Kevin and Neil have a look at twenty Premier League players to watch out for during the 2009/10 campaign, divided into five different categories.
5 new boys
Alberto Aquilani (Liverpool) With his immenant arrival at Anfield, fans will have high hopes for the man expected to replace Xabi Alonso in the centre of the field. The Italy and Roma player has had his fair share of set-backs over the years with injuries, but will be keen to make the step up and become an integral part of his new club.
Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal) Belgian defender Vermaelen has arrived at the Emirates with a big price tag and big shoes to fill following the recent departure of Kolo Toure. He certainly has the pedigree, with both Chmpions League and international experience behind him, though it might take him a while to settle into the Premiership.
Yuri Zhirkov (Chelsea) The Russian winger was recommend to the club by previous manager Guus Hiddink, and they duly bought him in June for around £18m. Zhirkov has been tipped as one of the buys of the summer, and his versatility and unlimited work-rate should fare him well in the English league.
Christian Benitez (Birmingham) The Ecuadorian striker became Birmingham’s record signing this summer – so fans will be expecting him to justify the price tag (believed to be £6m, rising to £9m). Benitez has an impressive scoring record from his spells in Mexico and Ecuador, but questions will be asked if he can cut it in the Premier League.
Nikola Kalinic (Blackburn) Signed on a four year deal from Hadjuk Split, striker Kalinic was badly needed by a side that struggled for goals last season, particularly when defender Christopher Samba was employed as an emergency striker. International manager Slaven Bilic has described the 20 year old as “the future of Croatian football”, and big things are expected of him following a transfer fee believed to be in the region of £6 million.
Nedum Onuoha (Manchester City) Having spent the last few seasons injury prone with the nickname ‘Nervous Ned’, 22 year old centre half Onuoha really stepped up last season at Eastlands. He was probably the only defender to come through the year without criticism and this summer captained the England under 21 side. Despite plenty of competition for places at the club, Onuoha last week signed a new 5 year deal.
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) Wilshere became Arsenal’s youngest ever league debutant last season when, aged 16 years and 256 days, he took the field against Blackburn Rovers as a substitute. The 17 year old attacking midfielder will no doubt feature in the England under 21 side in the not too distant future.
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa) The young Leeds academic recently made his move to the Premier League by signing for Aston Villa. The higly-rated midfielder has many an admirers in England, and is more than talented enough to make it in the top tier. Delph is primarily a centre-midfielder, but can operate out wide as well.
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United) 18 year old Welbeck shot to prominance last season when he scored a stunning goal in United’s 5-0 hammering of Stoke at Old Trafford. He is highly rated at the club and, along with other youngster Federico Macheda, will be looking to feature more regularly this season.
James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic) The Hamliton Academicals star has had many admirers during his time at the club, including teams like Liverpool and Tottenham, but it was Wigan who signed the Irish youngster this summer, so the spotlight will be on James to see if he can make it in the Premier League.
5 established players
Fernando Torres (Liverpool) The Spanish striker only managed 24 league appeances last season, but will determined to put the injuries behind him and to build his partnership with Steven Gerrard. El Nino is almost guarenteed to score goals next season, and will have set the bar high in his aim for the season.
Michael Essien (Chelsea) Many believe that had Essien been fit for the whole of last season then Chelsea would have ran Manchester United a lot closer for the Premiership title. The Ghana international is unrivalled on his day in terms of ability and presence on the pitch and will be a key figure in Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Old Trafford this summer means that other players at the club need to step up to fill the void. Rooney is widely tipped as the man to do so, and even though he won’t score 40+ goals this season, his performances will be crucial.
Mikel Arteta (Everton) The productive midfielder missed a chunk of last season due to injury, but has recovered and will be expected to shine this year at Goodison. Arteta is a regular goalscoring midfielder, but his main weapon is his ability to make an assist for his teammates.
Titus Bramble (Wigan Athletic) After years of ridicule, Bramble last season finally recaptured the sort of form that made him such a highly rated youngster at Ipswich. Voted the Wigan’s ‘Player of the Year’ and ‘Players’ Player of the Year’ for 2008/09, his performances will be crucial to a club entering the situation with a rookie Premier League manager at the helm.
5 of the rest
Da Silva Eduardo (Arsenal) As we all know Eduardo suffered an horrific injury the season before last, one that put his career in football on the line. Fortunately the Croatian striker has returned from the injury and his ready to face his first full season since the accident. Fans are excited to have the striker fit again, and he’s more than capable of netting goals for Arsenal.
Joe Hart (Birmingham) England under 21 goalkeeper Hart can consider himself unlucky to have lost his place in the Manchester City starting eleven to Shay Given last season. His season long loan at St. Andrews gives him a chance to get more first team experience and possibly even force his way into Fabio Capello’s plans for next summer’s World Cup.
Ryan Babel (Liverpool) After his arrival in 2007 from Ajax for £11.5m, Babel has failed to establish himself as a starter at Anfield – more predominately featuring as an impact substitute. Benitez is confident Babel can step up a gear this year, and fans will be expecting the Dutch dynamo to impress.
Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) Pacy forward Agbonlahor had his fair share of critics last season after some lacklustre performances and wasteful finishing. He needs to start this year well or could find himself a casualty come January, especially now that new signing Stewart Downing gives the side another dimension.
Carlton Cole (West Ham) Striker Cole has come on leaps and bounds at West Ham since the appointment of Gianfranco Zola, and a man Cole played with during his time at Chelsea. Carlton scored 12 goals last season, and with further development can match that tally if not beat it next season.