Premier League Preview: 10 Potential Breakthrough Stars This Season
If given a chance to grace the Premier League, players must capitalize.
As we gear up for the 2012-13 campaign, many young stars will be waiting for their opportunity to make an impression.
Plenty of talented prospects have come and gone without a whimper, succumbing to the pressure and a career away from England's top division.
If a Premier League path is to be forged, a breakthrough must happen quickly.
For the following 10 players, this year represents the perfect opportunity to show the world what they can do.
Before we begin, here's some honorable mentions:
Ryo Miyaichi (Arsenal)
Samir Carruthers (Aston Villa)
Nick Powell (Manchester United)
Haris Vuckic (Newcastle United)
Curtis Good (Newcastle United)
Francis Coquelin, Arsenal
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Coquelin is the type of player Arsenal will need next season.
With the likes of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud arriving at the Emirates, the club has enough firepower to challenge the best.
It's in the center of the pitch that something extra is needed.
The Gunners have plenty of talent with Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere, but both are useless if they can't make it off the injury table.
While the latter is sure to impress when he returns, Coquelin must be ready to play a major part in a vital season for the team.
Luckily, he is versatile.
Last year Coquelin made 10 Premier League starts and four substitute appearances, filling in at center midfield and fullback when needed.
If Wilshere or Bacary Sagna are struck down again, the young Frenchman will have the perfect stage to showcase his diverse set of skills.
Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea
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Nobody wants to make an impact as much as Romelu Lukaku.
After spending his first season at Chelsea in the reserves, the Belgian striker has made it clear he isn't willing to wait for his chance.
Reports suggest he could be heading out on loan (via Goal.com), but I believe he has the attributes to provide vital cover for the European Champions, especially in the era after Didier Drogba.
It's easy to forget Lukaku is just a baby.
The 19-year-old's physical presence and style of play is still maturing. With players like Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Juan Mata around him, Lukaku's ability to hold the ball up could be key to any Chelsea success.
Fernando Torres is undoubtedly the club's number one striker. It's likely Daniel Sturridge will be his immediate backup. Neither of these players possess Lukaku's stature and ability to run the game as a powerhouse.
If he gets a chance at Chelsea or beyond, expect to see Lukaku's performance improve significantly.
Ross Barkley, Everton
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After a stint in the first team at the start of last season, Ross Barkley vanished.
He conceded a penalty in Everton's 1-0 win over Blackburn, a mistake that didn't alter the result.
David Moyes then decided he didn't want Barkley in the limelight, and left him away from senior proceedings for the rest of the year.
Twelve months down the line, the club's coaching staff believe Barkley has improved (via The Liverpool Echo). The 18-year-old is sure to receive more playing time, especially with Tim Cahill moving on, and Jack Rodwell continuing to struggle for fitness.
The youngster is already growing into a physical specimen, his development echoing that of Wayne Rooney a decade before. It's easy for the English media to hype new talent early, and David Moyes is handling the player's development carefully.
One thing's for sure: Moyes won't rush Barkley onto the pitch if he isn't ready.
Raheem Sterling, Liverpool
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Across Merseyside, another young star has the Liverpool fans excited.
Plenty has been written about the potential of Raheem Sterling. While his five goal haul in the 9-0 FA Youth Cup win over Southend grabbed the headlines, most of his performances across the last few months have been impressive.
Such quality was rewarded by Kenny Dalglish at the end of last year's Premier League campaign, where the 17-year-old winger made three substitute appearances.
He's another player the fans want to see on a regular basis, and this season, he's sure to feature more often.
Sterling possesses pace and trickery that Stuart Downing doesn't have, and can offer something different to the club's other players.
Dirk Kuyt has already left, and rumors suggest Craig Bellamy is on his way out, so it looks likely Sterling will receive a fair amount of time on the pitch.
Brendan Rodgers knows he wants the opportunity to flaunt his talent, and like Ross Barkley, is in danger of receiving too much hype if he does (via The Liverpool Daily Post).
Reports suggest Tottenham are interested in snagging the player away from Anfield, and already value him at around £7.5 million (via The Daily Mirror).
If Sterling is to remain content, he'll need to be playing in front of The Kop.
Alexander Kacaniklic, Fulham
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Another name that should be familiar with Liverpool fans is Alex Kacaniklic. The Swede spent three years in the club's youth academy before securing a move to Fulham in 2010.
Since then, Kacaniklic's progress has been steady. He made an excellent start to his senior career, enjoying 12 Championship appearances on loan at Watford.
After a string of impressive matches, Kacaniklic was recalled by Fulham. Although he only started two games at Craven Cottage, the versatile midfielder showed why Liverpool brought him to the Premier League.
