As we waved goodbye to the calendar year of 2012 some Premier League players were keener to see the back of it than others. However, in this article we look at those that excelled themselves in the first half of the campaign, compiling our team of the season up to December 31, 2012.
We also take a look at the leaders in a number of statistical categories up to that date, which excludes games played on January 1, 2013. Starting with our all star XI, as well as naming a substitute in each basic position (defence, midfield etc.), only players to appear in at least half of their side's games in that period (10) were considered.
Team of the Season (Ratings up to December 31, 2012)
We start in goal and it's an understudy who takes his place between the sticks according our WhoScored ratings, with Swansea's Gerhard Tremmel just edging out David De Gea. The German has made 10 appearances in the absence of injured keeper Michel Vorm and managed to keep clean sheets against the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal in that period to earn a rating of 7.05. Having saved 79% of the shots on target he has faced this season the 34-year old leads the way in the entire league.
Our back four consists of two new signings in the centre, with Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen adapting to life in the league with consummate ease. The Belgian, one of an ever-growing and ever-impressive crop in England right now, ranks particularly highly for interceptions, with a total of 56 up until January the most of any defender. Averages of 2.9 tackles and 8.4 clearances per game both rank the former Ajax man in the top 20 and it's no surprise that he makes our XI.
Vertonghen is joined at the back by the second Swansea player here, as Chico takes his place in defence. The Spaniard ranks 12th for tackles per game, with 3.3 the most of any centre-back in the league, and makes his way into the top 10 when it comes to interceptions (3.3) and clearances (9.2) per match.
Our first full-back is United's Rafael, taking his place on the right, while the Brazilian's teammate and captain Patrice Evra is just edged onto the substitutes bench by Leighton Baines. The former has supplemented tallies of 2 for both goals and assists this season with an exceptional average of 3.3 tackles per game, while the Everton and England man matches his figures in an attacking sense (2 goals, 2 assists) as well as having created 14 more chances for teammates than any other player in the league up until January (67).
Juan Mata and Gareth Bale take the wide berths in our line-up, with the latter netting 9 times to the Spaniard's 7. When it comes to creation, however, Mata is unsurpassed in the league with 7 assists equal with Wayne Rooney this term. Only 4 players have had more shots than Bale's 69 (all strikers), while the Chelsea winger's average of 2.6 key passes per game sees him rank joint-sixth in the division.
Bale's new colleague Mousa Dembele gains a spot at the heart of our midfield just ahead of compatriot Marouane Fellaini, while Arsenal recruit Santi Cazorla was the top rated player in the league up until January, with 7.85. The Spain international made 50 key passes (5th) and completed 49 dribbles (3rd) prior to the turn of the year, contributing to 12 of Arsenal's goals (7 goals, 5 assists). All-rounder Dembele's figures of 2.9 tackles, 2 key passes and 1.9 dribbles per game are all enough to make the top 20 in the league, whilst a 91.2% pass accuracy is among the top 10.
Our front two throws up few surprises, with top scorer Robin van Persie continuing where he left off last season to notch 14 times for new club United before January. His tally of 70 shots to that point ranked 4th in the league, giving the Dutchman a superb 20% conversion rate. A further 6 assists have helped him to get the best out of the players around him according to Alex Ferguson and the £22m man may just edge the likes of Michu and Cazorla as signing of the season.
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, whose 13 goals equate to 42% of Liverpool’s overall tally thus far, joins the United marksman up front. A tally of 116 shots is a full 27 more than any other player in the league and the Uruguayan's conversion rate of 11.2%, despite being well down on van Persie's, is a marked improvement on previous seasons. The fact that he also ranks in the top 5 for key passes and successful dribbles per game tells you all you need to know about Suarez's ability.
Stats Leaders (Figures up to December 31, 2012)
Seemingly Chelsea-bound Demba Ba is Suarez's closest rival when it comes to shots, with 89, while Spurs' trigger-happy hitman Jermain Defoe fired off 79 prior to the New Year. When it came to key passes David Silva (53) joined Luis Suarez in second behind Baines, with Gerrard (52) completing the top 5 alongside Cazorla (50).
The top dribbler in the league between August and the end of December was Hatem Ben Arfa, with 64, just ahead of Suarez. The Liverpool forward's teammate Raheem Sterling (41) also makes the top 5, while QPR playmaker Adel Taarabt completes the leaderboard.
In a defensive sense Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin is top for tackles (74), ahead of Tottenham's Sandro (68), though the tables turn for interceptions with the Brazilian leading the way and the young Frenchman in second. Fulham's Steve Sidwell also makes the top 5 for both categories, while the clearance leaderboard is topped by Swansea's Ashley Williams (211), ahead of Mike Williamson (200) and Ryan Nelsen (194).