The new league season’s just begun, and we’ve had a couple of unexpected results already (West Ham putting one over Arsenal and Chelsea drawing with Swansea). Whether you’re about to embark on a desperate attempt to beat your work colleagues at fantasy football, or you’re just an avid football fan, there are a few players to watch out for who could make some serious waves in the PL this season.
Obviously it stands to reason that the likes of Eden Hazard and Sergio Aguero are going to continue where they left off last season, and both look set to have their best campaigns ever. Hazard was a deserved winner of the Player of the Year crown last season, and here are a few other names who could end up joining them in the draw at the end of 2015/16.
The young Senegalese star had a hugely impressively first season at St.Mary’s- scoring 11 goals and four assists from midfield, including the fastest ever league hat trick against Aston Villa, taking a total of 176 seconds (2:56) to score his three goals in that fixture.
Mane only joined Saints in September last year, and made his bow towards the end of the month. 2014/15 was his maiden season in the Premiership so the stats are quite impressive for someone making the transition for the first time. It would certainly make sense to expect him to improve on these figures during the 2015/16 campaign in a Southampton team that has been going from strength to strength over the last few years.
Mane has the ability to tear opposition defences apart with his blistering speed and deadly finishing. He demonstrated this more in the latter stages of last season and if he can hit the ground running this year he will be an exciting player to watch. The 23 year old has already had couple of good outings this season, and was instrumental in Southampton’s win over Vitesse in the Europa League Southampton have a fairly easy looking run of matches to start and only face one of last season’s top four in the first seven fixtures. There is however one small factor- it remains to be seen as to whether the South Coast side are the same force without Morgan Schneiderlin pulling the strings in the centre of the park
Wouldn’t it just be so poetic for Sterling to silence all the critics who said he wasn’t worth the whopping £49m fee Manchester City paid for him? Doesn’t it just seem like it is written that he will storm on to help City reclaim the title and in doing so become Player of the Year?
Whatever the case, it is make or break time for the English forward. He has to go out there and justify the transfer fee paid for him and if he doesn’t, prove his critics right. From pre-season it looks as though Sterling is going to fit in nicely to this City team. He has scored already (it took him just three minutes on debut in the Champions Cup against Roma) and shown his devastating pace on a number of occasions.
Two years ago when Sterling was playing regular football with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, people were already saying what an exciting prospect this player was. Unfortunately last season he didn’t have quite the same support around him and didn’t do as well.
Now, though, he is going to be playing with the likes of Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure. While City don’t have the greatest record with young English talent (Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and SWP to name a few, have ALL regressed there), it makes reasonable sense to assume that Sterling can and will flourish in this set up. At only 20 years old, and with such talented mentors around him, he could go on to greatness. All he needs to do now is work on his finishing and he could end up being one of the most devastating players in the league.
Walcott is a unique name in this list- he’s the only one born in the 80’s, unlike the others who were born in the 90’s and are still in their early 20’s. Arsenal’s longest serving squad member has been plagued with niggling injuries over the past couple of seasons, which is a real shame because that has cost him a lot of development at a crucial time. He was once dubbed as the new Thierry Henry and at one point many Arsenal fans had (and still do!) the belief that this youngster could one day step into the great Frenchman’s boots. This is yet to happen but he has shown some flashes of brilliance when he has been fit. Walcott has undergone the same positional switch as Henry (winger to striker) and under the same manager (Arsene Wenger)
This is the first time Walcott has been involved in pre-season with Arsenal for a while. He missed the start of the last two campaigns through injury. The last time he was with them from the start, though, in 2012/13, he went on to play a total of 2286 minutes, scored 14 goals and got 13 assists.
Now it looks as though Arsene Wenger may be planning on using the pacey forward as the sole front man this time out, with Olivier Giroud on the bench for back up. This was the way Arsenal were lined up in the Community Shield match against Chelsea, where Walcott assisted the winning goal for Oxlade-Chamberlain. If Arsenal stick with this line up then Walcott could go on to score a lot of goals and the man himself has said that he plans to bag at least 20 in the league. However, there is still some speculation that Wenger may be in the market for a big name striker before the transfer window closes. The name of Karim Benzema is being whispered in several quarters near the Emirates and bookies are already offering markets on the French hitman possibly making a move to London (he’s at 2/1 to join the Gunners, despite Rafa Benitez saying that Benzema will remain in the Spanish capital). If this comes to fruition then it would obviously affect Walcott’s goalscoring potential.
Walcott is now 26, and is in the prime of his career. Wenger has remarked that the best part of a striker’s career is between the ages of 26 and 32, and has hoped that Walcott will stay at the Emirates and make a success of himself during this golden period.
After storming onto the scene last year and scoring a total of 31 goals in all competitions, Kane quickly became one of the most talked about players in England. Pundits were comparing him to the likes of Alan Shearer and he won the PFA Young Player of the Year award and was also nominated for the Player of the Year award. Mauricio Pochettino now holds Kane, who even scored on his senior England debut, as the key focus of his side and is looking to build his Tottenham team around him to suit his style of play. This could enable him to score even more goals in the new campaign.
People have been wondering whether Kane will be a one hit wonder and a victim of “second season syndrome“. So, like Sterling, he also needs to step out there and prove some critics wrong. It seems likely, though, that Kane will go out and do exactly the same thing again. He is young, he is hungry for goals, and he is having fun. Opposition defences will be quaking in their boots.
Any other players you think who require a strong season and need to kick off from where they left in 2014/15 or have a major point to prove?