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50 Players to Watch in the Premier League This Season

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 28, 2016

50 Players to Watch in the Premier League This Season

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    Here is Bleacher Report's top 50 players to watch this season in the English Premier League.

    Mario Balotelli and Joey Barton will kick off about something, and what's Robin van Persie's motivation? How will Arsenal's new signings gel, will Roberto Mancini's 3-5-2 bring success and is this the last time we'll see Ryan Giggs?

    There are plenty of questions to be answered by a number of players. This lot are all worthy of your eye.

Santi Cazorla

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    Reason to watch: Is he Arsene Wenger's best-ever signing?

    Santi Cazorla is the much-celebrated club-record signing Arsenal have made this summer.

    Despite the ongoing Robin van Persie saga, Gunners fans have had plenty to smile about considering the other arrivals, and Cazorla puts the icing on the cake.

    The Euro 2012 winner is set to add even more guile and creativity to Wenger's midfield, and this team is quietly setting themselves up for a potentially fruitful season.

    If you're not familiar with Cazorla, you can read more about his style here.

Robin van Persie

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    UPDATE: Manchester United and Arsenal have reportedly agreed on a transfer for Van Persie.

    Reason to watch: If he moves, how will he fare? If he stays, what will his attitude be like?

    One of the summer's most thankless transfer sagas is that of Robin van Persie. He announced on his personal website that he would not be renewing his contract, yet he is still an Arsenal employee less than a week before the season starts.

    According to Roberto Mancini, Manchester City are out of the race, while Sir Alex Ferguson admits negotiations with the Gunners are far from easy.

    He's still technically club captain, but surely he won't continue? Should he leave, his reception on return to the Emirates Stadium would be raucous. Would it be any different if he ends up staying?

Olivier Giroud

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    Reason to watch: Can he end Arsenal's struggles in breaking down stubborn defences?

    Arsenal play wonderful football, but they sometimes struggle to break down compact defensive lines.

    We've seen it before—eight Arsenal players lingering outside the opposition penalty area, looking for the perfect through-ball to unlock a defence.

    With Olivier Giroud on the roster, though, this may no longer be an issue. He's adept at immersing himself into a defensive line and dragging his team forward three or four yards.

    Those yards can be crucial, and his high assist count last season for Montpellier (nine) was a result of him playing clever one-twos for his midfielders and bringing them into goalscoring positions.

    For more information about Giroud's playing style, click here.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

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    Reason to watch: After Euro 2012, can he build on last season and become a first-team regular?

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the surprise inclusion and starter during Euro 2012 under Roy Hodgson. That's not to say he didn't deserve it, but Arsene Wenger was probably tearing his hair out.

    It'll be interesting to see how frequently Wenger uses him in the opening few months of the season, as his well-documented fears of players burning out over the summer might stall Chamberlain's progress.

    Eventually, most expect the midfielder to make big strides in his career this season. Arsenal's wings look pretty stacked, so it's no easy task to get into the team. Perhaps he'll play a central role far more regularly now?


Lukas Podolski

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    Reason to watch: Will it be the Lukas Podolski of Euro 2012 or World Cup 2010?

    There are a lot of questions surrounding Podolski. No doubt he's a great signing, but how will Arsene Wenger utilise him?

    He played most of last season at Koln as a central striker, but frequently turns out on the left wing for Germany.

    You can see him working well with Olivier Giroud, and that combination could be lethal, but how compatible he is with Robin van Persie is a different proposition altogether.

Karim El-Ahmadi

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    Reason to watch: Can he replace Stiliyan Petrov as the signal controller in Aston Villa's midfield?

    Karim El-Ahmadi is probably one of Villa's least-celebrated signings in years. Not many know an awful lot of his game unless they're a true Dutch football aficionado, so he could fly under the radar to begin with.

    Allan Jiang of Bleacher Report is one such aficionado, and he had nothing but praise for Paul Lambert's astute signing.

    The Villans fell apart for a number of reasons last season, but losing Petrov was a major factor in their decline.

