Premier League mid-season review: Leicester and Brighton defenders among standout stars so far

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The half-way point of the Premier League season has arrived and it has been another season full of ups and downs so far.

It has been a season like no other as the footballing world continues to deal with the Covid-19 global pandemic which has wreaked havoc across the globe.

Premier League clubs have had to deal with huge financial repercussions with significant losses occurring due to having no crowds in attendance for Premier League fixtures for the past 10 months.

Manchester United currently top the table at the half-way stage, mounting an unlikely title challenge. The title race is heating up going into the second half of the season in what promises to be the most open and exciting title race in recent years.

Despite the financial restrictions and implications caused by Covid-19, Premier League clubs continued to add to strengthen their squads in the summer transfer window.

But it has not only been new signings who have caught the eye so far this term. Below we will look at three of the standout players from first half of the Premier League season.

Tariq Lamptey – Right Back (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Graham Potter acquired the services of the young right back from Chelsea in the January 2020 transfer window for £3.3 million.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard rated Lamptey highly but made it clear to him that Reece James would be first choice right back at the club which would significantly reduce his game time.

The young attacking right back was integrated slowly into the first team under Potter’s guidance whilst getting used to life on the South Coast before Covid-19 halted professional football in England for 101 days.

This season Lamptey started in the Seagulls’ opening match of the season against his former club Chelsea, in which he was Brighton’s stand out player at right back, setting up Trossard’s goal despite losing 3-1.

The attacking right back continued to impress weekly for Potter’s side and was earning rave reviews across Europe as clubs started to take notice of his meteoric rise. He scored his first ever Premier League goal on the 1st of November in the 2-1 defeat away to Spurs. Despite his small 5’ 4” frame Lamptey has impressed with his speed, balance and end product which has turned him into one of the most exciting young players in the Premier League.

Lamptey’s exceptional first half of the season caught the eye of European giants Bayern Munich, who made their interest known in potentially acquiring the services of the young right back.

Brighton boss Potter has made it clear that the Seagulls’ would not be selling the young right back under any circumstances and insisted he would be staying at the South Coast club as he continues to learn his trade in the Premier League.

Lamptey committed his long term future to Brighton & Hove Albion on the 17th of January 2021 signing a new five and a half year contract providing a huge boost to the Seagulls’ fight against relegation in the Premier League.

lamptey mount brighton chelsea

John McGinn – Central Midfielder (Aston Villa)

Aston Villa secured the services of the Scottish midfielder from Hibernian for £2 million in the summer of 2018. That deal has proven to be an excellent piece of business as the Scotsman has excelled in the Midlands.

McGinn enjoyed a successful start to his career in his native Scotland winning the Scottish League Cup, Scottish Cup and Scottish Championship titles for his previous clubs St. Mirren and Hibernian.

He formed an excellent partnership with Irish man Conor Hourihane in central midfield for Villa in the Championship as they aimed to win promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt. Former Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce, who was the manager when McGinn signed for the club, once said: “He has to be one of the best ever signings because he has the determination to do everything for such a young player.”

McGinn was instrumental for Aston Villa during his debut season as they won promotion back to the Premier League via the playoffs, scoring six goals and creating nine goals in 40 appearances.

McGinn impressed during his first season in the Premier League for Aston Villa as they targeted survival in their first season back in the top flight. Aston Villa manager Dean Smith suffered a major blow half way through the 2019/20 season as the talented Scottish midfielder was ruled out for three months with a fractured ankle.

Villa missed the instrumental midfielder as they continued to struggle in their fight against relegation languishing in the bottom half of the table. The Covid-19 global pandemic hit the world in March 2020 which enabled McGinn to make a full recovery from injury and reintegrate himself back into the Villa squad.

Aston Villa survived on the final day of the season after a remarkable end of the season run with impressive victories over Crystal Palace and Arsenal proving to be enough to keep them in the top flight for another season.

McGinn was exceptional in his first Premier League season scoring three goals and creating two in 26 appearances from the middle of the park for Smith’s side. His excellent displays in midfield earned him rave reviews with the likes of top clubs such as Manchester United and Champions Liverpool keeping tabs on the Scottish midfielders’ potential availability in the near future.

This season McGinn has gone from strength to strength in central midfield as Aston Villa have been one of the surprise packages of the season with some eye catching displays, in particular, the 7-2 hammering of Champions Liverpool at Villa Park last October. McGinn has formed an excellent partnership with the silky Brazilian Douglas Luiz in the engine room with both midfielders complementing each other’s ability for Smith’s side.

McGinn-and-Grealish

Wesley Fofana – Central Defender (Leicester City)

Wesley Fofana is the latest prospect from the infamous St. Etienne Les Verts’ academy’s never ending conveyor belt of talent.

St. Etienne’s academy has developed and nurtured a number of world recognised players such as World Cup winning midfielder Blaise Matuidi, Chelsea central defender Kurt Zouma and current Arsenal captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang.

The imposing centre half made his debut for the club in a 3-0 Ligue 1 win over OGC Nice on the 18th May 2019 at the end of the 2018/19 season. The following season Fofana made his breakthrough to the first team and became a regular starter at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard making 23 appearances in all competitions in the 2019/20 season.

Fofana is primarily a right side centre half and is most notably known for his intuitive reading of the game. He has an impressive ability to get in front of his man and intercept the ball, which is evident from his positioning and his ability for predicting the movements of opposition players and teams.

Another important trait the six foot two inch centre half is his aerial dominance which you can see from his statistics during the 2019/20 season. His 6.62 aerial duels per in Ligue 1 during the 2019/20 is inside the division’s top 25 players, but his success rate was really impressive with 72.92% of battles won in the air which was the second-best record in the Ligue 1.

Leicester have been known to sign relatively unknown players from the French divisions and develop them into top class players such as Ngolo Kante and Riyad Mahrez who lead scout Steve Walsh brought to the club. Kante and Mahrez developed into world class players for the Foxes and starred in their amazing 2015/16 Premier League winning season under Italian manager Claudio Ranieri.

The Foxes won the race for the highly talented young French centre half and paid St. Etienne £30 million for his services on the 2nd of October 2020. Brendan Rodgers has eased Wesley Fofana into the Premier League gradually but an injury to key defender Caglar Soyuncu gave the youngster his opportunity to make his debut against Aston Villa.

The French man has looked superb and developed a good central defensive partnership with veteran defender Jonny Evans as the Foxes chase a top four finish this season. Despite just turning 20 years old the youngster has excelled in the past few months under Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers guidance.

During his early career Fofana has showcased that he has the ability to play at the highest level, which is evident in his excellent performances so far this season for Leicester City. The Foxes have been excellent again this season and are mounting an unlikely title challenge currently sitting in third position only three points behind leaders Manchester United.

The young French defender has caught many clubs attention throughout Europe and, if the Foxes have any hopes of potentially lifting the Premier League trophy in May, he will play a key role for them.

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