The 2016/17 Premier League Unsung XI

We all know that the signings of N’Golo Kante and David Luiz won Chelsea the league. We also know that Harry Kane notched 29 Premier League goals last season.

While they stole the limelight, there remained a selection of unsung heroes at each club and they deserve a little bit of credit, too.

Here is the Premier League’s unsung XI.

Goalkeeper: Tom Heaton (Burnley)

 

Sean Dyche’s feat with Burnley this season has, despite its plaudits, been deserving of so much more. While other relegation candidates flap, Burnley stay true to their thinking and never looked in real danger of the drop.

Tom Heaton is a product of that shrewd thinking and since his move to the Clarets, has made two appearances for England and now captains Dyche’s outfit.

His heroics at Old Trafford (where he made 11 saves) were memorable, but it is his dependability within the frames that warrants him ‘unsung hero’ status.

Right Back: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)

 

It’s tough to play for Manchester United and remain unsung, but the Ecuadorian right back has done just that.

Assured, composed and unruffled, Valencia has flourished in Mourinho’s defensive strategy. He’s a monster of a man, seemingly carrying the figure of a Rugby Union winger, but Valencia has been a rare constant in Mourinho’s plans.

Nothing says ‘Mr Reliable’ than winning ‘Player’s Player of the Year’ as Valencia did at the annual Manchester United awards while he also captained the side to Europa League success.

Centre Back: Ben Mee (Burnley)

 

The understated ‘other’ of Burnley’s central defence.

In a side that has kept 10 Premier League clean sheets, Michael Keane has been the centre of all the attention and commotion, but what the ex-Manchester United youth player be without his trusty Manchester City youth product sidekick?

The two have distinct backgrounds but both have combined to create an effective defence pivotal to Burnley’s survival.

Centre Back: Harry Maguire (Hull City)

 

Oh so close for Marco Silva’s Hull City revival. They may well be playing in the Championship next season, but something has gone wrong in the scouting process if Maguire were not to be pinched from the Tigers.

The nifty centre half has a way with distribution and is an astute mover with the ball which in themselves were not enough to halt the drop, but led to calls for his first England call-up in March as Southgate experimented with his options.

Left Back: Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur)

 

When Danny Rose limped off at Sunderland, Spurs fans quite reasonably went into panic mode. Neath-born Ben Davies has filled that void quite seamlessly as Spurs won 13 in 15 in the Premier League off the back of Rose’s injury, losing just twice to Liverpool and West Ham.

The calm and collected full-back did well to see off initial criticism and scored a beauty against Hull City on the final day to fittingly round off his first significant spell of football in lilywhite.

Victor Wanyama (Tottenham Hotspur)

 

There is genuinely no shifting the Kenyan off the ball, at least not on his terms. Spurs have accrued an extra 16 points this year and I’m not sure you can attribute that achievement to Vincent Janssen nor Mousa Sissoko.

The responsibility of Tottenham’s midfield lies at Wanyama’s feet and hasn’t he excelled. The Kenyan mops up, is canny with his fouling and even bagged five goals for himself in all competitions.

If it weren’t for N’Golo Kante, he would be the signing of the season.

Centre Midfield: Oriol Romeu (Southampton)

 

Tasked with replacing the aforementioned Kenyan was ex-Chelsea and Barcelona academy graduate Oriel Romeu.

As Southampton have petered out since their unfortunate League Cup final defeat to Manchester United, so have their players, but Romeu should be acknowledged for his brute force prior to their deterioration. Naturally, the Spaniard was

Naturally, the Spaniard was awarded both Fan’s Player and Player’s Player and has even been linked with a return to Catalonia.

Right Wing: Pedro (Chelsea)

 

Cesar Azpilicueta aside, the most unsung of the Chelsea troop is winner-of-it-all Pedro. The Spaniard has popped up with hugely significant goals this season, most memorably the carbon copy goals vs Tottenham and Everton.

The technically gifted, nimble, pacey winger is exactly what Chelsea have needed to complement Eden Hazard, but it is the Belgian’s reinvigoration and the signings of N’Golo Kante and David Luiz under Antonio Conte that have generally been attributed to the Champions’ title.

Left Wing: Manuel Lanzini (West Ham)

 

In such an underwhelming West Ham season with Dimitri Payet leaving in January and genuine relegation concerns creeping in, someone had to stand up and be counted.

That man was Manuel Lanzini, who in 35 PL appearances has scored 8 goals, most significantly the winner against Tottenham as the London Stadium finally received its ceremonial initiation.

With West Ham so mediocre, the 24-year-old Argentinian has gone largely under the radar. If Bilic is to have European ambitions, you’d imagine Lanzini would be focal to those plans.

Striker: Josh King (Bournemouth)

 

In King’s first season at Bournemouth, he notched a handy six goals as Bournemouth cemented a Premier League top half finish time. Up until January, he was on course to equal that having scored three.

Five months on and with the season over, the Norweigan sits proudly on 16 goals as the league’s joint 8th top scorer alongside Chelsea star and champion Eden Hazard.

His second half of the season was phenomenal but still remains largely under the radar. Notably, he took home Bournemouth’s Player’s Player, too. We’re noticing a theme, aren’t we?

Striker: Fernando Llorente (Swansea City)

 

The Spaniard’s attitude has been exemplary and his form has won Swansea 13 points alone this season.

Linked with Chelsea in January and facing relegation to the Championship, El Rey Leon grabbed hold of the situation, led the line and scored a pivotal 15 goals in securing Premier League football and The Liberty next season.

Having won the World Cup, the Euros, Serie A, the Europa League and the Copa del Rey, it was refreshing to see Llorente celebrate with such thirst as he headed home the winner against Everton to all but seal Swansea’s safety.

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