WHILE the top six in the Premier League may have the ability to attract some of the best talent in the world, that doesn’t mean further down the table there aren’t some gems.
As Manchester City’s record-breaking winning streak came to an end in a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace, Wilfried Zaha showed why he’s been getting so much praise for the Eagles this season, putting in another impressive performance.
And with that in mind, our friends at Football Whispers have identified the ten best players outside the top six.
After an under-the-radar start to his Watford career, Doucoure has really kicked on this season.
He has six league goals, with the Hornets midfielder adding an attacking output to his defensive solidity and endless running at Vicarage Road.
Marco Silva sees him as the heartbeat of his side, and has praised the 25-year-old: “I see in him fantastic skills.
Of course everything is new to him; how we try to play in some moments. Firstly, he’s a worker, after he is a player with very good skills.
“Until now he is progressing really, really well. He’s one player I believe he can improve his football and play at the next level.”
SunSport has revealed Watford are planning on making him the highest-paid player in their squad, on £70,000-a-week, to ward off interest from bigger clubs.
Likened to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, Gueye is the heartbeat of Everton’s midfield and has been a key player under Sam Allardyce, starting all but two of the former Crystal Palace boss’ eight Premier League games in charge at Goodison Park.
Only Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi had made more tackles per game in England’s top flight than the Senegalese’s 3.7, but the Everton No17 is dribbled past less per match (1.6 times compared to 2.6).
Gueye is also heavily involved in interceptions – making 1.9 per game, above Kante (1.8) and Ndidi (1.3).
With a pass completion rate of 86.2 percent too, he’s not only adept at breaking up play but is also comfortable on the ball.
The 32-year-old former Arsenal keeper has been the shining light in Swansea’s disappointing season so far.
No other keeper in the Premier League has made more saves this season than the Pole’s 83, which works out at an impressive 2.59 saves per goal conceded.
And despite Swansea sitting bottom of the Premier League, he’s managed to keep six clean sheets.
Since arriving in South Wales, he’s always conceded fewer goals than Swansea’s expected goals against (xGA)
So far this season Swansea have an xGA of 33.14, Fabianski has conceded just 32. It was a similar story last term, too.
The Swans’ xGA in 2016/17 was 67.2 but the former Arsenal stopper was beaten on 64 occasions. The campaign prior he conceded 46 instead of the xGA of 50.5.
And in his first season at the Liberty Stadium the 45 goals he let in was far below the xGA of 58.3.
Richarlison has adapted quickly to life in England, with the highest xG (8.28) of any player outside the top six.
The Brazilian often finds himself in goal-scoring positions and no other player outside top six has had more shots per game than his 3.2. But he can be accused of wastefulness though, having only scored five goals, despite having a much higher xG.
However, he’s got the potential to go to the very top and, having directly been involved in nine goals so far in the Premier League, Richarlison has taken to English football like a duck to water.
Watford boss Silva has been impressed with him and isn’t shocked to see him linked to big clubs.
“It's not a surprise if these clubs come to see him,” said Silva back in November.
“He's had a fantastic impact at our club and on the Premier League.
"It's a normal situation that everyone's starting to talk about him, but most important is that he keeps going, to improve.
“He's a player with a lot of quality so it's normal if everybody starts to pay attention to him.
“We are talking about a fantastic talent, a very, very good player. I'm sure in the future he'll achieve everything he can.”
Another summer signing who’s hit the ground running, Gross has been Brighton’s attacking focal point.
The Seagulls aren’t big scorers, but of their 17 goals so far this season, the German has been directly involved in nine of them. He’s scored four and provided five assists.
He’s a real danger from set pieces and has shown real quality from out wide, putting dangerous balls into the box for the likes of Tomer Hemed and Glenn Murray.
The 26-year-old German averages 2.1 key passes per game, above Paul Pogba who’s averaged 1.8 so far this season, and he’s been hailed as the bargain of the summer.
He joined for just £3million from Ingolstadt and former Leicester and Tottenham scout Rob Mackenzie told Sky Sports: “Not only is Gross a great buy, but Brighton did the deal in May – taking a top target off the market for a low fee.“
When Michael Keane was sold to Everton in the summer, there were fears Burnley would struggle to replace the England international.
Yet Tarkowski has stepped up and proven himself a more than capable starter. In fact he’s been one of the best defenders in the league so far this season.
Alongside Ben Mee, the 25-year-old defender has been a rock at the back for Sean Dyche’s men as the Clarets have risen to seventh in the Premier League.
He’s been averaging an impressive 7.8 clearances per game, the second highest in the league, as well as 1.6 tackles and 1.7 interceptions.
So impressive has he been, that Dyche has joked that Tarkowski is worth £900million if Virgil van Dijk can move for £75million.
With nine Premier League goals this season, only Wayne Rooney has scored more than Vardy from a team that is outside of the top six.
He is unlikely to replicate his goalscoring feats of 2015/16 season, where he struck 24 times as Leicester won the league, but he’s already only four behind last season’s tally of 13 in the league.
Always a threat up front, he’ll hope Riyad Mahrez stays in January as the two often combine to devastating effect.
Only Cesar Azpilicueta to Alvaro Morata (six) is a more profitable partnership than Mahrez to Vardy (four) so far this season.
Written off by many after a disappointing end to his Manchester United career, Rooney has found himself revitalised since returning to boyhood club Everton.
“I think the move and the timing of the move looks like it was perfect for Everton and perfect for him, and he’s proving that now,” Allardyce said.
The former England captain has scored ten of the Toffee’s 25 league goals this season, which works out at 40 per cent – only Harry Kane (46 per cent) has a higher total of his side’s goals.
And if you add Rooney’s two assists so far this season, it’s even more impressive.
At 32, Rooney is not getting any younger but he’s reminding everyone why he was once one of the most sought-after teenagers around.
Mahrez has seven assists so far this season, that’s the most of any player outside the top six.
When on form, the 2015/16 PFA Player of the Year is arguably one of the league’s best and it appears he is getting back to that this season despite pushing hard for a move away from the King Power stadium in the summer.
A January switch may occur and a potential destination could be Anfield, with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hailing the Algerian last month, saying: “He is a fantastic player to be honest. I can imagine a lot of clubs are interested in him.”
Whether or not he is a Liverpool transfer target, Klopp is right and there will be many clubs looking at the 26-year-old, who also has seven Premier League goals in 2017/18.
Leicester fans will hope is he carries on producing performances like the one against Huddersfield at the weekend, where he was head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch during the Foxes’ 3-0 win.
It was no coincidence that Zaha’s return from injury came in Crystal Palace’s first win of the season – a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in which the Ivorian winger scored.
Since then, he’s been the catalyst behind the Eagles’ rival under Roy Hodgson.
His silky skills with the ball are up there with the very best and only Eden Hazard has completed more dribbles per match in the Premier League than Zaha’s 4.2.
He’s finally showing why Sir Alex Ferguson made him his last signing as Manchester United boss, and it will be no surprise to see the 25-year-old eventually return to a top-six club for a second shot at proving himself at the top level.
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