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B/R Premier League 100: Top 100 Players Ahead of the 2014-15 Season

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJanuary 12, 2017

B/R Premier League 100: Top 100 Players Ahead of the 2014-15 Season

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    Stanley Chow

    Welcome to B/R's pre-season ranking of the Top 100 Premier League players ahead of the big August 16 kick-off.

    As usual, we've delved into the film and assessed the summer performances to bring you our century of top performers. Who takes No. 1, who's fallen cruelly short and who are the surprise projections for success?

    If you, like us, can't wait for the league to resume play for yet another exciting season, go ahead and whet your appetite with this ultimate primer!

Important: How Are the Players Ranked?

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    At the end of the 2013-14 season, we produced a top 100 based solely on the performances during the campaign just gone.

    As we enter the 2014-15 edition, we've spent the summer and the transfer window anticipating and projecting rather than reflecting and evaluating.

    With that in mind, much of our ranking is based on the projection of player performances, form and importance to their team. It's about how good they are, in more general terms, rather than based solely on a season of play.

    For example, Juan Mata had a dreadful season last time out and finished 81st, but under Louis van Gaal—and in the right position—he stands to have far greater impact on the side.

    Keep this in mind as you browse through the rankings—poor form last season is nowhere near as much of a factor as it was in the 2013-14 seasonal review edition.

    To be included in the list as a new signing, the deal must have been sealed and ratified by 5 p.m. BST on Tuesday, August 12.

Honourable Mentions

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    These 20 players just missed the final cut.

     

    120. Danny Ings, Burnley

    119. Vito Mannone, Sunderland

    118. Mohamed Salah, Chelsea

    117. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal

    116. Darren Fletcher, Manchester United

    115. Joel Ward, Crystal Palace

    114. Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton

    113. Remy Cabella, Newcastle United

    112. Daryl Janmaat, Newcastle United

    111. Roberto Soldado, Tottenham Hotspur

    110. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea City

    109. Jonny Evans, Manchester United

    108. Steven Davis, Southampton

    107. Steven Naismith, Everton

    106. Graziano Pelle, Southampton

    105. Tim Krul, Newcastle United

    104. Adrian, West Ham United

    103. Jose Fonte, Southampton

    102. Winston Reid, West Ham United

    101. Etienne Capoue, Tottenham Hotspur

100. Emre Can, Liverpool

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    Being ranked as Bild's 124th-best Bundesliga player in 2013-14 is hardly a ringing endorsement, but Emre Can has the potential to take his game to a much higher level.

    He is physically impressive, technically brilliant and has the capacity to interchange from left-back to central midfield—a worthy trait, especially if Liverpool play the diamond midfield.

    Could he be Steven Gerrard's long-term successor? He may be eased in this season.

99. Danny Welbeck, Manchester United

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    Danny Welbeck should begin the season up front alongside Wayne Rooney, but once Robin van Persie returns, he could well be slotting back into a rotational/bench role for Man U.

    Welbeck can play up front or just behind the strikers in the 3-4-1-2 and has looked very silky in pre-season, but can he displace Juan Mata?

    He'll be a useful soldier and step in where necessary, but his chances of assuming the role of a key player are very slim indeed.

98. Luke Shaw, Manchester United

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    There's been a lot of talk surrounding Luke Shaw this summer; his ability, price tag and even his fitness have all been questioned at one stage or another.

    The 19-year-old enjoyed a phenomenal season in 2013-14 with Southampton and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to excel under Louis van Gaal, with the boss switching to a 3-4-1-2 to unlock his attacking qualities in full.

    Expect consistent rampaging displays from the left-sider.

97. Fabian Delph, Aston Villa

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    Fabian Delph is Aston Villa's best player sans Christian Benteke and is the squad's only midfielder who's capable of creating something from nothing.

    He's quick, agile, can slalom between tackles and break between the lines. His shooting has gotten far, far better over the last 12 months, and he now resembles a true box-to-box goal threat.

    He has less than a year on his contract; the sooner Paul Lambert tables a deal, the better.

96. Lazar Markovic, Liverpool

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    Liverpool’s signing of Lazar Markovic has half the fanbase excited at his enormous potential, and the other half wondering exactly where he’ll fit into the side.

