Arsenal: Nacho Monreal
Monreal is the type of reliable performer that every club needs. The Spaniard has maintained a consistent level of performance ever since he arrived at the Emirates Stadium in 2013, with his football intelligence and reading of the game making him an essential part of the Gunners’ backline.
The 32-year-old has spent the majority of his Arsenal career at left-back, but he demonstrated his versatility by excelling as a left-sided centre-half during the latter stages of Arsene Wenger’s tenure. He’s an excellent passer too, and chipped in with five Premier League goals last season.
Bournemouth: Steve Cook
Eddie Howe continues to keep faith with a core of players who helped Bournemouth reach the Premier League in 2015, with Cook, Simon Francis, Charlie Daniels, Andrew Surman, Marc Pugh, Callum Wilson and Adam Smith all still prominent members of the first-team squad.
Of those listed above, Cook is probably the player who doesn’t quite get the attention he deserves. Strong in the air despite being ‘only’ 6ft 1in tall, the 27-year-old defender is dominant in both boxes and a decent passer from deep.
Brighton: Glenn Murray
When Brighton failed to land a new striker in the 2017 summer transfer window, many fans immediately tipped them for the drop. Although Murray had notched 23 Championship goals the season prior, few believed he would make any impact on the top tier as his 33rd birthday approached.
Yet the ex-Crystal Palace striker was similarly written off following the Eagles' promotion in 2013, and he once again confounded the critics by netting 12 times as Albion survived. His deft finish in a 3-2 win against Manchester United in the second game of this season was a fine example of his technical ability, which often goes unnoticed.
Burnley: Ben Mee
Michael Keane’s performances for Burnley in 2016/17 earned him a move to Everton the following summer, while James Tarkowski received plenty of plaudits – and an England call-up – for his displays last term.
Mee has played alongside both men over the last few seasons, but his contributions to the Clarets’ terrific defensive record have never received the same level of recognition. A no-nonsense centre-half, he’s a key cog in the defence-minded system Sean Dyche has created at Turf Moor.
Cardiff: Joe Ralls
Cardiff’s surprise promotion last season owed more to the collective than any one individual star, but there’s no doubt that Ralls was one of the Welsh club’s standout performers in the second tier.
The 24-year-old midfielder, who graduated from Cardiff’s academy in 2011, and is now one of the first names on Neil Warnock’s teamsheet. Described as a “Rolls-Royce” of a player by his manager, the player we'll call Ralls-Royce is adept at breaking up play and distributing the ball efficiently.
Chelsea: Cesar Azpilicueta
Azpiliceuta is certainly very highly rated, but there’s still a sense – even after all this time – that he’s not regarded as one of Europe’s top defenders. An incredible amount of competition at international level hasn’t helped the 22-cap Spaniard’s cause when it comes to global recognition, but there have been few better players in his position since he moved to the Premier League in 2012.
The man Chelsea mans call 'Dave' has thrived at right-back, left-back and centre-back during his time at Chelsea. It’s remarkable to think he’s still only 28 years old – and could therefore continue performing at a high level for the next five or so seasons.
Crystal Palace: James McArthur
McArthur isn’t a glamorous footballer but his importance to the Crystal Palace cause is generally underestimated. The Scotland international has been a regular starter under four different managers - Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson - and impressed each of them with his array of engine-room qualities.
The 30-year-old’s lung power is his leading attribute, but he’s also highly intelligent and contributes plenty on the ball. An extremely well-rounded midfielder, he’ll be essential for Hodgson & Co. again this term.
Everton: Idrissa Gueye
Richarlison has rightly stolen the headlines with three goals (then a red card) in his first three Everton appearances, but Gueye’s displays have been just as important to the Merseysiders’ promising start to life under Marco Silva.
Few would dispute that the former Aston Villa man is a good player, but it still feels accurate to label him underrated. A fantastic ball-winner who’s also able to drive forward in possession, Gueye may go about his business with a minimum of fuss but he fulfils his midfielder functions extremely effectively.
Fulham: Tim Ream
Ryan Sessegnon, Tom Cairney and Aleksandar Mitrovic were the names on everyone's lips as Fulham secured promotion to the Premier League last season, but none of that trio won the club's Player of the Year award. Instead, that honour went to Ream, the ball-playing centre-back who scooped an impressive 61% of the vote when placed up against four of his team-mates.
The United States international hasn't played yet this season due to injury, but he should eventually re-establish himself at the heart of Slavisa Jokanovic's backline despite the summer arrivals of Alfie Mawson, Maxime Le Marchand and Calum Chambers.
Huddersfield: Christopher Schindler
No Premier League team scored fewer goals than Huddersfield last time out, but five sides had a worst defensive record than the Terriers. It was certainly the back end of the team which dragged David Wagner’s side over the line in their hard-fought battle against the drop, with Schindler a consistent performer across his 37 appearances.
The German knows where his strengths lie, so he’s unlikely to be robbed of possession in a dangerous area after holding on to the ball for too long. A rock-solid centre-half, Schindler is aggressive in the tackle and nippy enough across ground.
