Who are the best players outside of the top six English clubs? In a time where transfer fees, for the top six especially, are heavily inflated, it is easy to dismiss the quality of the other 14 clubs. Nonetheless, this list proves that the Premier League is as talented as ever. All six of these players could comfortably slot into the squad of a ‘bigger’ and better team, even though it appears the gap to the top six is unbridgeable.
There is no particular order to this list. Furthermore, the list will not feature players from the same club in order to give a fairer representation of the Premier League.
The Best Players Outside of the Top Six
1. Riyad Mahrez
Eight goals and seven assists in the league this season represents a great return for the Algerian winger. It could be argued that, when he’s on form, he is one of the best in the league, including the top six clubs.After winning the PFA Player of the Year award when Leicester won the title, Mahrez didn’t quite hit the same heights with the Foxes last season. However, his class has shone through in this campaign under Claude Puel’s reign.
Mahrez pushed for a transfer throughout the summer, and it would be no surprise to see him in the shirt of a top English/European club come the 2018/19 season. For now his silky dribbling will continue to light up the Premier League. His strength on the counter attack is not to be underestimated, either. With a goal or an assist in five of his last six matches, barring the 0-0 against Chelsea where he starred in a strong Leicester performance, Mahrez appears to be happy at the King Power Stadium for now.
2. Abdoulaye Doucouré
Watford have admittedly had a collapse in recent weeks, leading to a change of management, which has affected Doucouré and fellow star Richarlison. Nevertheless, the Frenchman has always kept the willingness in his game and has repeatedly shown there is quality beyond his hard work.
It’s not all about goals for this type of player, so seven so far in the league this season adds another dimension to his game. Despite one being controversial as he handled the ball across the line against Southampton.
The appointment of Javi Gracia will hopefully revitalise Watford’s and Doucouré’s seasons, as both have undoubted quality. He is a tidy player and generally likes to keep things simple in the middle of the park, which is vital for any team to help keep rhythm within their play. It may be a shock inclusion when there are many big names left out of this list, but if Gracia can start getting results again, then Doucouré will be one of the main components in doing this.
3. Wilfried Zaha
Zaha has been a shining light for Crystal Palace in recent seasons and has kept on that upward trajectory during the 2017/18 campaign. The skillful winger has added a more potent end product to his undoubted talent on the ball over the last couple of years, and has looked extremely menacing so far this season.
Four goals in 18 league appearances isn’t an overwhelming amount, but all of them have come in vital matches; proving that he has the ‘big game’ temperament. Though Zaha’s game isn’t entire about goals. His dribbling and trickery on the ball is the main facet of his game. This allows him to frequently win penalties or free kicks in dangerous positions – subsequently creating chances for his team.
He may like being the big fish in a small pond and having the adulation of the fans, particularly after an unsuccessful spell with Manchester United. But he has matured on and off the pitch since then and is worth taking a gamble on for one of the top six sides.
4. Ryan Bertrand
The Southampton left back has been a transfer rumours mainstay over the last couple of seasons and it is easy to see why. He consistently puts in good performances, even during the tough spell Southampton have endured in recent weeks.
The England international likes to support the attack, making him a useful outlet. He also has the athleticism to regain his position. Bertrand is comfortable on the ball and retains possession well, making him an ideal target for potential buyers.
At 28, he is at the peak of his powers. Whilst it was the right decision from Chelsea to sell him in 2015 to further his career, they may be regretting the decision now. He would provide excellent competition for Marcos Alonso.
5. Manuel Lanzini
Another inclusion to the list that is extremely comfortable on the ball, Lanzini is at the heart of West Ham‘s revival under David Moyes. Aided by the talented of Marko Arnautovic, Lanzini’s dribbling and control is a joy to watch on his day. He holds possession well and catalyzes many attacks of the Hammers attacks.
Lanzini is best deployed centrally, and can be ineffective when played wide. He is a composed finisher too, and has been in the form of his life in recent weeks. At 24, he would represent a good investment if a top club were in need of a playmaker. The Argentine is perfect for a team that like to keep possession, especially in the opponents half.
6. Idrissa Gueye
Gueye has come to prominence under Sam Allardyce, and offers defensive solidity that is matched with the best in the league. His combined tackles/interceptions per game is joint top with N’Golo Kanté (5.4) which speaks volumes about the style of his play.
He is often left down by lapses in judgement around him from his Everton teammates. When Everton’s backline was leaking goals, Gueye was hardly going to shine as he is part of the defensive unit. Nonetheless, bar a few blips, his individual performances still remained competent. His holding of the ball is another feature of his play.
In his role, there aren’t many better than Gueye in the top flight. He is very much in the Kanté mould.
This list is always going to be subjective, and players in teams outside the top six are always going to have peaks and troughs over the course of a season. There are many other notable names that could have been mentioned. However, the six chosen indicate the quality of the lower reaches of the Premier League. It’s more evident than ever that there is a separation between the top six and the rest. But these players give a fair representation of the talent that clubs outside the elite can produce or develop.
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