With pre-season drawing to a close, the Premier League is returning in all it’s glory on August 8th. With the anticipation building for the new season, Phil Smith analyses each team’s player to watch.
Arsenal – Héctor Bellerín
While Arsenal have been steadily filling their midfield with big names, the emergence of the quick right-back Bellerín has largely gone under the radar. Introduced into the first team following injuries to Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers last season, the 20 year-old Spaniard took full advantage of the chance to establish himself as a regular starter in Arséne Wenger’s outfit. As Arsenal look to challenge for their first league title in over a decade, Bellerín’s incisive runs down that right flank and defensive ability against some of the league’s top wingers will be vital in determining the Gunner’s success this term.
Aston Villa – Jack Grealish
It could prove to be a damaging transfer window for Villa, who have lost the majority of their team’s spine in Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph, and Christian Benteke. However, one ray of optimism can be found in the emerging teenage talent of Jack Grealish, who showed a lot of promise towards the backend of last season, including a memorable performance in Villa’s victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final. Should he be able to carry that form into this year’s campaign, the young midfielder will be hot property at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Bournemouth – Harry Arter
A fledgling Bournemouth team purchased this midfield maestro from Woking in the summer of 2010, since then he has seen his side’s meteoric rise to the Premier League, as well as a first international cap come his way representing the Republic of Ireland. Though facing an injury scare that could keep him out of the start of the season, Arter’s long range passing ability should prove a necessity in Bournemouth’s midfield if they are to successfully remain in the Premier League.
Chelsea – Thibaut Courtois
At 23 years old, the Blues’ Belgian shot-stopper has already seen his fair share of accolades, winning both the Spanish La Liga and English Premier League as well as narrowly missing out on a Champion’s League winner’s medal within the short space of 2 years. With the departure of Petr Cech this summer to Arsenal, even more of an onus will be put on Courtois to help his side retain their title and continue developing into one of the premiere goalkeepers worldwide.
Crystal Palace – Patrick Bamford
The 2014-15 season was certainly a highlight of this young striker’s career, with his efforts pivotal in helping Middlesbrough to reach the Championship play-off final and earning him the Championship Player of the Year award for that season. It will be interesting to see whether the Chelsea loanee can make the same sort of impact in the top division this season, helping to bolster Alan Pardew’s outfit and provide a focal point for Palace’s attack.
Everton – John Stones
Despite heavy interest from Chelsea to bring in the young English prospect, it seems as if Stones has cemented himself into Martinez’s plans this season after receiving the number 5 shirt, making him the undisputed first choice centre back. After a disappointing bottom-half finish for Everton last season, the Toffees’ defence will need sharpening up if they are to bounce back this year, the composure of young John Stones could be the catalyst to provide that.
Leicester – Robert Huth
When Huth arrived in Leicester as part of a short-term loan from Stoke in February of 2015, he found a club seemingly destined for the drop, lying firmly at the bottom of the league with no hope of escaping relegation. However, the German defender’s presence would help ignite a remarkable comeback, helping the Foxes to achieve 7 victories in 9 matches which would leave them safe in 14th place by the end of the season. Having now signed as part of a permanent deal, Huth’s place in the centre of defence will be instrumental in deciding the outcome of Leicester’s second season in top-flight football.
Liverpool – Roberto Firmino
In another busy transfer window for Liverpool, it can be difficult to keep track of the many players who have entered and left Brendan Rodgers’ side. However, the Brazilian breakout star purchased from Bundesliga side 1899 Hoffenheim seems destined to form a great partnership with his international colleague Philippe Coutinho. If Firmino is able to quickly adapt to the Premier League, then the Reds could see one of the most exciting midfields they’ve fielded in years, which should go some way towards helping to fill the giant hole vacated by departing club legend Steven Gerrard.
Manchester City – Raheem Sterling
Perhaps the most high profile transfer of the summer window so far, Manchester City have injected some much needed youth into their team, shedding out a hefty £49 million on the 20 year-old winger. It seems as if their money has been well spent however, as an impressive pre-season has seen Sterling score 3 minutes into his debut against Roma. If the Premier League title is to return to the Etihad, the England international will need to show his finishing ability on a more consistent basis to overcome what was a disappointing second half to the 2014-15 season.
Manchester United – Bastian Schweinsteiger
Following an illustrious Bayern Munich career spanning over a decade, the midfield World Cup winner is embracing a new challenge, becoming the first German to represent Manchester United’s first team in the history of the club. Adding some much needed control and stability to the centre of midfield, Schweinsteiger’s ability to settle into the Premier League may have a large part to play in whether the 2015-16 season will see United reclaim their place on top of the pile.
