Ranked! The 10 biggest MVPs in the Premier League right now

David de Gea Manchester United

They’re not necessarily the league’s 10 best players – but they are the most crucial to their clubs. From the interception machine to the world’s best in his position, Nick Miller ranks the Prem’s irreplaceable stars

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

10. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham)

It feels like scientists could study West Ham for years in some sort of lab and still not really make much sense of them. Are they good? Are they terrible? Are they somewhere in between? Who knows?

What can be more certain is that they look an awful lot more threatening when Arnautovic is in the team and, more importantly, in the mood. Arnautovic – energised by David Moyes moving him to a centre-forward position last season – is often criticised for his inconsistency. That’s broadly fair, but when he's at his best, West Ham are an entirely different proposition.

9. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Last year Van Dijk described himself and Liverpool as the “perfect fit”, and that’s certainly been true. He’s been a key part of solving their biggest problem: their defence. Before the Dutchman made his debut for the club in January last season, the Reds had conceded 28 goals in 23 league games; afterwards, they let in 10 in 15.

That could be a coincidence, but anyone who has watched Jurgen Klopp’s side will surely tell you it isn’t. Their defensive weaknesses, for so long the damning strike against this Liverpool team, seems a long time ago. “I’m never nervous,” Van Dijk said last season. “I always have been calm, sometimes a little too much.” With him in the team, Liverpool fans can afford to be calm too.

8. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)

Doucoure is an interceptions machine. The Watford midfielder won the ball back more than any other player in the Premier League last season, patrolling the centre of the park like a watchful security guard, and always there to whip possession away from the opposition just as they’re planning to do something with it.

You could make a pretty strong case that Doucoure is the most underrated player in the division – the Frenchman is certainly the Hornets’ most accomplished star. He is their key man, particularly in games against the big boys when Watford need someone to win the ball back a lot. It’s a mystery why some of those sides haven’t made more of an effort to sign him.

7. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

These are changing times at Arsenal. They’re playing under a new coach for the first time in a generation, they’re getting used to a new style and adapting to a whole new approach to football – off the pitch as well as on it.

All of that will take time to make sense – but they’re not allowed to just watch it happen. Brendan Rodgers’ old line about football management being like trying to build a plane while flying it springs to mind. The broader process is complicated, but one of the simple things that will help that process is scoring goals.

At the moment, their best chance of scoring the amount of goals they need to smooth things along is Aubameyang. So even while a team’s best attacking player is usually pretty important, the Gabonese speedster is even more so for this evolving Arsenal side.

6. Jamie Vardy (Leicester)

Almost all of the title-winning heroes are gone now. N’Golo Kante was off before most players had washed champagne out of their eyes, Danny Drinkwater was last seen sadly kicking a ball against a wall at Chelsea’s training ground, Wes Morgan’s race is run and Riyad Mahrez left for Manchester City this summer.

Only Kasper Schmeichel, Marc Albrighton and Jamie Vardy are still first-choice regulars, so for that reason alone one of them must qualify as their most valuable player. Of course, it has to be Vardy: since the start of that title season, the Englishman has scored 59 of Leicester’s 183 goals; a shade under a third. The day he leaves really will be the end of an era.