With the Premier League at the tender age of nine gameweeks old, I have decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) with a brief piece of my thoughts on who has stood out for me at this early stage. I am not, however, going to discuss the blatantly obvious and predictable brilliance of the likes of Juan Mata, Robin Van Persie and Santi Cazorla, my reason being that anybody with an ounce of football knowledge will have expected nothing less from the likes of those players.
I am going to get the ball rolling by talking about Jermain Defoe. A man who seems to blow hot and cold as if he’s living out Katy Perry’s first hit single. I have never been able to understand how Defoe’s ability can fluctuate so dramatically between seasons. One season he could be lethal, simply unstoppable. The next, the opposing defense would be happy to see his name on the team sheet. This season has started off well for Defoe. I think credit has to go to André Villas-Boas for this. He has clearly instilled confidence in the striker. He must have sat with Defoe and assured him that he is his number one striker, ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor. Being put ahead of Adebayor is bound to fill the Englishman with an abundance of self-confidence. Confidence for a striker is absolutely pivotal to his success. At times, confidence is more important than actual ability – just ask Fernando Torres. Defoe is visibly full of confidence and his form thus far is nothing short of fantastic. Having scored five goals in nine league games it looks as if he could play a major part in deciding whether or not Tottenham can table a serious Champions League bid this year. I think his form will directly correlate between Spurs’ position come May.
Next I want to move onto a man not many people will have heard of before this season – Christian Benteke. A lot of people were surprised to see Aston Villa splash around £7 million on the young Belgian international, myself included. I did not know what to expect, and to a certain degree I still don’t. He has scored four goals in eight appearances for Villa so far and is doing his best to keep Darren Bent off the scoresheet. On top of this, he has also played and scored for Belgium this season and certainly looks a talent. At the age of only twenty-one, he is definitely one to watch for this season and possibly for many seasons to come.
The next name I’m going to mention might surprise you a bit. This man has come under a lot of criticism since his arrival in England but I have found myself defending him over and over again. This man is Olivier Giroud. The new Arsenal striker was always going to be under the spotlight after the departure of one Robin Van Persie. Despite only having one league goal and assist to his name in nine appearances, I feel the Frenchman has started well. He is missing a lot of chances, yes, but at least he is getting those chances. Once he takes a couple of these chances the goals will begin to come thick and fast for Giroud, in my opinion. He is suffering from a major lack of confidence. When he goes through, I think that he is more worried about missing than he is confident about scoring. This problem will eradicate itself after he hits the net a few times. The form of a striker can change in the blink of an eye as we saw earlier with Jermain Defoe and I have full confidence that Giroud will bag double figures for Arsenal this year and will push on next season. He scored an impressive twenty-one goals in thirty-six league games for Montpellier last season, this is proof enough that he knows how to stick the ball in the back of the net.
Raheem Sterling’s name feels like it has been spoken about for a long, long time. So often with young players you hear a lot of hype about them when they are in their mid-teens and with most of them, they never live up to the expectations. Things look different for the Liverpool youngster. Since Rafael Benítez snapped him up from Queens Park Rangers in 2010 I have been eagerly waiting to see whether or not the Jamaican born youngster was the real deal or not. I was skeptical, and with good reason to be. It is rare for a player to actually meet the expectations set by fans and media. It would appear that Sterling has answered my questions with a solid start to his career. He has been a bright spark in this below-par Liverpool team. He became the clubs second youngest ever goalscorer, only behind Michael Owen. His youthful exuberance has been a breath of fresh air to the Premier League. With the ball at his feet, he brings fans to the edges of their seats, he worries defenses and excites his teammates. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this young man play this season, and long may it continue!
Finally, my fifth and final player. This man has been around for quite a while. He has been criticised time and time again, and justifiably so in some cases. This year he is silencing his critics. Theo Walcott is a strange type of player. For years he has said he wants to be played through the middle of Arsenal’s attack, but has never shown that he has the required attributes to do so. This year is different, this year he is backing up his requests with outstanding performances. The days of waiting for years for an Emirates goal are over for Walcott. Expect to see his name on the scoresheet more often. In all competitions this season, Walcott has played eleven times. In these eleven appearances, he has contributed with seven goals and four assists – not bad. It used to be the case that when he broke clear, you expected him to drag his shot wide or to panic and hit it straight at the ‘keeper. Those days are a thing of the past. Walcott has grown, he has finally come of age and this is a worry for Premier League defenses. There is no doubt that Roy Hodgson will be keeping a keen eye on his development over the coming season and he may well have a big part to play come Brazil 2014.