The English Premier League is often touted as the best league in the world, home to the best teams and the biggest names. However, the Premier League is also home to several underappreciated individuals, players who, despite consistently performing, often go under the radar. This is a list of five underrated Premier League players:
Pascal Groß is a German midfielder who has appeared for Brighton and Hove Albion since 2017, and who now, at 32 is beginning to gain some traction and respect for his talent. Not particularly physically gifted, it is his ability on the ball, and more impressively his versatility, that is his best asset. Brighton is known for their unique recruitment, player development and flexible playing styles, and Groß is arguably the perfect embodiment of such.
Groß scored Brighton’s first-ever Premier League goal in 2017, has been a key cog to all three Brighton coaches since his arrival. He has been deployed in almost all positions across the field. Groß is so versatile, his Wikipedia page lists him as a “utility player” rather than tying him to one position, whilst analytical outlets such as Whoscored lists a minimum of four viable positions for him.
In the last year, his stock has risen given key performances against the likes of Manchester United, which is due to the fact he scored nine and assisted eight in the 2022/2023 Premier League season. His performances last season also earned him his first-ever call-up to the German national side.
However, despite last season being deployed as an attacking midfielder, Groß played often at right back as well. So far this season, the German is back as the holding midfielder. Ever dependable, Groß has started all the matches he has been available for. Moreover, given his ability, age and consistency, he is the epitome of a career-long underappreciated player.
Rico Henry was long touted as one to watch. However, the diminutive left-back struggled to make a name for himself due to the size prejudice he often faced growing up. Now at 26, Henry has established himself as one of the best left backs in the Premier League. Henry’s biggest strengths are his pace and endurance. He terrorized Tottenham on the first day of the season, often exploiting the wide spaces left open due to Spurs inverting their full-backs.
Henry has always looked consistent and there has been a growing air of bewilderment that Henry has yet to receive an England call-up. England is well stocked in the left-back department with the likes of Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw. However, neither have looked overly impressive in the last season.
Furthermore, given Shaw’s current injury, there was expectation for Henry to push for a spot at the 2024 European Championships. Unfortunately, an anterior cruciate ligament injury has just ended Henry’s season. Nevertheless, the left back will hope for a strong recovery, and to rediscover his form in time for the tournament.
John McGinn is a midfielder who has long deserved more praise than he receives. The Scotsman, who is the current captain for Aston Villa and vice-captain for Scotland, is a tireless runner who exemplifies passion, versatility and hard work. McGinn, who has played across the midfield during his career, is not a player who is focused on numbers, but rather on overall performance and diligence for the side.
McGinn has often been blessed with talented stars around him and ahead of him, and, although a capable player himself. McGinn has often played the role of ‘water carrier’, happy to do the gritty work so the stars can excel in the final third.
McGinn has been given more freedom with Aboubacar Kamara and Luiz playing behind him. This season, he has looked like a threat inverting from the left flank to allow left-back Lucas Digne to overlap. McGinn has already picked up a goal from this role, and given his new attacking freedom, the Scottish international may prove to be one of Villa’s players of the season.
Michail Antonio has had a career most fans can appreciate. From non-league to the Premier League, Antonio is one of the most underappreciated players in world football. Not technically gifted, nor a ruthless finisher, Antonio’s biggest strengths are his physical attributes and his selflessness. Under various coaches at West Ham, Antonio has played right back, right midfield and primarily striker. For defensive transition coaches such as current coach David Moyes, Antonio is perfect.
A statistical anomaly, is that Antonio has never hit more than 10 Premier League goals in a season. But, that is not his game. Antonio confronts defenders and attracts opposition, excelling at competing for possession before laying the ball for a teammate in space. Similarly, Antonio is happy to chase balls into pockets on the counter, which was demonstrated against Chelsea earlier this season.
Antonio averaged 21.2 touches per game last season, and yet, he is often the outlet for West Ham. He is an excellent target man, and West Ham thrives off of his constant physical presence and selfless running. Despite signing Italian international Gianluca Scamacca last season, the striker could not provide the same work rate as Antonio and was sold as a result. This highlights Antonio’s importance to West Ham, and the veteran striker is key to the Irons.
Abdoulaye Doucouré is a veteran of the Premier League having moved initially to Watford from Stade Rennais in 2016. An Everton player since 2020, Doucouré has spent most of his career fighting relegation from the Premier League. However, this has enhanced his reputation and many have been impressed by Doucouré’s consistency. This is despite largely playing for poorly performing sides. A midfield all-rounder, Doucouré is multi-positional, but is perhaps at his best when operating as an attacking midfielder behind the striker.
Statistically, Doucouré profiles nicely as an attacking midfielder, particularly for his chance creation through dribbling and carrying of the ball, however, he is also a strong defensive presence despite playing high up the field. Usually one of the first names on the team sheet, Everton struggled last year whilst Doucouré was out injured. The Toffees are lucky he is back to his best this season.
Everton has not started this season well, but Doucouré has been one of their better performers, having scored two of the six goals Everton has managed in their first seven games. In a recent match against Brentford, Doucouré was the main man, not only scoring, but dominating the game. If Everton is to survive relegation this season, they will need Doucouré to not only remain fit, but once again be one of their key cogs, in an ever-close-to-breaking machine.