Vito Mannone (Sunderland)
Arsenal's former third-choice goalkeeper signed for Sunderland as cover for Keiren Westwood but when the latter injured his shoulder he got his big chance and has made the most of it. Without Mannone and his string of vital saves, Gus Poyet's side would have been relegated a while ago. The modestly remunerated Italian could not afford to buy the Liverpool-bound keeper Simon Mignolet's old home on Wearside last summer but the fact he has won Sunderland's player of the year award while playing behind a less than stable defence confirms he is a worthy successor to the excellent Belgian.
Seamus Coleman (Everton)
The former Sligo Rovers right-back has blossomed under Roberto Martínez's management at Everton and certainly would not look out of place on the Champions League stage next season. The 25-year-old from Killybegs in County Donegal who grew up with Gaelic football his first love knows how to defend but attacks with style, skill and strength. Who can forget Coleman tricking his way past Arsenal's Santi Cazorla before juggling the ball out of defence. Spends countless hours at home analysing DVDs of Europe's best full-backs and such homework is helping make him one of them. If he played for a London club the hype machine would be in overdrive.
Curtis Davies (Hull City)
Davies can look deceptively ungainly but he is a very quick, powerful, tall and formidable defender. He represents a big reason why Hull City are virtually safe in the Premier League and FA Cup finalists. Vastly improved from his Aston Villa days, Davies can count himself a little unlucky he does not seem to feature in Roy Hodgson's World Cup plans for England. His style may be regarded as too "old-fashioned" by some – despite his coveted pace – but he has emerged from serious injury and stints in the Championship as a player rejuvenated. An inspired signing from Birmingham last summer on Steve Bruce's part.
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Virtually unrecognisable from the former Bolton defender whose regular losses of concentrations once imbued him with a touch of the Titus Brambles. Cahill is one of the most improved players in the Premier League over the past 18 months, and his development means John Terry is no longer quite so indispensable at Stamford Bridge. Granted, the sheer quality of the defenders around him allied to José Mourinho's cagey tactical mindset simplify his job but put Cahill in the back four at Sunderland, Cardiff or Fulham and their odds of avoiding relegation would surely be enhanced appreciably.
Luke Shaw (Southampton)
Yes, he has his defensive flaws but few would believe he is still only 18. The latest product of Southampton's much vaunted academy, Shaw seems set for a £30m, £100,000-a-week summer move to Manchester United but is admired by several others, his boyhood heroes Chelsea among them. Shaw is a wonderfully attacking, technically gifted left-back, his height and attendant aerial ability serving to increase his price tag. The youngster deserves further praise for shining in Mauricio Pochettino's attractive yet intensely demanding and sophisticated pressing system.
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Zinedine Zidane says no Liverpool player deserves to win the title more than Gerrard, ranked by the French luminary with Paul Scholes as the two best English players of their generation. Reinvented as more of a deep-lying "quarter-back" by Brendan Rodgers this season, Gerrard has the nous to protect a somewhat fragile defence while the anchoring role suits his glorious passing range. Would Jordan Henderson's dramatic transformation into one of England's most in-form midfielders have happened so swiftly were he not playing alongside Gerrard?
Yaya Touré (Manchester City)
Twenty-two goals in 45 appearances this season speak volumes for City's midfield dynamo. A total footballer capable of operating at centre-half in an emergency, Touré simply swashbuckles his way through opposing teams. This Ivory Coast force of nature claims African players are underappreciated in Europe but no one who has played against him is likely to be guilty of doing that. Combines intense power with extreme elegance. Tellingly, City invariably look a far poorer team without him.
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
Fourteen goals in 33 appearances for Arsenal this season explain why, with regret, Southampton's Adam Lallana has been edged out of this XI. Not to mention why Ramsey rather than Mesut Özil or Jack Wilshere has emerged as Arsène Wenger's main midfield man. Before this campaign merely holding down a first-team place at the Emirates promised to be an achievement in itself for the Welshman. Nowadays Özil looks lost without Ramsey by his side. And he is still only 23.
David Silva (Manchester City)
"David is the one who makes us play better. He is the one who has everything." So said Silva's City team-mate Pablo Zabaleta. Like Yaya Touré, the Gran Canaria-born creator is nigh indispensable to Manuel Pellegrini's side. A classic between-the-lines attacker, the Spain playmaker dubbed "Merlin" by Mancunian team-mates, a 28-year-old at the peak of his powers, joins the dots at the Etihad. It speaks volumes that, when Silva is absent injured, City have an unfortunate habit of dropping points.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Seventeen goals for Chelsea this season emphasise Hazard's importance to José Mourinho's side. A fantasy player in a high quality yet sometimes boringly functional team, Belgium's talisman is probably responsible for selling a lot of season tickets – not to mention satellite television subscriptions. Not lacking confidence, he claims he can be as good as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in a couple of years. It should be fun watching the 23-year-old try.
Luis Suárez (Liverpool)
His 30 goals in 30 league appearances for Liverpool this season go a long way towards explaining why Brendan Rodgers' side are challenging for the title. An insidious, mobile and ultra intelligent forward, the Uruguayan is now benefiting from having played in an assortment of attacking positions at Ajax. His compatriot and close friend, Gus Poyet, may have been exaggerating when he claimed Liverpool would be mid-table without Suárez but Arsenal might have stayed to the end in the title chase had he joined Arsène Wenger after all and David Moyes may still be Manchester United manager if he had somehow managed to sign him.