As the New Year rolls into view, the English Premier League rumbles on, with the 2021/22 season sailing past the halfway point in spite of weekly match postponements and ongoing uncertainty.
At this point of the campaign, the fates and fortunes of the league’s 20 teams are becoming ever clearer. On the one hand, the likes of Manchester City, West Ham United and Arsenal are enjoying particularly strong seasons in the context of their ambitions whilst Manchester United, Everton and Leeds United have all been disappointing.
Away from the hype surrounding new signings both from overseas and further down the English football pyramid, a number of familiar faces in the Premier League are breaking new barriers in terms of their individual form, reaching higher levels in their top-flight careers. Amidst a sea of candidates, here are our five most improved players of this Premier League season so far.
5 most improved players of this Premier League season so far
5. Neal Maupay (Brighton and Hove Albion)
It’s been a tale of ups and downs for Brighton so far in 21/22, but on the whole the team is in a much healthier position than last season, and that is partly down to the improved goal output of striker Neal Maupay.
A microcosm of Brighton’s infamous Expected Goals (xG) problem last season, Maupay has so far managed a healthy return of seven goals in 15 games in the league this season. This compares with a much poorer record of eight goals in 33 league games for the entirety of last season.
The French striker is still sometimes guilty of missing big chances, but a number of fine finishes in crucial moments has been invaluable to his team so far in 21/22, and he is easily on course to surpass last season’s goal tally.
He also looks likely to top his personal record for goals in a Premier League season, which currently stands at ten.
4. Max Kilman (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Wolves are slowly but surely adapting to life under new manager Bruno Lage, and whilst the football hasn’t been the most entertaining, they are still sitting firmly in the top half with one of the best defensive records in the league.
Having grown in influence during the course of the past two seasons, defender Max Kilman has taken the next step in 21/22 to become one of the club’s best players. The former futsal international has played every minute of the campaign so far, already surpassing the total number of Premier League minutes he clocked up last season before even reaching the 20 game mark this time around.
In that time, the centre back has scored his first Premier League goal for Wolves and helped them to achieve seven clean sheets from a possible 18, with only Manchester City and Chelsea boasting a better defensive record up to this point.
In light of his fantastic form so far, demands for an England call-up are only growing louder.
3. Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
In truth, Aaron Ramsdale hasn’t fared too badly from an individual perspective during his short Premier League career so far, winning back-to-back Supporters’ Player of the Year awards at both Bournemouth and Sheffield United.
However, both of those campaigns ended in relegation, and so a few eyebrows were raised when top four-chasing Arsenal decided to spend big money on him in the summer. So far, however, Ramsdale has been a revelation at the Emirates; he has dislodged former No.1 Bernd Leno, enjoyed a number of stunning performances and made countless saves, with a man of the match display at Leicester City particularly springing to mind.
To say he’s silenced the doubters is an understatement; Ramsdale has not only been one of the league’s most improved players, but also a contender for signing of the season so far.
2. Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace)
In West Brom’s disappointing one season stay in the Premier League last year, little notice was taken of Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher, who endured a steady season in the Midlands as West Brom were relegated.
Loaned out again, this time to Crystal Palace, Gallagher’s second season as a Premier League regular has so far been much better in every aspect. The young midfielder has instantly flourished under Patrick Vieira, taking a starring role as Palace started to gradually progress to a more attacking style of play.
So far, Gallagher has registered six goals and three assists in the league for Palace, comfortably surpassing last season’s tally of two and two. He also recently made his England debut, in what could shape up to be a long and prosperous career with the national team.
1. Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal)
Realistically, there was only ever going to be one candidate for the number one spot; Arsenal prodigy Emile Smith Rowe.
Having broken into Mikel Arteta’s starting line-up last season, a huge amount of faith was placed in the 21-year-old when he inherited the prestigious Number 10 shirt at Arsenal during the summer. Since then, he’s demonstrated perfectly why those at the Emirates think so highly of him.
Since opening his account for the season in the North London Derby, Smith Rowe hasn’t looked back, totalling eight goals and two assists in the league in just 17 appearances. Currently the highest scoring midfielder in the 21/22 Premier League, Smith Rowe also made his England debut recently, and notched his first international goal against San Marino.
It looks like the sky is the limit for Smith Rowe at Arsenal, and he’s only just getting started.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.