The Premier League boasts an array of talent, but oftentimes some of the most important and influential players go somewhat unnoticed out of the glare of the spotlight.
1) Mikel Arteta
Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta is possibly one of the most underrated players in the world. He was undervalued by Barcelona when he graduated from the La Masia academy - that produced the likes of Xavi and Lionel Messi - and he has been overlooked by the Spain national team his entire career.
Now, at the Arsenal, Arteta has had his natural position changed from a midfield playmaker to a defensive midfield enforcer, and he hasn’t batted an eye-lid; he just gets on with it. He is, and has been for a number of years, the most accurate and consistent passer of the ball in Europe, and his leadership skills and attitude are second to none. Arsenal also look to Arteta for his penalty and free kick taking capabilities.
2) Jonny Evans
I have a sneaking suspicion that if Evans was English there’d be a lot more praise awarded to him and his development over the years at Old Trafford. At present, he is Manchester United’s most capable and reliable centre-back, and undoubtedly one of the finest defenders in the Premier League.
Evans often gets upstaged by the array of attacking talent at Manchester United, but his work at the back for the last few seasons has been a huge part of the Red Devils' recent success. Last season, Evans played 23 out of 38 games in the Premier League, and found himself on the losing team just once as Manchester United were crowned champions. That's consistency personified.
Another case similar to Arteta’s is Chelsea's Ramires. Unfortunately for the Brazillian, the abundance of attacking talent, especially in midfield, often results in him overshadowed, but Ramires is certainly one of Chelsea’s most consistent performers, game in game out.
Not only does he do the dirty work in Chelsea midfield behind the likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar and Frank Lampard, but Ramires covers more ground than any of them, and storms into the box at every available opportunity. Chelsea's unsung hero.
4) Glen Johnson
Liverpool and England fullback Glen Johnson is undoubtedly the best English right-back since Gary Neville, but is often overlooked when you start counting the stars of the current Liverpool team. His technical ability is often forgotten, and contribution in attacking situations should not be underestimated. Johnson's defensive capability can also be outstanding. If the Liverpool fullback can keep fit and maintain consistency at the top level, he will most certainly be on the plane to Brazil for the World Cup.
5) Leon Osman
Over the Blue side of Merseyside another midfielder who doesn’t always get the attention he deserves is Everton’s Leon Osman, who has been one of the Toffees most important and influential players for almost 14 years now. He’s an Everton player through and through, but he doesn’t get the praise he should for his work rate and leadership skills.
Although the Everton man has only earned 2 caps for England, he really has been one of the best English midfielders of his generation, along with the likes of the more celebrated Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald