Every Premier League Team's Most Valuable Player
Determining the most valuable player at a football club can sometimes be a matter of opinion and there's no doubt that it can change on a season-to-season basis.
Generally speaking, the "MVP" at a club will be the man whom the team looks to play through the most often, who dictates the tempo and effectiveness of the attack and who can be the difference between turning a draw into a win.
The best player, the most regularly effective, the reliable game-changer; it all combines to be one player who few sides perform as confidently without as they do with.
Here's the most valuable player for each Premier League team.
Arsenal: Mesut Ozil
Arsenal broke their transfer record over the summer to land German playmaker Mesut Ozil, making the former Real Madrid man their most valuable player in all sorts of ways.
He might not be at the very top of his form yet, but he has still shown on several occasions his ability to split defences with timely runs off the ball and his exemplary passing and vision.
Ozil is central to everything that Arsenal will try to do with their attack this season, with other players drifting and breaking beyond him to give options to find.
He's the player who can make the difference between a trophy tilt and another nearly year, the difference between three points to make top four and miss it—or maybe, just maybe, something that combines the two.
Aston Villa: Brad Guzan
Aston Villa have a beast of a striker in Christian Benteke, but as the side gradually improves, it is still inevitably Brad Guzan who has most work to do and who proves himself on a weekly basis to be up to the job.
B/R's Sam Tighe explains why he's the No. 1:
Benteke's injury, sustained at Carrow Road on September, was expected to be a massive blow for the Villans, but since he hobbled off Paul Lambert's side have picked up seven points from a possible nine.
During that time Guzan has pulled of a succession of incredible saves, kept two clean sheets and even assisted a goal against Manchester City. Villa's form has been great without their Belgian beast, and that might be enough to settle the MVP debate in B6.
Cardiff City: Gary Medel
In amongst the madness that is Cardiff City under Vincent Tan, a summer of relatively large expenditure yielded one fantastic signing in particular: Chilean midfielder Gary Medel from Sevilla.
The tough-tackling, aggressive destroyer in the middle of the park is there primarily to protect the defence, but he's already showing the more technical side of his game, too.
He's Cardiff's best passer by some distance, completing more than 91 per cent of his passes this season—an important aspect of their play as the campaign goes on if they are to avoid losing control of games completely to teams who dominate possession.
Chelsea's main man in the middle is Brazilian schemer Oscar, who has won a regular spot in the team amidst all the signings and selection dilemmas for Jose Mourinho.
Key to the Blues' tactical organisation both on and off the ball, Oscar's ability to play in an advanced position as a No. 10 but also drop back into a more orthodox central midfield role gives Mourinho the flexibility to alter his side's setup in-game without losing technique or creativity in attack.
Hard-working and consistent, as well as all the technical plaudits which frequently get thrown his way, Chelsea's attack is likely to be Oscar-plus-three for the foreseeable future.
Crystal Palace: Mile Jedinak
Crystal Palace certainly face a struggle to stay up this season in the Premier League and one of their most important weapons in trying to do so is midfielder Mile Jedinak.
The Australian leads the way for his team in interceptions for the season but also consistently puts himself on the line for tackles and clearing the ball, proving a capable defensive screen for the back line.
He's also one of the players capable of taking the team forward; not a skilful or lightning quick midfielder but one who has great drive and determination to take the play to the opposition.
Palace need to support Jedinak with similarly committed players at both ends of the field if they are to avoid relegation.
Everton: Leighton Baines
Having remained at the club over the summer after a few months' worth of transfer rumours, Leighton Baines has set about showing why he is so highly thought of at Everton.
Quick and powerful with his raiding runs down the left, Baines is an out-ball for the team on the counter attack and has good game intelligence to break down a defence with a delayed run into space later on in buildup phases, too.
Consistently dangerous deliveries, from set-pieces and open play, also mark him out as a vital component in the team's attack, while he doesn't lack for defensive ability as a full-back.
Fulham: Scott Parker
Fulham made enough additions over the summer to give them an impressive array of attacking talents, now comprising the likes of Darren Bent, Adel Taarabt, Bryan Ruiz, Dimitar Berbatov and Alex Kacaniklic.
To balance all that out, though, they need a formidable midfield fulcrum with energy and defensive nous, as well as enough capability actually to get the ball forward to those attackers in the first place—and that's where Scott Parker comes in.
The former Spurs man is a fully committed, energetic all-rounder in the middle of the park, trying to hold things together between a less-than-sturdy defence and a creative but unpredictable attack. He has done a pretty good job so far and will prove one of the most important pieces of Martin Jol's machine as he searches for the right balance this season.
Just don't ask Parker to shoot.
Hull City: Robbie Brady
Young Irishman Robbie Brady has had an excellent start to life back in the Premier League, scoring three times in six outings and showing why he always had the talent to make it at the top.
Whoever takes over the Ireland national team job, their first task must surely be to reintegrate Brady into the setup.
Equally capable from left-back or left midfield, Brady has good technique on the ball, can fashion chances for his team-mates and is confident enough to go for goal himself. Brady is also strong defensively in one-on-one situations and his quality, especially in the attacking third of the field, will be key to Hull staying up this term.
Liverpool: Daniel Sturridge
It's easy to say Luis Suarez is Liverpool's main man, but the Reds coped largely fine during his long absence and the entire team's attack is now geared to bringing the best out of striker Daniel Sturridge.
In fairness, that's probably in expectation of the Uruguayan being able to fit into most systems and still do his own thing, but Sturridge is now undeniably the focus of the Reds' attentions and is scoring the goals to prove it.
Liverpool's defence looks solid, the midfield needs work, but the attack is up there with anything the Premier League has to offer and Sturridge is—technically, tactically and in terms of game intelligence—vital to making it work.
Manchester City: Yaya Toure
Manchester City's emphasis on attacking talent means their central midfield duo have to be amongst the very best in the business to make it work as a team. Thankfully, in Yaya Toure, that's exactly what they've got.
Toure combines impressive finesse of touch and speed of thought with his trademark powerful bursts through the middle of the pitch.
He's able to win the ball back, distribute it to the creative, inventive players in the team—and then quickly join up with the attack from the second line, often to devastating effect.
Manchester United: Michael Carrick
B/R's Christopher Atkins gives us the low-down on why Carrick is the main man at Old Trafford:
While Robin van Persie stole the headlines last season for his goalscoring feats, the man who guided Manchester United to title success was Michael Carrick.
The club's midfield issues are well documented and, given such a deficiency in top-level partners, Carrick's contribution is steadying the ship from the base of midfield is even more impressive. His absence from the England starting XI is truly baffling.
With Carrick in a pivotal role in the side, United's attackers are free to raid forward at will down the flanks in the knowledge that the defence is protected by one of the top players in the entire league.
Newcastle United: Yohan Cabaye
Newcastle are somewhat short of quality within the squad this season, but Yohan Cabaye is certainly an exception.
The French midfielder is the one player who can really transform the team into a dangerous outfit, combining a good passing range with an ability to join up with the attack and be a threat on goal himself.
Newcastle's drop down the table over the last 16 months has been almost as steep as their ascension was in the nine months that preceded them, but in Cabaye they retain a very good player who has the ability to salvage their season almost by himself.
Norwich City: Leroy Fer
Dynamic, versatile, strong and technically strong, Leroy Fer is a real all-round midfielder who Norwich City did extremely well to sign.
Although he has already played as an advanced midfielder for the Canaries, it is as a deeper, holding midfielder that his skills really come to the fore and his presence in the team settles the rest of the midfield and allows them to push forward further.
Fer can win the ball back repeatedly in the centre of the park and is no mere anchor who looks to lay the ball off quickly; instead he is capable of running with it into space, pushing the team forward and closing the gap between midfield and attack.
In a side who often defend too deep and struggle to bring their strikers into the game at times, that skill is imperative.
Southampton: Adam Lallana
Southampton have not been shy about spending money since they got themselves back into the Premier League, but club captain Adam Lallana is still a vital component of the team and plays a big role on the field.
