A reason behind that is football teams up and down the continent tend to enjoy the player’s qualities more when opponents are not that aware of what he has to offer, something which has occurred several times since the Premier League was formed back in 1992.
Nemanja Matic is an example of one that has gone about his work brilliantly at Chelsea since retuning to the club and whilst many teams are now aware of what the Serbian can offer, a similar thing is unfolding at Arsenal with Francis Coquelin. There is always that one engine in every team – usually anyway. So we’ve decided to list the most underrated grafters who really don’t/didn’t get the praise they deserve from the Premier League across the years, on the day of one of Arsenal’s finest ever players’ birthday – the one and only underrated grafter, Emmanuel Petit.
Winning the title on two occasions with Chelsea, Essien also got his hands on four FA Cups and one Champions League – playing a part in the spine-tingling success against Bayern Munich in 2012. The 32-year-old was often hit with serious injuries and that overshadowed a large amount of his time at the Bridge, before he eventually moved on to Real Madrid, AC Milan and now Panathinaikos.
In his prime, the former Bastia man was one of the most feared and talented central midfielders in England, something which a lot of the time went under the radar.
Arsenal fans will remember Brazilian colossus Gilberto Silva with fondness, after the 38-year-old helped the Gunners to a series of silverware during his six years at the club.
The former central midfielder made the move to England back in 2002 from Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro, where he had spent two years prior.
Whilst Silva was relatively unknown to many during the year 2002, the Brazilian made his mark at the World Cup in the Far East – a tournament he was called up to by Luiz Felipe Scolari as a surprise to many.
Silva ended up playing in every minute of every match of the tournament after an injury to Emerson prior to the competition and the midfielder’s showings earned him a switch to Arsenal, where he went on to play a big role in the ‘Invincibles’ season.
Runner-up in the Champions League, two-time FA Cup and Community Shield winner, and one-time Premier League champion, Silva allowed Arsenal’s flamboyant attacking stars do the fancy work, whilst he went about his work quietly in the middle of the park.
237 appearances yielded just 24 goals, highlighting Silva’s focus on doing the dirty work.
Ray Parlour - Arsenal in action against Everton
Mandatory Credit : Action Images / Richard Heathcote
Parlour was rarely appreciated by rival supporters, but the ten-cap former England international was a fan favourite at Highbury and was renowned for his never-say-die attitude.
Joining Arsenal as a trainee in 1989, Parlour made his debut for the Gunners against Liverpool in January 1992 and went on to make 455 appearances for the club across all competitions.
Whilst many may remember Parlour’s time at the club as a series of substitute appearances, the Englishman had a bigger part to play than just that and only once did he make less than 18 appearances in a season – his first campaign in 1991/92 yielded six games.
Three Premier League titles – four times runner-up – three FA Cups and one League Cup, Parlour knew what success was all about.
One of Manchester United’s finest servants was a graduate of the ‘Class of ’92?; Nicky Butt. The former England international, like Parlour, was never really appreciated by opposition fans, but Manchester United supporters knew what he was all about.
Butt spent 12 years in the Manchester United first-team before moving to Newcastle United in 2004, but it was at Old Trafford where his hard-work and sheer determination was a pleasure to behold.
The former central midfielder 387 appearances over 12 seasons at the club and, whilst a large number of them were played in various positions and coming off the bench, Butt always put in 110%.
Winning six league titles, three FA Cups and one Champions League was testament to the sort of career the now Manchester United coach had.
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The 46-year-old spent seven years with Leeds United where he made 211 league appearances for the Yorkshire outfit, before moving on to Blackburn, Newcastle and then returning to Elland Road for a second spell.
Batty was not renowned for his exactly elegant style, but he was a grafter and more times than not the midfield engine covered every blade of grass during a hugely successful 18 years in senior football.
Many may be surprised by Luka Modric’s inclusion here, but Tottenham Hotspur fans will tell you that the Croatian can build-up play just as well as he can stop it – his energy and graft are vital in the middle of the park.
The 30-year-old Croatia international was a star in North London with the Lilywhites, before he swapped the English capital for the Spanish one in 2012.
After a tough start to life in Madrid, the Zadar-born midfielder has built up a name for himself and is arguably one of the most important ingredients in the Real Madrid squad.
Covering every blade of grass more times than not, Modric has become renowned for his swash-buckling capabilities as well as his astute play on the ball.