    Clearly a talented player, his best role early on will probably be from the left side of attack when the Reds play 4-3-3—but that's the same role which Raheem Sterling usually occupies.

    In terms of what Markovic brings to the side, his dribbling and close control is the first thing which most will note. He has terrific acceleration to get away from challenges when defenders close in and is able to attack spaces rather than the man extremely well.

     

    Why is Lazar Markovic so low?

    Off the ball is where Markovic needs more work. He tends to drift around looking for space, often causing him to not become hugely involved until the ball finds him. Brendan Rodgers has already shown his capacity to work with young attackers on that side of things, though.

    He’ll need to be more aggressive, more aware of what goes on behind him and, of course, find consistency if he’s to win himself a regular place in the team.

95. Mikel Arteta, Arsenal

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    Mikel Arteta has been appointed the captain of Arsenal now that Thomas Vermaelen has left, rubber-stamping his importance to the side under Arsene Wenger.

    There are those who believe the Spaniard doesn't offer enough in terms of brawn and tackling talent, and at times his presence in the side restricts the opportunities available to Jack Wilshere given the formation typically in use.

    But he is a leader, and with Mathieu Flamini out of the side and a possible 4-3-3 on the horizon, Arteta could be set to improve upon his 2013-14 showings.

94. Ki Sung-Yueng, Swansea City

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    At one stage this summer, Ki Sung-Yueng appeared to be heading to Aston Villa, but he could now take up a central role in Swansea City's midfield alongside Jonjo Shelvey instead.

    The South Korean midfielder is a pass-master, with his full array of talents firmly on show at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as he sprayed long, raking balls into dangerous areas from deep.

    He's perhaps not as physical as you'd like, but he sure is brilliant with the ball at his feet.

93. Ron Vlaar, Aston Villa

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    Ron Vlaar's stock is at an all-time high after a stunning FIFA World Cup campaign, prompting speculation that he could move to an assortment of higher-placed clubs, per Alex Harris of the Express.

    He's moved from underrated to overrated in what seems like record time, and with 12 months left on his deal at Aston Villa, the club need to move quickly to secure his future—unless they want the cash.

    The Dutchman's a true leader, positionally exceptional but a little injury-prone.

92. Mauricio Isla, Queens Park Rangers

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    Mauricio Isla is one of those signings that makes teams around you jealous. To the likes of Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Co., Queens Park Rangers sealing the Chilean's signature is a bit like how Liverpool feel after Arsenal pipped them to Alexis Sanchez.

    Isla is a player who perennially treads the line between cumbersome and quality, but when he gets his final ball right, there are few more penetrative wing-backs.

    With Harry Redknapp moving to a 3-5-2, Isla will quickly become a key player.

91. Gareth Barry, Everton

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    Gareth Barry made the right choice in re-joining Everton on a permanent deal, as Roberto Martinez will be able to prolong his career by playing to his strengths and not putting him under too much physical strain.

    As it stands, Barry seems set to start the season in defensive midfield alongside James McCarthy and Ross Barkley. The familiarity provided by Martinez—in addition to the leadership Barry offers—should see the Toffees start quickly.

90. Mile Jedinak, Crystal Palace

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    A blue-collar footballer who grafted his way to the Premier League, Mile Jedinak is one of the hardest working midfielders in Europe.

    He made 133 tackles and intercepted 139 passes while starting every single Premier League game for Crystal Palace last season, per WhoScored.com, showcasing his impressive instincts and surprising mobility.

    Talk about a true warrior!

89. Curtis Davies, Hull City

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    Curtis Davies' career at the top level once looked as though it was over. After Aston Villa sold him off cheaply to Birmingham City, it was a surprise to see Steve Bruce take a punt on him for Hull.

    But Davies relished the chance to mix it with the big boys again, and all the attributes Villa fans hoped would emerge in claret and blue—leadership, aerial prowess and tactical nous—all came through in the Tigers' orange and black instead.

    He's set to play in Europe this season as Hull split their focus, but we still expect captain Davies to play every possible match.

88. Siem De Jong, Newcastle United

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    A seasoned professional who played for Ajax from 2007-14, Siem De Jong has the technique to thrive in the Premier League.

    He's a creator in midfield but also plays with grit and bite. He was a threat to notch up headers from set pieces last season and grafts for chances.