Operating from almost anywhere in the attacking midfield line, Lallana has terrific movement and workrate, and no shortage of passing and dribbling technique either.
A little more pace and goal threat on his part and an England call-up would surely become a certainty; as it is, he remains an important way of how the Saints play and often features heavily in their best attacking moves.
Stoke City: Asmir Begovic
Having a goalkeeper as the most valuable player in a team doesn't necessarily indicate that they are a poor side who concede lots of chances on goal, but there can be little doubt that Stoke might have been in more trouble over the past couple of seasons than they were if they didn't have Asmir Begovic.
The Bosnia-Herzegovina international is one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, deals very well with high balls into the area and, much to the delight of Stoke fans, has this season been instrumental in their new-look "build from the back" approach.
Begovic is a good communicator with his defence and also looks to set his team away on the counter when possible.
Sunderland: Lee Cattermole
A month ago, Lee Cattermole certainly wouldn't have won many votes for being Sunderland's representative; fast forward to Paolo Di Canio's departure, though, and it's immediately apparent that new boss Gus Poyet is going to need all hands on deck with a fighting, battling spirit to get the Black Cats out of their desperate start to the season.
They don't come much more finely attuned to those qualities than midfield aggressor Cattermole who—if he can stay on the pitch for long enough and avoid suspensions and injuries—will have to show his strong mentality in every game to lead those around him through a tough first half-season.
Sunderland have a point from seven games and are already six points from safety; forget technique and skill for a while, the Stadium of Light needs tactical discipline, leadership and someone to carry the fight.
Swansea City: Michu
One of Spain's newest-capped players, Michu proved a wonderful addition to the Premier League last season after joining Swansea City, with his clever movement and ability to attack from deep areas of the penalty area a nightmare for opposition defenders.
He is truly key to the Swans' attack; their neat, short-range buildup benefits from his knack of drifting out of the front line into midfield, while the pacy wide attackers know that a quick ball into the box is likely to find Michu running on to the cross unmarked.
All eyes are on him to see if he continues his scoring rate this season and few would bet against him doing so.
Tottenham Hotspur: Hugo Lloris
Here's one that may evolve as the season goes on.
The departure of Gareth Bale meant that Tottenham splashed out significantly on attacking talent over the summer, but with the likes of Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado still finding their feet at least in part, Spurs are making narrow wins count at the start of the season.
At the other end of the field, Spurs opt to play a high defensive line, despite not always having the ideal players to do so—but they do have Hugo Lloris.
In the Premier League, there are few better goalkeepers to maintain communication and order in his defence when they start so far ahead of him, with very few keepers able to hold a high position of their own which enables him to race out and clear attacks and through balls.
Lloris also has excellent reflexes, distribution and shot-stopping ability, making him one of the best all-round keepers in Europe.
West Bromwich Albion: Youssouf Mulumbu
Claudio Yacob gets plenty of plaudits for patrolling the West Brom midfield with tenacity and vigour, but Youssouf Mulumbu isn't far behind him in those terms.
In addition, the Congolese midfielder is far better in terms of linking play through the middle third to those in more advanced positions and has the physical capacity to do both sides of the game all match long.
Mulumbu averages the most passes per game for West Brom by some distance, highlighting his importance to the buildup of the team and their ability to retain possession, and also has the joint-highest success rate in West Brom's squad.
He also ranks in West Brom's top four for successful long passes, dribbles, tackles and interceptions, showing how his all-round ability is key to the Baggies' ability to perform.
West Ham United: Kevin Nolan
Wherever Sam Allardyce manages, there too shall Kevin Nolan flourish.
Nolan knows his manager's system inside out, from where his team-mates should be at throw-ins to how to set up defending set-pieces.
In addition, his good movement, knowledge of his team-mates strengths' and the ability to hit the back of the net that he has picked up in his later career years all mean that Nolan has evolved into a pretty much perfect lower-half-of-the-table attacking midfielder, guaranteeing hard work and goals to preserve points.