Newcastle – Georginio Wijnaldum
New signings were certainly needed following an absolutely torrid conclusion to the 2014-15 campaign. Incoming manager Steve McClaren seems to have delivered that with the introduction of the former PSV Eindhoven midfielder Wijnaldum, who captained his side to the Eredivisie title in 2015. A Dutch international who has a proven ability at finding the net, Wijnaldum can provide goals for the Magpies that were sorely missing last season and as a result very nearly cost them their place in the Premier League.
Norwich – Nathan Redmond
Redmond has had an excellent 12 months. He inspired Norwich to a sensational Championship play-off victory over Middlesbrough as well as providing a rare positive to England’s U21 European Championship by making the official team of the tournament. Norwich’s young starlet will find himself at the forefront of his side’s attempt to stay in the Premier League as a regular feature at Carrow Road. With his injection of pace providing several key goals cutting inside from the wing, Redmond could prove to be the deciding factor in Norwich’s attempt to avoid the drop.
Southampton – Jordy Clasie
Following a highly impressive 2014-15 season in the wake of a mass exodus from the club’s first team, Southampton have lost their talisman Morgan Schneiderlin to Manchester United as well as England right-back Nathaniel Clyne. As Schneiderlin’s replacement, the Saints have purchased Feyenoord’s pass-master Jordy Clasie, whose tackling and passing ability will prove essential to help maintain the momentum that took them to 7th place in last year’s campaign.
Stoke – Marko Arnautović
This summer has seen yet another exciting transfer window for Stoke fans, as Mark Hughes has looked to fill his side with even more ex-Barcelona players. However, there should still be space for the exciting Austrian forward, who has already shown signs of flair in pre-season. Despite being dropped for large parts of last season, Arnautović came back to provide an excellent 7 assists over the course of the 2014-15 campaign, helping the Potters achieve another 9th place finish.
Sunderland – Costel Pantilimon
Having ably deputised for first-choice Joe Hart during his sticky period in Man City’s victorious 2013-14 season, this 6’8” Romanian giant made a large impact in his debut season for the Black Cats, ousting an accident-prone Vito Mannone to claim the number one spot on a permanent basis. Expect this to be a testing season for Pantilimon, as an aging defence ahead of him will surely lead to the 28 year-old facing several shots in Sunderland’s bid for survival.
Swansea – André Ayew
The selling of Wilfried Bony to Manchester City last January was a big loss to the Swans, so it comes as a huge relief that they have purchased an established goal-scoring threat in André Ayew. The Ghanaian international chipped in with an impressive 11 goals for Marseille last season, but after an excellent couple of seasons in the French Ligue 1 he will be embracing a new challenge as part of Garry Monk’s midfield, looking to provide a pace on the wing that has become synonymous with Swansea in recent years. Also watch out for Matt Grimes coming off the bench for Swansea as the former Exeter City man seeks to build his career in the top-flight.
Tottenham – Harry Kane
Undeniably the breakout star of 2014-15, Spurs’ newfound talisman striker will face a new challenge trying to follow up his 21 league goals with an equally impressive performance this time around. A disappointing U21 European Championship may play on his mind at the start of the season, but ‘HurriKane’s’ ability to find the goal both from all angles and from distance will be essential if Tottenham are to make a successful bid for Champions League football this season.
Watford – Matěj Vydra
The Czech international who likes to score for fun, this former Udinese man netted 16 times in a campaign that saw Watford claim the runner-up spot in the Championship during his loan spell last season. Despite a summer that has seen a slew of signings coming in to Vicarage Road, perhaps the most important of these could be the capture of Matěj Vydra on a permanent basis. As Watford look to establish themselves as a Premier League side, that goalscoring ability of his plus the ability to link up with club captain Troy Deeney may go a long way towards determining the outcome of Watford’s survival bid.
West Brom – Saido Berahino
Despite a devastating knee injury that ruled him out of the U21 Championships, Berahino’s quality has already manifested itself in the 14 goals he netted last season. A similar haul will be required if the young striker is to help his team avoid the drop this year (should he stay put, as several rumours continue to surround him concerning a potential move to Tottenham), not to mention the fact that Berahino will be eager to stake a claim for the senior England squad ahead of next summer’s Euros.
West Ham – Aaron Cresswell
The Scouse left-back made a terrific Premier League debut for the Hammers last season; having signed from Ipswich in the summer of 2014 he would go on to represent the first team in all of their league and FA cup games the following season. A respectable 2 goals and 4 assists in the league last season demonstrates the attacking threat that Cresswell poses– an element that will surely prove essential for West Ham this season as they look to push on in both the Premier League and Europa League.