    He's struggled with injuries in the past, most notably a collapsed lung, so fitness could emerge as the chief obstacle blocking his path to success at Newcastle United.

87. Dusan Tadic, Southampton

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    Dusan Tadic arrives in the Premier League after a productive season in the Eredivisie, where he scored and created a combined 30 goals, per WhoScored.com.

    Able to play across the midfield, Tadic is also a set piece specialist and can take the ball past opposing players with ease.

    He has the ability to successfully fill Adam Lallana's void at Southampton if he settles in OK to his new surroundings.

86. Fraser Forster, Southampton

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    Fraser Forster, following in the path of Victor Wanyama, has swapped Celtic for Southampton in a bid to further his career in front of the world's biggest audience.

    "The Great Wall of Glasgow," as they call him in Catalunya, is second to Joe Hart in the England goalkeeping pecking order, and it's thought he won't usurp Hart unless he proves himself in a more competitive league.

    He's come to play as Saints' new No. 1, and the fans are in for a shot-stopping treat.

85. Asmir Begovic, Stoke City

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    Another Premier League campaign, another opportunity for Stoke City fans to thank their lucky stars that Asmir Begovic somehow hasn't been poached from their ranks.

    The Bosnia and Herzegovina hero has the reflexes of a cat and strong paws to go with them, tipping shots wide and high with ease and getting down quickly to grass-cutters, too.

    He's not as perfect as some make out—there's an error in there at times—but he's one of the most reliable in the league at what he does.

84. Martin Skrtel, Liverpool

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    If Martin Skrtel scored as many goals in the right net as usual and cut out that nasty habit of scoring in the wrong net, too, he'd be troubling the top 30 with ease.

    As it stands, Skrtel could start the season in Brendan Rodgers' defence but slip out of contention quickly as the expected Dejan Lovren-Mamadou Sakho partnership emerges.

    For some reason, the Slovakian's performances just refuse to plateau at a high level.

83. Rickie Lambert, Liverpool

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    A boyhood Liverpool supporter, Rickie Lambert completed a dream move to Anfield in June after scoring 28 goals in two Premier League campaigns with Southampton, per WhoScored.com.

    As Daniel Sturridge’s backup, Lambert’s days as a regular are over, but the 32-year-old is viewed as an impact player that can come off the bench and turn a game around or partner in a diamond formation.

    While a technically competent striker, Lambert’s main role is to add a physical dimension to the Reds attack that can unlock the league’s more stubborn defences, allowing Brendan Rodgers’ men to pick up the crucial points that could make all the difference to their season.

82. Willy Caballero, Manchester City

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    Willy Caballero started every single La Liga game for Malaga last season and represents a world-class goalkeeper in every way.

    He was busy in Andalusia—making 13 saves in a 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid, 10 saves in a 1-0 defeat to Barcelona and seven saves in a 2-0 win over Osasuna, per WhoScored.com—but he rose to the challenge of playing behind a suspect defence.

    His last-gasp save to deny Adrian Lopez in a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid is the type of stop Manchester City fans should expect on a regular basis—should he play.

81. Aleksandar Kolarov, Manchester City

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    Aleksandar Kolarov will continue to do what he's best at: tear down the left and slam in low crosses for Edin Dzeko and Co.

    It's rare you see a footballer with such a predictable move become so efficient for so many years, but the Serbian is clever enough to engineer space and has absolutely mastered the delivery of a driven ball.

    He'll battle Gael Clichy for another year.

80. Jay Rodriguez, Southampton

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    Jay Rodriguez came in 27th in our end-of-season Premier League 100, but he lost all momentum he was carrying—in addition to any 2014 FIFA World Cup steam he may have been picking up—when he went down with a torn ACL.

    The summer transfer window has been filled with rumours the speedy wide forward is off, but clubs should wait to see how his knee heals before gambling big money on him.

    The threat "J-ROD" carries over the top of the defence, in addition to his ability to link with a target man, is fast becoming excellent.

79. Eliaquim Mangala, Manchester City

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    If you're looking for the player who will come under the most scrutiny in 2013-14, you've found him: Eliaquim Mangala, a 23-year-old centre-back who has just cost Manchester City more than £30 million, will be firmly under the microscope from this point forward.

