective goal of the month competitions, with his strike against Southampton winning Premier League goal of the month for February.
Coutinho’s end product has undoubtedly been the most improved side of his game as well as his ability to take hold of big games, just ask Manchester City and their back line who felt the force of Coutinho in full flow. He has scored big goals in big games as well as putting in the match winning performances to boot, which Liverpool have lacked so often this season.
Coutinho had an excellent start to his Liverpool career but consistency has been his problem. An average start to his season coupled with Liverpool’s poor form made the youngsters performances look even worse but his emergence since has coincided with Liverpool’s turnaround in fortune which has seen them go for the top four and have a good cup run.