It has been a surreal Premier League season in more ways than one. Following a belated start to the season owing to the late conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign, many top teams and players have appeared off the pace.
Reigning Premier League champions Liverpool have stuttered in their title defence, having already endured two defeats. Manchester City had an indifferent start to their Premier League campaign before recently rediscovering their mojo.
Five Premier League players who have exceeded all expectations in 2020-21
Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a prolific goal-scorer, has struggled to find the back of the net in the Premier League this season. The same has also been true for Manchester United teenager Mason Greenwood and Manchester City's Raheem Sterling, who have largely underwhelmed in the 2020-21 Premier League.
However, a few players have managed to exceed expectations in the English top flight this season, some of them doing so in new surroundings. On that note, let us have a look at five such players.
#5 James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
After a rather underwhelming 2019-20 campaign, where he had eight goal contributions, James Ward-Prowse has equalled that tally in only 17 Premier League games this season.
The 26-year-old has impressed with his set-piece prowess in the 2020-21 Premier League, scoring a pair of them in Southampton's thrilling 4-3 win over Aston Villa to earn praise from his manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. He said:
"It’s no coincidence he is our captain. He’s our role model for what we stand for – he’s an unbelievable fighter for the team. When he gets a chance around the box he is unbelievable. I am happy for him to have scored two but also because he supplied an assist for the first goal and for the one disallowed by VAR. On free kicks, he is amazing, and he is getting better."
Ward-Prowse covered the most distance (396 km) by any player in the Premier League last year, averaging an impressive 11.6 km per game.
#4 Matty Cash (Aston Villa)
Matty Cash made his name with Nottingham Forest in the Championship before making a move to Aston Villa in the summer. Suffice to say, the 23-year-old has flourished in his debut campaign in the Premier League.
Cash has impressed with his ability to maraud down the right flank and transition into an all-action right-winger to shore up his team's attack.
Although he is yet to score a goal in his debut season in the Premier League, Cash has already formed a formidable full-back partnership with Matt Targett, helping Aston Villa to the top half of the league table, ahead of the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal.
Villa manager Dean Smith is all praise for the versatile Cash, saying in this regard:
"I've come across him when he was wide as a wide right player but, again, he's a really enthusiastic person, a real team player but moved to right-back for Forest last season and was exceptional. Tactically he's capable of adapting very quickly. It shows me he's got the tenacity and the want to change and learn. He's gone from a wide right player to dropping back to develop his defensive skills pretty well."