As one of the world's best and most popular football leagues, the Premiership serves weekly as a high-stakes proving ground for every player on every club in every match. But as the 2013-14 season approaches, some players have more to prove than others.
Whether it's fighting for playing time, justifying transfer fees or merely behaving like a normal human being, several players will have plenty at stake next season in the Premier League.
Here is a list of some of those players. Be sure to add more to the comments below.
Did Wayne Rooney request a transfer? Really, it might not matter.
At the end of last season, outgoing Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports (h/t ESPN) that Rooney had asked for a transfer from the Premier League champions. The bombshell coincided with Rooney's reduced role with United, for whom he scored just 12 goals (with 10 assists) in 27 appearances last season.
More recently, the Daily Mirror reported that the transfer request didn't actually exist and that Rooney was demanding an apology from the club. Either way, something is rotten in the dressing room at Old Trafford, and it's not just Anderson's fitness routine. Rooney's prestige diminished last season with the arrival of striker Robin van Persie and the emergence of Shinji Kagawa as a playmaker.
If he stays at United—or moves within the Premier League to Chelsea or Arsenal—Rooney has plenty to prove next season.
If Luis Suarez sticks around the Premier League next season, he'll have plenty to prove on the pitch. The subject, however, won't be his skills as a player.
Suarez scored 23 goals in 33 league appearances last season, earning the Uruguayan a place on the PFA Player of the Year short list. Problem was, Suarez also bit Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic during a match late in the season, earning himself a 10-match ban.
As anyone who follows Liverpool or the Premier League knows, this is not the first unsavory incident involving Suarez. And despite what he might believe, the British press is not to blame.
If he stays in England for another season, Suarez should use the opportunity to prove himself capable of good behavior on the pitch.
Liverpool signed English forward Andy Carroll from Newcastle in the winter of 2011 for a staggering fee of £35 million, per BBC Sport. Expectations were high for Carroll, who managed a return of only six league goals between then and the end of the 2011-12 season.
That's when new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers shipped Carroll to West Ham on loan. Carroll scored seven goals in the Premier League last season, which is certainly an improvement but still well short of the output expected from a £35 million striker.
This month West Ham made the move permanent, signing Carroll for £15 million. And so brought the total amount spent on Carroll to £50 million, despite the fact that Carroll has just 27 Premier League goals to his name.
Will 2013-14 be the season Carroll proves he's worth it?
For one thing, he doesn't play his club games with Spain's historically dominant national team. For another, he doesn't get to play Tahiti every time.
Last season Torres finished with eight goals in 36 Premier League appearances with Chelsea. That is by no means an awful return, but it's hardly what one would expect from a striker who cost the Blues £50 million in 2011.
It should be noted that Torres bagged six goals during Chelsea's run to the Europa League title last season, but if the Spaniard can't score in the league it's safe to say Jose Mourinho will find someone who can.
Around Stamford Bridge, defender John Terry is known as captain, leader and legend. In 2013-14, though, he'll also be an aging veteran with an expiring contract.
Terry, 32, has one season left on his contract, meaning he will need to turn in some seriously convincing performances if he wants to remain with the Blues past 2014. But with plenty of competition for places in Chelsea's squad, securing consistent playing time might be his first goal.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger benched defender and captain Thomas Vermaelen last season after a series of poor performances. Vermaelen took the rather un-footballer-like step of admitting, per the Metro, "I have made mistakes."
That drew praise from Wenger, who said via Sky Sports that Vermaelen had "something mentally special there."
Mentally special or not, Vermaelen started just once in the league after Arsenal's 2-1 loss to Tottenham in March, a defeat that seemed to doom Arsenal to fifth place. That one start, against Norwich, came about only after Per Mertesacker was suspended for picking up a red card against West Brom.
The Gunners eventually recovered and finished fourth, but the blistering run-in had little to do with Vermaelen in defense. Laurent Koscielny and Mertesacker emerged as Wenger's first choice central-defensive partnership as Vermaelen sat on the bench.
After the season Vermaelen promised to stay at Arsenal and fight for his spot, per the Daily Mail. That makes the coming season important for Vermaelen's future at Arsenal—and, as the World Cup approaches, perhaps even his spot with the Belgian national team.
Nagging hamstring issues limited midfielder Jack Rodwell to just 11 league appearances (six starts) last season after joining Manchester City in a £15 million move from Everton. The issue became so frustrating that Rodwell moved and bought a new car in an effort to end the nightmare.
Even rival fans would probably hesitate to wish such bad luck on any player, and it's possible to consider him merely unlucky. But as 2013-14 approaches Rodwell could be another injury-hit season away from becoming a full-on flop.
Manchester United shelled out £15 million for 20-year-old Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha this past January in what turned out to be Sir Alex Ferguson's last piece of transfer business for the club.
Zaha promptly returned to Palace on loan to finish off an impressive 2012-13 campaign and demonstrated along the way some of the reasons why Fergie had developed such a high opinion of him in the first place.
Watch for yourself and you'll see it immediately—Zaha is a scintillating talent with oodles of speed, power and technique. The youngster has so much potential that B/R's Will Tidey recently wrote about Zaha's chances of making England's World Cup squad next summer.
Playing for Manchester United, Zaha couldn't have a bigger stage in England. Next season could be his big chance.