Most improved Premier League players of the season

Date published: Wednesday 9th December 2015 10:50

Ross Barkley: Failed to kick on

Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Leicester City duo Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy are among the season’s most improved players.

It’s fair to say that most of the players that you would consider the stars of this Premier League season so far would not have been touted as Player of the Year candidates ahead of the campaign.

Where many of the top performers from 2014-15 have underwhelmed, not least PFA award winner Eden Hazard, a handful of players have made remarkable strides since last season.

Here, reveal the most improved XI based on their statistical ratings, with players needing to have made at least 10 appearances this season and last.

Most improved XI

Tim Howard – rating increase 0.58

Howard was the third lowest rated keeper last season (6.44) having committed four errors that led to a goal and kept a modest seven clean sheets. He has four to his name already this season and not committed a single costly error thus far, resulting in a rating of 7.02 – ranking fourth of all goalkeepers.

After a disappointing campaign from a team and individual perspective last time out, the Toffees as a whole have looked much improved in the absence of Europa League duties.

Kyle Walker – rating increase 0.17

His may have the lowest increase in rating in this XI, but Walker has no doubt made improvements this season after after an underwhelming campaign disrupted by injury in 2014-15.

The right-back has started every league game this time around, which is already enough to match his appearance tally of 15 from last season, seeing an increase in interceptions to take his total to 46, bettered by only three Premier League players thus far.

Damien Delaney – rating increase 0.28

Many would have tipped Delaney as a weak link in the Palace team upon their promotion back to the top-flight, but the veteran has been an integral part of the Eagles line-up since Alan Pardew’s appointment.

His physically dominant displays mean that only Yohan Cabaye has a higher rating than the centre-back (7.19) for the Londoners this season. Delaney ranks second in the Premier League for both clearances (8.6) and blocks (1.4) per game.

Philipp Wollscheid – rating increase 0.41

Now seemingly first choice to partner fit-again captain Ryan Shawcross, Wollscheid is beginning to settle in England. After a difficult start to life at the Britannia following his January move, the 26-year old is showing more composure at the back, seeing his pass accuracy rise from 78% to 82.3% and improving the timing of his challenges as he adjusts to the pace of the Premier League, with tackles per game up (2.3 from 1.4) and fouls down (0.5 from 0.8).

Robbie Brady – rating increase 0.41

Settling into life at Carrow Road in impressive fashion since a summer switch from Hull City, Brady has secured the highest rating at Norwich City (7.36) by a distance this season.

Deployed at left-back in the most part, the Irish international has seen his tackles per game double this season to 3.3, while also offering a greater threat going forward. Averages of 1.7 shots, 1.8 key passes and 1.9 dribbles per game are all up on figures from his final season at the KC Stadium.

Riyad Mahrez – rating increase 1.18

With the highest WhoScored rating in the Premier League this season (8.33) it’s little surprise to see Mahrez take his place here. The Algerian has been in scintillating form, culminating in a hat-trick against Swansea at the weekend, taking his tally to 10 in the league, supplemented by six assists.

No player has had a direct hand in more goals in England’s top-flight this season, with Mahrez leading the way in terms of dribbles (50) too.

Mousa Dembele – rating increase 1.10

With the second highest rating increase in the side, Dembele is finally showing Tottenham fans just what he is capable of having earned a run in the side.

The Belgian was among those tipped to leave the club under Mauricio Pochettino but has fought for his place, adding composure in midfield alongside the young duo of Eric Dier and Dele Alli.

Injury-free for much of the campaign, the former Fulham man has already started more league games this season (11) than last (10), completing twice as many dribbles per game (3.1) to place fourth in WhoScored’s player rankings.

Ross Barkley – rating increase 0.85

Partnering the Belgian in this XI, Barkley has had a fantastic start to the 2015-16 campaign.

Criticised for a lack of end product in the past, the England international has proven his doubters wrong so far this season. Tallies of six goals and five assists are both considerably up on modest returns of two for each last season in what was an underwhelming campaign from the youngster.

With his figures up for shots, key passes and dribbles per game, the same certainly can’t be said this time around.

Mauro Zarate – rating increase 0.30

Set to become a regular in the West Ham side following injuries to both Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini,  Zarate will be required to maintain his encouraging performance levels this season.

The Argentine has only started five league games but has scored in three of those, already matching his appearance tally over spells with both the Hammers and QPR in 2014/15 (11).

The 28-year old is beginning to show the sort of work rate needed to accompany his undoubted talent, averaging 1.8 tackles per game as well as two shots.

Jamie Vardy – rating increase 1.02

Perhaps the least surprising inclusion here, Vardy’s sensational scoring streak may have come to an end at the weekend but that, along with Leicester City’s remarkable rise as a whole, remains the story of the season so far.

The forward’s overall tally of 14 goals is the most in the Premier League, with the England international having notched just five times last time around. The 28-year old’s confidence is understandably sky high; he averages almost three times the number of shots per game this season (3.9) than last (1.4).

Romelu Lukaku – rating increase 0.79

Completing the most improved XI is Lukaku, whose 11th goal of the season on Monday was his 50th for Everton in 100 appearances.

Despite that impressive record, the Belgian had a disappointing campaign like many of his team-mates last time out, with his recent goal against Palace taking his tally above that of last season (10). With shots (3.3 per game), key passes (1.2) and dribbles (1.4) all up, the 22-year old is on top form, scoring in each of his last 6 appearances for the Toffees.

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