Football

Here's 7 Irish Premier League Questions That Could Be Answered This Season

Here's 7 Irish Premier League Questions That Could Be Answered This Season

The Premier League season will get underway this weekend, and it feels as though there is plenty to be excited about in terms of potential Irish contributions.

The numbers of Irish players in the division has been on the up in recent years, especially in terms of young talent emerging. That is set to continue for the upcoming campaign, with some important questions set to be answered over the coming months.

Here's seven of the most interesting ones.

Can Will Smallbone become a first team regular at Southampton?

Will Smallbone had a big breakthrough at Southampton over the second half of last season.

Having made his league debut in the win over Aston Villa in February, the midfielder would go on to make nine appearance in the competition. That includes playing in seven of the nine games after the restart.

It will be interesting to see if Smallbone can push on over the coming months. Southampton have lost midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to Spurs, while Mario Lemina has also left the club on a permanent basis.

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That could open up a spot for the Ireland underage international, with The Athletic reporting that Ralph Hasenhuttl is hoping Smallbone can fill the void left by the Danish midfielder.

A good run of games under his belt and you'd imagine Smallbone won't be too far away from an Ireland call-up.

 

Will Aaron Connolly's goal tally match his attacking output?

Aaron Connolly had a hugely impressive first season in the Premier League. He burst onto the scene with that brace against Spurs, and while he continued to sparkle for most of the campaign, he didn't really get the goals to match his performances.

He wouldn't find the back of the net again until the final game of the season. That is something he will be hoping to fix in the upcoming campaign.

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Having lost his place in the side for a period, Connolly was very much first choice by the end of the campaign. That looks set to continue, with the forward recently handed the number seven shirt.

It will be a big season for the 20-year old at both club and international levels. Hopefully he can find the back of the net with more regularity.

Can Matt Doherty thrive in a back four?

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Matt Doherty seems to have finally won the battle with Seamus Coleman for the right back slot with Ireland. However, it's fair to say his performances in the games against Bulgaria and Finland were not to the level we would have been hoping for.

Many people assume this was down to playing in a back four, with the claim that Doherty can't function in the traditional fullback position a common one amongst Irish football supporters.

We should find out if that is true in the coming months.

While Spurs did use a three-man defence on occasion last season, it is highly likely that the Irishman will line up in a back four after his move to North London. He will still play fairly high up the pitch, as shown in a recent episode of All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, but he will have to learn to adapt to a new role under Jose Mourinho.

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Hopefully he will cast aside any doubts some people still have about him.

Is this Callum Robinson's final shot at the Premier League?

Callum Robinson's move to West Brom was finally confirmed yesterday, but you get the sense that this could be a make or break season for the forward.

After having a fairly bright start to life at Sheffield United last season, he found himself out of the team by Christmas. A loan spell to West Brom soon followed, casting doubts about his ability to adapt to life in the Premier League.

Robinson didn't make the grade at Aston Villa as a youngster, and after falling out of favour in less than half a season on his return to the division, a patchy campaign this year could put an end to his Premier League ambitions for a while.

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Hopefully it doesn't come to that.

Can Robbie Brady resurrect his career?

Robbie Brady will be given an opportunity to shine under Stephen Kenny. He featured in both of Ireland's recent fixtures, starring in a cameo role in Bulgaria before playing the full 90 minutes against Finland.

While Kenny wants to get the best out of Brady, you'd imagine it will be difficult to do so if he is not playing consistently at club level. The midfielder made 17 appearances in the Premier League last season, but only five of them were starts.

He will need to get a lot more football this season. If he doesn't, his international career could be in major trouble.

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Can Jeff Hendrick take the next step at Newcastle?

Image credit: Sportsfile

The move to AC Milan didn't come to fruition, but it will still be interesting to see how Jeff Hendrick gets on at Newcastle this season.

He is an established Premier League player at this point, making 122 appearances in the competition over the last four seasons. However, while he has been consistent, Hendrick rarely would have been seen as one of Burnley's most important contributors.

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Can he take the next step at Newcastle this season. He surely would have sought assurances about playing time before agreeing to any move, with more minutes in his preferred central midfield role also likely a priority.

Will he take the next step in his career, or will Hendrick's struggle to make an impact? Time will tell.

Will Dara O'Shea be the next young Irish player to emerge?

There are quite a few exciting Irish youngsters emerging at the minute, many of whom have already made their Premier League bow. The likes of Aaron Connolly, Troy Parrott, Adam Idah, Michael Obafemi, Will Smallbone, and Mark Travers look like hugely exciting prospects.

Dara O'Shea could be the latest name to join that list.

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Image credit: Sportsfile

The defender played a major role in West Brom's promotion push over the second half of last season. Naturally a centre back, he displayed remarkable versatility by shining out of position as the first choice right back, even playing at left back on a couple of occasions towards the end of the campaign.

West Brom have recruited a centre back this summer in the form of Wigan's Cédric Kipré, but with no right backs in the door as of yet, O'Shea looks likely to reprise his role in that position.

He was recently called-up to Stephen Kenny's Ireland squad and will be hoping to become a permanent fixture with some strong displays this season. He certainly has the potential to do so.

 

See Also: FPL Challenge: Build The Worst Squad Possible Using Entire £100M Budget

Gary Connaughton

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