Ten unexpected stars of the season in the Premier League | Ben McAleer

Dominic Solanke, Bournemouth

Having scored just six league goals last season, Dominic Solanke has really stepped up this season with 19 – the best return for any Bournemouth player in a Premier League season. The appointment of Andoni Iraola has proven a blessing for the 26-year-old, who is finally realising the potential he showed when breaking on to the scene with Chelsea. Alexander Isak and Ollie Watkins have earned high praise for their performances; Solanke warrants just as much adulation.

Ryan Christie, Bournemouth

Ryan Christie has also benefited from Iraola’s arrival on the south coast. He was more of a creative midfielder in his Celtic days, but has tailored his game to operate in a deeper role under the new manager. Christie is still doing the creative part of the game – he has five assists to his name – but, even more impressively, he is also protecting the defence. He has won possession in the midfield third 121 times in the league this season – second only to Rodri. Bournemouth are aiming to finish in the top half of the table and that is just as much down to the Scotland international as Solanke.

James Tarkowski, Everton

Despite only recently confirming their top-flight status for next season, Everton boast the fourth best defensive record in the division having conceded just 49 times this term. To put that in some context, Champions League-bound Aston Villa have conceded 56. Jordan Pickford and Jarrad Branthwaite have received a lot of praise for the team’s record at the back, but James Tarkowski is also deserving of admiration. He ranks top in the league for aerial duels won (143), blocked shots (54) and second for clearances (182). Often in the right place at the right time, Tarkowski has again been vital.

James Tarkowski stops Mohamed Salah in his tracks at Goodison Park in March. Photograph: Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Getty Images

Antonee Robinson, Fulham

It’s been another solid season for Antonee Robinson at Fulham, so much so that the US international has been linked with a high-profile exit this year. João Palhinha’s defensive prowess is rightly applauded, but the left-back’s fine reading of the game enables Fulham to turn defence into attack quickly. Robinson has made more interceptions (78) than any other player in the Premier League this season. When it comes to filling the left-back spot in the team of the season, the 26-year-old deserves to be mentioned.

Ross Barkley, Luton

One of the best free signings in recent years, Ross Barkley’s impact gave Luton the necessary drive through the midfield that eased the responsibility on the wing-backs to provide attacking outlets. Bruno Guimarães (69) is the only central midfielder to have completed more dribbles than Barkley (66) this season, that ranking fifth overall. Luton are on their way back to the Championship but the 30-year-old has proven he can still cut it at the highest level.

Pascal Gross, Brighton

Only Ollie Watkins (13) has registered more assists than Pascal Gross (10) in the Premier League this season and only Bruno Fernandes (108) has made more key passes than the Germany midfielder (97). Brighton are ending the campaign with a whimper rather than a bang but Gross continues to prove their star man in the middle of the park. Not only is he adept at creating chances but his hard work off the ball gives other players the freedom to get forward.

Pascal Gross scores in Brighton’s victory over Brentford in December. Photograph: James Marsh/Shutterstock

Morgan Gibbs-White, Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest have all but guaranteed their place in the Premier League next season but Morgan Gibbs-White is unlikely to stay at the City Ground. Interest in Gibbs-White is high and deservedly so. Like Gross, the 24-year-old has 10 assists this season, a fine achievement in a Forest side that has scored the fourth fewest goals (47) in the league. Any club in the market for a creative and versatile attacking midfielder this summer should consider Gibbs-White.

Daniel Muñoz, Crystal Palace

The Eagles have soared since Oliver Glasner took over as manager in February. Glasner has turned Jean-Philippe Mateta into prime Ronaldo; Michael Olise and Ebere Eze have continued to blossom; Adam Wharton has proven a bargain buy; and Daniel Muñoz has settled into the team seamlessly following his arrival in January. The Colombian has made the right wing-back spot his own since Glasner’s appointment and has made the sixth most tackles (53) in 2024, as well as chipping in with three assists – two of which came in Palace’s 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United. His arrival from Genk snuck under the radar but he has really shone at Selhurst Park. Muñoz also scored his first international goal in March in a 1–0 win against Spain – Colombia’s first ever victory against the Spaniards.

Muñoz wins a header in Crystal Palace’s victory over Newcastle at Selhurst Park in April.
Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Fabian Schär, Newcastle

Fabian Schär has remained steady during Newcastle’s injury crisis. Only Bruno Guimarães (3,089) has played more minutes than Schär (2,940) for Newcastle in the league this season and, even though he has had to adapt to a number of different centre-back partners, he has again proven one of Eddie Howe’s best performers. Newcastle’s forwards have done the business, notably Alexander Isak and Anthony Gordon, with the 32-year-old giving them a solid foundation to build upon.

Pablo Sarabia, Wolves

The Wolves attack was initially built on speed this season with Hwang Hee-chan, Matheus Cunha and Pedro Neto all thriving as they dovetailed nicely for Gary O’Neil’s side. Pablo Sarabia had to watch on from the sidelines, with five of his first seven appearances coming from the bench. However, as the injuries started to mount at Molineux, Sarabia was called upon more frequently and he has excelled despite the absence of key attacking teammates. Ten Wolves players have enjoyed more minutes on the pitch this season but only Neto has more assists (nine to Sarabia’s seven) and no one has made more key passes.

The Guardian

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