Stars from Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Man City join shock inclusion Wayne Rooney as WhoScored name their best Premier League team of 2014.The opener at Manchester City may well have proved fruitless by the final whistle but Wilfried Bony's early strike took his total for the calendar year to a league-leading 17, one clear of Sergio Aguero, who failed to register for the opposing side.
It got us thinking about which players have really shone since the turn of the year, with WhoScored.com bringing us their top-rated Premier League XI over the course of the last 11 months. To qualify, players must have made at least ten appearances at the tail end of last season and more than five at the start of this, rendering the likes of Luis Suarez, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez and Daniel Sturridge ineligible.
WhoScored's Premier League Team of 2014 (4-4-2): Mannone; Ivanovic, Davies, Dawson, Baines; Sterling, Matic, Jedinak, Hazard; Aguero, Rooney
Vito Mannone (Sunderland)
He may have been partly at fault for a frankly embarrassing defensive showing against the likes of Southampton and Arsenal this season but the gaffes Vito Mannone made in those matches were all the more baffling given his previous performances for the Black Cats. The 26-year-old was voted Sunderland's player of the season in his debut campaign for the club and for good reason, with no goalkeeper having made more saves in the calendar year (122).
Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)
Not exactly your typical slight full-back, Branislav Ivanovic's development into undoubtedly one of the Premier League's finest has been intriguing. The intimidating Serbian is now a key component to Chelsea's attack and has adapted his game so much so that it's arguably the defensive side of his armoury that is now weaker than his attacking threat. Nevertheless, Ivanovic has averaged an impressive two tackles per game to accompany 1.1 key passes per match and four league goals in 2014.
Curtis Davies (Hull)
The Hull captain had a near dream debut campaign for the Tigers, performing admirably in the league before scoring a goal that so nearly helped the side to an FA Cup final upset against Arsenal. Davies' rating in the calendar year of 7.47 is the best of any Premier League defender in that time and comes having produced the second most clearances (311) and won the third most aerial duels (147) in 2014.
Michael Dawson (Hull)
Taking his place alongside new teammate Davies, Michael Dawson has made a superb start to life at the KC and in the most recent meeting with former club Spurs he showed the Londoners that they may well have been wrong to let him go. His league rating of 7.43 over 20 appearances this year has been aided by impressive figures including 2.5 interceptions and 4.9 aerial duels won per game.
Leighton Baines (Everton)
When talking about defenders that are most crucial to their side's general play it's hard to look beyond Leighton Baines and the left-back has continued to provide a genuine threat in the final third for Everton this season, and indeed this year. No player has registered more PL assists in 2014 than the England full-back (10), with a total of 62 chances created ranking seventh in the Premier League, but well clear of any other defender.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
The Liverpool wonderkid may have been unable to continue his blistering form from the end of last season, and indeed start of this of late but having featured in every single league game for the Reds in this calendar year (31) it's understandable. Nevertheless the winger has been a real menace wherever he has played in that time, scoring nine times and registering six assists, with only one player completing more dribbles (94).
Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)
It's easy to forget that Nemanja Matic only re-signed for Chelsea at the start of this year, such has been his seamless integration into the Blues line-up, becoming a crucial member of Jose Mourinho's regular starting XI. The Serb hit the ground running for the capital club and continues to dominate matches with his physicality and assured presence on the ball, with only one player having made more tackles in 2014 (97).
Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace)
The man to effectively out-tackle Matic this year partners him in a robust midfield pairing, with Palace captain Mile Jedinak also having made the step into Premier League football in impressive fashion. The Australian has produced both the most tackles (114) and the most interceptions (116) since the turn of the year, as well as ranking amongst the top ten for aerial duels won, with 112. A rating of 7.58 from WhoScored.com is fully merited.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The best player in the Premier League in 2014 according to WhoScored.com's ratings is Eden Hazard, with a score of 7.91. The Belgian flyer has been at the top of his game for some time now and has proved to be a nightmare for opposing defences all year, ranking first in the English top flight for both successful dribbles (127) - a full 33 more than any other player - and key passes (70).
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
An unsurprising inclusion in the XI having struck 16 league goals from just 20 appearances in 2014, Sergio Aguero is Hazard's closest rival in WhoScored's ratings (7.65). The Argentine's goal tally comes having mustered the fourth most shots this year (88) but the most on target despite his limited playing time (43), with his unerring accuracy having helped City regain the Premier League title last season.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Some may be surprised that Wayne Rooney pips 2014's top scorer Wilfried Bony to the best XI but it's worth considering that the United skipper's tally of 12 - five fewer than the Ivorian - has come from nine fewer appearances this year (22), leaving the two with a near identical strike rate. Considering that the England man has played from a far deeper position, his goal threat is impressive and has been supplemented by 1.4 key passes per game to Bony's 0.9.