    El-Ahmadi has been brought in to supplement that loss, and all the statistics suggest he'll be a success.

Ciaran Clark

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    Reason to watch: Could this season be the season?

    By now, Ciaran Clark would have wanted to cement his place in the Aston Villa first team.

    He was used in a variety of positions by Gerard Houllier, then barely at all by Alex McLeish. With Richard Dunne out for the start of the season, and James Collins gone to West Ham, Clark has an immediate opportunity to form a solid partnership with Ron Vlaar.

    Clark has all the ingredients to make a truly classy central defender, he just needs game time to realise his potential.

Darren Bent

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    Reason to watch: If he stays fit, he could fire Aston Villa to midtable

    Aston Villa capitulated last season due to the loss of numerous key players. Darren Bent was easily the biggest loss, as even though the side were playing poorly, his goals were keeping their necks above water.

    Once he got injured, that was pretty much it for Alex McLeish. Scraping clear of relegation was a deserved end to a torrid season, but had Bent been fit, things would have been different.

    This season, Paul Lambert will rest his goalscoring hopes on Bent's shoulders and, should he deliver, Villa fans will be looking at the league table and smiling.

Eden Hazard

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    Reason to watch: How long will it take Eden Hazard to settle in the Premier League and justify his £32 million price tag?

    Chelsea won the race to sign Belgian star Hazard, and fans are quick to pin their hopes on him for the coming season.

    His form in preseason was up and down, but he showed good poise, balance and close control. The Community Shield game shows he's got a fair way to go to adjust to the physicality of this league, but he will come good eventually.

    As long as he doesn't go down too easily, he'll be revered by most, but how long will it be until he's Man of the Match four times out of five like he was at Lille?

Oscar

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    Reason to watch: What role and position will he play? How many games will he get?

    Oscar was a perplexing signing by Chelsea. He is, quite clearly, an incredibly talented individual, but the Blues' midfield was stacked even before his arrival.

    The Olympics have shown the world what he's capable of, and Chelsea fans are very excited about his Stamford Bridge arrival.

    It will be interesting to see how Roberto Di Matteo deploys him, which system he uses and how often Oscar will be able to play in his preferred role—attacking midfielder.

    He should slot straight into a 4-3-3 like the Italian used last season, and a midfield trio of Ramires, Frank Lampard and Oscar would be fearsome.

Fernando Torres

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    Reason to watch: With Didier Drogba gone, can "El Nino" step up to the plate?

    Fernando Torres' Chelsea career had been plagued by one fact: They could always turn back to Drogba if the Spaniard wasn't doing the business.

    Drogba is gone, so Roberto Di Matteo is putting his faith in Torres and expects him to repay it with goals.

    He's made a good start, as the goal he scored in the Community Shield is reminiscent of the striker's finishes he used to produce at Liverpool.

    He thrived when he was the main man at Anfield. He's the main man at Stamford Bridge now, and I'm predicting 15 goals or more.

Steven Naismith

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    Reason to watch: Can he reinstate his fruitful partnership with Nikica Jelavic at Everton?

    Steven Naismith was one of the first to swiftly jump the sinking Rangers ship and seek pastures new.

    As a free transfer, David Moyes simply said "thank you very much." Naismith is familiar with Jelavic, and fans will hope they can re-sync the partnership they shared in Scotland.

    Having already bagged a preseason hat trick in Tony Hibbert's testimonial game, Toffees fans can't wait to see what he can offer next season.

Nikica Jelavic

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    Reason to watch: Is he a 20-goal striker?

    Papiss Cisse stole the headlines last January as the best acquisition, but Nikica Jelavic was just as good, if not better.

    He was less than half the price of the Senegalese forward too, as Everton took advantage of a cash-strapped Rangers to land the Croatian.

    He is a true poacher, and his record of 10 goals and one assist from 12 games is outrageously good. Strikers who tally 20 goals per season are much-sought commodities. Do Everton have one right here?

Bryan Ruiz

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    Reason to watch: After a disappointing debut season, can Bryan Ruiz prove he's worth his fee?

