The unheralded Premier League stars so far
Everybody loves attacking players. They receive all the encomiums for getting on the scoresheet and creating too. But meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, other players work their socks off just for the good of the team. More often than not, these ones are neglected when it comes to the headlines and accolades.
Here, we take a look at players who deserve more credit than they've actually gotten in the Premier League so far this season.
In a Manchester City team spoilt for choice in attack, Fernandinho has seemingly held his own in the heart of the midfield. With his more advanced teammates leading the charge for goals, the Brazilian has been pretty content sitting back - thus providing stability and balance to his team. Though that didn't stop him from stepping forward a couple of times to grab that odd goal and sometimes assist, to add to his most passes (1419) in the division.
One-half of Burnley's impenetrable centre-back duo, James Tarkowski has been one heck of a player for the Clarets this term. Unable to crack the preferred partnership between Michael Keane and Ben Mee for 18 months, the 25-year-old finally got his chance following the former's departure last summer. Now the Englishman is showing just why Sean Dyche may have been harsh to shut him out all along. Tarkowski ranks second in aerial duels won (95), shots blocked (28) and clearances (145).
Ashley Young would probably have been the most sort-after full-back in the country was he a decade younger. Manchester United's defensive crisis paved way for the Englishman, who has since taken the opportunity with both arms. Young, moulded by Jose Mourinho into a defender after making his name as a winger, has made United's left-back slot his own, earning him a recall to the England squad at the age of 32 after a four-year absence.
The other half of Burnley's resolute defensive duo, Ben Mee has equally excelled at the heart of the Clarets backline. Together with Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Matthew Lowton and Nick Pope in goal, they flaunt the most compact backline in the English top flight - conceding just 12 goals thus far. Like his new cohort, Mee's numbers have been mind-boggling. He ranks third in headed clearances (83) and shots blocked (25) in England's top tier this term.
When it comes to consistency, no defender comes anywhere close to Chelsea stalwart, Cesar Azpilicueta. Much of the Blues success story last season was down to dogged defending of the Spaniard, who played every single minute. And this term, he hasn't in any way disappointed. Despite lots of tinkering taking place in Antonio Conte's centre-back trio, Azpilicueta has missed only but a game. Even more impressive, he's racked up five assists - the most by a defender thus far.
So far, so good, it's been an improbable season for Abdoulaye Doucoure. After grappling with the pace of the English game last year, the Frenchman has become a key cog under Marco Silva this campaign. Doucoure is one of only 13 outfield players to have played every minute, while no midfielder has scored more top-flight goals than the 24-year-old (6) so far. Tuck in his incredible recovery rate, Doucoure stands tall for possession won in the final third (96).