Welcome to KJ’s 4th annual Top 100 English Premier League players. Over the past month, when work on such a list has intensified, I have been overwhelmed at the amount of comments sent to me on various platforms about this list. I am thrilled it has become a tradition to many of you over the holiday season. With that in mind I have decided to give you five gifts this year and break up the list. Today I am revealing numbers 100-81 and it will be number one of five parts this week, culminating on the final list being published, as usual, on New Years Day.
Before we get to the players there are a couple of things that need to be cleared up. First of all this is a 100% Kristian Jack list. No one else here at the Footy Show had an impact. Secondly it is not a list of the best players of 2010. Regulars will be aware that the list I’ve put together is based around players who I would want on my team right now. If a player is simply higher on the list then he is simply a better player, in my opinion, right now than the one underneath him. This is easier said than done, mind you. Of course, sticking to this process, means you have to account for current form but I’ve also accounted for genuine talent. I’ve been around long enough and watched hours upon hours of games to know a great player from a good player. That being said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so please feel free to let me know what you agree and disagree with. However, remember that over 500 players are registered to Premier League clubs which includes a lot of good players who did not make this list.
Just like past years there are once again players who do not qualify. This is the ‘not played enough to be judged’ category featuring many players who have been injured more than they have played, including for a fourth successive year its founder member, Ledley King. King in many ways is the reason for such a list. When he plays he is a top 50 player but the fact that he doesn’t play often drops his stock down significantly. Before we get to the ‘real’ list I would like you to be aware of all those present and accounted for in this class: Michael Johnson (Man City), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate (Spurs), Dan Agger (Liverpool), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Jack Collison (West Ham), Owen Hargreaves (Man Utd), John Mensah (Sunderland).
Earlier this month I appealed to you – the educated fans of the Footy Show – to help put together the final touches on the list and, as usual, you didn’t disappoint. Hundreds of votes were taken and seven players owe their inclusion down to you. Of course I had the final say but I really didn’t have a problem with the players voted in. Of the 50 listed to get votes I had four players who I felt absolutely should be in the top 100. All four were voted in by you. These players will be highlighted in their descriptions. The seven voted in do not make up 93-100, as explained later, but are all featured in this section of the top 100. Alright, let us get to the fun part:
100. Johan Elmander (Bolton) – Timing is everything with this selection and a player who wouldn’t have been in the top 200 last season makes the list after a fantastic start to this season which saw him named Premier League Player of the Month for November. The Swedish striker cost a lot of money from Toulouse in the summer of 2008 and he had a frustrating first two seasons but his goals, combined with a fine ability to hold the ball up, has finally given the Reebok fans something to smile about. Voted in by the Footy Show fans.
99. Heurelho Gomes (Tottenham) – Another selection from the fans who just edged Brad Friedel from the list of goalkeepers and I don’t have too much of a problem with it due to the real ‘highs’ shown by Gomes when he is on his game. He is extremely inconsistent and prone to the occasional error, as shown in the Chelsea game, but he is also able to put such errors in the past and make up for his mistakes immediately, as also shown in the Chelsea game. Has some of the best reflexes in the league.
98. Asamoah Gyan (Sunderland) – When clubs like Sunderland spend 13 million pounds on a player then they better get it right. I first saw Gyan in Cologne during the World Cup of 2006 and, in person, was very impressed in his running off the ball and his passion for physical play. His goals per shots ratio isn’t great but we are now seeing fewer strikers with the capabilities of scoring 15 league goals a season, let alone 20, and Gyan is a player who can get that level. Voted in by Footy Show fans.
97. Pablo Zabaleta (Man City) – Zabaleta was not included in the shortlist for fans to vote because he was one of two players that were borderline picks but who I didn’t think would get the votes. Zabalata is a player I admire for his adaptability to play in many different positions and master all of them. Already this season he has played in midfield, right back and left back. Another player that Diego Maradona should have taken to South Africa but didn’t.
96. Roger Johnson (Birmingham) – Last year I wrote that I expected Johnson to be in this list one year later and you the voters have ensured his place inside the top 100. Strong in the air, fearless at blocking shots and going up against some of the league’s best forwards, the centre-back has been a fantastic signing since arriving from Cardiff 18 months ago.
95. Roman Pavlyuchenko (Tottenham) – The Russian striker is the second player who was a borderline pick who wasn’t voted in by the fans. My reasoning for his selection is ironically similar to his goalkeeper in that he occasionally shows some flashes of brilliance that justify the 14 million pounds that Spurs spent on him. Often wonder what damage he could do if he played for a team that would start him every week.
