Every club's most underrated player
The likes of Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Paul Pogba and Harry Kane get plenty of attention every week in the Premier League, so we've decided to shine a light on some of the division's unheralded stars.
In this slideshow, we pick out a player from every top-flight club who deserves more recognition...
Arsenal: Nacho Monreal
A model of consistency throughout his Arsenal career, Monreal is a manager’s dream. The Spaniard goes about his business with a minimum of fuss and therefore doesn’t always receive the credit he deserves, but anyone who’s watched the Gunners regularly in recent years knows how important he is to the team.
Monreal has spent the majority of his Arsenal career at left-back, but he demonstrated his versatility by shining as a left-sided centre-half during the latter stages of Arsene Wenger’s tenure. He’s an excellent passer too, and scored five goals in the Premier League in 2017/18.
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 get the attention he deserves. Strong in the air despite being ‘only’ 6ft 1in tall, the 27-year-old is dominant in both boxes – he scored the winning goal in the 2-1 defeat of West Ham in August – and a good passer from the back.
Brighton: Glenn Murray
When Brighton failed to sign a new striker in summer 2017, many immediately tipped them for the drop. Although Murray had notched 23 Championship goals the season prior, few believed he would be able to make any sort of impact on the Premier League as his 33rd birthday approached.
Yet the former 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 avoided an immediate return to the second flight. His deft finish against Manchester United in August was a fine example of his underappreciated technical ability.
Burnley: Ben Mee
Michael Keane’s displays for Burnley in 2016/17 earned him a transfer to Everton the following summer, while James Tarkowski received plenty of plaudits – and an England call-up – for his performances last season.
Mee has played alongside both players over the last few years, but his contributions to the Clarets’ terrific defensive record have never really received the same level of recognition. A no-nonsense centre-half, he’s a key cog in the defence-minded system Sean Dyche has installed at Turf Moor.
Cardiff: Joe Ralls
Cardiff’s surprise promotion in 2017/18 owed more to the collective than any one individual, but there’s no doubt that Ralls was one of the Welsh outfit’s standout performers in the second tier.
The Aldershot-born midfielder, who graduated from Cardiff’s academy in 2011, and is now one of the first names on Neil Warnock’s team sheet. Described as a “Rolls Royce” of a player by his manager, the 24-year-old breaks up play in the centre of the park and distributes the ball efficiently.
Chelsea: Cesar Azpilicueta
Few would dispute that Azpilicueta is an excellent defender, but he still seems to go under the radar. To some extent that’s inevitable– he’s distinctly unflashy and plays as a full-back or centre-back – while the fact he’s only won 23 caps for Spain hasn’t helped his cause when it comes to wider recognition.
Nevertheless, there have been few better defenders in the Premier League since the start of the decade. Smart, versatile and a magnificent reader of the game, the 29-year-old is particularly underrated in possession.
Crystal Palace: James McArthur
McArthur isn’t a glamorous footballer but his importance to the Crystal Palace cause shouldn’t be underestimated. The Scot has been a regular member of the starting XI under Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson, impressing managers and fans alike with his wide array of qualities in midfield.
McArthur’s stamina is his leading attribute, but he’s also highly intelligent and contributes plenty on the ball. A well-rounded player, he’ll be key for Hodgson again this year as Palace seek a second top-half finish in the Premier League era.
Everton: Idrissa Gueye
Richarlison has stolen the headlines with three goals and 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.
Most Premier League followers are aware that the former Aston Villa man is a good player, but he still doesn’t seem to get the recognition he deserves. An expert ball-winner who’s also adept at driving forward in possession to turn defence into attack, Gueye is one of the first names on the Toffees’ team sheet.
Fulham: Tim Ream
Ryan Sessegnon, Tom Cairney and Aleksandar Mitrovic were the names on everyone's lips as Fulham won promotion to the Premier League last season, but all three men were beaten to the club’s Player of the Year prize by centre-back Ream, who scooped an impressive 61% of the vote.
The United States international is yet to play this season because of injury, but he should eventually re-establish himself in the heart of Slavisa Jokanovic's backline. A ball-playing defender, Ream excels at building play from the back.