Leicester: Marc Albrighton
N'Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were the undisputed stars of Leicester's title triumph in 2015/16, but Albrighton was one of several players who chipped in with some crucial contributions along the way. He's still a valued member of the first-team squad three seasons on, and although the ex-Aston Villa winger is yet to complete 90 minutes this term, it would be no surprise to see him nail down a place in the starting XI as the campaign goes on.
Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne is perhaps the only player in the Premier League who can legitimately claim he's a better crosser of the ball than Albrighton, whose wicked deliveries from wide areas deserve a great deal more love from neutral observers.
Liverpool: Jordan Henderson
James Milner belatedly began to receive the recognition he's long deserved last season, partly because he broke the Champions League's all-time assists record by setting up nine goals as Liverpool reached the final. He's therefore been forced to relinquish Anfield's underrated baton, which is now held by captain Henderson.
The former Sunderland midfielder will have a fight on his hands to secure a regular starting spot this term following the arrivals of Fabinho and Naby Keita, but the England international will no doubt relish the challenge. Able to play as a No.6 or a No.8, his off-the-ball running makes him the perfect fit for Jurgen Klopp's hard-pressing outfit, while he doesn't always get the credit he deserves for his distribution.
Manchester City: Fernandinho
Manchester City will again be heavily reliant on Fernandinho this season, having missed out on Jorginho to Chelsea in the summer transfer window and then decided against bringing in another option at the base of midfield.
The concern about the Brazilian’s ability to play week in, week out relates to his age, not his ability. The 33-year-old isn’t a flashy operator and will always be behind midfield colleagues David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne when it comes to wider recognition, but the former Shakhtar Donetsk man is one of the most important parts of Pep Guardiola’s fearsome unit.
Manchester United: Jesse Lingard
The 2017/18 season felt like a breakthrough one for Lingard, who forced his way into the starting XIs of Manchester United and England with some fine post-Christmas Premier League showings.
Yet there’s still a sense that the 25-year-old is underappreciated, even among some Manchester United supporters. This may have something to with the fact Lingard was a late developer – he was playing for Derby in the Championship a little over three years ago – but his dynamism, intelligence and technical ability have made him an integral figure for both club and country.
Newcastle: Paul Dummett
Some Newcastle fans were concerned when their club failed to secure an upgrade on Dummett at left-back following their promotion back to the Premier League in 2017, but the local lad responded brilliantly with some terrific displays last season.
The 26-year-old isn’t the kind of buccaneering full-back who rampages down the flank for 90 minutes, but his more cautious style no doubt appeals to Rafael Benitez. Dummett knows he’s a defender first and foremost, which is why he’s rarely caught out of position.
Southampton: Oriol Romeu
Romeu may not have been quite of the requisite standard to enjoy a lengthy stay at either the Camp Nou or Stamford Bridge, but the former Barcelona and Chelsea man is still an excellent player for a middle-ranking Premier League side like Southampton.
A ball-winning midfielder who’s tough in the tackle and an expert protector of his team’s backline, the unflashy Romeu tends to keep things simple when in possession – which is probably part of the reason why he continues to be underrated despite being one of Saints’ best players.
Tottenham: Ben Davies
There was a time when the appearance of Davies on the Tottenham teamsheet ahead of Danny Rose would cause murmurings of discontent on the terraces. These days, though, the Welshman is the undisputed first-choice left-back at Spurs, as evidenced by his 26 Premier League and five Champions League appearances last term.
Davies may not be the quickest, but he makes up for a lack of pace with his defensive positioning and dangerous delivery from out wide. Solid rather than spectacular, the former Swansea full-back nevertheless deserves more praise.
Watford: Adrian Mariappa
Marippa has had to get used to being a squad player over the last few seasons, but in 2017/18 he was involved in the Watford first team much more often, with 28 Premier League appearances being the most he’s made since playing 29 times for top flight Reading in 2012/13.
Comfortable at right-back, centre-back or even in central midfield, the versatile 31-year-old is dependable and diligent. He’s got a great spring on him despite standing at just 5ft 11in, while he’s also quick enough to keep pace with speedy opposition wingers.
West Ham: Angelo Ogbonna
Being a West Ham defender hasn’t been the easiest job in recent years, so Italian centre-back Ogbonna has done well to preserve his reputation. Strong in the air and tough to beat in individual duels, the ex-Juventus stopper is also an accomplished passer who can help build attacks from deep.
The Hammers have endured a difficult start to the season under Manuel Pellegrini, shipping nine goals in their first three games. Tightening up at the back is a must, and Ogbonna will be essential to those efforts in the coming weeks.
Wolves: Willy Boly
Joao Moutinho, Rui Patricio and Adama Traore were Wolves’ headline purchases in the summer market, but converting Boly’s loan move from Porto into a permanent deal was just as significant. The 6ft 5in centre-back helped Nuno’s side into the top flight last term and will play a big role in determining how far up the Premier League table they finish this time around.
Comfortable with the ball at his feet and a towering presence in the air, Boly is unlikely to struggle with the step up to the Premier League.
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