Updated: May 13, 2020
No live football has had me continuously thinking back to the way things were ... when sports were actually played. But, thinking back to what Premier League football used to be, got me thinking about the best players I’ve been lucky enough to watch at each club. And so, this list is born.
I won't lie, part of it was tricky because of the immense turnover there has been over the last decade with relegation and promotion. A total of 37 clubs had spells in the top flight from 2010-2019.
Perhaps one of the hardest choices comes right off the bat. The Gunners had multiple players serve them admirably in the last decade. Many elite performers have come through the ranks. Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Robin Van Persie, and Aaron Ramsey all come to mind.
But Laurent Koscielny is the Arsenal MVP of the decade for me. He played for the Gunners in all years of the last decade, arriving in 2010 and departing (rather unceremoniously) in 2019 for Bordeaux. In his time in North London, Koscielny cemented himself as a top center back in the league and the first name on many of Arsene Wenger’s team sheets. He was the mainstay in an ever-changing Gunner backline and managed to keep organization in an also ever-changing midfield in front of him.
If you could pick an MVP based on what they did after they left a club, Aston Villa would be hands down the most difficult to choose from.
James Milner, Gareth Barry, Ashley Young and even Stewart Downing were all part of the 2010 Villa squad. Barry went on to have the most Premier League appearances all-time and Milner lifted a Champions League trophy with Liverpool after playing for Newcastle and Manchester City.
Club captain Jack Grealish erupted onto the scene in 2016 and shined in the Championship for Villa. He was a bright spot in some bleak Championship campaigns and led the effort to earn promotion back into the Premier League in 2019. Now, he is one of the lone hopes Villa has in their quest to stay up.
Bournemouth’s journey last decade took them through three tiers of English football in League One, the Championship and the Premier League. One can make a strong case for Steve Cook to take the honors here, as he became a permanent fixture in the side in 2012, when the Cherries were in the third tier, and remains a mainstay in the backline even now.
Arriving at Bournemouth in 2014, Wilson has fired in 61 goals in 164 games for the Cherries, a respectable mark for a lower league Premier League side. He has been responsible for a good amount of Bournemouth’s attacking output in the Prem and certainly looks like it will be that way in the near fututre.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Like Bournemouth, Brighton’s tirades last decade included spells in all three of the top tiers in English football. And one player has been with them through it all.
Lewis Dunk first appeared in the Hove & Albion squad in 2010 and gave aid to their promotion in the Championship. Since their subsequent promotion into the Premier League, Dunk has impressed so much so that he’s been capped by the English national team, and was named club captain of Brighton at the beginning of the current campaign.
Burnley is a side that hasn’t had a player head and shoulders above the rest in the last decade. Rather, they are a side that has had consistently average squads who work well together and seem to get the job done.
Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes come to mind as players who have been servants of the club for a while, but no one takes the cake like Ben Mee for Burnley. Mee has seen it all, being a part of two promotions, a relegation, and even a European campaign in the last decade with Burnley. With over 300 caps for the outfit, Mee has been a centerpiece of Burnley’s stoic back line of the 2010s.
The last decade for Chelsea has been, aside from some turmoil-filled seasons and transfer bans, defined by solid back lines with All-Stars featuring in them. Frank Lampard, Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic and longtime captain John Terry could all get honorable mentions for the Blues.
As much as I can’t stand him, you could easily argue that Terry should take the honors here. He lifted the Premier League (three times), Champions League and Europa League trophies for the Blues in the decade.
But Eden Hazard takes top honors for Chelsea. His electric pace and attacking outputs made him the best Chelsea attacker since the likes of Didier Drogba. In 245 appearances, Hazard found the back of the net 85 times and tallied 54 assists. He dazzled Stamford Bridge and was maybe the player of the decade in the entire Premier League for eight wonderful years until he left last summer for Real Madrid.
You may not realize it, but Wilfried Zaha’s time with Crystal Palace began in 2004 as a player in their youth academy. He burst onto the scene with the senior team in 2010 and stayed with them until 2013 before a rather disappointing two-year spell at Manchester United that featured just two league appearances. After some loan spells back at Palace and then Cardiff City and back at Palace again, Zaha returned permanently to Selhurst Park in 2015.
In his many separate stints with the Eagles over the decade, Zaha racked up 318 appearances and was capped by Ivory Coast 17 times over that stretch. Though it wouldn’t be accurate to call him a fan favorite at Selhurst Park, it can’t be denied that he has been a bright spot in the Palace side.
This one is really a toss-up between Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman, with honorable mentions thrown to Gareth Barry and Tim Howard. The two latter players were nothing but good and faithful servants to the Toffees in their time on Merseyside. But Baines’ and Coleman’s longevity sets them ahead of the rest.
Picking between Baines and Coleman really is six and half a dozen. Baines’ left foot is as sweet as they come on a left fullback and Coleman is the perfect attacking compliment on the opposite side.
