It’s crunch time in the Premier League, as clubs give it one last push to achieve their targets in the 2022-23 season.
For some, that target is simply to remain in the division. The relegation odds are still extremely difficult to call, with at least five teams still in realistic danger of the drop at the time of writing.
However, amidst the disappointment of a below-par season for their teams, some players have still performed at a high level and enjoyed superb campaigns. Let’s take a look at five players who have stood out despite operating in the bottom reaches of the Premier League table.
Although Southampton’s season looks doomed to end in relegation, the performances of James Ward-Prowse have continued to impress. The midfielder has been Southampton’s best player by far, and it speaks volumes of the team’s struggles that Ward-Prowse is their joint top scorer this season.
With a deadly ability to score from direct free-kicks, Ward-Prowse is just one behind David Beckham’s record, but it looks like he’ll be breaking that record for another club next season if Southampton succumb to the dreaded drop.
Even though West Ham have had a disappointing season, Declan Rice’s stock continues to rise. The midfielder seems to get better and better with each passing week, and it’s no surprise that the top clubs are circling to try and tempt Rice away from the London Stadium.
The 24-year-old has been the standout performer for the struggling Hammers, and with no European football next season, perhaps this will be the summer Rice finally heads for pastures new.
It’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy season for Nottingham Forest. The mass influx of new players at the beginning of the season posed a real challenge for Steve Cooper, but it’s fair to say that Morgan Gibbs-White has proved to be a valuable addition, despite the hefty fee it took to bring him in from Wolves.
Gibbs-White plays with the kind of flair that excites supporters, and his ability to create moments of magic out of nothing has made a massive difference in Forest’s efforts to avoid the drop. Wolves may well regret letting him go.
Leicester City’s 2016 Premier League title win now seems a long time ago. Seven years on, the club are staring down the barrel of relegation, but the performances of Harvey Barnes this season have at least brought a modicum of hope to the King Power Stadium.
Barnes has bagged 12 Premier League goals so far in this campaign, which is comfortably his best scoring season in a Leicester shirt. The 25-year-old has done his level best to drag an ailing Foxes side out of the murky depths, but only time will tell whether Barnes and co. are destined for the Championship.
One surprising positive from Leeds United’s stuttering season is the emergence of Wilfried Gnonto. The 19-year-old, signed from FC Zurich at the beginning of the season, has been a breath of fresh air, entertaining the Elland Road faithful with his explosive style of play.
Unfortunately for Leeds, too much responsibility has fallen on young players like Gnonto to make things happen, and after Javi Gracia’s sacking, Sam Allardyce’s side are in great danger of dropping back down to the Championship after just two seasons in the top flight.