- Top Tens home
- Top ten - most improved
Skysports.com picks out ten players who have come on leaps and bounds in the Premier League
The transformation from zero to hero is a strange phenomenon, yet in the Premier League there have been numerous instances.
Whether it is a sudden coming of age, boost in confidence or change in tactics, players can suddenly undergo massive improvements in form.
Stepping out of the shadows at a club to become one of the first names on the team-sheet must be a strange experience.
And here skysports.com picks out ten who have come on leaps and bounds in England's top division.
10) Samir Nasri
Following his arrival in England in the summer of 2008, it was almost impossible to see why Arsenal decided to pay Marseille £15.8million. But the tricky French playmaker has proved that, despite his critics, Arsene Wenger remains a shrewd judge of talent. Nasri was a huge disappointment in his debut campaign, but began to show flashes of his undoubted ability in 2009/10. And then, last season, it was only frustrating injuries which prevented the France international from adding to his 15 goals and creative vision.
9) Clint Dempsey
Almost unique on this list (although an argument could be made for No.5) in that Dempsey has not won over the fans this season or dramatically changed perceptions. Instead, he has simply elevated a Fulham career that was in danger of becoming stagnant. Dempsey scored 12 Premier League goals last term, five more than ever before, and the same amount as Didier Drogba (and more than Wayne Rooney). At £1.5million, the 28-year-old is one of the greatest Premier League bargains.
8) Daniel Sturridge
Mr. Sturridge has finally decided on a forename that allows him to be successful. Started with Danny at Manchester City (promising), before choosing Daniel at Chelsea (underused). This season, on loan at Bolton, Dan has showed the qualities that many scouts expected. Lightning quick with a desire to shoot on sight, Fernando Torres will have Dean's nephew breathing down his neck. He scored eight goals in 12 games at the Reebok Stadium and yet only has one Premier League goal for Chelsea.
7) Christopher Samba
Let's be honest, Blackburn centre-backs have never been the most glamorous of accessories. But last season Samba, alongside new Manchester United signing Phil Jones, emerged as one of the most dependable defenders in the business. Such was Samba's power, organisation and communications skills, he remains a transfer target for Arsenal.
6) Stuart Holden
The midfielder more than deserves his place on our list. Having started just one Premier League game in 2009/10 after arriving in January, the American international responded to a full pre-season with excellent performances last term. While he would probably have added to his goal tally (two all season) were it not for serious injury, the Aberdeen born player displayed much needed quality in a Bolton side crying out for a creative spark.
5) Leighton Baines
Baines is not yet established as an international class full-back, but his cameo for England against the Switzerland in June indicates reasons for optimism. Ashley Cole is now the wrong side of 30, and the Everton defender has the necessaries to become a successor. Baines appeared in every minute of the Premier League season, and was the winner of the Player of the Season, Player's Player and Goal of the Season at Goodison Park. Mark the season down as 'job well done'.
4) Lucas Leiva
Lucas was almost seen as a joke figure for several seasons, challenging Michael Carrick for the most ineffective and insubstantial international midfielder. But the Brazilian has inherited his country's No.5 shirt on the back of two dependable campaigns for Liverpool. It was supposed that he would drift back to Brazil and be forgotten. But the change has been impressive, as last season Lucas made more tackles than anyone else in the Premier League and was named Liverpool's Player of the Season by fans.
3) Gareth Bale
There is a need to avoid being swept along by the hype. He has not been world-beating and he is not the new anyone. He has improved. A lot. Seven Premier League goals and, lest we forget, the PFA Player of the Year. Bale's greatest performances came in the Tottenham's enjoyable UEFA Champions League campaign, but he has still emerged from the Premier League shadows.
In any other season, Nani would have topped the pile. An improvement of more than 100 per cent on his previous goalscoring contributions was almost overshadowed by his phenomenal record of 18 assists. Say it quietly, but is the little man maturing? The signing of Ashley Young may mean that Nani is ultimately forced out of Manchester United, but at least he would now leave on a high.
1) Ali Al-Habsi
In truth, the name around which the list was formed. In 2009/10, the Omani goalkeeper played two games for Bolton all season, a 4-0 Carling Cup defeat to Chelsea and an FA Cup victory over Lincoln. Between May 2008 and August 2010 he had not played a minute of Premier League football. When Roberto Martinez offered him a season-long loan, it was a masterstroke. While not single-handedly keeping Wigan in the Premier League, they would almost certainly have been relegated without him, and he was voted Player of the Season by the supporters. The likelihood is that Wigan will have to pay Bolton £5million for his services.
This article first appeared on the Football365 website.
Related Top Tens
Sky Sports counts down ten of the best North London derbies ahead of Sunday's clash.
We pick out the star pupils from the 2012 draft class, including a pair of record breaking quarterbacks.
Twenty years after joining Manchester United, we look back at Eric Cantona's top 10 memorable moments.
We count down 10 summer signings who will get their first taste of the Premier League this weekend.
Thomas Hill takes a look back at 10 memorable moments from Community Shields gone by.
Sky Sports counts down 10 players who are attracting persistent transfer speculation this summer.
We look at 10 footballers worth keeping an eye on at this summer's London Olympics.
Sky Sports takes a look at 10 players who will feel they need to impress in the Premier League.
Ahead of England's Euro 2012 quarter-final clash with Italy, we look at 10 previous contests.
With Euro 2012 up and running, we take a look at the top 10 upsets in the history of the event.