I’ve picked Coleman for two reasons. He is more of a threat going forward. His pace, crossing ability and uncanny goal tally for a fullback make him more dangerous than Baines in that sense. The other reason is that Baines has been phased out of the side a bit in recent years, as players like Lucas Digne have been bought to replace the old guard. Coleman has remained one of the first names on the team sheet no matter who the manager has been at Goodison Park, therefore he gets the nod.
This might just be the single easiest pick in the league. Yes, Riyad Mahrez dazzled and N’Golo Kante was monumental for the Foxes during their fairytale title-winning season, but Jamie Vardy has to be the Pick.
Vardy has not missed a beat since the great escape Leicester pulled off to avoid relegation in the 2014/15 campaign and has been the main man in the Midlands for years. His record of scoring in 11 straight games during Leicester’s dream season was amazing to watch. No one, and I mean no one has such as much killer instinct as the man who donned a red mohawk while playing for Fleetwood Town. And just a few short years later, was lifting the Premier League trophy.
Liverpool’s last decade has been a Pandora’s Box of highs and lows. Everything that could happen to a club in a decade, excluding relegation (I wish) happened to Liverpool in the 2010s. They were on the cusp of a title more than once but also finished in eighth position twice.
The last few years have been the golden age of Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp finally got his squad together and took them to two straight Champions League finals and famously won the second against Tottenham. This current season has Liverpool miles ahead of the rest of the league and unless the season doesn’t start again and is considered null and void (ugh what shame that would be!) then Liverpool will once again be Champions of England. Virgil Van Djik, Mo Salah and Jordan Henderson have all been integral parts of the Liverpool renaissance, but to pick anyone other than Stevie G would just be wrong.
Did he win the Prem? No, and I will always love watching him slip and fall, allowing Demba Ba to take the ball from him. And few things please me more than to watch Liverpool bottle a 3-0 lead at Selhurst Park in 2014. But regardless of the silverware shortcomings, Gerrard embodied a club captain and backed up his leadership on the pitch with assists and goals. From the 2010/11 campaign until 2014/15, he scored 40 goals and had 30 assists, both remarkable tallies for a midfielder in the latter stages of his prime.
While Salah, Van Djik, and Henderson are great talents, there's nobody quite like Stevie G.
The 2010s are no doubt the best decade in City’s history as they emerged onto the world stage and performed at the highest level. 2012 brought us possibly the greatest moment in Premier League, and quite possibly world football, history at 93:20 in the final game of their season against QPR, Sergio Aguero won the league for City with the final kick of a football that season. And to give the MVP to any other player would be disrespect to Kun.
City had some great players come and go in the last 10 years: Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez, Eden Dzeko, even Pablo Zabaleta. And it took everything in me not to give this to David Silva, a personal favorite of mine.
Football is simply a game of scoring more goals than the other team, and no one in City’s history has done a better job at scoring goals than Kun Aguero. He is possibly the greatest front post finisher in the history of the Prem and is the killer of small clubs, tallying hat tricks like nobody's business against lowly sides. He gets bonus points for giving me chills every time I go back to Martin Tyler and Peter Drury’s call of his title-clinching goal.
David De Gea
It is difficult to believe that United won two Premier League titles in the 2010s with the sad departure of the great Sir Alex Ferguson. After that, United's biggest accomplishment was arguably finishing second in 2017/18, the feat Jose Mourinho said was the toughest accomplishment of his career.
Yes, David De Gea has had his tribulations, from speculation about a move to Real Madrid, and he wasn’t the top keeper in the league every single year. But behind makeshift backlines featuring the likes of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, can you blame him?
Every year he adds to his highlight reel of outrageous saves and keeps United in matches single-handedly. You can even argue he’s gotten better as the outfit in front of him has gotten worse or more inconsistent. His lone (how its the only one he has, I’ve got no clue) Golden Glove Award came in the 2017/18 season.
Close behind De Gea, and worth mentioning is Wayne Rooney. Rooney got shafted in this award because his United career is split quite evenly into this decade in question and the one before, thus splitting his impact and achievements in half. His iconic bicycle-kick in the Manchester Derby almost exclusively edges him ahead of De Gea, but not quite.
Had Rooney been more apart of the 2010s, he'd take the cake. But time is not on his side here and therefore the nod goes to De Gea.
You know, you’d think maybe it would be easier to pick an MVP for my own club, but if there were an award for the club with the most one- or two-season wonders, Newcastle would win it ten times over. Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Hatem Ben Arfa were all world-class players who lit up St. James Park, and in 2012 made me the happiest I’ve felt from football. I will never forget the moment they helped the Magpies to a 5th place finish and back into European football for the first time in my supporting life.
It’s worth mentioning that my favorite player of all time is/was (I can’t decide if he still is or not) Yohan Cabaye, who wore the black and white stripes from 2011-2014. A mesmerized young Ian, he is the reason I wear #4 and back then inspired me to change my hair to look like his.
