It’s one of the great thrills of Premier League football to see a previously unheralded player step up and grab fans’ attention with a series of outstanding performances. Sure, big money signings command the lion’s share of column inches going into a new season but there’s something particularly enjoyable about seeing a player step out of the shadows and into the limelight.
While, by nature, they are usually on the younger end of the scale, these breakthrough players don’t necessarily have to be kids. Last year, Southampton were the ultimate breakthrough team with someone like Adam Lallana being a prime example of that. At 25, he went into last season as a well regarded player but not one who many would have guessed would be the subject of a £20+ million transfer the following year.
Similarly, there’s no reason to exclude new signings from abroad. While Diego Costa is expected to come in and take the league by storm, there’s plenty of new signings who have come in under the radar, a prime position to step up and really make a name for themselves.
So having said all that, who are the players in line to be this season’s Lallana, Sterling or Shaw.
1. Erik Lamela
Hear us out for a second. Regardless of what he showed last year, Erik Lamela is far from a poor player. It’s fair to say that Andre Villas Boas and Tim Sherwood were probably not the best managers to get the best out of tricky winger. Fast forward one year and with fellow Argentine, Mauricio Pochettino, now in charge at White Hart Lane, Lamela is in a great position to really turn his reputation around.
The £30 million signing has had a year to get his head around the culture in England and with the tag of Gareth Bale’s replacement no longer weighing heavily around his neck he has a great chance to prove the doubters wrong.
2. Anthony Knockaert
Even taking into account the fact that promoted teams rarely get too many headlines, Leicester are coming into the new season with very little fanfare, which is a little unfair. Nigel Pearson’s side comfortably won the Championship last season ahead of much more fancied sides and did so playing some very entertaining attacking football.
Particularly in the second half of the season, the wing play of Riyad Mahrez and Anthony Knockaert really propelled Leicester towards the Premier League and with the greater necessity to play on the counter attack Mahrez and particularly Knockaert are in a great position to make a name for themselves.
3. Stevan Jovetic
Jovetic is in much the same position as Lamela, the only difference being that the former Fiorentina man hasn’t had the same pressure on his shoulders. Now that he seems to be over the injury problems that plagued him last season and with an impressive pre-season under his belt, Jovetic could be ready to step up for Man City.
The Montenegrin came with a big reputation from Serie A but he was used sparingly by Pellegrini last year. Now that Financial Fair Play has begun to kick in, City’s yearly splurge has slowed and Jovetic could be given more responsibility.
4. Mauricio Isla
Earlier in the summer Harry Redknapp said that he wouldn’t throw cash around in the hope of establishing QPR in the Premier League. While, his spending hasn’t matched that of previous years, he has nonetheless cast his net into the water and come up with a few new signings. Perhaps, the most important capture of all could be Chilean, Mauricio Isla. While at Udinese, Isla was the man for every job and he did them all with aplomb. A move to Juventus has seen him revert to something of makeshift right back but if Redknapp trusts Isla in the middle of the park, he could repay him no end.
5. Nathaniel Clyne
Of all the players whom Southampton have haemorrhaged this summer, Callum Chambers should be the easiest to replace. After a number of stellar performances, Nathaniel Clyne was being hyped as a future England right back at the beginning of last season. Clyne then injured his hamstring in December and was replaced by Chambers.
There’s no doubting that the new Arsenal signing made the most of his opportunity but there’s a very real possibility that Clyne could end up being a better player than Chambers if he can get a regular run of games under his belt.
6. Costel Pantilimon
This could be a big season for Costel Pantilimon. Apart from a few brief blips, the giant Romanian proved his credentials whenever he was given the opportunity at Man City. Joe Hart was very definitely kept on his toes and when Hart’s performances dropped, Pellegrini had no hesitation in throwing Pantilimon into the side.
Now that he has moved to Sunderland, Pantilimon can really step into the limelight provided he can make the no.1 jersey his own ahead of Vito Mannone.
7. Jordan Ibe
It’s going to be very difficult for Jordan Ibe to get past the inevitable comparisons to Raheem Sterling, but with places up for grabs at Anfield this season, there’s no reason why he can’t make a name for himself. Ibe broke into the Wycombe first team at 15 and even got a taste for Premier League football with Liverpool at the end of the 2012/13 season.
He had a couple of months on loan at Birmingham last season and with the path to the first team very much open for young players under Brendan Rodgers, this season could be the making of Ibe.
8. Marco van Ginkel
Frank Lampard may not be gone very far, but gone from Stamford Bridge he is and that could be great news for Marco van Ginkel. The Dutchman was brought in from Vitesse Arnhem without much fanfare at the beginning of last season and looked to be settling in very well before he suffered a cruciate ligament injury in the September.
Van Ginkel is fully recovered from that injury now and, with the departure of Lampard, Chelsea have something of a dearth of ball-playing midfielders which the Dutch international could very easily step into.
9. Muhamed Besic
Despite high expectations, Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t have the greatest World Cup campaign. However, one player who did come out with his reputation very much enhanced was Muhamed Besic. Before his move to Everton, Besic was playing in Hungary with Ferencvaros.
However, that may have had more to do with attitude than ability. The German born 21 year old came through the ranks of Hamburg but was shipped out when his supposed antics off the field surpassed his ability on it. If Roberto Martinez can get him on the straight and narrow, he will have a cracking player on his hands.
10. Kurt Zouma
Chelsea fans and non Chelsea fans alike will be disappointed to see the departure of David Luiz. The Stamford Bridge might have done some great business by shipping the Brazilian off to PSG but the Premier League will definitely miss his very unique style of defending. While John Terry and Gary Cahill will be Mourinho’s first choice pairing, Kurt Zouma looks like he’ll be a more than adequate addition to Chelsea’s defence.
The young Frenchman was signed from St. Etienne in January before being sent back on loan. Now that he’s set to stay put at Stamford Bridge, Zouma is in a prime position to really make a name for himself in the Premier League.
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