    It's a risky move no matter how you play it out. While the Frenchman is a magnificent athlete and looks flashy at times, he'll do something (egregious) every five games to remind you he's still learning his trade.

    So long as the pressure doesn't get to him, he should turn out a success in the long run.

78. Martin Demichelis, Manchester City

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    Martin Demichelis is always tough to place in lists such as these, as for every stellar 90 minutes he completes to wow the fans who stay loyal, he commits a bone-headed error on the biggest stage in return.

    It doesn't help that he tends to make his errors when everyone is watching, yet will then enjoy a five-game spell where he doesn't put a foot wrong in slightly less important games.

    He's also a 2014 FIFA World Cup runner-up!

77. Sylvain Distin, Everton

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    Sylvain Distin will turn 37 years old this season, but that won't stop him playing 38 league games and all the cup ones, too, if injury permits.

    He's losing a little of that famed recovery pace that's served him so well over the years, but he's still positionally astute and difficult to sidle off the ball.

    He's adapted superbly to Roberto Martinez's style, but must be wary of the challenge John Stones presents.

76. Alvaro Negredo, Manchester City

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    In the NFL, they speak of Good Andy and Bad Andy when it comes to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. In world football, you can draw a similar comparison to Alvaro Negredo.

    When he wants it and hits form, he's a battering ram of a centre-forward, but too often he loses motivation and goes missing. The first half of his debut Premier League season was awesome, but the second saw him go on a long barren streak in front of goal.

    Which Alvaro will show up in 2014?

75. Kevin Mirallas, Everton

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    Kevin Mirallas' 2014 FIFA World Cup performances summed him up perfectly: capable of brilliance, yet also capable of disappearing entirely.

    For Everton, he's only ever threatened to hit top form on a consistent basis rather than actually doing it. If he were to take the last step toward the top class of wingers, we'd be placing him alongside Willian and Samir Nasri.

     

74. Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal

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    Kieran Gibbs could well have a slight role change in store, as the acquisition of Mathieu Debuchy may just see him assume a more defensive mantra.

    It's the ideal scenario, if it occurs, for the Englishman to really work on the marking, tracking and tackling side of his game. He's already a strong runner forward who's improving his final ball, and if he nails the other elements, he'll quickly become a complete full-back.

73. Olivier Giroud, Arsenal

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    For Olivier Giroud, the alarm bells should be ringing; he's no longer the only option up front for Arsenal.

    Yaya Sanogo's pre-season heroics and start in the Community Shield should send a message, and the fact that Alexis Sanchez can happily play up front adds further intrigue to Arsene Wenger's dilemma.

    Giroud was OK last season—not great, but by no means poor—and to most fans, it was obvious he was a tad too slow and a little too unreliable in front of goal to carry the load.

    Anticipate a reduced role in 2014-15 for the Frenchman.

72. Joe Hart, Manchester City

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    Nothing says buck your ideas up like signing a second-choice goalkeeper for circa £5 million. That's exactly what Manuel Pellegrini's done to ensure Joe Hart stays at the top of his game.

    Last year, the England international lost his place in the XI temporarily to Costel Pantilimon, but the Romanian was never a true threat. Willy Caballero is, and to tell the truth, there's not a lot between them.

    The first thing that has to change is his distribution.

71. Gael Clichy, Manchester City

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    Gael Clichy will begin the season at right-back in lieu of Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna, but once those two return, he'll resume his annual fight with Aleksandar Kolarov for the left-back berth.

    It's not easy to get playing time in any position in this Manchester City side, but full-back feels like the most interchangeable of all.

    Manuel Pellegrini preferred Clichy for the big games last season due to his slightly more cautious nature and far superior recovery pace.

70. Brad Guzan, Aston Villa

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    Brad Guzan has been phenomenal during his two seasons as first-choice Aston Villa goalkeeper. One of the few stellar decisions Paul Lambert has made during his tenure so far was to bring the USA international back.

    He has a busy life given Villa's regular plight in the Premier League, but he does what he can to claim crosses and relieve pressure on his beleaguered defensive line.

    Unfortunately, he sits behind Tim Howard on the international depth chart.

69. Loic Remy, Queens Park Rangers

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    Loic Remy appeared all set to don the Liverpool shirt at one stage this offseason, but yet another failed medical stopped him from moving to a UEFA Champions League club.

