EPL players to keep an eye from each club in 2013-14
EPL players to keep an eye on each club in 2013-14 (contd.)
1. Arsenal: Jack Wilshere
There was supposed to be all that money to spend, but Arsenal's transfer window has been a half-hearted affair: a tale of nearlies and almosts and actuallies. Thank goodness, then, for the return of Wilshere, who swaggered straight back into things for England mid-week. It is not often players can embody such aggression and composure. His relationship with Santi Cazorla will once again be key for Arsenal.
2. Aston Villa: Aleksandar Tonev
There is building excitement about the role Aleksandar Tonev might play in Paul Lambert's remodelled side. It seems likely he'll quickly take up one of three attacking midfield spots, having already made an impression on his new teammates. "He's strong, he's sharp, he's direct too and he gives us another genuine goal threat," Fabian Delph said. "You rarely get players who are two-footed in football these days. He's great with both feet."
3. Cardiff City: Gary Medel
To say he is a bit of a red card risk is an understatement, but Medel, Cardiff City's latest club-record signing, brings cast-iron calibre to the side. Yes, he's an ultra-tough tackler, but the Bluebirds will hardly mind that as they look to get a foothold in the Premier League. Stationed in front of a defense that has also been bolstered with the signing of Steven Caulker from Spurs, Medel has the passing range to spring Cardiff in to attack, too.
4. Chelsea: Romelu Lukaku
Jose Mourinho's side promises much, so settling on one player from a generous handful is difficult. The interesting thing about Lukaku is we already know what he is capable of, and the wait to see him play for Chelsea feels overlong. If Mourinho sticks to the kind of team we expect from his Chelsea, Lukaku -- powerful and champing at the bit to make his mark at Stamford Bridge -- will be a key figure up front.
5. Crystal Palace: Jonny Williams
Williams wasn't through a full season on the Palace first team before the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea started sniffing around. Described by the manager Ian Holloway as being "like a plastic bag in the wind", Williams can play pretty much anywhere between front and back. He has the poise you'd expect from a short, scampish player like him and the sort of brain you'd expect from someone far older -- his passing is delightfully good and keeps Palace ticking.
6. Everton: Gerard Deulofeu
"He's got incredible potential -- that really raw talent that any fan wants to watch," said the manager, Roberto Martinez, before warning that those fans might have to wait a bit while Deulofeu settles in. For now there's also the prospect of a full, injury-free campaign from Kevin Mirallas, but Barcelona loanee Deulofeu's skill and creativity really whets the appetite.
7. Fulham: Derek Boateng
Of course it's another DB -- Dimitar Berbatov -- that most of the soccer-loving world can't wait to see back on their telly-box, but hear me out: midfield was an area of real weakness for Fulham last season and Boateng is a major improvement in the more defensive central role. Fulham supporters will feel a lot more confident knowing a player of Boateng's quality is there to mop up when a front line featuring Berbatov and Adel Taarabt fails to track back.
8. Hull City: Sone Aluko
The Tigers have made plenty of signings this summer, including the pacy Evian forward Yannick Sagbo, but fans already know the kind of impact Aluko can have. Before picking up an Achilles injury midway through last season he had scored eight goals, often important ones at that. He's fast, Velcro-footed and a menace to the opposition defense. It'll be riveting to see what he can do in the Premier League.
9. Liverpool: Philippe Coutinho
Brendan Rodgers is duty-bound to talk up the potency of a Daniel Sturridge-Philippe Coutinho partnership, as he did this week, but it's not merely PR spin. Coutinho may be young but he exudes a beautiful certainty in his passing repertoire and those skipping, shoulder-dipping runs. If he is to play more centrally this season, with Iago Aspas on one side and (possibly) Luis Suarez on the other, Liverpool fans won't be the only ones drooling.
10. Manchester City: Jesús Navas
City have spent in excess of £80m this summer, but of the new players Navas is perhaps the most exciting. The pace and directness he brings to the wing was noticeably lacking in some matches last season. City's possession play at times looked ponderous because it was too easy to pack the midfield and stifle them. With Edin Dzeko to aim crosses at, Navas is set up for success.