    Ruiz is wonderful player, and Fulham rightly expected fireworks from him last season. He initially struggled to find his feet in a physical Premier League, but stunts such as this* outrageous chip prove he's got the skills.

    Unfortunately, Ruiz's season ended prematurely. He broke a bone in his foot just as he was finding consistent form and was on the cusp of turning into an assist machine for Clint Dempsey.

    Now comes his second full season. No slow starts will be tolerated this time.

    *Apologies for the poor quality on the chip video. It's remarkably difficult to find good footage of Ruiz's goal.

Clint Dempsey

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    Reason to watch: Shades of Robin van Persie?

    Just like Arsene Wenger, Martin Jol has a problem of his own. Clint Dempsey, arguably USA's best player, has been dogged by transfer speculation all summer.

    Rumours linking him to Arsenal were plentiful at the end of last season, while Liverpool have been widely credited with an interest.

    Reports surfaced that he had been ordered to train alone while his future was thrashed out (via Goal.com), so it will be interesting to see where his head will be should the move fail to materialise.

    Dempsey appears to be a true professional and will be expected to give his all should he pull on a Fulham shirt on the opening day, but can he replicate last season's form for any team?

Joe Allen

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    Reason to watch: Can he initiate a tiki-taka regime at Liverpool for Brendan Rodgers?

    Joe Allen has swapped Swansea for Liverpool this summer after an outstanding debut Premier League season and subsequent Olympic campaign for Great Britain.

    So good the English tried their best to claim him as their own, the Welshman looks set to have a great future. His £15 million move could help Rodgers settle his blueprint at Anfield.

    Look for Allen to be the key orchestrator in Liverpool's midfield as he looks to achieve an element of control over the game.

    He was brilliant at Swansea alongside good players. How good will he be alongside excellent players?

Lucas Leiva

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    Reason to watch: Sorely missed last season, can Lucas Leiva be as pivotal as Joe Allen in Brendan Rodgers' revolution?

    Lucas is a world-class defensive midfielder. Liverpool lost him to injury early last season and simply couldn't replace him.

    According to WhoScored?, he averaged a whopping 5.7 tackles and 2.8 interceptions per game.

    The players brought in to replace him—Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing—were far less effective, failing to record statistics even half as proficient. In addition to the purely defensive elements, he was Liverpool's fifth-best passer with regard to completion rate.

    Welcoming Lucas back is as big as any signing they could make this summer.

Fabio Borini

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    Reason to watch: First big signing for Brendan Rodgers—big pressure, big expectation

    At approximately £10 million, Fabio Borini arrives at Anfield after one successful season with AS Roma.

    Borini, who has worked with Rodgers before at Swansea, is an ideal fit for the footballing template in place, but he has a few things to work on.

    He's already scored a debut Anfield goal which is a good start, but his pass completion was the lowest of any outfield Roma player last season—a statistic that does not bode well in a possession-based footballing system.

    How well will the Italian re-adapt to the Premier League, and will Rodgers use him as a wide forward more than a central striker?

Stewart Downing

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    Reason to watch: So you can say "you were there" the day the Stewart Downing jokes died

    Stewart Downing scored in Liverpool's Europa League qualifier against FC Gomel, but the fact remains he hasn't scored or assisted a goal in the league.

    He is a good player (honest) and it is only a matter of time, but a spot in the first team looks unlikely under Brendan Rodgers.

    Surely, at some point during the 38-game domestic season, Downing will score or grab an assist?

Luis Suarez

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    Reason to watch: With a new contract under his belt, can Luis Suarez become the 30-goal man he threatens to be?

    Luis Suarez might just be the unluckiest player in the English Premier League—it was bordering on the ridiculous how many times this man hit the woodwork last season.

    If he stopped hitting the post and started hitting the back of the net, his 11 league goals last season could easily have been 22.

    Liverpool struggled immensely for goals at home last season, and this was the sole reason they finished so low. Suarez is the man Brendan Rodgers will need to score the largest percentage of goals in a Liverpool shirt, and it's time Suarez delivered.

