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MEMORY LANE

Who was every Premier League club’s best player 10 years ago?

Being stuck indoors with no football to watch has left us nostalgic for… quite a lot of things, actually.

While Liverpool sit top of the currently-suspended Premier League table by a massive 25 points, 10 years ago the nation was gripped by a stunning campaign that saw Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea pip Man United to the title by a single point, while Spurs edged out Man City in thrilling fashion in the battle for a place in the following season’s Champions League.

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Didier Drogba was the league’s top goal-scorer while Roy Hodgson was named Manager of the Year after he guided Fulham to the Europa League final.

Scouting For Girls and Plan B were on the radio, David Cameron became Prime Minister and the World Cup in South Africa was just around the corner.

Take this stroll down memory lane with us, as we look back at each current Premier League side’s best player at the time…

Arsenal – Cesc Fabregas

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It might be hard to remember now – especially as Fabregas’ most recent stint in the Premier League with Chelsea saw him play a deep creative role that predominantly made him the Blues’ assist-provider – but at Arsenal the Spaniard had a keen eye for goal in his final few years at the Emirates.

Above that, he was the nucleus of Arsenal’s team with most of their attacking play going through the midfielder, while he was also in charge of taking their free-kicks and penalties.

In a particularly prolific campaign, Cesc recorded his best goals tally to date with 19 in all competitions.

Aston Villa – James Milner

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Villa were a team fighting for a spot amongst the best of the rest 10 years ago – a far-cry from the newly-promoted side we’ve watched struggle around the relegation places this season – and they had a host of exciting players to boast.

Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Stewart Downing and even the veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel were just some of the club’s star names, but we’ve gone for Milner in his play-making role in the side that earned him a move to Man City a year later.

Bournemouth – Brett Pitman

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As you can imagine, Bournemouth were a very different beast 10 years ago.

Although they had an even younger Eddie Howe in the dugout, the club were in League Two and fresh from an almighty financial scare the year before which saw them genuinely fear for their future.

But having brushed themselves down, the Cherries won promotion to League One at the end of the 2009/10 season with Pitman helping himself to 26 league goals in the process.

Brighton – Andrew Crofts

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2009/10 was not a vintage campaign for Brighton, who finished mid-table in League One.

While their current talisman Lewis Dunk was just a little-known youngster in the side, Crofts was their midfield general who hit seven goals that season before leaving for Norwich.

Burnley – Grahame Alexander

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Our head told us to pick striker Steven Fletcher, who netted eight times for the Clarets in their short-lived first season in the Premier League, but the heart went for fan-favourite Alexander.

Then aged 37, the shaggy-haired Welshman enjoyed a billboard season – becoming the oldest player to make his Premier League debut in a campaign that saw him net important goals against the likes of Man City and Arsenal.

Among the oldest players ever to score in the Premier League, seven of his eight goals that year came from the penalty spot – but they all count, don’t they?

Chelsea – Didier Drogba

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We considered picking Florent Malouda and Frank Lampard, who each enjoyed a fruitful campaign for Chelsea 10 years ago.

But it’s hard to look beyond Drogba, who seemed to be at the very peak of his powers in Ancelotti’s title-winning first year with the Blues.

Having earned the Premier League Golden Boot with 29 goals, Drog also won Chelsea’s Player of the Year and was naturally named in the PFA Team of the Year too.

Crystal Palace – Darren Ambrose

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These were indeed dark days for Palace, who were put under administration in 2010, deducted ten points from their tally in the Championship and were forced to sell key players like Victor Moses and Jose Fonte.

Amidst all the problems, Ambrose proved to be the club’s most consistent player and even chipped in with 20 goals from midfield – making him their top goal-scorer in all competitions.

Everton – Steven Pienaar

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Much like Villa, it was hard to pick out just one name in a surprisingly talented crop of players in David Moyes’ Everton side of 2009/10.

The Toffees finished eighth in the league with the likes of Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines and Tim Howard standing out – as well as top-scorer Louis Saha.

But we’ve chosen exciting winger Pienaar, who was often the club’s most watchable player despite being troubled by injury that year.

Leicester – Andy King

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Leicester fans would scarcely believe where the next 10 years would take their club back in 2009/10, when they were happy enough with fifth-place in the Championship after promotion from League One the year before.

Nigel Pearson was their manager, Milan Mandaric was the club’s owner and Yann Kermorgant was just one of the intriguing new faces in the team, but it was long-time legend Andy King who enjoyed their best campaign – even picking up the players’ player of the year award.

King was the only player in this Leicester team that would go onto pick up a Premier League winners’ medal six years later.

