Talents losing out on ‘street-cred’ for wearing claret
The 2016/17 Premier League season is drawing to a close, and for some, it has been a revelation. For instance, AFC Bournemouth have once more staved off relegation thanks to the herculean efforts of Josh King in attack, although he would not have appeared in many fantasy football teams before the New Year.
New, swashbuckling youngsters have also broken through, particularly at Goodison Park, with the likes of Tom Davies and Mason Holgate already being tipped for senior international duties.
Sadly, for others, being overlooked and underrated remains a constant issue, but today – at any rate – they will receive the adulation they deserve. Over at Turf Moor, two players, in particular, stand out as overlooked.
The ‘Heat’ is on
This summer, Burnley will celebrate a second consecutive season in the top flight for the first time in the Premier League era. That is almost entirely thanks to some impressive home form, which has seen vital points taken from several teams in the top seven.
Goalkeeper Tom Heaton, relegated with Burnley in 2015 despite producing some excellent performances, showed immense loyalty – even when linked with boyhood club Liverpool – by staying at the club and helping them to achieve promotion at the first attempt. This season has been an obvious improvement, yet he remains on the periphery of Gareth Southgate’s plans for England, and it may take a change of jersey, for Heaton, if that is ever to change.
Case for the defence
Of course, a goalkeeper is nothing without trusty defenders. At centre back, Michael Keane has been a largely imposing figure – at least when given the luxury of home advantage. It is already the worst-kept secret that he is touted to fill the boots of veteran defender Phil Jagielka at Everton, and the rate of his progress implies that his first club, Manchester United, will regret swinging the axe prematurely.
However, Ben Mee has been as reliable a partner as Keane could have wished for. To date, the former England youth player has played in every single minute of Burnley’s impressive season, but remains firmly eclipsed by Keane as the press prepare for another hectic summer transfer window.
Many people will be surprised to learn that Mee has, in fact, won more tackle per game than Michael Keane – winning out around 85% of the time, compared to Keane’s 64%.
A defender’s work often goes unnoticed, but for a striker to be overlooked is disastrous, and it is only ever a short time before they are shipped elsewhere.
Heaven and Hull
Back in December, there was the distinct possibility of 2016/17 going down as the highest-scoring Premier League season ever. Such is the optimism in strikers this season that, in English Premier League Betting on Paddy Power, bettors are currently being offered an immediate payout if any team they back goes two goals up.
Not everyone has enjoyed the party though, and perhaps most disappointed of all will be Leicester City striker Ahmed Musa. Arriving on a backdrop of minor hype, the Nigerian produced a scintillating individual performance in a 2016 pre-season game against Barcelona, and he was seen as a threat to Vardy.
But, against a skeleton Hull side with a midfielder at centre-half, he failed to live up to the occasion and found himself gradually exiled as Leicester plummeted into the relegation zone.
Perhaps it is time to give him just one more run out once the Foxes are mathematically safe?