Aleksandar Kolarov

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    Reason to watch: Switching to 3-5-2 makes Aleksandar Kolarov absolutely lethal

    Last season, Kolarov shared the left-back spot with Gael Clichy. In the big games, Clichy got the nod due to his recovery pace, so Kolarov was left to play the mediocre, poorer teams or come on as a sub.

    The Community Shield game confirmed what we hoped—Roberto Mancini is serious about switching to 3-5-2.

    Kolarov is OK from left-back, but he's awesome from left wing back. He thrives when given an attacking license and puts in some incredible crosses.

    City scored a goal from good buildup play on the left against Chelsea, so Mancini should be satisfied that this formation unlocks the best of Kolarov. Could he usurp Clichy?

Mario Balotelli

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    Reason to watch: Can you think of any not to?

    Whether he's scoring, celebrating, receiving a red card or giving out money, Mario Balotelli always makes you smile.

    After a seriously impressive Euro 2012 campaign for Italy, Manchester City fans are desperately hoping he will carry that form into the domestic season.

    If he replicates that level of performance and steers clear of red cards and controversy, he might just realise his sky-high potential over the next 10 months.

    If he doesn't, he'll do something else to make you laugh.

Yaya Toure

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    Reason to watch: Can he cement his status as the Premier League's best player?

    Yaya Toure is a frightening footballer. His strength, speed, awareness and technique all come together and form one monstrous frame—a frame almost no one can handle.

    He was absolutely superb last season, and his absence during the African Cup of Nations was painfully evident. When he came back, he provided renewed drive and thrust to Manchester City's midfield and for me, he might just be the best player in the EPL.

    Can he build on this and get even better, or has he reached his peak?

Jack Rodwell

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    Reason to watch: Can he stay injury-free to justify his fee?

    Jack Rodwell, a shiny new multimillion-pound signing at the Etihad Stadium, will have a lot of pressure on him this season.

    The purchase makes perfect sense for Roberto Mancini, as the switch to 3-5-2 means he was short of one central defender. Rodwell started at the back and moved forward, so this versatility will be perfect for a fluid City formation.

    With Javi Martinez valued at €40 million and Daniele De Rossi something absurdly similar, £15-18 million on a young British talent looks like good business.

Shinji Kagawa

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    Reason to watch: Will the signing force a switch in formation and philosophy?

    Shinji Kagawa is no central midfielder, which makes this signing all the more interesting. It seems Sir Alex Ferguson is on the cusp of changing formation to incorporate a pure No. 10.

    The change is much-needed, as too often Manchester United were dominated by lesser teams when playing away from home.

    The switch to one striker causes problems for one of Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, so the addition of Kagawa will have a ripple effect across the whole team.

Nemanja Vidic

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    Reason to watch: Back from injury, can he play a pivotal role in regaining the title?

    Manchester United took Manchester City right to the wire last season for the Premier League trophy—an impressive feat considering they played 95 percent of the season without star defender Nemanja Vidic.

    The Serb, who is easily one of the best central defenders in world football, hurt his knee in what was probably one of the most horrid twists I've seen in years.

    He made his return against Valerenga in preseason and will assume his usual role in the heart of Sir Alex Ferguson's defence.

    Expect United to be significantly stronger with him back, potentially making the title race even tastier than last season.

Ryan Giggs

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    Reason to watch: Surely his last season, so lap up every bit while you can

    What a player, what a professional. Ryan Giggs' glittering career will likely come to an end after this season, and while he will only have a bit-part role, make sure you catch what you can.

    He's been a joy to watch for the last 20 years, and because he's been around so long, he is perhaps underappreciated at times by those who are not Manchester United fans.

    Of course, the chances are he'll stay at Old Trafford in a coaching capacity, but he won't be gracing the pitch too much longer.

Papiss Demba Cisse

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    Reason to watch: Surely he can't repeat last season's heroics?

    What a signing by Alan Pardew. Freiburg had a gem and Newcastle unearthed it. His name? Papiss Cisse.

