F365's Top Ten Most Improved Players

We're happy souls here at 365 towers, so have chosen ten players that have got a whole lot better. Must have been in the Premier League last year and this to qualify...

Last Updated: 06/05/14 at 09:25 Post Comment

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NB - Before we begin, the likes of Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan are not included. Their improvement can, at least in part, be attributed to simply being a year older. No doubt you'll have your own opinions on that. Good day.

10) Peter Odemwingie
Five goals in 26 matches and a bizarre Partridge-style drive to Loftus Road in his bare feet were the contributions of Odemwingie for West Brom last season, and things didn't seem to be going too well following a summer move to South Wales, with just one league goal for Cardiff. Too much Toblerone, perhaps?

However, another move, this time to Stoke, has reinvigorated the Nigerian's season. Six goals in 14 matches has been his return under Mark Hughes, who has converted the striker into a role approaching right-winger, with Peter Crouch central. There are even reports that the initial World Cup squad chosen by Stephen Keshi was rejected by the Nigerian Football Federation because Odemwingie's name was not included. Can we do the same with Ross Barkley?

9) Aleksander Kolarov
Whilst I'm still not convinced that Kolarov is actually any good, and certainly not of the level expected at one of the world's richest clubs, there is little doubt as to the Serbian's improvement this season.

Kolarov has still started just one more Premier League game than Gael Clichy, but Manuel Pellegrini clearly likes the attacking threat the 'left-back' provides, especially with Samir Nasri tucking inside on the left wing.

Six assists and impressive 'chances created' statistics have been the result, along with a slight sense that I may need to alter my entrenched judgement.

8) Gary Cahill
Whilst Cahill indeed improved last season on rather inauspicious beginnings to life at Stamford Bridge in 2011/12, it is during this campaign that he has really begun to show his true capabilities as part of the Premier League's tightest defence.

Physical, strong and surprisingly quick, there is little that Cahill lacks as a central defender, and he has largely eradicated the sloppy mistakes that had dampened any deserved praise. Named in the PFA Team of the Season and the mainstay of England's defence, it seems remarkable that Cahill is three-and-a-half years younger than Phil Jagielka.

As an aside, watching Nathan Baker this season makes Villa's decision to sell Cahill for less than £5m to Bolton absolutely jaw-dropping.

7) Fabian Delph
Paul Lambert hasn't seen an awful lot of things go right for him during this completely uninspiring Aston Villa season, but the form of Fabian Delph is certainly one in the 'for' column. A midfielder whose career seemed to on a path to mediocrity is finally showing the form that persuaded Villa to part with £8m five years ago.

Changes in managers and style, injury and loss of confidence can all be blamed in part for Delph's struggles, but this season has seen him drive forward and display the dribbling attributes all too rarely seen in English players. Delph is also an eager tackler, desperate to harry opposition midfielders into giving up possession, and he's even added a few goals following a dire four-year drought. Onwards and upwards now please, Fabian.

6) Jay Rodriguez
Last season Jay Rodriguez scored just six goals in 35 appearances, and many (myself included) supposed that he probably just wasn't good enough for the highest level. Since then he's made us all look foolish.

Only six players have managed more Premier League goals than the 24-year-old this season, and given that four of those play for clubs that have scored 96 times each at the time of writing (Southampton have just 53), that's mightily impressive.

Also the proud owner of an England cap that will surely be added to next season should his form continue, Rodriguez has left manager Mauricio Pochettino taken aback. "The sky is the limit for him," the Argentine said. "I don't see a roof - there is no limit. He is a player that ever since I arrived has been really confident and playing basically all the games."

Hard-working, exciting, skilful and seemingly down-to-earth - there really isn't an awful lot not to like.

5) Adam Lallana
It sort of feels like Adam Lallana has always been brilliant but, actually, last season was tinged with disappointment for Southampton's captain. He scored just three goals as Southampton struggled before the appointment of Pochettino, and whilst the midfielder's form was far from poor, he failed to dictate games as much as he'd like.

This season, all that has changed. Lallana has nine league goals, six assists and has looked comfortable either on the right side of midfield, as an attacking central midfielder or in behind the striker. His England debut seemed overdue from the moment that he stepped onto the field, instantly looking at home in such a vaunted arena. Big things (and an inevitable move to Dortmund) await.

4) Seamus Coleman
If there was ever any doubt that certain players perform better under a specific style of manager, Seamus Coleman acts as the final piece of persuading evidence.

Prior to this season, Coleman's happiest time came during a brief spell at Blackpool under Ian Holloway in which he helped the Tangerines to play-off final success. Roberto Martinez has taken such enjoyment to the ntt degree.

Let off the leash under the Spaniard, Coleman has become a player transformed. More goals than Demba Ba, Fabio Borini, Nikica Jelavic, Victor Anichebe and Fernando Torres, his attacking threat combined with defensive solidity has seen a £25million price tag put upon his head (not literally). Just a bloody shame he's not English.

3) Cesar Azpilicueta
Whilst there is little point in getting pissy over something as meaningless as the PFA Team of the Year, Luke Shaw's inclusion over Azpilicueta at left-back is a fair indication that British is still seen as best in the eyes of the players.

Last season, Azpilicueta played all 27 of his Premier League games at right-back, but during the summer underwent something of a rebrand under Jose Mourinho. It took until November for him to start his first league match of the season, but did so on the left side of defence, a position he has refused to relinquish pretty much ever since.

Even after having taken his position, Ashley Cole recently recognised Azpilicueta's improvement. "Cesar has been brilliant this season for me - if not the best player in the team. And I think for him to come on the left and play left-back, I couldn't play right-back, and for him to come in and do such an amazing job, it's credit to him." Quite right from Cole, and pleasingly humble.

2) Aaron Ramsey
A shoo-in for the top spot if it wasn't for yet another sizeable injury sustained by a desperately unlucky player, Ramsey's effect on Arsenal this season is highlighted by just how much they missed him - a 68% win ratio with him in the side compared to 54% without.

In fact, had Ramsey continued without enforced break, he may have been named as both Player and Young Player of the Year, such was the Welshman's impressive early-season form. He scored a frankly ridiculous 15 goals in 25 matches for club and country between mid-August and the end of November, performances that allowed Arsenal to set the pace in startling fashion.

Thankfully, Ramsey has hit the ground running since his return from thigh injury. Stay fit throughout next season and there is real cause to believe that he could become one of Europe's best central midfielders. Honestly, he's got it all.

1) Jordan Henderson
The most breath-taking of ascents. Whilst with Ramsey, the talent was never in doubt, a year ago Jordan Henderson was in danger of being grouped with Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing in a north-east boyband of misfits brought without necessity to Anfield, price tags far north of their ability. Twelve months on and he's one of Liverpool most important players, efficient in possession and determined without it. After 16 league starts last season, 34 this.

As Steven Gerrard has moved into the autumn of his career with a move to holding midfielder, so Henderson has taken on the mantle of 'Old Gerrard', driving runs from midfield combined with calm, assured passing. It all seems so incongruous with the fact that just 18 months ago he was offered as part of a deal to bring Clint Dempsey to Anfield.

There are many reasons for which to praise Brendan Rodgers for his time at Anfield, but the recent rise in Henderson from also-ran to key man may just stand out bolder than any other. In many ways, Henderson's augmentation has gone hand in hand with that of his manager and club.

Daniel Storey - Follow him on Twitter.

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