Lewis Dunk – Brighton and Hove Albion
An ever-present in the Brighton line up every week, club captain Lewis Dunk has become the symbol of the Seagulls on the pitch. A local lad who rose through the youth ranks before wrestling out a place in the squad for himself, Dunk really became the go-to name on the teamsheet under Sami Hyypia and Chris Hughton during the 2014/15 season, where he even finished the campaign as the side’s top scorer with seven goals in all competitions.
An agonising play off defeat in 2015/16 led to Brighton’s eventual promotion to the Premier League in 2016/17, with Dunk once again an ever present in the side. Despite continued interest from the likes of Southampton, Burnley and then Leicester City, Dunk has stayed loyal to the Seagulls and continued his presence at the back over the course of Brighton’s three successful seasons in England’s top division.
There’s been a remarkably noticeable improvement in the way in which Dunk plys his trade these days in comparison to his years gone by. We’ve seen plenty of players over the history of the Premier League prone to moments of rash concentration slips, however they become particularly noticeable when you’re amongst the last lines of defence. Defenders who don’t hold their concentration usually end up giving away cheap goals or silly challenges, which is something Lewis Dunk was especially prone to back in the day.
However, thinking back over the entirety of the last campaign, it’s hard to pick even one moment where Dunk was at fault for a glaring error at the back for Brighton. His reading for interceptions, last ditch tackles and fearless assault of aerial balls at both ends of the pitch make him one of the most versatile defenders in the league, and a good punt for those betting on him adding to his one England cap in the years to come.
Raul Jimenez – Wolves
Regarded by most as a good enough striker, the true quality of Raul Jimenez and the immense value he brings to Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves team is still sadly hugely underrated. The role of striker in a football side is easily the hardest position on the pitch to perform and maintain a high level of consistency in, moreso when you’re a player who has never played in a league and expected to perform that high demand role on your own.
That was the challenge asked of Raul Jimenez back in 2017 on the eve of Wolves’ return to the Premier League. Most sports betting markets had Nuno’s side down as potential dark horses for the season, throwing an extra level of pressure on Jimenez before he had even kicked a ball for the first time in England.
43 goals in 96 appearances, including 26 over the course of the campaign just gone, at the time of writing suggests this has been a job well done for the Mexican frontman.
His 17 goals in the Premier League over the course of the 2019-20 season came with an xG (Expected Goals) rating of just -0.16 difference between what he was expected to score against what he did score. Having it in the minus showcases just how efficient Jimenez is in front of goal, and his proficiency over the course of the campaign is healthier than the likes of Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and even Mohammed Salah. Underrated.
Stuart Armstrong – Southampton
Southampton have, quite fairly, been earning a lot of plaudits from fans and pundits in the footballing world over the course of the second half of their campaign. Tactically astute and pleasing on the eye, it has all been a remarkable turnaround for a side that had been on the receiving end of the joint worst defeat in Premier League history against Leicester back in October 2019.
However, whilst the attention usually gets tossed onto the likes of Danny Ings, Shane Long or James Ward-Prowse, one player who is consistently left out of the spotlight is Stuart Armstrong.
Throughout 2019-20, Armstrong racked up an impressive haul of five goals and three assists, a noticeable improvement from the three goals and two assists he mustered over the course of the season prior. With 2.42 shots per ninety minutes and 0.95 key passes per game, he is Southampton’s third most productive player in the attacking third and is currently the only one in the squad running with a positive difference for both xG and xA (Expected Assists).
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