    Some of the goals he scored last season, including his debut goal against Aston Villa and both against Chelsea, were absolutely ridiculous.

    It's rare you'll find a striker of this build who can hit the ball with such technique—is a Zlatan Ibrahimovic comparison premature here?

    The Magpies were unfortunate to miss out on UEFA Champions League football for next season, but a full season with this guy on your team could tip them over the edge.

Hatem Ben Arfa

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    Reason to watch: Hatem Ben Arfa wants a regular spot in France's starting XIAlan Pardew has told him to use Newcastle United as a platform

    It's tough to fit Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez into a lineup, and Pardew handled his squad well last season.

    Ben Arfa, typically, is a greedy player who can be infuriating to watch. Laurent Blanc's France was a possession-hungry, pass-happy 4-2-3-1, and Ben Arfa bucked the trend, so he was out.

    How Didier Deschamps will do things remains to be seen, but Ben Arfa is committed to nailing down his own spot. Cue great performances for Newcastle. Hopefully.

Grant Holt

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    Reason to watch: After a summer of controversy, can he repeat his wonderful feats from last season?

    Grant Holt risked the fans' wrath by trying to follow Paul Lambert out the door.

    In the end, he secured a new contract with the club and is probably wearing a large smirk considering the inevitable pay rise included in said deal.

    Now he's caused a racket in preseason. The only way Norwich City fans will forgive him is if he scores goals, and regularly.

Robert Snodgrass

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    Reason to watch: Can he make the step up to the Premier League?

    Robert Snodgrass is a player who has been threatening to break out for several seasons, but he couldn't whilst stuck in the Championship.

    He's been given a huge chance by Norwich, and this all-action winger should try to take full advantage.

    If his statistics from last season are anything to go by, he should be an intriguing watch—13 goals and 14 assists is an impressive haul.

    He's got a good manager in Chris Hughton. He has a tendency to place faith in young, hungry players (see Nathan Redmond, Birmingham City), and he'll get a fair crack at establishing himself.

Junior Hoilett

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    Reason to watch: How high can he go?

    Junior Hoilett needed to leave Blackburn Rovers. How far he can go in this game is unknown right now, but joining QPR was a good move.

    Consistent first-team football in a side that doesn't solely rely on him will be so important to his development, so we might have a good idea of just how good he can become after this campaign.

    He's versatile, works hard and will rise to prominence under Mark Hughes. He built up a good understanding with the players around him at Blackburn, and I expect him to do the same at QPR.

    A Hoilett-Fabio left-sided combination could be potent.

Joey Barton

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    Reason to watch: Why wouldn't you?

    Just like Mario Balotelli, Joey Barton is a must-see player. He's not tricky, doesn't have a good work ethic and is the furthest thing from a role model, but you watch Barton because he will do something stupid.

    His sending off in QPR's final game of the season against Manchester City last season showed how little regard he has for his employers and teammates, so it seems just a matter of time before he catches the headlines again.

Fabio

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    Reason to watch: Can he use QPR as a platform to realise his potential?

    Fabio is the unlucky Rafael da Silva. Rafael walked into a Manchester United side possessing just an aging Gary Neville at right-back. Fabio arrived to find Patrice Evra in healthy, world-class form.

    Mark Hughes has secured a very good loan signing here, and it'll be interesting to gauge how far Fabio has to go by seeing him play a good chunk of consecutive games.

Pavel Pogrebnyak

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    Reason to watch: Phenomenal for Fulham, can he rescue Reading?

    Pavel Pogrebnyak arrived on loan at Fulham last season and impressed enough to spark a fight for his signature.

    Six goals in 12 games was a good haul, but even more impressive was his 1.9 shots-per-goal statistic. Reading will need him to be just as clinical to keep their heads above water, and if he can strike up a good partnership with Jason Roberts, they'll be halfway there.

James Ward-Prowse

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    Reason to watch: The next Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain?

    Southampton can't stop producing top young talents at the moment. The amount of quality players who have come through their academy is insane, and James Ward-Prowse might just be the next one.

