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Six of the most improved Premier League players of 2023/24

As we conclude the Premier League season, we’ve decided to pay tribute to the players who took their game to new heights in 2023/24.

The Most Improved Award is one sniggered at in Sunday league, a somewhat back-handed accolade that suggests you weren’t quite up to scratch a year earlier.

In the Premier League, however, it’s nothing to be sniffed at and this lot of once underperforming assets have emerged as key figures for their respective clubs this time around.

Here are six of the most improved Premier League players in 2023/24.

Dominic Solanke – Bournemouth

Dominic Solanke was in danger of being caught in no man’s land between the top two divisions before this season. Just six goals on his return to the Premier League with Bournemouth last term suggested the sceptics were right about his ability to cut it at the highest level.

Solanke, for all he did well, lacked goals in the Premier League, but this season he has finally put together the full package. The 26-year-old has scored 18 league goals, reaching the pre-Erling Haaland gold standard of a goal-every-other-game in England’s top flight.

He’s continued to link the play and hustle defenders in the same trademark fashion, though with improved instincts around the penalty area. Now, he looks like the striker Jose Mourinho once backed to become an England regular, declaring he would blame himself if he failed to reach those heights. After an unfortunate omission from March’s squad, he’s in contention as a wildcard for this summer’s European Championship.

Anthony Gordon – Newcastle

Newcastle’s decision to spend £40m+ on Anthony Gordon left some perplexed, a winger who for all of his attributes had lacked end product at Everton. The critics were out in force as Gordon struggled during his first six months at St James’ Park, but he has bounced back with a terrific campaign on Tyneside.

The 23-year-old has become just the third Newcastle player to reach 10+ goals and 10+ assists in a Premier League season, performances that earned him an England debut in March.

A real fan favourite for his work-rate, speed and desire to take on full-backs, he should be ahead of some more established competition in the race for a ticket to Euro 2024.

Matheus Cunha – Wolves

Julen Lopetegui said Wolves were signing a ‘very complete forward’ when the club broke their transfer record to sign Matheus Cunha from Atletico Madrid, though there was one crucial component missing from the Brazilian last term – goals.

Cunha netted just twice in 17 appearances after arriving on an initial loan deal, one that was made permanent for a fee of £43m in the summer.

However, under new manager Gary O’Neil this season, Cunha has thrived. He has 11 goals and seven assists from 27 league starts and has formed an excellent understanding with Pedro Neto and Hwang Hee-chan in a Wolves team dangerous on the counter. Just six players have more successful take-ons (60) than the 24-year-old, who has married his ball-carrying and physical presence with end product.

His season highlight was a hat-trick in a win at Chelsea and he will hope to have done enough to warrant inclusion for Brazil at the Copa America.

Leon Bailey – Aston Villa

After two underwhelming campaigns at Aston Villa, it’s come together for Leon Bailey this season. Unai Emery demanded more from the winger early in the campaign and Bailey has answered his manager’s call, scoring 14 times and providing 14 assists in all competitions as Villa have pushed for the top four and reached a European semi-final.

Europe’s top clubs had courted Bailey before his move to the Premier League and this season he has shown signs of the player once backed to reach the very elite.

Jean-Philippe Mateta – Crystal Palace

Who saw this coming?

Jean-Philippe Mateta came close to leaving Crystal Palace in January after struggling to dislodge Odsonne Edouard from the Eagles’ attack, but has since dug deep, tucked in his shirt, and got down to business.

The Frenchman has been the driving force in a positive start under new manager Oliver Glasner, scoring nine times in his last 11 Premier League appearances. Having only scored five goals across his first two campaigns at Selhurst Park combined, it’s a stunning transformation for the forward.

With 15 goals for the campaign in all competitions, the 26-year-old was crowned Crystal Palace’s Player of the Season for 2023/24.

Vitaliy Mykolenko – Everton

Vitaliy Mykolenko faced his fair share of flak after arriving in English football. Signed as a replacement for former favourite Lucas Digne, the left-back struggled to adapt to the demands of the division.

Arriving just weeks before Russia invaded his home country, Mykolenko’s mindset, alongside his ability, was challenged enormously having stepped up from the Ukrainian Premier League.

After a period of adaptation, he has settled at Goodison Park. Mykolenko has nailed down a regular role in Sean Dyche’s side, who boast the fourth-best defensive record in the division and has become a fan favourite for his all-action displays.

Read – Golazo Merchants: Arsenal’s non-flying Dutchman, Dennis Bergkamp

See more – Six talking points ahead of the Premier League weekend

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