Here is my selection of the ten most improved players in the Premier League 2013/14 season. They are in no particular order. Leave a comment and let me know who you think should have been on the list.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
Massive improvement from a player that at times was shaky during Brendan Rodgers’ first campaign at Anfield. This was an improvement you would expect from such an exciting young talent as Sterling, but I don’t think anyone expected what he has shown this past season. He has produced incredible pace and dribbling ability, as well as being brave as a lion. At times, he has been unplayable and has certainly made a wide berth at Liverpool his own for the foreseeable future. The youngster was deservedly selected for the World Cup in Brazil and should shine as an impact sub at the very least, possibly even as a starter.
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa)
This young midfielder has begun to show why his early promise got so many people excited during those early days at Leeds United. He has been one of the few bright spots for a Villa side that struggled for long portions of the season. His ability when playing box-to-box is impressive. One minute, he is on the edge of his own box making a tackle or block, and the next he is on the edge of the opposition box getting a shot on goal or arriving on the end of a cross. His tenacity and energy means he is a firm favorite with the fans and a key player for Villa, as they look to improve next season. In my opinion, he was unlucky not to get picked for the World Cup.
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
This boy has shown this season that he is versatile, strong, quick and has great technique. He kept arguably the best left back in the history of the Premier League out of the side for much of the season, despite being a natural right back. He has now established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet for Jose Mourinho, and Ashley Cole has actually left the club. He thoroughly deserved his call up for the Spanish national team for the World Cup.
Adam Lallana (Southampton)
Adam is one of my favourite players to watch in the whole league. He has really been flourishing under Mauricio Pochettino’s fluent way of playing, whether it’s on the left, right or in a classic free-roaming number ten role, Lallana makes an impact on almost every game. His has great balance and an ability to go either way, along with vision and a goal tally that continues to improve. There is talk of a move to Liverpool, and that tells the whole story for a player who came all the way up from League One with the club. Excellent call by Roy Hodgson to take him to Brazil, and he should start.
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
The Frenchman had a tough task last season replacing Robin Van Persie, who went on to win the title with Manchester United and played a starring role in doing so. He somewhat flattered to deceive. However, in his second season, he has certainly improved and carried the Gunners frontline by himself, particularly when Aaron Ramsey was lost for much of the second half of the season. Giroud was integral in helping end a nine year barren run with victory in the FA Cup final and once again qualification for the champions league.
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
I’m still not sure if he is worth his price tag but he has become a very valuable player for Brendan Rodgers. As highlighted earlier with Fabian Delph, his best quality is his box-to-box energy. He also has the ability to harass and pursue possession of the ball from the opposition. To add to this, he has scored some important goals along the way this season, and can also play numerous midfield roles, allowing a manager like Rodgers to be flexible and change tactics during games. He should start for England in Brazil.
Luke Shaw (Southampton) It feels strange to say that this guy is eighteen, as he certainly doesn’t look like a teenager barely out of school. He is an imposing figure at 6’1 with powerful electric pace. He loves to get forward and play in the opposition’s half, but is also good in the tackle and defends the back post very well, which is very important for a full back. He’s also blessed with great technique. This kid has emerged as the true definition of the modern full back.
Like his team-mate Lallana, the youngster is also subject to speculation, with talk of a big money summer move to Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal. That tells you all you need to know about his progress. He could eventually move into a more attacking forward role, as comparisons to fellow Saints Academy graduate Gareth Bale refuse to go away. He got a much deserved call up for the World Cup squad, and I feel he should start over the highly overrated Leighton Baines.
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
It’s been a magnificent season for the Welshman, who has improved drastically upon his previous campaigns. He added goals to his already good technical qualities, and his box-to-box range should continue to get better and better under the guidence of Arsene Wenger, providing injures don’t stunt his growth. Unfortunately he suffered a long lay off this season which cost the gunners immensely and may have cost the midfielder a shot at the PFA Player of the year award, which he was running away with earlier in the season.
Seamus Coleman (Everton)
What a great season it has been for the Republic Of Ireland international. He has really blossomed under the guidance of first year Everton coach Roberto Martinez. He’s been given more freedom in the Spaniard’s attacking system to showcase his best qualities, which come in the attacking third. He has scored a lot of goals for a full back and they were real goals, unlike team mate Leighton Baines’ goals which pretty much all came from the penalty spot. His searing pace and direct running are always a threat to the opposition. It’s hard not to take into account, the best full back at Everton.
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) What can you say about this guy that hasn’t already been said? After not making the grade at Chelsea or Manchester City, the young forward appears to have found his home under a manager who believes in him 100 percent and fans who love him undoubtedly. He is helped by the presence of such a wonderful player as Luis Suarez and the attacking system used by Brendan Rodgers, but you can’t argue with the facts. Alone, he is an incredibly dangerous player – be it through the middle or wide – and has a wonderful left foot. He scored some real peaches this season and has that touch of arrogance that all top players need. It will be fascinating to see if Daniel could be the man all by himself, if Suarez is continuously courted by the likes of Real Madrid. Sturridge really MUST start at the World Cup.
Thanks for reading,