With Clint Dempsey likely to move on, Kacaniklic's strength as both a left winger and central midfielder could be useful for Fulham.
He has an impressive left foot, and alongside the likes of Moussa Dembele, has the passing ability to dictate tight matches.
Like Dempsey, Kacaniklic is the kind of player who can score or create spectacular goals from nothing. Fulham fans can relax, as he's just penned a new two-year deal at the club (via The Daily Mail).
Connor Wickham, Sunderland
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Last season worked out well for Connor Wickham.
Snapped up for £8 million by Sunderland, he started five Premier League games and came on as a substitute 11 times.
The loan signing of Nicklas Bendtner meant the 19-year-old didn't have to play under much pressure. He worked hard, gained experience and managed to contribute a goal in the 2-2 home draw against Aston Villa.
Now that Bendtner has returned to Arsenal, Wickham's importance will grow.
He has Fraizer Campbell and Ji-Wong Don to compete with, but vitally, both of these players can aid his development.
Wickham is more physical than his attacking colleagues, and offers The Black Cats an imposing threat.
Alongside Campbell or Ji, he's likely to receive plenty of the ball. With Sessegnon pulling the strings behind him, chances will be created for the striker.
Wickham's performances last season indicated he needs to improve his first touch and distribution, but with the aforementioned players in support, this should come naturally.
Shane Ferguson, Newcastle United
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Shane Ferguson's potential has been clear for a few years now.
The 21-year-old made some decent appearances for Newcastle at the end of the 2010-11 season, but his development into the next campaign was hampered by an injury in preseason.
Since then, he's suffered from Newcastle's success. Ferguson is a versatile winger/fullback in a club made up of versatile wingers/fullbacks.
With Ryan Taylor, Jonas Gutierrez, Davide Santon and James Perch fighting for similar positions, there's little wonder why Ferguson only made seven substitute appearances in the Premier League last year.
The Northern Ireland international is clearly respected by the club and its fans. If he can remain fit, plenty of opportunities in the first team will follow. Taylor and Gutierrez have been given attacking roles on a regular basis across the past year, meaning Ferguson could slot himself into the defensive line.
Newcastle has a squad that is full of talent, and if Alan Pardew gives him a chance, Ferguson will quickly show himself to be a useful addition in the team's push for a Champions League place.
Craig Dawson, West Bromwich Albion
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Dawson has threatened to become a first team regular at West Brom for two years, but it hasn't quite happened yet.
He made six Premier League starts for the Baggies last year, but results were mixed.
Stuart Pearce is a huge fan of the player, who scored two goals on his England U21 debut. Dawson was also included in Pearce's Great Britain Olympic squad, and showed real maturity in his two substitute appearances.
Coming on for Micah Richards in GB's quarterfinal penalty loss to South Korea, Dawson offered a snippet of what he's all about.
Cool in possession and dominant in the air, he has the qualities to succeed at the Premier League level. When the team needed him, Dawson also stepped up to calmly slot home a penalty.
Alongside his defensive capabilities, he's also shown he can score plenty of goals. If he remains this reliable, Dawson could be key to West Brom's season.
Steven Caulker, Tottenham Hotspur
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Many would argue Steven Caulker's breakthrough season came last year, but the hard work is just beginning for the Spurs defender.
He started 26 games in his loan spell at Swansea City, performing admirably throughout the club's debut Premier League season.
To cap his year off, the 20-year-old played in all four of Great Britain's Olympic matches. In front of a huge audience, Caulker controlled the defensive line with an air of maturity.
He handles himself with confidence and already has plenty of experience at the top level. Spurs may have signed Jan Vertonghen, but with a few decent performances, Caulker could find himself ahead of Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul and Sebastien Bassong in the Spurs' pecking order.
Lucas Piazon, Chelsea
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After spending over £70 million so far this summer, one of Chelsea's brightest young talents arrived at the club with less fanfare.
In 2011, a young Brazilian made his way to Stamford Bridge from Sao Paulo.
While he hasn't made a competitive appearance in the senior side, Piazon's preseason performances have been intriguing to the Chelsea faithful.
The 18-year-old already has a well rounded attacking game, mixing his ability to dribble with an intelligence and vision beyond his years.
He's also something of a dead ball specialist, and is often compared to any of the Brazilian greats we've seen over the past decade.
With Oscar arriving at the club for £30 million, Piazon might be feeling frustrated.
A loan move could be beneficial, but the Brazilian influence at Chelsea will play a huge part in how Piazon's season goes.
With experienced countrymen like Ramires and David Luiz in the team, he is surrounded by players who can keep his expectations grounded.
If Piazon is afforded an opportunity in the first team, expect the hype to grow as quickly as Oscar's did.