The 2019-20 season has seen plenty of ups and downs in the Premier League, from the highs that champions-elect Liverpool have experienced to the lows suffered by sides in danger of relegation such as Aston Villa and West Ham.
Along the way, some players have seen their stock plummet due to their poor form, injuries or bad attitudes, but others have gone the other way, and have seen their reputation rise higher than ever due to their excellent performances and surprising levels of improvement.
Here are five players whose stock has risen during the 2019-20 campaign.
#1 Dean Henderson
England U-21 goalkeeper Dean Henderson enjoyed an excellent season on loan at Sheffield United from parent club Manchester United in 2018-19. But when he re-joined the Blades on another loan deal for their first season in the Premier League in some time, there were plenty of questions around how he’d fare – particularly after he had a patchy display for his international side in last summer’s U-21 European Championship.
Well, in the eight months that have followed since the beginning of 2019-20, it’s safe to say that Henderson has answered all the questions around him and then some. The 23-year old has been fantastic for Chris Wilder’s side, helping them to concede just 25 goals – the second-least in the entire Premier League.
Along the way, he’s kept 10 clean sheets, has made 70 saves with a save percentage of 75%, and has only made one error leading to a goal. He’s been so good, in fact, that there are now plenty of fans who want to see him installed as England’s #1 – and also to usurp David De Gea as Manchester United’s #1 next season. Essentially, his stock has shot through the roof.
#2 Jordan Henderson
Prior to the 2019-20 season, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was a hugely divisive figure throughout the football world. The England midfielder was always admired for his work rate, stamina and effort during games, but there were a lot of dissenting voices questioning his technical abilities, particularly on the ball in high-pressure situations.
In all honesty though, after his performances this season it’d be hard for even his biggest detractors to criticise him. Henderson has been absolutely immense for the Premier League champions-elect, acting as their leader and their driving force on the pitch, particularly in some of their trickier games.
More to the point, his contributions on the pitch have improved dramatically too – he’s already scored three goals and registered five assists, a big leap forward from his previous seasons, and no longer can he be accused of simply looking for easy passes – more often than not, it’s now Henderson who looks to begin the Reds’ attacks.
It’s also notable that he was missing from Liverpool’s only Premier League loss this season. Quite simply, the Reds are a far better side these days when their captain is on the pitch – something that couldn’t have been said even last season.
#3 Jack Grealish
One of the EFL Championship’s standout performers in the 2018-19 season, Jack Grealish’s return from injury last March coincided with Aston Villa’s impressive run into playoff contention. Dean Smith’s men put together 10 victories in a row once their captain was back, and the academy product then helped them to win promotion at Wembley last May.
However, there were still questions over his ability to cope at the Premier League level, particularly after he’d appeared to be a bit lightweight in his last season in the top flight. Those questions have now been answered, as Grealish has become one of the most exciting players in the Premier League, proving that his abilities could easily translate to the highest level.
Despite Villa struggling – they currently sit in 19th place in the league table – Grealish has been fantastic, scoring seven goals and registering six assists, while his incredible dribbling ability has also made him the competition’s most fouled player. At times it’s felt like he’s been on a one-man mission to keep his boyhood club in the Premier League.
How much longer Villa can hold onto him likely depends on whether they can survive, but either way, Grealish has ensured his stock has rocketed up during the current campaign – he’s now a legitimate Premier League star.
#4 Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin first emerged into the conscience of Premier League fans back in the summer of 2017, when he scored the winner for England in the U-20 World Cup final. He followed that up with a solid debut season for the Toffees, scoring four goals and registering six assists in 32 appearances. 2018-19 however saw him struggle at times – despite scoring six goals – and questions abounded over whether he was a Premier League-level striker.
This season though, Calvert-Lewin has quietened a lot of those doubters. Establishing himself as Everton’s main frontman alongside Richarlison, the 23-year old has enjoyed a tremendous campaign, starting in 22 of the Toffees’ 29 games and scoring a personal best 13 goals, including strikes against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.
Calvert-Lewin has thrived in particular since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti – a proven world-class manager – at Goodison Park, and it seems that the Italian is equally enthralled with the young striker, stating that he believes that he can become one of Europe’s top strikers in the near future.
Judging by how his stock has risen during the current campaign, there seems to be every chance that Ancelotti could be right.
#5 Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Some eyebrows were raised in the summer when Manchester United agreed to part with £50m to bring Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Old Trafford. After all, the then-21-year old had only played in one full Premier League season at that stage and while he had been impressive, the large transfer fee still represented a major risk.
Thankfully for the Red Devils, it’s a risk that seems to have paid off. Wan-Bissaka has performed tremendously for his new side and has proven to be almost a steal even at £50m. His defensive statistics have been tremendous – an average of 3.8 tackles per game, more than any other United player – and he’s proven almost impossible to beat at times, with even tremendous attackers like Raheem Sterling and Raul Jimenez struggling against him.
Impressively too, his attacking prowess has begun to improve as well – he only has two assists to his name, but in recent months he’s looked far more comfortable going forward and can now regularly be seen dribbling against the opposition defence while looking to put crosses into the box.
Essentially, he’s gone from being a strong prospect to one of the best defenders in the entire Premier League.Published 27 Mar 2020, 02:45 IST