The 2020/21 Premier League unsung heroes: Rodri, Tielemans, Cresswell...

Even without the off-the-field issues, these players’ contributions may have been overlooked.

This season, more than any other, has been clouded by off-field drama.

A global pandemic, the badly received European Super League and an ongoing fight against racism has meant action on the pitch has often had to take a back seat.

And, as a tumultuous 2020/21 season draws to a close, Planet Sport takes a look at four players who maybe haven't received the credit they deserve.

Rodri - Manchester City

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City have wrapped up the Premier League title for the third time in five seasons, with arguably their best squad to date.

Guardiola's acquisition of Ruben Dias and the rebirths of John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan have hogged the headlines on the blue side of Manchester. However, the player who is making it all tick in the shadows is Rodri.

The deep-lying Spanish midfielder had big shoes to fill replacing the ageing Fernandinho but has been an industrious presence as City romped to the title.

He plays a crucial role in the build-up to their formidable attacks, averaging 83 passes per game with a 91% completion rate - although he has only managed one assist in the league.

Rodri is not afraid to do the dirty work out of possession either, playing a crucial role in City's trademark press. Alongside Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne, he forms a wall in front of the back four, making 63 tackles, 33 interceptions and winning 193 duels.

Sometimes criticised as being a 'sideways passer' he can get lost amid the noise surrounding some of City's more glitzy stars. However, he is a player appreciated by educated fans and, at 24, will only get better.

Alexandre Lacazette - Arsenal

Joy has been in short supply for Arsenal this season as they attempt a rebuild under Mikel Arteta. The next generation of talent have, naturally, dominated the talk around north London, with Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka arguably keeping Arteta's head above water.

However, currently leading the way on the pitch and in the goalscoring charts is Alexandre Lacazette. With 17 goals in all competitions, he has been a reliable figure in the absence of Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang.

Although this has been one of his more prolific campaigns, his role in this new-look Arsenal side has become a lot more dimensional than just notching up goals. His link-up play has been crucial to the few slithers of success the Gunners have enjoyed this campaign.

After favouring wing-backs in the first half of the season, Arteta has settled on a 4-2-3-1 formation which means Lacazette spends a lot of time with his back to goal.

Nevertheless, he has made 46 progressive passes into the opposition third and created 28 shooting opportunities for his team-mates in the Premier League.

His new role as a forward playmaker has made him a crucial part of Arteta's Arsenal revolution.

Youri Tielemans - Leicester City

Every year Leicester seem to get better under Brendan Rodgers. Sitting third in the Premier League, they are playing some of the best soccer we've seen at the King Power.

Youri Tielemans has started all 36 games and it's clear to see the influence the Belgian has had on their league position.

Signed permanently in the summer of 2019 for a record fee after an initial loan spell, Tielemans quickly bought into the ethos of the club. His dogged work means the attacking players have more licence to get forward. He covers the most grass out of any Leicester player per game, has won 74 tackles and has 254 ball recoveries this season.

The emergence of Harvey Barnes and eye-catching performances from midfield partner Wilfred Ndidi may have grabbed the attention, but Tielemans is undoubtedly the heart of the team.

Rodgers will do well to bat off offers from Europe's more established teams when they inevitably come knocking for the Belgium international.

Aaron Cresswell - West Ham United.

West Ham's unexpected Champions League bid may come to nothing. Nevertheless, the free-flowing Hammers are still punching way way above their weight with David Moyes at the helm.

The Jesse Lingard renaissance has been the headline news with the Manchester United loanee rekindling his love for the game in a West Ham shirt, firing nine goals since February and putting himself back on Gareth Southgate's radar.

But, another England national has caught our eye with a string of standout performances.

Aaron Cresswell has played 33 out of 35 games this season and has been instrumental in West Ham's set-piece success, assisting seven goals, five from dead-ball situations.

Moyes has opted for the fashionable choice of wing-backs this season, which has suited Cresswell perfectly, allowing him to overlap the midfielders and deliver quality crosses.

The marauding wing-back creates an average of three shooting chances for his team-mates per game and has created 31 shooting opportunities from free-kicks this season, showing his worth when finding his team-mates in the box.

With seven assists he is bettering Liverpool's Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold on all creative fronts, showing just how good the 31-year-old has been this season.

By Josh Heycock, follow him on Twitter

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