Liverpool – Steven Gerrard

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While goalkeeper Pepe Reina was the team’s official player of the season and Fernando Torres netted 18-times in the Prem, we’ve decided to go for Gerrard – purely because he was one of the best midfielders in the world at the time.

2009/10 was a difficult run-out for Liverpool as they finished seventh in the standings, perhaps down to the hole in midfield left behind by Xabi Alonso, who’d moved to Real Madrid that summer.

Gerrard was left to make do with the likes of Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva and Alberto Aquilani alongside him instead.

Man City – Carlos Tevez

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City were knocking on the door of the Champions League places that season but had to settle for fifth-place – with Spurs getting the better of them in the top four race.

Tevez, having moved across Manchester from United to City in 2009, had his best league goals tally to date in 2009/10 with 23 – meaning he was finally the main man in England’s second city.

Man United – Wayne Rooney

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United’s attack looked very different in the summer of 2009, with the likes of Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo long gone.

Rooney needed to step-up, and he did; netting 34 times in all competitions as United finished runners-up behind Chelsea.

Darren Fletcher and Patrice Rvra both deserve honourable mentions, with each becoming integral members of Sir Alex Ferguson’s starting line-up.

Newcastle – Kevin Nolan

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Amidst a backdrop of uncertainty surrounding their relegation the season before, Newcastle let go of a host of big names in the summer of 2009 – including Michael Owen and Damien Duff – as they prepared for life in the Championship.

But they quickly found their feet in the second-tier with Nolan and a young Andy Carroll starring as they finished top of the table, while Jose Enrique and Fabricio Coloccini also proved to be two of the best defenders outside of the Premier League.

Norwich – Grant Holt

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Here’s another current Prem side who played all the way down in League One just 10 years ago.

But under the management of Paul Lambert, the Canaries went straight back up into the Championship by finishing top of the league, with towering striker Grant Holt hitting an eye-watering 30 goals in all competitions.

Two years later he’d be be plying his trade in the Premier League, while these days he’s a professional wrestler.

Sheffield United – Nick Montgomery

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While Sheffield United have enjoyed a fairy tale year in the Premier League with Chris Wilder at the helm, they endured an ordinary campaign in the Championship 10 years ago with an eighth-place finish.

In a team crippled by injury for most of the year, club favourite Nick Montgomery was perhaps their biggest hero – captaining the side through a tricky period and then going one better by turning down an offer from Yorkshire rivals Leeds at the end of the season.

Southampton – Rickie Lambert

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All the way down in League One, Southampton were plotting a revolution.

In just five years, the club would go from seventh in League One to seventh in the Premier League – powered by a squad of players that included Morgan Schneiderlin and Adam Lallana.

But the star of the show was striker Lambert – signed for £1 million from Bristol Rovers in the summer of 2009 – who scored 35 goals in all competitions in his first year with the Saints.

Lambert would go onto become Southampton’s all-time top scorer with 115 goals – overtaking Matt Le Tissier’s record – before that disastrous move to Liverpool in 2014.

Spurs – Jermain Defoe

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Spurs were on the cusp of greatness under Harry Redknapp, with a glorious Champions League campaign just a year away.

Aaron Lennon was perhaps their standout performer in 2009/10, while the likes of Luka Modric and Gareth Bale were yet to truly recognise their awesome potential.

But Defoe’s the player who really caught our eye, with the pint-sized poacher having one of his best seasons by sinking 18 goals in the Premier League – enough to see him make England’s World Cup squad that summer.

Watford – Tom Cleverley

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Cleverley was widely considered the real shining light of Watford’s tricky 2009/10 campaign in the Championship.

Having helped Leicester to the League One title the year before, the then-20-year-old joined the Hornets on a season-long loan from Man United and had a stellar campaign in midfield, finishing up with his best-ever tally of 11 goals.

He truly looked like the future of both United and England’s midfield, so what went wrong?

West Ham – Scott Parker

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With the lovable Gianfranco Zola in the dugout, West Ham avoided relegation by a whisker at the end of 2010 – only to be relegated a year later.

There were plenty of familiar faces and big names in the squad that season, including current captain Mark Noble alongside England regulars Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Carlton Cole.

But it’s midfield dynamo Parker who stood out the most, with the enduring memory being his winning goal in a tense 3-2 victory over Wigan in April which secured the Hammers’ survival.

Wolves – Matt Jarvis

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Just one of many exciting English left-wingers knocking around at the time – alongside the likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing (no, really) – was Jarvis, who’d become a key member of Wolves’ line-up.

He would win the club’s player of the year award a year later and even pick up a solitary England cap, but that was about as good as it got before his move to West Ham in 2012.