Football Features

The most underrated Premier League player in every position this season

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:03, 13 May 2019 | Updated: 16:52, 14 September 2021

So there it is. The 2018/19 Premier League season is over, and what a campaign it has been.

Manchester City and Liverpool ran away at the top of the table, with just one point separating them as Pep Guardiola’s men wrapped up a second-consecutive title.

As a result, the two sides dominated the Premier League’s Team of the Season with the likes of Raheem Sterling and Virgil van Dijk – and deservedly so.

But there have been a number of players this season whose efforts have been slightly under-appreciated by those outside their own club.

So, to celebrate these unsung stars, we’ve put together a combined XI of this season’s most underrated Premier League players, selecting no more than two per team.

Goalkeeper: Ben Foster (Watford)

Outside of the ridiculously good top two goalkeepers, Lukasz Fabianski gets a lot of praise for his efforts in goal. But one man who is often overlooked as a result is Ben Foster.

The 36-year-old has been very good in goal for the Hornets this season, helping them to 10th with one game remaining. Foster has made 127 saves in the Premier League this season, stopping 67.76% of the shots he has faced.

Centre-back: Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Although Brighton have been poor this season, their defence does get praise when it’s due. However, most of that praise goes to Lewis Dunk while Shane Duffy’s efforts have largely gone under the radar.

And they shouldn’t. The Irishman has been colossal for Brighton, winning 188 aerial duels with a success rate of 72.6%. Even more impressive is that Dunk has made more clearances than any other player with 243. That’s 49 more than his centre-back partner.

Centre-back: Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Wolves have been marvellous across the pitch this season, and Nuno Espirito Santo has worked wonders. At the heart of their defence, Conor Coady has been rock solid for most of the season – some unfortunate own goals aside.

And yet, the 26-year-old has not been considered for an England call-up despite showing his ability to play out from the back which is vital to Gareth Southgate’s style of play.

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Centre-back: Ben Mee (Burnley)

Another English centre-back currently ignored by Southgate, Ben Mee has been impressive in defence for Burnley. The 29-year-old’s contribution has been key in keeping the Clarets up, with Mee often turning up for the biggest games.

Only one player has made more blocks in the Premier League than Mee’s 47 while the Burnley man has also made 232 clearances, the third-highest in the division.

Right wing-back: Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

As at last year’s World Cup, right-back has been a position full of talent in the Premier League this season. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Ricardo Pereira are well-deserving of all the plaudits they receive.

But one man who is slightly overlooked, potentially due to playing as a wing-back, is Matt Doherty. The Irishman has been a key attacker for Wolves, providing the width from deep, creating 35 chances from open play, the third-highest among defensive players. Those chances have resulted in five assists, with only three defenders recording more than Doherty from open play.

Central midfield: Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City)

When N’Golo Kante left Leicester City in 2016, there was some fear as to how the Foxes could replace him. But Wilfred Ndidi has done that job exquisitely and has carried his high-level performances into the current season.

The midfielder has won more tackles than any other player in the Premier League, with 99 at an impressive 69.2% success rate in terms of winning possession cleanly for his side. His presence at the heart of the Leicester midfield has been key to Brendan Rodgers’ new style of play. And yet no one really talks about Ndidi has one of the best defensive midfielders in the league.

Central midfield: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Southampton)

It’s fair to say Southampton have not had the best season, despite Ralph Hasenhuttl ensuring Premier League safety with a degree of comfort in the end.

But one man who has performed consistently well across the season, only to improve even further under Hasenhuttl, is Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. The former Bayern Munich man has been the driving force in midfield for Southampton, the base of their hard-working team and does not seem to receive the same recognition his attacking team-mates have.

Central midfield: Etienne Capoue (Watford)

Another player unfairly overshadowed by a team-mate – in this case, Abdoulaye Doucoure – Etienne Capoue has been a vital midfielder for Watford this season.

The Frenchman has helped Watford win midfield battles across the season, sitting just in front of his defence, ensuring opposition teams have little luck against the Hornets.

Capoue has made a massive 86 interceptions in the Premier League, more than any other player, something which has been a big part of Javi Gracia’s progress.

Left wing-back: Lucas Digne (Everton)

Lucas Digne is a wonderful left-back but that doesn’t mean he isn’t underrated. The Everton man has arguably been the best left-back not named Andrew Robertson in the Premier League this season, but teams are looking to sign the equally impressive Ben Chilwell ahead of the former Barcelona man.

But people should be looking at Digne. The Frenchman has created more chances than any other defender with 71, though 39 of those came from open play – second only to Robertson in that position. And Digne also does his bit defensively, winning 46 tackles so far this season, the sixth-highest in the league as a defender. An all-round solid left-back.

Attacking midfield: Ayoze Perez (Newcastle United)

Newcastle’s final position of 13th this season may look underwhelming given the stature of the club, but the Magpies performed above their means thanks to Rafa Benitez and his attacking players.

One of those stars, especially in the second half of the season, has been Ayoze Perez whose work off the ball and understanding with those around him have been key to helping drag Newcastle up the table. The Spaniard has also done his bit on the ball with 12 goals and 45 chances created.

Striker: Salomon Rondon (Newcastle United)

When looking for a player who can give you both goals and assists in the Premier League, most will point you straight towards Callum Wilson. But Salomon Rondon has proven that he is just as capable.

The West Bromwich Albion loanee has scored 11 goals for Newcastle this season – all coming from open play – with the Venezuelan finding his form of late alongside Perez and Miguel Almiron. But in addition to the goal tally, Rondon is also Newcastle’s second-highest assist provider this season with seven.