We have selected a handful of Premier League players who need to hit the ground running this season.
1. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
Granit Xhaka’s debut season for Arsenal was a little underwhelming, but it’s far too early to write the 24-year-old off. The former Borussia Mochengladbach partnership with Aaron Ramsey towards the end of the 2016/17 season showed signs of promise, and Swiss international could shine this season if he improves his temperament and disciplinary record.
Still, Xhaka is undoubtedly under pressure at the Emirates to deliver. A transfer of £30m isn’t exorbitant this current summer, but a failure to kick on could be costly to his chances of becoming a regular at Arsenal.
2. Solomon Rondon (West Brom)
Strong, powerful and willing to run the channels, Rondon is the typical Toney Pulic centre-forward. Despite that, Jay was dropped by the Baggies boss for a period last season, with Hal Robson-Kanu preferred up front on a handful of occasions. For all his other qualities, scoring just six Premier League goals – not finding the net from December 17 to May 6 – did the Venezuelan no favours at all.
The 27-year-old has since been added to West Brom’s forward ranks, so there will be even less margin for error in 2017/18. Rondon needs to up his scoring rate as quickly as possible.
3. Erik Lamela (Tottenham)
Tottenham are still yet to make a signing this summer, but that’s not necessarily a problem especially when you consider how the previous summer signing performed. In fact, as balanced squad looks like being the best thing for Mauricio Pochettino’s side as they head into a potentially tumultuous season which will be spent at Wembley following the demolition of White Hart Lane.
What’s more, Spurs have got Erik Lamela on the way back and he’ll be like a new signing. Yet after missing the whole of 2016/17 with a hip problem, the Argentinian currently finds himself on the outside looking in. Harry Kane and Dele Alli along with Christian Eriksen were Pochettino’s preferred front three last time out, so Lamela will have to work hard to force his way back into contention even after he’s regained full fitness.
4. Jose Fonte (West Ham)
A statute of consistency during his seven years at Southampton, age seems to be catching up on the Portuguese man.
Coughing £8m on a 33-year-old in the January window was never going to be long-term solution to the Hammers defensive problems, but Fonte wasn’t even able to provide an initial boost after he moved to the London Stadium midway through last season.
With the 2018 World Cup now knocking, Jose Fonte’s place in the Portugal squad far from guaranteed, he will need to up his game considerably in the coming months.
5. Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Any fresh injury problems will further hamper Sturridge chances of regular first-team football at the Anfield.
“It’s the best condition since I’m here,” Jurgen Klopp proclaimed of Sturridge recently. “OK, I came in October 2015 and Daniel, I think, was probably injured. Last pre-season was after a tournament and a short break. This year he’s had a proper break and is in good physical shape, absolutely.”
Such comments bode well for the 27-year-old, who seemed destined for the exit at Anfield towards the end of last season. There’s much to be done though, the arrival of Mohammed Salah from AS Roma has added greater competition at the sharp end, while any fresh injury problems will severely test Klopp’s patience.
This season could be the last chance for the England international to prove his worth at Liverpool.
6. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke)
Looking at his highlights reel will reveal a few spectacular strikes, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover many more indifferent performances.
No deal emphasized the newfound pulling power of the Premier League quite like Stoke’s £12m capture of Shaqiri in 2015. The arrival of the ex-Bayern Munich winger was supposed to spark the dawning of a pretty new era in the Potteries, while simultaneously providing the Swiss winger with a stepping stone from which he could reach bigger and better things. Two years on, nothing has been seen, and we’re still waiting on both counts.
Looking at Shaqiri’s highlights reel will reveal a few spectacular strikes, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover many more indifferent performances.
He has been far from a disaster at the bet365 Stadium, but he’s not set pulses racing regularly either. A glance at his highlights reel will reveal a few spectacular strikes, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover many more indifferent performances – it’s telling, for instance, that he’s only managed seven top-flight goals in 48 appearances. Now 25, Shaqiri needs to find consistency if he’s to secure a move to a third European heavyweight anytime soon.
7. John Stones (Manchester City)
There are still considerable question marks over his basic defensive capabilities, names his positional sense and anticipation of danger.
“John Stones has more personality than all of us here together in this room,” Pep Guardiola told a room of journalists after Manchester City’s helter-skelter 1-1 draw with Liverpool in March. “More balls than everyone here.” (FFT wasn’t present).
There’s no doubt that Stones has the technical skills to play out from the back in the manner Pep Guardiola demands. There are, however, still considerable question marks over his basic defensive capabilities, namely his positional sense and anticipation of danger. Given his Everton’s price tag, it’s certain that Stones would be under watch this season.
8. Joe Hart (West Ham)
Another season bring another employer for Joe Hart, who before 2016/16 had spent six years as Manchester City’s No. 1. Guardiola clearly doesn’t have him in his plans, though, so another loan move – this time at West Ham – beckons before his probable permanent departure from the Etihad Stadium next summer.
In many ways, it was a shame that the England international’s spell at Torino – a rare example of an English footballer choosing to ply his trade overseas – didn’t work out. A series of costly errors undermined his performance in Serie A which means he can’t afford anything less than an excellent season if he’s to retain his spot as England’s first-choice goalkeeper at Russia 2018.
9. Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
Anthony Martial was hardly the lone Manchester United player under heavy criticism by Jose Mourinho last season, but he was perhaps the most curious case. Cautioned on more than one occasion, the forward nevertheless featured in 41 of the Red Devils’ fixtures across all competitions.
Reports in the last of couple of weeks have suggested Martial could be used as a makeweight in the proposed deal to land Ivan Perisic to Old Trafford. Even though it’s unlikely that such an arrangement will come to pass – mainly because the Old Trafford club don’t want it to – their mere targeting of the Croatian would appear to put Martial’s position under threat. He’ll therefore need to make the most of the opportunities that come his way in 2017/18.