    Queens Park Rangers are the main benefactors of this development (provided Newcastle United don't show interest again), as they now have a 2014 FIFA World Cup Frenchman to lead their survival charge.

    We've seen plenty of Remy and know what he's good at: surging on goal, finishing naturally and drifting left in Thierry Henry-esque fashion.

68. Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur

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    It's a mammoth shame that Kyle Walker couldn't make the FIFA World Cup, as his performances would likely have been a far-cry better than Glen Johnson's.

    His 2013-14 season showed huge improvements, with his tight passing game and efficiency in the final third improving exponentially.

    He's not the greatest defender, but he has the pace to recover, making him the most attractive option available to Roy Hodgson heading into the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

67. Michael Carrick, Manchester United

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    Louis van Gaal's 3-4-1-2 will require mobility and aggression from his central midfielders. That puts Michael Carrick on the back foot from the off.

    Add in the fact that he's injured to begin the season and he missed almost all of pre-season, and it becomes difficult to forecast exactly when he comes in to make an impact.

    A refreshed Darren Fletcher has a better chance at partnering with Ander Herrera than Carrick or Marouane Fellaini do, but that doesn't necessarily mean Carrick is in decline. It's a classic questionable fit between existing player and new system.

66. Mathieu Debuchy, Arsenal

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    Mathieu Debuchy will play a season under pressure at Arsenal, having signed for more than £10 million this summer following a great 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign.

    He's an attacking, exciting right-back who could use a little defensive coaching, but what he lacks in technique, he makes up for in hustle and bustle.

    His debut in the Community Shield was rather excellent.

65. Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur

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    We've yet to see what Emmanuel Adebayor can do for Mauricio Pochettino, bar a goalscoring taster against Schalke 04 on Sunday.

    The Togolese striker contracted malaria over the summer and has managed just one game to date, allowing Roberto Soldado to steal in and look a lot better in a system more suited to his strengths.

    It'll be up to Adebayor to train hard and reclaim his spot. At his best, he's just the sort of striker Pochettino likes.

64. Phil Jagielka, Everton

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    Phil Jagielka played nowhere close to his usual level at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but don't let that fool you into thinking he's declined as a player.

    He returned from a lengthy injury at the tail end of last season, grabbed a few games, then went all in for England, so perhaps it was no surprise he appeared a little rusty.

    For Everton he's a leader, positionally very strong and dominates the aerial duels.

63. Romelu Lukaku, Everton

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    Romelu Lukaku's £28 million move to Everton puts him in the spotlight with nowhere to hide. It's easy to forget he's just 21 years old, as he talks a big game and attracts the attention.

    Last year's 15 goals and six assists in the Premier League, per WhoScored.com, was an excellent return, but he needs to find a level of consistency so far absent from his game.

    He has all the raw tools—power, pace, instinct and size—but needs to put it together.

62. Wilfried Bony, Swansea City

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    Wilfried Bony put together an excellent 2013-14 season for Swansea City, making it a slight surprise to see him struggle to find his groove at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

    Perhaps the presence of Didier Drogba on the bench, ready to come on and save the day, spooked him? Whatever it was, Garry Monk will pray he gets a fully focused striker back for the start of the year.

    At his best, he's as strong as an ox, drops into space and links play superbly. He's earned the moniker "Daddy Cool" for a number of reasons, his finishing chief among them.

61. Theo Walcott, Arsenal

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    Theo Walcott's highly anticipated return from injury actually took a back seat in fans' minds when Alexis Sanchez signed, and the England international is no longer the only player on the team that can provide pace and verticality.

    That means he needs to come back stronger, quicker and more decisive in the final third than ever. If he doesn't, he could find himself sidelined to an extent.

    Everyone will be watching that knee of his to see if the ACL is OK; for a speedster like him, it's one of the worst injuries possible.

60. Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea

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    It's sure to be a strange season for Branislav Ivanovic, who looks set to begin the transition from key player to rotational starter in the Chelsea setup.

    Since joining in January 2008, he's been nothing short of superb. Last year, however, he showed a slight loss in pace and  got beaten over the top more often than usual.

    As good as he still is, there are four players in front of him who, frankly, are all world-class.

