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5 Unsung heroes of the season | Premier League 2019-20

Jordan Henderson has been quintessential for Liverpool this campaign
Jordan Henderson has been quintessential for Liverpool this campaign

We are in the middle of February and the 2019/20 Premier League season has already witnessed its inevitable winners. Although fans and pundits would have hoped for a tighter race at the top, Liverpool’s unbelievable run has left every other team hanging behind. Hence, it would not be an understatement to say that Jurgen Klopp’s side might be one of the best Premier League teams of the modern era.

Whilst superstars like Virgil van Dijk, Sergio Aguero, Sadio Mane, Kevin De Bruyne and Jamie Vardy are making headlines each week, other players in the division are yet to receive their share of recognition.

Therefore, in this article, we will discuss 5 unsung heroes of the 2019/20 Premier League season.


#5. Bernd Leno

Arsenal's number one has been in top form throughout this season
Arsenal's number one has been in top form throughout this season

Mikel Arteta’s arrival at the Emirates Stadium has excited many Arsenal fans in terms of their improved performances, although the corresponding results are yet to kick in. The Gunners are a lowly 10th on the Premier League table, and almost have an impossible task to secure European football for next season.

Whilst the negatives in this Arsenal side are many, the club’s truest fans will still try to thread out a couple of positives. And one of them will be goalkeeper Bernd Leno. The German shot-stopper has been one of Arsenal’s best individual performers alongside star-striker Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. The 27-year-old had a rocky start to life in London when he joined from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2018 but has come into his own this season.

Leno’s performances often go overlooked due to Arsenal’s leaky defence which has conceded 34 goals in 25 games. But the keeper has still bailed out the North Londoners on several occasions throughout the season. Stat-wise, Leno is only behind Newcastle’s Martin Dubravka in terms of saves, with an incredible 93 stops. He is also third in both ‘punches’ category (7) and ‘sweeper clearances’ (12) in the division.

Arsenal need to buckle up their defence and get the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe firing in order to save their season. But at least Arteta does not have to worry about the goalkeeping department. Leno is still behind Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen for the number 1 spot in Joachim Low’s German national team, but if he continues to impress, he could as well eclipse the duo.

#4. Wilfred Ndidi

Wilfred Ndidi's contributions from midfield have often gone unnoticed
Wilfred Ndidi's contributions from midfield have often gone unnoticed

Leicester City’s heroics this season could be ascribed to their talismanic duo of Jamie Vardy and James Maddison, both of whom have lit up the Premier League with their displays. Vardy is currently the top goalscorer in the division with 17 goals, one ahead of Sergio Aguero and Maddison is among the division’s top five players in terms of through balls and crosses. Though the former’s form has dipped in recent games, his 21 goal contributions in 23 appearances still speaks volumes.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are only two points behind second-placed Manchester City and a potential Champions League qualification for next season is very much on the cards. However, the above-mentioned Englishmen are not the only reasons for Leicester’s brilliant campaign so far.

If you ask Leicester fans, they would probably tell you that Wilfred Ndidi is their most important player. The Nigerian midfielder arrived at the King Power Stadium in 2017 from Belgian outfit Genk and has since then cemented himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the division.

In terms of tackles, Ndidi is third with 86, only behind teammate Ricardo Pereira (106) and Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka (88). He is also the Premier League’s leader for the most number of interceptions (56) this season, only trailing Bournemouth’s Diego Rico (66).

he 23-year-old is crucial to Brendan Rodgers’ style of play, as his defensive prowess helps the back-four and passing attributes complement the midfielders. Both Youri Tielemans and Maddison are often found in advanced positions throughout Leicester’s games only because of Ndidi’s solid presence behind them. One could argue that their recent slump has much to do with the knee injury Ndidi suffered at the beginning of January.

But now that he is back in action, we could see Leicester City find their feet again with their influential Nigerian pulling the strings from the middle.

#3. George Baldock

George Baldock has one of Sheffield United's best players this season
George Baldock has one of Sheffield United's best players this season

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United has taken the Premier League by storm this season, currently sitting in fifth place on the table above top-dogs like Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. The Blades, who got promoted to the English top-flight this campaign, have been one of the Premier League’s most exciting teams to watch.