    With Jack Cork away on Olympic duty, Nigel Adkins has taken to using his 17-year-old prodigy Ward-Prowse in preseason, and it'd be fair to say he's impressed.

    Cork is now out for a month or so with an ankle injury, so the first few weeks of the season could be the platform for this young man to launch his career.

Rickie Lambert

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    Reason to watch: Can he prove the doubters wrong again?

    When Rickie Lambert fired Southampton to promotion to the Championship in 2011, many dismissed his efforts and claimed he wouldn't manage the same in England's second tier.

    More than 20 goals later, Lambert is a Premier League player. Yet the doubts flood in once more. Despite the fact that Southampton have goals all over their team, many doubt their ability to stay up.

    Lambert can match Grant Holt's exploits at Norwich City last season or even better them.

Kelvin Davis

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    Reason to watch: Can the old-timer cut it in the English Premier League?

    Kevin Davis has been a Southampton player since the dawn of time. No, but seriously, he's a permanent fixture in a side who've been to the bottom of the barrel and right back to the top.

    Right now, the Saints are at the top, and their stalwart goalkeeper Davis will be itching to prove himself in England's top tier.

    Nigel Adkins' squad is a strong one, but if there's one question mark, it's the goalkeeping position. He's been in his respective league's Team of the Year three times running—shouldn't that be enough to pour cold water on the doubts?

    Watch with intrigue.

Goran Popov

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    Reason to watch: Can this explosive full-back provide excitement in a solid Stoke City team?

    Tony Pulis looks for players who do their jobs. The strikers are big, the wingers cross and the midfielders run. Sounds obvious, right? Well, not that many other clubs do it that way.

    Goran Popov, a flying full-back on loan from Dynamo Kiev, represents the first foray into the market for a player with a tad more flair for Pulis.

    Popov would be an immediate upgrade on Marc Wilson should he adapt quickly, so a switch to the right for Wilson could signal the bench for Andy Wilkinson.

James McClean

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    Reason to watch: Promising start—what else can he offer?

    James McClean burst onto the scene last season under Martin O'Neill and looks like an enthusiastic young talent.

    He caught the eye more because of his work rate and determination than technical talent, so he's going to have to produce something more when teams figure him out.

    He will get plenty of chances this season, and it will be up to him to add elements to his game and stay fresh.

Stephane Sessegnon

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    Reason to watch: How will the jack-of-all-trades be used this season?

    Stephane Sessegnon is too versatile for his own good. He's played left wing, right wing, central midfield, attacking midfield and as a centre-forward for Sunderland, and he just can't seem to get a run of games in a steady position.

    It'll be interesting to see how Martin O'Neill opts to use him this season, as right now they're distinctly lacking in strikers.

    Could he be in for another season of becoming Mr. Dependable for the manager, or will he get a run of games in one position?

Michu

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    Reason to watch: Is Michu the new Gylfi Sigurdsson?

    Swansea chairman Huw Jekins will be feeling quite bitter about losing out on Sigurdsson, but Michael Laudrup has made what could be one of the best signings across the board in Michu.

    Rayo Vallecano surrendering one of their best player for just £2 million is a sign of a torrid economic situation in Spain, but the Swans showed no remorse in swooping for the 15-goal midfielder.

    The Swans had issues away from home in the first half of last season, but when Sigurdsson came in, his goals solved the away blues. Swansea fans hope Michu is the answer this year.

Neil Taylor

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    Reason to watch: One more solid season and he could be the next Swan moving on

    Neil Taylor was one of the best left-backs in the Premier League last season, and he will prove integral once more to Michael Laudrup's plans in the coming campaign.

    He impressed for team Great Britain too, so you get the feeling that some more consistent showings could lead to big interest.

    I'm not instigating a transfer, I'm just surprised Manchester United, who are in dire need of a left-back, haven't checked in on him. Or have they? Who knows.

    Keep doing what you're doing, Neil.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

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    Reason to watch: Will he regret not following Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool or flourish under Andre Villas-Boas?

