2014-15 Premier League season review: Top ten midfielders


All week at ProSoccerTalk we are reviewing the dramatic 2014-15 Premier League season. From dishing out awards to looking back at the highs and lows in the 380 games as 20 teams battled it out, we’ll have every angle covered.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League season review ]

For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now, let’s take a look at the ten men who excelled in the midfield.

Ah, the midfielders. No one dictates the pace and direction of a game quite like the men (often times) in the middle third of the field. Oh, and all those goals that fantastic goals that you love watching over and over again, there’s almost always a midfielder involved in the build-up, making beauty possible.

The 10 best midfielders from the 2014-15 Premier League season…

10. Yannick Bolasie, Crystal Palace

Bolasie was a bit of a second-half revelation. Call it the “Pardew effect,” if you will, but the DR Congo winger provided a real spark for the Eagles once Alan Pardew took over as manager. 4 goals and 6 assists doesn’t sound like an incredible season, until you realize that nearly all of them came between January and May.

[ MORE: Top 10 goalkeepers | Defenders | Forwards ]

source:  9. Jack Colback, Newcastle United

In a season where many of the Newcastle players looked completely disinterested in fighting for the club, Colback, a Sunderland youth academy product, was perhaps the most (only?) consistent Magpies performer in 2014-15. His 4 goals and 6 assists don’t even begin to tell the story of Colback, whose 91 tackles won rank 4th in the Premier League and 65 interceptions come in as 5th-most.

8. James McArthur, Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace’s midfield workhorse (88 tackles, 7th-most in the PL, and 66 interceptions, 4th-most) and foundation of possession (79 percent completion percentage, with nearly one key pass per game). Poached from Wigan for barley $10 million last summer, McArthur is one of the Premier League’s best pieces of business.

7. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea City

Sigurdsson amassed 7 goals in 10 assists in his first season as a full-time Swan, which are tied-8th and 2nd, respectively, in the Premier League. That’s a 37-percent goal contribution rate, which also ranks in the top-10 of the league, easily.

[ MORE: Top 10 newcomers to the Premier League | The best (and worst) transfers ]

source: Getty Images6. Jordan Henderson, Liverpool

What an up-and-down season it was for Henderson. The 24-year-old struggled mightily as the campaign began, and by the time it ended he had been chosen the heir apparent to Steven Gerrard and given a brand new $150,000-per-week contract to stay at Liverpool until 2020. 6 goals and 9 assists from what is generally a deeper-lying midfield player is nothing to scoff at.

5. Nemanja Matic, Chelsea

With the embarrassing wealth of attacking talent ahead of him in the midfield (we’ll get to that in a moment), Matic was the midfield beast that allowed every one of Chelsea’s creative-minded midfielders to do their thing. Unsurprisingly, Matic ranks 1st in tackles won (122) and clearances (118); 2nd in interceptions (72); and 6th in passes blocked (44).

[ MORE: Premier League grades: How did each team fare this year? ]

source: Getty Images4. Santi Cazorla, Arsenal

The 2013-14 season wasn’t particularly kind to Cazorla, who for stretches looked like his best years might be behind him. Then came the 2014-15 season. 7 goals and 11 assists for the diminutive Spaniard were sorely needed when Aaron Ramsey’s production regressed from last season’s stellar performances. At times Cazorla played in a deep midfield two with Ramsey or Francis Coquelin; at times he played underneath the center forward; at times he was shuttled out onto the wing, where he still had a great impact.

3. David Silva, Manchester City

Much like Cazorla, folks seemed to have given up on Silva following a pedestrian 2013-14 season (by his standards). In 2014-15, Silva willed Man City to results at times, leading the Citizens to a second-place finish, frequently papering over the completely disinterested showings of Yaya Toure. 12 goals and 7 assists for Silva this year, and with slightly better finishing from City’s center forwards, it could have easily been 12 and 12, or 12 and 15.

2. Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea

Chelsea had all but won the league by the time March rolled around. Fabregas’s early-season performances, in which he contributed nearly all of his league-leading 18 assists, were a huge reason why the Blues held such a commanding lead and won the title so comfortably. It’s still a bit weird seeing Fabregas in Chelsea blue, but seeing the brilliant Spaniard win Premier League titles is a sight we could all get used to seeing.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback: Looking back at a memorable 2014-15 season ]

source: Getty Images1. Eden Hazard, Chelsea

By most (all?) organizations, the Premier League Player of the Year. By most metrics, it wasn’t even close. 14 goals and 9 assists this season launched Hazard’s name into the “who’s the third-best player in the world” conversation. The additions of Fabregas and Diego Costa could have cut into Hazard’s production and numbers, but the Belgian simply welcomed his new help in the attacking third and made not only himself, but everyone around him, a better player.

Ranking the Ballon d’Or finalists

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The Ballon d’Or finalists for 2019 were announced by France Football on Monday, and there has been plenty of discussion not only about players included in the shortlist or those that missed out, but who deserves to win the highest award in the game.

So, who does?

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With seven players from Liverpool, five from Man City and the usual suspects in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi all nominated, some stars left out include Harry Kane, Neymar and N’Golo Kante to name a few.

Below we rank the finalists, 30-1, in terms of who we think are the best players.

Feel free to do the same in the comments section below.

30. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
29. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
28. Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)
27. Marquinhos (PSG)
26. Donny van de Beek (Ajax)
25. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham)
24. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
23. Riyad Mahrez (Man City)
22. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)
21. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
20. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)
19. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
18. Sergio Aguero (Man City)
17. Dusan Tadic (Ajax)
16. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
15. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
14. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)
13. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
12. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
11. Bernardo Silva (Man City)
10. Alisson (Liverpool)
9. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
8. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
7. Frenkie De Jong (Barcelona)
6. Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
5. Raheem Sterling (Man City)
4. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
1. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)

Xhaka slams “bulls***” criticism of Arsenal

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Arsenal have been targets for a lot of criticism recently.

Granit Xhaka is usually at the center of it.

The Gunners captain came out all guns blazing after they lost 1-0 at Sheffield United on Monday, as he addressed Patrice Evra‘s comments that Arsenal are “babies” and always will be due to their mentality.

“We have to stop about mental [strength] bulls*** like this. For me, it is the same whether you play home or away – you have to win and show big character and a good game and not to always find the same excuse,” Xhaka said. “A lot of people they speak too much. It is not the first time he has spoken something about us. I have a lot of respect for him as he was a great player but you have to be careful what you say. But it is not only him – a lot of people speak a lot of bulls*** about us. It’s always the same.

“For me it is strange as they were in the same situation as us, they were players as well. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not always good but every week they speak bulls*** like this every week. I tell you the honest truth, I’m not interested in what people say and speak. We have to speak in our group to improve things and work hard and not listen to these people.”

Xhaka and Arsenal have only lost twice this season, 3-1 at Liverpool and 1-0 at Sheffield United.

But aside from being fifth in the table and two points outside the top four, pressure is being placed on Unai Emery and his squad as they’ve narrowly beaten Bournemouth, Burnley, Newcastle and Aston Villa so far. Their performances aren’t instilling confidence in anyone that they can seriously push for a top four finish this season.

Has much changed under Emery in the past 15 months? Nope. This is pretty much the same Arsenal team making the same old mistakes and looking vulnerable away from home. Nothing new here. Sure, some new players have arrived, but David Luiz, Pepe and Sokratis have all been hit and miss so far and it has been left to Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to try and rescue the Gunners each and every week.

Emery was supposed to change their style of play, develop them into a stronger team defensively and improve their chances of challenging for trophies once again.

None of that has happened, and it doesn’t look closer to happening. That is why the critics are circling around the Gunners. Monday was the perfect opportunity to prove their mentality had changed and they are a stronger, more balanced team under Emery. They aren’t and something drastic will have to change for them if Emery is going to win over the fans, and pundits, once again.

Ronaldo not ready for retirement: ‘Age is just a number’

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Cristiano Ronaldo reassured Juventus supporters and his legions of fans worldwide that at 34 he’s not ready for retirement yet.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

“Age is just a number. It does not mean that at 34, 35, 36 you are at the end of your career,” Ronaldo said at a news conference ahead of Juventus’ Champions League match against Lokomotiv Moscow on Tuesday. “I can show that with my performances, how I play, the way I play, the way I still feel good, sharp, thinking about the game, more mature. This makes the difference.”

In the second season of a four-year deal at Juventus, Ronaldo had sparked concern among his fans when he said in an interview published a few weeks ago that he was starting to enjoy seeing himself “outside of football, so who knows what will happen in the next year or two?”

Ronaldo recently scored his 700th goal as a professional while on international duty with Portugal and has been nominated for a record sixth Ballon d’Or award – which would break his tie of five with Lionel Messi.

But Ronaldo said he’s more interested in winning a treble with Juventus.

“We want to win Serie A, we want to win the Cup, the Champions League,” he said. “Juventus should think big. … We are going to try to win all the trophies, we know it will be difficult, especially the league and the Champions League, but I think it is possible. Everything is possible.

“In terms of individual, I have nothing to say as this is individual. It is not the most important thing,” Ronaldo added. “The most important is the collective awards. If you win the collective awards you have more chance to win the individual awards. … The Golden Ball is for me in second place.”

While retirement may not be on Ronaldo’s mind yet, family time is a big part of his life now.

“To win games, to score goals, to enjoy myself, to arrive home and see my kids happy and say, `Congratulations daddy for scoring a goal.’ That makes me happy,” he said. “This is my motivation to come to train, for the games, to entertain people and the fans with my passion.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Carragher apologizes to Evra over Suarez t-shirts

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Jamie Carragher has apologized to Patrice Evra after Liverpool wore t-shirts in support of Luis Suarez in 2011.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The day after Suarez was banned for eight games by the English Football Association, who found him guilty of racially abusing Evra, Liverpool’s players put on t-shirts with Suarez on the front and back during their warm up in a Premier League game against Wigan Athletic.

Carragher and Evra were both analysts for our partners at Sky Sports in the UK on Monday Night Football for the clash between Sheffield United and Arsenal, and discussed the current problems with racism in the game.

“There is no doubt we made a massive mistake; that was obvious,” Carragher said.

Liverpool’s former vice-captain asked Evra how he felt regarding the situation with Suarez, and the former Man United, Juventus and Monaco left back revealed his disgust at the way the situation was handled.

“When I saw it I was like, this is ridiculous. This is unbelievable,” Evra said. You put your own club in danger when you do those things. You always have to support your player because he is from your team but this was after the ban. If it was before and we were waiting for the sanction, I would understand. What message do you send to the world? Supporting someone being banned because he used some racist words.”

Click play on the video above for the full discussion between Carragher and Evra.