Sheffield finished second in the Championship last season, but many predicted that their adventure in the Premier League would be short-lived. However, Wilder’s men have shocked many with their gritty performances this season. The brilliant wins against Arsenal and Everton and the memorable draws versus Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have been some of the highlights of their season.

Much credit to Sheffield’s insurgence has to go to their wing-back George Baldock, who has been absolutely rock solid in defence and potent in attack. The Englishman has been labelled as the Blades’ “most-improved player” since last season, such has been his impact this term.

The former MK Dons right-back has two goals and three assists from Sheffield’s right-flank this season and also has nine clean-sheets to his name. Only Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk (11) has more under his belt. The 26-year-old has played every minute in the Premier League this season and has consistently performed well week-in week-out.

It won’t be a huge surprise if Gareth Southgate has Baldock in his contingency plans for the Euro 2020 squad, but the right-back will need to produce some otherworldly performances during the remaining part of the season if he is to compete with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for a right-back spot.

#2. Fernandinho

Fernandinho's adaptability and versatility helped Pep Guardiola cope without Aymeric Laporte in defense
Fernandinho's adaptability and versatility helped Pep Guardiola cope without Aymeric Laporte in defense

Manchester City’s squad is filled with some of the world’s most decorated and illustrious players, with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva at the fore-front. A younger crop of players, equally talented, include Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus who are destined to be superstars of world football in the future.

However, it is hard to believe that a certain Brazilian midfielder, now closing in on 35, remains City’s most important player. Fernandinho is, without a shadow of a doubt, Pep Guardiola’s most reliable player on the pitch, such is his versatility, determination and dynamism. The former Shakhtar Donetsk man recently signed a one-year contract extension after what has been another excellent season for him.

Fernandinho, who is typically the focal point in the middle of the park, has slotted in at centre-back this season due to the injury problems inflicted upon City. Guardiola’s most trusted defender Aymeric Laporte suffered a long-term knee injury way back in August whilst John Stones’ worrying form, coupled with Nicolas Otamendi’s rash decision-making, forced the Spaniard to deploy the defensive midfielder at the heart of the City defence.

There was no doubt among the City faithful that Fernandinho would not disappoint in his new role, but the fact that he will look right at home straight-from-the-off surprised many. The three-time Premier League winner has been stalwart in Pep’s defense and perhaps their only saving grace this season.

There has been a significant dearth of clean-sheets at the Etihad this season but Laporte’s return and Fernandinho’s impeccable displays could power City to a strong finish in the Premier League.

#1. Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson is a serious contender Liverpool's 2019/20 Player of the Season
Jordan Henderson is a serious contender Liverpool's 2019/20 Player of the Season

While all the plaudits for Liverpool’s extraordinary season are going to their lethal front-three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, only die-hard Reds will go out of the way to highlight captain Jordan Henderson’s unparalleled influence on this team. The 29-year-old, who is absolutely pivotal to Jurgen Klopp’s set-up, has been the heartbeat of this Liverpool side, always on the ball spraying passes left, right and centre.

Henderson’s command of the game, incredible work ethic and leadership attributes have made him an indispensable character in the Liverpool dressing room. Barring Klopp’s attacking trio, fans and pundits have consistently heaped praise on the Champions League holders’ immaculate defensive four of Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. However, it is Henderson who is yet to receive his share of appreciation week-in week-out for his sensational performances in the middle of midfield.

Klopp might be able to cope without one of his attackers for a period of time or even van Dijk for that matter, but Henderson’s job cannot be replicated by any of his other players. The Sunderland-born midfielder is the go-to man on the pitch, passing and shifting the ball relentlessly, constantly finding the attackers with his long balls and occasionally getting into the box to score the odd goal. Defensively, Henderson does an excellent task of protecting the back four with his box-to-box running, tireless pressing, tenacious tackling and non-stop intercepting.

Throughout his Liverpool career, the Englishman has always been on the receiving end of scrutiny and criticism and had never been highly-rated even by the club’s most loyal supporters. Now in his prime, however, Jordan Henderson has resurrected himself as one of the division’s top central midfielders: passionate, industrious and captain of one of the greatest teams in Premier League history.

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Edited by Zaid Khan
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