    Gylfi Sigurdsson opting for White Hart Lane over Anfield reinforced one now undeniable fact—footballing loyalty is basically dead.

    Still, the Icelandic midfielder finds himself a Tottenham player and has looked very impressive in preseason. It is widely expect that he will take centre stage during AVB's tenure and be used as the go-to guy.

    He's a "clutch" player who can dig goals out of nowhere, and as Rafael van der Vaart slows down, Sigurdsson provides a welcoming freshness to the middle of the park.

Kyle Walker

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    Reason to watch: He's this close to a regular England starting role

    Some will disagree with this statement, but it seems Kyle Walker is just one more good season away from landing the starting role at right-back for England.

    Time and time again Glen Johnson has proven to be a liability for England, and his unpopularity reaches new heights each year. The shock and disappointment regarding Micah Richards' omission from the Euro 2012 squad told us what the majority think of the Liverpool defender.

    Walker was originally called up for the tournament, but he pulled out due to injury. It remains to be seen who would have started in the Euros, but he's getting harder and harder to ignore.

Jan Vertonghen

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    Reason to watch: Will he start the trend of the surging centre-back?

    Jan Vertonghen is an excellent signing by Tottenham Hotspur and partnering him with Younes Kaboul makes Andre Villas-Boas's side look incredibly solid.

    If you got the chance to watch Vertonghen in action against Manchester United last season, you'll know he's physical enough to adapt quickly in a new league.

    His ball-playing abilities are excellent and his versatility has led to him occasionally "surging" up the pitch. It's something of a common practice for several continental defenders such as Mats Hummels and Gerard Pique, so can Vertonghen be the revolutionary in this role for the centre-back in England?

Romelu Lukaku

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    Reason to watch: Is he set to realise his talent and explode onto the scene?

    Romelu Lukaku cost Chelsea £18 million, only Andre Villas-Boas decided not to play him.

    Preseason proved a loan move was a must for the Belgian, as his rustiness from not playing was clear. Several clubs could have done with having the big striker on loan, but West Bromwich Albion are, in my opinion, the lucky ones.

    This is the man who is supposedly the next Didier Drogba, and while "the next ..." phrase is thrown around quite a lot these days, this one appears spot on.

Modibo Maiga

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    Reason to watch: Forget Andy Carroll, is Modibo Maiga the man to fire West Ham to safety?

    Maiga is a wonderful signing by Sam Allardyce. He's not well known outside of French football, so if your unfamiliar with him, check in on his opening games for the Hammers.

    He's a well-rounded striker who averaged close to a one-in-two record for previous club FC Sochaux. He is not without controversy, but you can trust "Big Sam" to handle a hot temperament.

    This is the man who could score 15 goals for West Ham this season and secure their Premier League status once more.

James Collins

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    Reason to watch: Back home at his favoured club. He's promised he's developed as a player. Can he save West Ham from relegation?

    James Collins completed his £2.5 million move to West Ham from Aston Villa and will immediately face his former club come the opening day of the season.

    Collins should slot in as a regular at centre-back for Sam Allardyce, and he is always worth watching. He is one of the bravest defenders to have graced the game and clearly can't wait to play for his old team again.

    On joining, he said (via Goal.com):

    "I've come back and I'm a much better player this time around so I can't wait to get cracking and show the fans that I am a better player and can put in the performances on the pitch."

Ivan Ramis

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    Reason to watch: Has Roberto Martinez finally got it right?

    Wigan Athletic have been trying to find a top-tier central defender for years now. Martinez has tried and tried to find a combination that sticks, but to no avail.

    Antolin Alcaraz has been good but inconsistent, Steve Gohouri didn't really work out and Gary Caldwell was good for only half of last season.

    Ivan Ramis, a new signing from Mallorca, chose Wigan over West Ham, and Martinez will hope he's finally got it right.

Conclusion

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    Thanks for reading. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments. The truth is, there's not just 50 players worth watching in the English Premier League this season—there are hundreds.

    This is my 50. I don't expect you to give me yours, but who's in your top 10?

    @stighefootball

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