Huddersfield: Christopher Schindler
No Premier League team scored fewer goals than Huddersfield last season, but five sides had a worst defensive record than the Terriers. It was the back end of the team which dragged David Wagner’s men over the line in their fight against relegation, with Schindler’s consistency across 37 outings – the only game he missed was a trip to Bournemouth, which Town lost 4-0 – a key reason for their solidity.
The tough-tackling German reads the game well and inspires those around him, marshalling the backline with confidence and intelligence.
Leicester: Marc Albrighton
N'Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were the stars of Leicester's title success in 2015/16, but Albrighton was one of several players who chipped in with some vital contributions.
He's still a key member of the squad three seasons on, and although the ex-Aston Villa man is yet to complete 90 minutes this term, it would be no surprise to see him nail down a place in the starting line-up as the campaign goes on. There are few better crossers of the ball in the Premier League than Albrighton, whose wicked deliveries from out wide have created numerous chances for his team-mates down the years.
Liverpool: Jordan Henderson
Henderson has a fight on his hands to secure a regular starting spot at Anfield 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, the former Sunderland man’s 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. James Milner has recently begun to receive the recognition he’s long deserved, so Henderson has taken over as the Reds’ most underappreciated star.
Manchester City: Fernandinho
Pep Guardiola opted against turning his attentions elsewhere when Manchester City failed to sign Jorginho in the summer, so Fernandinho looks set for another busy campaign at the base of the champions’ midfield.
The concern about the Brazilian’s ability to play week in, week out relates to his age rather than 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 he’s undoubtedly a pivotal part of Guardiola’s awesome unit.
Manchester United: Jesse Lingard
Lingard may have made his Manchester United debut on the opening day of the 2014/15 campaign, but 2017/18 felt like the season he finally established himself as a first-team regular. The forward forced his way into the starting XI for both club and country with some tremendous showings for United, particularly in the second half of the season.
Despite that, Lingard continues to be underrated – even among some sections of the United support. The fact he was a late developer may be behind the curious underappreciation of a player who combines dynamism, intelligence and technical ability to great effect.
Newcastle: Paul Dummett
Some Newcastle supporters were concerned when the club failed to source an upgrade on left-back Dummett following their promotion back to the Premier League in 2017, but the local lad responded brilliantly with some fantastic performances last campaign.
The 26-year-old isn’t the kind of rampaging full-back who charges down the flank for 90 minutes, but Rafael Benitez seems to appreciate his more conservative style. Dummett knows he’s a defender above all else, which means he rarely affords opposition wingers space in behind.
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 midfielder is still an excellent player for a middle-ranking Premier League side like Southampton.
A ball-winner 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 perhaps part of the reason why he continues to be underrated despite having been one of Saints’ better players for the last few seasons.
Tottenham: Ben Davies
There was a time when Tottenham fans would be frustrated if Davies was selected ahead of Danny Rose at left-back, but the Welshman is Mauricio Pochettino’s first choice these days – 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 is a tremendous passer who regularly feeds Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen in dangerous positions.
Watford: Adrian Mariappa
Marippa has had to get used to being a squad player in the last few years, but 2017/18 saw him involved in the Watford first team much more regularly: his 28 Premier League appearances were the most he’s made in the division since playing 29 times for Reading in 2012/13.
Able to slot in at right-back, centre-back or at the base of midfield, the versatile 31-year-old is disciplined, dependable and diligent. Strong in the air despite being just 5ft 11in, Mariappa is athletic and possesses excellent positional sense.
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 former Juventus stopper is also an accomplished passer who helps build attacks from deep.
The Hammers have suffered a tough start under Manuel Pellegrini, but Ogbonna will be essential to his team’s efforts to tighten up at the back in coming weeks and months.
Wolves: Willy Boly
Joao Moutinho, Rui Patricio and Adama Traore were Wolves’ headline signings in the summer, but tying former loanee Boly down on a permanent contract was just as important. The 6ft 5in centre-half helped Nuno’s men to promotion last season and will play a big role in determining how far up the Premier League table they finish this time around.
A towering figure who’s comfortable with the ball at his feet, Boly has made a fine start to life in the top flight. He even got on the scoresheet in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City, turning Moutinho’s cross home… with his hand.
Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).