Cheick Tiote (RIP), Jonas Guitierrez, Kevin Nolan, Fabricio Colocinni, Fabian Schar, Jamaal Lascelles, and Ayoze Perez would all be worthy selections, but Tim Krul is the player I’ve gone with.
Maybe I’m slightly biased because when Newcastle came to play the Columbus Crew one summer, I got a high-five from the man, but that’s beside the point. In terms of single performances, Krul had one of the greatest ever donning the Newcastle kit. His 14-save performance against Spurs at White Hart Lane was magical. It was one of those performances that even the opponent could do nothing but laugh at the sheer brilliance of what was happening.
Krul was ever-consistent and unwavering. The first name on the team sheet for a few years in Northern England and a fan favorite with the Geordies.
Norwich began the decade with promotion from League One to the Championship and followed it up with a wonderful campaign that ended in another promotion, this time into the top tier of English football. Norwich's journey back from the Prem to the Championship, and back again, has been the story of the Canaries for the remainder of the decade.
Wes Hoolahan was there through it all. And not just there. He recorded 47 goals in over 300 appearances for Norwich helping them from League One to the Prem. Hoolahan was undoubtedly a fan favorite with the Canaries and gave the supporters moments that they will not soon forget.
Sheffield United spent six years of the decade stuck in League One, a fate similar to what Sunderland’s current one could turn into (I’m sorry, I had to). But a quick rise back to the Prem in recent years and an impressive current campaign has Blades fans flying high.
The pick here is a surprising no-brainer. Sharp joined Sheffield in 2015 and has bagged 90 goals in 182 appearances, a very impressive mark for a striker in any level of English football. A big reason for the Blades' success was due to his 30 goals in the season they were promoted to the Championship and 24 in their promotion season to the Prem.
Southampton is another side that began the decade in League One but made a remarkable run to the promised land and has been in reach of ecstasy since. Southampton’s highest finish of the decade came in 2015/16 when they finished 6th and had a stint in European competition.
They, unfortunately for them, became a pipeline to bigger name clubs like Liverpool and are back to fighting for their Premier League lives every season. Gone are the days of their 8th, 7th, then 6th place finishes in the Prem from 2014-2016 and an English cup final appearance.
A big reason for their success in promotion to the Prem and beginning of their mainstay is Ricky Lambert. During his employ with the Saints from 2009-2014, he bagged an exquisite 115 goals in 230 appearances, becoming Southampton’s all-time leading scorer, passing the legendary Matt Le Tissier.
Spurs had a very Spursy decade. They were good and “almost there” but no silverware to show for any accomplishments. They finished as high as second in the Prem and came oh so close (at least until the first minute of the game) to a Champions League win against Liverpool in 2019
Harry Kane was there for all of it. Of course, in his time with Spurs, Gareth Bale was electric and had some iconic performances, but left too early to chase greener pastures in my opinion.
Kane though, stayed where he succeeded, and boy has he been successful. He’s been the top scorer for the Spurs in each of the previous five seasons, despite dealing with injuries throughout. He established himself as one of the best strikers in the league and England’s number one guy. He’s got uncanny positioning instincts and is always in the right place at the right time. 136 goals in 201 league appearances speak for itself. A fan favorite in North London for sure, this pick was no surprise.
Troy Deeney is simply synonymous with Watford. If we play that game where I say a word and you say the first word that comes to mind, Troy Deeney and Watford would never fail to be paired. Deeney’s goal in the 97th minute to cap off an epic sequence in the 2013 playoff versus Leicester itself could get him the top spot here.
I mean, wow.
In the 10 years he’s had with the Hornets he boasts 358 appearances and 120 goals. Though that may not be considered a lot for a striker, Deeney’s presence and strength on the pitch have an effect on every Watford performance.
Much like Newcastle, West Ham experienced everything in this decade from relegation to the Championship to European escapades in the Europa League.
Who else to choose here but Mr. West Ham himself. Truly the only mainstay of the Hammers in the last decade. Noble has over 400 appearances for West Ham and though his output on paper may not be eye-catching, there’s no denying his impact for the Hammers.
The 2010s were all about the rise and fall of Wolves. Their decade began in the Premier League, dipped all the way down to League One in 2013/14, and came back full circle with a return to the Prem in 2018. No player has really been with Wolves through all the ups and downs. Their most important players in the squad now have pretty much joined within the last few years, making it difficult to select one player that has been there long enough to be their MVP of the decade.
So it really came down to two players: Conor Coady and Ruben Neves.
Neves was with Wolves in their promotional season to the Premier League and was, to put it nicely, way better than most opponents he faced in the Championship. Now in the Prem, his skill shines through every week with a surrounding cast of world-class players.
Coady has been with Wolves the longest of any current player, since 2015. He’s made 189 appearances for the club and is the club captain. Nothing is more important to a solid Premier League club than a strong, consistent skipper.
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