For some clubs, like Manchester United and Manchester City, their most important player is clear. For others, like Arsenal, Newcastle and Liverpool, it is less obvious.
Here’s who we believe to be every Premier League club’s MVP this season…
Arsenal – Martin Odegaard
We start with perhaps the toughest call of the lot: Declan Rice or Martin Odegaard? The summer signing makes a very strong case, not just because of his late goals that have earned huge wins against Manchester United and Luton, but because of the steel he has brought to a midfield that is still searching for its ideal balance. Odegaard is absolutely crucial in that, and though Arsenal have not been as fluent or thrilling as they were for much of last season, the captain has still had a hand in a goal every 88 minutes. All the more impressive when you consider the greater defensive responsibility Odegaard has had to take on while Mikel Arteta seeks the right blend in his engine room.
Aston Villa – John McGinn
Unai Emery has worked wonders at Villa Park, with no-one more than McGinn. The midfielder struggled under Steven Gerrard and was dropped for the first game after the ex-manager was sacked. But under Emery, he has been a machine. This season, McGinn has started every game in all competitions except one – the Europa League second leg against former club Hibs when Villa were already 5-0 up. McGinn was brilliant while running amok through a Rodri-less Manchester City midfield on Wednesday night and the Villa skipper has led by example all season.
Bournemouth – Dominic Solanke
The centre-forward is already enjoying his best goalscoring season having scored seven times so far following a return of half a dozen last term. Part of that could be down to the more progressive approach of Andoni Iraola, under whom Solanke is certainly looking more like the kind of striker that earned an England cap before he departed Liverpool in 2018. Having scored almost 40 per cent of Bournemouth’s goals, only two clubs have been more reliant on a single player for their attacking output in those terms.
Brentford – Bryan Mbeumo
In the absence of their usual MVP, Ivan Toney, Mbeumo has stepped up to partially fill the void with seven goals and four assists in 15 Premier League games. But Brentford will have to do without the Cameroon attacker “for weeks” after Thomas Frank confirmed he had suffered a “bad” ankle injury against Brighton. Only Mo Salah and Erling Haaland have a higher xG than Mbeumo.
Brighton – Kaoru Mitoma
Mitoma started the season on fire, having a hand in six goals in Brighton’s first half-dozen matches. After signing a new contract, the winger is up to eight in 14, the most recent assist coming against Brentford when Mitoma started for the first time in four games. The Seagulls failed to win any of the three matches he wasn’t in the XI.
Burnley – Josh Brownhill
Prior to Lyle Foster taking some time away from Burnley, you could easily make a case for the forward being their most important player. But Brownhill and Zeki Amdouni have tried to step up in his absence, with the former tied on three at the top of the Clarets’ goalscoring chart. Brownhill started the season on the bench but came back strong to regain the armband, with his form leading to links with other Premier League sides.
Chelsea – Thiago Silva
Mauricio Pochettino obviously feels like he cannot be without the centre-back since he has played every minute in the Premier League – one of only eight players to do so and certainly the only 39-year-old. The Brazilian brings the experience to a youthful side, though his form has not always been exemplary – Newcastle was a rare off-day.
Crystal Palace – Eberechi Eze
Odsonne Edouard has made a decent claim to be Palace’s MVP with six goals – no player has scored a higher percentage of his team’s goals. But Eze, especially in the absence of Michael Olise for much of the season, is Palace’s creative force. Eze himself has missed five games and the Eagles have won none. With Eze, Palace have 1.4 PPG. Without: 0.4 PPG.
Everton – Dominic Calvert-Lewin
The England striker’s absence gives him as much prominence as his input when he is available to Sean Dyche. Everton simply don’t have the quality to cover for Calvert-Lewin, and though they will hope that Beto’s goal against Newcastle could kickstart his Toffees career, the first-choice No.9 remains pivotal. Five of their six wins have been earned with Calvert-Lewin in the side. Just stay fit…
Fulham – Joao Palhinha
Fair play to Fulham for standing firm over Palhinha. They lost Aleksandar Mitrovic and struggled to replace him. Had they lost Palhinha too when he was in Munich waiting for the green light to join Bayern, Fulham would have been in bother. They might be through the second half of the season with Palhinha still keen to move, but the midfielder has made it his business to carry the Cottagers through to January while giving the club enough time to source a replacement. While he waits, Palhinha has made more tackles – 19 more – than anyone else in the Premier League.