11. Manchester United: Wilfried Zaha
If Shinji Kagawa is fit for a run in the team in his favoured central position, he could be an important and quite brilliant player for United this season. The 18-year-old midfielder Adnan Januzaj has also inspired quite a following. But it is Zaha who looks best placed to earn a regular game, having impressed out wide in preseason. He's fast, not shy about taking on his man and always ready to shoot. He's looking first-team ready.
12. Newcastle United: Hatem Ben Arfa
There is a lot to like about the signing of Loic Remy, on loan from Queens Park Rangers for the season, but Ben Arfa is still the spark for Alan Pardew's team. The threat of injury seems to forever hang over season predictions for the creative midfielder, but Pardew reports good things from preseason training and has not been shy about heaping expectations on to Ben Arfa's shoulders. "We need [his exceptional talent] on the pitch and we need more of it."
13. Norwich City: Ricky van Wolfswinkel
The Norwich manager Chris Hughton is excited about having van Wolfswinkel up front. "He's a player that's always scored goals," he said. "He's certainly one that will get himself into the box; he likes to run in beyond. But," he added, sounding a note of caution, "we've got to give him opportunities as well." And that's where City's other new Dutchman, Leroy Fer, comes in. They already seem to have an understanding, Fer playing behind van Wolfswinkel, which bodes well.
14. Southampton: Jay Rodriguez
Saints supporters are spoiled for choice in what has been a delightfully optimistic summer: more is expected from the likes of Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, who scored with his first touch in international soccer Wednesday, while Victor Wanyama looks like a terrific signing. Rodriguez, though, finished last season in superb form, and he's been scoring in preseason. What can he do this time around?
15. Stoke City: Charlie Adam
Read the previews and predictions being bandied about and you'll see optimism for Stoke is in fairly short supply. When you consider how few goals City scored last season, the failure to recruit up front is a worry. But there have been signs of a new playing style under the new manager Mark Hughes, and Adam will be key to its success. Hughes promised to rejuvenate the former Liverpool midfielder and he has looked good in preseason.
16. Sunderland: Emanuele Giaccherini
Jozy Altidore is aiming to be Sunderland's US poster-boy, and his match-saving hat-trick against Bosnia and Herzegovina will have gone down well among fans getting used to an almost entirely new-look lineup. Giaccherini, the winger signed from Juventus, is more enticingly exotic - not because his name is harder to pronounce but because he plays with a mischief and intelligence Sunderland previously lacked.
17. Swansea City: Wilfried Bony
Swansea have bought really well this summer and have already seen promising performances from Jonjo Shelvey and Alejandro Pozuelo. Bony is the "star" signing, though, and with last season's top scorer Michu tucking in behind him, Swansea will have a more than potent front line. "They are on the same wavelength," Leon Britton said. "The partnership looks very promising and gives us a new dimension."
18. Tottenham Hotspur: Roberto Soldado
A close call, this, because the return from injury of midfielder Sandro promises to restore mouth-watering defensive artistry to Tottenham's center. Soldado, though, is the sort of consistent 20-plus-goals-a-season striker Spurs fans have waited a long while to welcome. Though Jermain Defoe is more credible as a lone striker than is often made out, Soldado offers a real focus for the Tottenham attack as well as a headache for opposition defenses.
19. West Bromwich Albion: Nicolas Anelka
All eyes will be on the player stepping in to Romelu Lukaku's boots, as much in hope as in expectation. Anelka has done a bit of travelling since we last saw him in the Premier League, but his experience (West Brom is his sixth club in this league) should tell and he has been scoring in preseason matches. "He's the fittest 34-year-old I've ever seen," said the manager, Steve Clarke, though he has moved Anelka back to a playmaking role. "I hope he will bring the rest of the players along and lift them to a higher level."
20. West Ham United: Ravel Morrison
It is no secret Morrison's career has been shaped primarily by his lack of discipline and off-the-pitch problems: it has already cost him his chance at Manchester United. Yet there is an increasingly tangible sense he might finally be getting his head down and letting his game flourish -- after enjoying the tail end of last season at Birmingham, he's been scoring all summer for West Ham. Sam Allardyce now has two orthodox wingers in Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing, which might allow Morrison an exciting roaming remit.