94. Scott Parker (West Ham) – The West Ham midfielder was the third highest selection in the fans voting and is a worthy choice. What Parker lacks in skill he more than makes up for in hard work and football intelligence. I can only imagine how difficult it has been for such a competitive player to play for a club who won the least amount of games in 2010 of any teams that played the full year in the Premier League.
93. Paul Scholes (Man Utd) – More than 60% of the people who voted last week for this list did not include the Manchester United midfielder but those who nominated him did so with some passion. Scholes is, of course, one of the league’s top 100 players despite a lack of pace and inability to tackle cleanly on a regular occasion. Football intelligence is a term I will use once again here and his ability to always be in the right place at the right time makes him a vital player for United in big games.
92. Matthew Upson (West Ham) – Like Parker, Upson, perhaps, should be higher on this list but has suffered to the lack of talent around him at Upton Park. It has actually been comical for neutrals to watch the Hammers continue to concede sloppy goals from crosses this season and the England international has not been without blame, but he remains a good defender who would suddenly look much better again in an organised defensive system.
91. Peter Crouch (Tottenham) – Crouch is one giant polarizing figure. I have never been a big fan myself and but his ability to hold a ball up and play off a front man is one he does better than many. His goalscoring record in the Champions League, and for England, is more than adequate but in the Premier League he has struggled to find the back of the net this season.
90. Kevin Davies (Bolton) – Davies has shown under Owen Coyle that he can play in an ugly side and now an attractive side. No defenders like to play against him, he is fantastic in the air and chases every cause even if it looks lost. A supreme leader both on and off the field for a club that is heading in the right direction. Treated disgracefully by England in 2010.
89. Michael Turner (Sunderland) – Turner was stolen from a cash-strapped Hull by Steve Bruce 16 months ago and has rarely put in a poor performance since. This time last year he sat out four games for suspension and the club conceded 12 goals in the four matches he missed. The Black Cats have some fine young defenders at the club now but he is the best of the bunch.
88. Ryan Shawcross (Stoke) – Some call Stoke the new Wimbledon for their style of play but every successful team needs good defenders and they have two excellent centre backs. Robert Huth didn’t get enough votes to make the top 100 but Shawcross is better than that and has taken his game to a new level recently. Stoke will have a hard time keeping hold of their club captain in 2011.
87. Leighton Baines (Everton) – The runaway winner in the fans vote, the Everton left back has had a fantastic season this year and has improved into an excellent all-around left back. Baines gets a lot of publicity for his ability to put in some fine crosses and has linked up well with Steven Pienaar down the left flank all season long but he has also produced some fine displays at the back despite being sometimes left isolated by the careless Pienaar.
86. Steven Pienaar (Everton) – Pienaar ends a run of 8 straight Englishmen on the list and it’s only fitting that he is next to Baines. The South African has his faults defensively but is exciting on the ball and can provide width from a central area. Faces an interesting future as his contract expires at the end of the season.
85. Richard Dunne (Aston Villa) – Dunne has had a torrid time lately. After taking over as Villa skipper, while Stiliyan Petrov was hurt, he was then dropped from the first XI after numerous poor performances. Never blessed with pace, the Irishman’s leadership and do-or-die mentality makes him a crowd favourite as he puts his body on the line each game. Still an excellent defender although may not be a top 100 player next season.
84. Ji Sung-Park (Man Utd) – Is there anything this man cannot do? Scorer in three successive World Cups, Park has also created headlines this season for scoring crucial goals for United. However, it is what Park does without the ball that makes him such a special player. Tracking back and making sure your full back isn’t overlapped sounds easy but many struggle to accomplish it. One of the most selfless players in the league.
83. Clint Dempsey (Fulham) – One of the most improved players in the Premier League over the past year, the American is full of confidence after playing well in Europe with Fulham and at the World Cup with the USA. Can play on the wing or behind the front man and makes a habit of scoring crucial goals for a club that needs all the goals they can get.
82. Jack Rodwell (Everton) – Future England regular, I’m absolutely sure of it. Still only 19, he is exceptional when deployed as a defensive midfielder but can equally look at home at centre back or as an attacking midfielder. One of two young Jack’s from England blessed with a great left foot and the creativity and style to play inside rather than simply on the wing. More from the other later.
81. Wilson Palacios (Tottenham) – One of the biggest mysteries of the year came in the significant drop of form from Palacios. Absolutely loved by the White Hart Lane faithful when he arrived from Wigan, he is currently nothing more than a squad player for Harry Redknapp after suddenly losing the ability to pass accurately and tackle properly. Still a fine player when at his best, it’s now up to Redknapp and his numerous assistants to work on finding the player they bought from Wigan two years ago.
That’s it for the first installment. Check back later this week for the next 20 and don’t forget to leave your thoughts below.