Liverpool – Virgil van Dijk
It could be Alisson, it could still be Salah. But in the wake of Joel Matip’s season-ending injury, Van Dijk’s importance to Jurgen Klopp is heightened even further. No player has yet managed to dribble past the centre-back this season – a stat that has previously highlighted his imperiousness – and only Ethan Pinnock has won more aerial duels.
Luton – Thomas Kaminski
The Hatters knew they needed a solid stopper for their first season in the Premier League but even they might be surprised by how quickly Kaminski has taken to life in the top flight. No clean sheet yet – he was agonisingly close against Liverpool – but only one keeper has kept out more expected goals.
Manchester City – Rodri
Simple. No Rodri, no City midfield. The Spaniard has missed three Premier League games this season and the Treble winners have lost them all. Pep Guardiola has tied himself in knots while trying to cover for Rodri – he started two centre-backs in midfield at Villa rather than the three actual midfielders he had on the bench – and the control the 27-year-old brings is more important even than the ridiculous goal tally of Erling Haaland.
Manchester United – Bruno Fernandes
Harry Maguire has been crucial to United this season in the plot twist absolutely no-one saw coming but still Fernandes remains far and away their most important player. The skipper is the only consistent source of creativity and his robustness continues to amaze. No outfield player in Europe can get close to Fernandes for minutes played in 2023. Some pundits and fans will only realise how important the captain is if he ever decides he’s had enough of the Old Trafford circus.
Most fielded Europe-based outfield players in 2⃣0⃣2⃣3⃣
🥇 #BrunoFernandes 🇵🇹 5,748 min (66 matches)
🥈 #DavidHancko 🇸🇰 5,248 min (58)
🥉 #AntonioRudiger 🇩🇪 5,223 min (63)
Full tables in last @CIES_Football ⚽️ Weekly Post 👉 https://t.co/xe1J1UjL9n pic.twitter.com/pj5XGEoZou
— CIES Football Obs (@CIES_Football) December 6, 2023
Newcastle – Kieran Trippier
Jamie Carragher reckons there is “no doubt” that Anthony Gordon is Newcastle’s most important player this season. We’d suggest there is a debate to be had while putting forward Trippier as Eddie Howe’s MVP. The right-back has played every Premier League and Champions League game, missing only the minutes that weren’t competitive in big wins over Palace and Sheffield United. Trippier is still level at the top of the Prem assists chart, though he is clearly knackered if his meltdown at Everton is an accurate measure. “The worst 10 minutes I’ve ever seen anyone have,” according to Tim Sherwood. And he’s seen some shockers.
Nottingham Forest – Morgan Gibbs-White
The Forest attacker has once again been their best player and he has only become more important in the absence of Taiwo Awoniyi. His goal contributions are down on last season but he remains pivotal to how Steve Cooper’s side attack. No Forest player has played as many minutes with Gibbs-White the only one to feature in every Premier League game.
Sheffield United – Oliver Norwood
Only Luton see less of the ball than the Blades and Norwood has been crucial in what they do with what possession they muster. The 32-year-old’s status was such that he was given the captain’s armband when Chris Basham suffered his season-ending injury at Fulham in October. But Chris Wilder dropped him for the returning manager’s first game back and his caution when he came on for the last few minutes against Liverpool means he misses the clash with Brentford this weekend.
Tottenham – James Maddison
Maddison adapted seamlessly to Spurs, becoming the Premier League’s most creative player while getting his feet under Ange Postecoglou’s table. He had a hand in eight goals in 10 games – then it all went wrong when Maddison was injured against Chelsea. They haven’t won since, and the only game prior to that in which he was rested, in the Carabao Cup against Fulham, they lost too. There are other factors, like the absence of centre-backs, but Maddison is a massive miss for Postecoglou.
West Ham – Jarrod Bowen
Bowen was crucial when he was used in his natural position on the wing. But David Moyes has shifted him inside in the absence of Michail Antonio’s fitness and Danny Ings’ form to play as a centre-forward and Bowen has adapted impressively. Only Salah and Haaland have scored more than the England international’s nine goals.
Wolves – Pedro Neto
Hwang Hee-chan has been huge, with his eight goals accounting for 40 per cent of Wolves’ total. But Neto’s output was even more impressive, the winger having a hand in nine goals in their first ten games. Despite having missed the last five games, he still sits at the top of the Premier League assists chart, level with Trippier on seven.