10 Veterans Who Will Shine in the Premier League Next Season
The English Premier League 2012/13 season is just around the corner. Transfer rumours abound, but let's not forget it is often the veteran players who make the biggest difference while the new boys settle in.
Seasons can turn on performances from the professionals who step up their game. Who will be the top 10 veterans to shine in the 2012/13 Premier League?
1. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool
England didn't come away from Euro 2012 with much to cheer about, but there was one bright spot in their sluggish progress: the form of captain Steven Gerrard.
The only England player to make UEFA's team of the tournament, Gerrard will be looking forward to a more influential season with Liverpool FC in 2012/13.
Injury and fitness concerns left Gerrard marginal in Liverpool's disappointing 2011/12 season. Under new manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool will look to their captain to help return them to top-four status. His assists at Euro 2012—particularly the cross that Liverpool teammate Andy Carroll thumped in against Sweden—were a timely reminder that Gerrard's influence can be a game-changer.
2. Ian Harte, Reading
Premier League new boys Reading FC have a remarkable veteran on their side: former Leeds United left-back Ian Harte.
The 34-year-old Irishman has an amazing 10 years of Premier League experience, dating back to 1995.
Following Leeds United's disastrous relegation and financial implosion in 2004, Harte moved to La Liga side Levante. Roy Keane brought Harte back to the Premier League in 2007 during his ill-fated spell in charge of Sunderland.
Release from Sunderland a year later marked the beginning of several years in football wilderness, before making a remarkable comeback with Reading.
Despite his age and lack of pace, Harte's gifted dead-ball delivery will stand him in good stead to make a final splash in the Premier League.
3. Mikel Arteta, Arsenal
Arsenal fans will be sorely aware that the team was virtually incapable of winning without Mikel Arteta last year. And with Robin van Persie apparently on his way out, the Spaniard's importance to Arsenal will only grow.
Arteta played a rock-solid but sometimes understated role for Everton for seven seasons before signing for the Gunners in 2011.
His creativity in midfield instantly became crucial to Arsenal's success, and will be key to integrating new forward signings Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud into the team.
Add in his ability to produce stunning goals like this one against Manchester City, and Mikel Arteta's importance is clear.
4. Kevin Nolan, West Ham United
West Ham captain Kevin Nolan played an instrumental role in returning the London club to the Premier League in 2012, and looks set to continue providing the leadership, inspiration—and goals—they will need to stay up.
Nolan's first Premier League season came with Bolton Wanderers' promotion in 2000, also under current West Ham boss Sam Allardyce. He also helped Newcastle win promotion in 2010.
5. Frank Lampard, Chelsea
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard started to see his influence wane last season under Andre Villas-Boas, but the 34-year-old reacted with consummate professionalism and proved he still has much to offer the Blues.
Better relations with Villas-Boas' successor, Roberto Di Matteo, helped cement Lampard's importance to the Champions League-winning team.
Reports have linked Lampard with a multi-million dollar move to the LA Galaxy, but with one year left on his Chelsea contract, the veteran will surely feel he can have one more spectacular season in London. Having missed out on England's Euro 2012 adventure due to injury, a rested and fit Frank Lampard can be counted on to produce the goods in 2012/13.
6. Ryan Giggs, Manchester United
Footballers don't come much more seasoned than Ryan Giggs—2012/13 will be the Manchester United midfielder's 23rd Premier League campaign.
Giggs has scored in every one of his 22 seasons in the top flight, and looks set to continue his remarkable run.
Former Man United teammate Bryan Robson recently told the club website ManUtd.com that Giggs' natural fitness and ability—as well as manager Alex Ferguson's canny use of the player—mean he will be making important contributions this season and even potentially the next.
7. Craig Bellamy, Liverpool
Giggs' Welsh compatriot Craig Bellamy was also selected for Team GB's Olympic campaign, and it's easy to see why the dynamic veteran has been chosen for his potential to impact a game.
Bellamy showed his worth at Liverpool last season, and with new coach Brendan Rodgers taking the reigns at Anfield, he could play a key role in the club's resurrection.
8. Yaya Touré, Manchester City
With just two seasons at Manchester City under his belt, Yaya Touré may not exactly be a Premier League veteran, but the 29-year-old Ivory Coast international is the epitome of an experienced professional.
Few can doubt Yaya's immense influence on the 2011/12 Premier League-winning City side. Their title campaign suffered from his absence through the Africa Cup of Nations, and the Man City owners, manager and fans alike will be delighted to have his uninterrupted presence in 2012/13.
9. Fernando Torres, Chelsea
2011/12 has got to count as the best "bad" year imaginable for striker Fernando Torres. His miserable run of form since moving from Liverpool to Chelsea continued, as did the intense press scrutiny; but it didn't stand in the way of the Spaniard collecting Champions League and European Championship medals—and even the Euro 2012 Golden Boot.
But despite the honours, Torres will be desperate to regain his golden touch in front of goal in the Premier League this season. With teammate Didier Drogba gone, there should be ample opportunity for Torres to prove his worth.
Having found his touch intermittently at the Euros, Torres should finally turn back into the player Chelsea shelled out £50 million for back in January 2011.
10. Clint Dempsey
Ranked in the Guardian as one of the top 50 transfer targets in Europe, Clint Dempsey is sure to have an impact wherever he ends up in 2012/13.
Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal have all been linked with the American, who produced an amazing 23 goals from midfield for Fulham in 2011/12.
After six enormously influential seasons with the London club, Dempsey has made no secret of his desire to take his game to the next level and compete in the Champions League.
At 29, Dempsey appears to be hitting his peak, and the 2012/13 season should be a hallmark year for the Premier League veteran.