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Coral’s Premier League awards 2014/15: Most Improved Player of the Season

| 08.04.2015

It’s awards season, and we at Coral are holding our own as the Premier League campaign approaches the run-in.

We’ve seen superb signings shine and homegrown heroes hailed this term, and there will be several categories, though players can only be nominated in a maximum of two to ensure everyone a fair crack.

Next up is our Most Improved Player of the Season Award. Coral’s football experts have come together and nominated this superb list of stars who have followed up lacklustre terms with classy campaigns, proving many doubters wrong in the process.

Marouane Fellaini
Manchester United have benefited from their brilliant Belgian’s ferocious attacking qualities this season, with Dutch boss Louis van Gaal knowing exactly how to utilise the towering targetman properly.

Fellaini was signed by his former Everton coach David Moyes, and was deployed in a defensive midfield role during his early Old Trafford career, a position that doesn’t make the most of his obvious attributes.

After faltering in a goalless maiden campaign for the Red Devils during Moyes’ short tenure, and a brief spell under Ryan Giggs, the Belgium international has risen to prominence this term and is now an invaluable member of United’s starting line-up. Fellaini was, surprisingly, misused by Moyes but Van Gaal showed braveness and defiance to play his astute attacker in a more advanced central position, much to the early dismay of fans and pundits.

However, Fellaini has repaid the faith shown in him by former Netherlands manager Van Gaal, becoming a genuinely proven match winner for his top four chasing side, having fired in five goals in all competitions this current campaign.

The feisty forward has also earned a rampant reputation at international level, blasting three Euro 2016 qualifying goals this year to edge Belgium towards qualification for the competition in France next summer.

Fellaini would be a worthy winner of our award, as he attempts to fire his current employers towards a return to Champions League action next season, while an unlikely Premier League title triumph is a 50/1 outside chance with Coral.

Watch Fellaini strike a fantastic goal against QPR in a Premier League clash with QPR this year.

Francis Coquelin
Arsenal’s revived France Under-21 international has been on the Gunners’ books from 2008, where he started as a promising youth product, but the 23-year-old failed to make an early impact in North London and was regularly loaned out.

As recently as last November Coquelin was involved in another loan stint, this time time at Championship outfit Charlton Athletic, following previous temporary stints at Freiburg and Lorient. However, after a recall to the Emirates in January, the defensive midfielder has become a central figure in his side’s recent rampant run.

With Coquelin in Arsene Wenger’s line-up, the Gunners have secured 11 Premier League wins from his 13 astute appearances, and only eight victories coming from 18 matches without the Frenchman playing, proving his aggressive attributes have become a vital aspect to Arsenal.

Since the departure of club hero and talisman Patrick Viera, many fans have called for the London club to sign a high-profile central midfielder who possesses a similar aggressive style and tough tackling approach to the game as the former ‘Invincibles’ star.

But it seems that Arsenal already had such a player in their ranks for quite some time, with Coquelin rising to midfield prominence this calendar year and staking a claim for our award. His current employers are odds-on 4/5 to retain the FA Cup with the help of their rejuvenated enforcer.

Watch highlights of Coquelin’s superb season so far since his return to the Emirates.

Jordan Henderson
When Liverpool forked out a substantial £20m to secure the signing of young English midfielder Henderson, nobody expected the Geordie to eventually end up as the club’s vice-captain and probable long-term skipper successor to Kop legend Steven Gerrard.

Providing the England international remains in the red half of Merseyside beyond this coming summer, the 24-year-old could potentially become a future Anfield talisman, having shown his true midfield abilities this current campaign.

Henderson is currently deep into his fourth season as a Reds player, but his current campaign has been a stark contrast to the previous three. In the opening trio of terms, Henderson looked out of his depth at Anfield, whimpering at the colossus figure of captain Gerrard alongside him in midfield.

Although, as months progressed, so did Henderson’s form, propelling himself to the top of the pile at the club, with English talent seekers and reigning top-flight champions Manchester City reportedly circling for his services.

Watch Henderson score a screamer against Burnley in a Premier League encounter this year.

Gylfi Sigurdsson
Iceland international playmaker Sigurdsson gained the attention of English football fans during two successful seasons at Reading, with the towering midfield maestro earning two consecutive player of the season awards during his time at the Madejski Stadium.

Following a dazzling double of campaigns in the Championship he became the club’s record highest departure, after a switch to Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim. But, after just two years in Germany, the attacker made a welcomed return to England, this time with Swansea City in the Premier League. His year-long loan stint was superb, captivating the top-flight with his superb set-piece abilities and thumping long-range striking qualities.

The Welsh side are currently benefiting from every aspect of the playmaker’s attributes, having snapped up their star man from Tottenham last summer, after the 25-year-old endured two stuttering years at White Hart Lane, where he looked a shadow of his former sensational self.

With seven goals this term for the Swans, under the watchful eye of Garry Monk, Sigurdsson has become classy attacking midfielder at the Liberty Stadium, and would be a worthy winner of our award. Swansea are odds-on 1/14 for a top 10 finish following a superb season, thanks mainly to their prolific playmaker.

Watch Sigurdsson strike a sublime free-kick against Aston Villa on Boxing Day last year.

Stewart Downing
Despite previously enduring a torrid time at Liverpool, and a stuttering debut season with West Ham United, Downing is now showing regular glimpses of his former feared form as a magnificent Middlesbrough winger.

The Hammers wideman faltered last term at Upton Park, but during this current campaign he has struck five goals in his 36 outings in all competitions, and was a vital component in the East London club’s successful early domestic spell, as they stunningly climbed into a Champions league for some time.

Watch highlights of Downing’s brilliant top-flight outing against Leicester City, including a great goal to secure a 2-0 win.



Lee Gormley

Lee joined the Coral team in 2014 after studying at Leeds Trinity University, having moved across the water from Ireland, and has plenty of industry experience from his time with various news outlets in both England and Northern Ireland. After graduating with a BA Honours degree in Sports Journalism, he has since become an important member of the talented sports desk, passionately covering boxing, football and snooker, among many other sports. Lee is also a massive Manchester United and Republic of Ireland fan, but curbs any bias during his work, and outside of his job can be found regularly taking part in sport himself, such as boxing, GAA and football.