59. Christian Benteke, Aston Villa

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    Christian Benteke has vowed to come back bigger, stronger and better, and that should be of huge concern to Premier League defenders.

    His ruptured Achilles will heal and he'll return to lead Aston Villa's line before Christmas. Pre-season training saw him return to do ball work well ahead of schedule.

    He's a monstrous, yet technically subtle, target man capable of dictating games at will. Villa are nothing without him, so they best pray his bionic-like body does indeed fix itself with time to spare.

58. Santi Cazorla, Arsenal

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    Santi Cazorla could see his role in the Arsenal XI diminish this season, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis Sanchez and Joel Campbell all threaten his spot.

    The Spaniard was something of a marquee signing in 2012 and came in to rapturous applause; to see him being marginalised to an extent speaks of Arsene Wenger's progress in recent seasons.

    He's good at what he's good at, but he doesn't offer the runs in behind or the pace to give Arsenal that extra element in attack.

57. Adam Lallana, Liverpool

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    A technically proficient and quick-footed playmaker, Liverpool's £25 million new signing Adam Lallana will provide sorely needed competition to team-mates in a new campaign that will be a far sterner test of Brendan Rodgers' men despite their sensational title challenge last season.

    Slotting in on the left of the three forwards in a 4-3-3, or as the No. 10 in a 4-4-2 diamond, Lallana may not start every game, but his versatility will be crucial to a squad looking to compete on all fronts.

    He adds tactical flexibility and builds upon a painfully thin squad that was brutally exposed in the climax of the 2013-14 Premier League season.

56. Stevan Jovetic, Manchester City

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    Stevan Jovetic has come back from the dead to provide answers for Manuel Pellegrini, and with both Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero injured to start the season, it's a welcome boost.

    The Montenegrin international has had a fantastic pre-season tour with Manchester City and is showing fans why the side spent so much on him last summer. Harsh injuries have been his only downfall, and if he can stay fit, he's a serious contender for the top goalscoring award.

    At Fiorentina, he was renowned for his phenomenal movement, passing and long-range shooting.

55. Ross Barkley, Everton

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    Ross Barkley had one hell of a summer, making the England cut to travel to the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Roy Hodgson and signing a new five-year deal with Everton.

    But now the pressure's on, and the fans want to see real progression. The honeymoon period is over, and the raw talent that is the Toffees' No. 20 needs to score and create on a regular basis.

    He has all the tools to succeed both technically and physically, so watch as Roberto Martinez hones a prospect some have suggested could be as capable as Wayne Rooney.

54. Sandro, Tottenham Hotspur

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    A fresh slate means a fresh start for Sandro, who—when used properly and regularly—is one of the finer defensive midfielders in world football.

    He doesn't offer the attacking threat you'd like and his goals are sporadic, but in the defensive phase, he's a lockdown tackler and physical presence.

    Why a succession of Tottenham Hotspur managers have misused him/left him out—barring obvious injury constraints—is beyond us.

53. Edin Dzeko, Manchester City

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    For the first time ever, Edin Dzeko looks slated for an easy starting run for Manchester City—but it will be up to him to retain his place once his colleagues return.

    He's proved his worth in every season he's played and, while he may lack in mobility, the Citizens are strong enough to move the ball forward without him and serve him up crosses.

    With Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo out, this is the Bosnian's big chance.

52. Morgan Schneiderlin, Southampton

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    Morgan Schneiderlin has developed into one of the classiest and tidiest tacklers in the Premier League, prompting concrete interest from Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, per Charles Perrin of the Express.

    The Frenchman made his national debut at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in place of Yohan Cabaye and performed superbly, affirming his status as les Bleus' back-up No. 4 in a free-flowing, attacking system.

    Schneiderlin passes well, hustles superbly and possesses great range.

51. James McCarthy, Everton

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    James McCarthy is a ball-hound (3.3 tackles per game), a clean passer (87 percent completion) and an important switcher of play (4.6 long balls per game), per WhoScored.com.

    Roberto Martinez began grooming him at Wigan Athletic and brought him to Everton last season to continue it, seeing him put in his best-ever season by a distance and lock down a central midfield spot.

    It's Gareth Barry, not McCarthy, who should be worried about Muhamed Besic.

50. Mamadou Sakho, Liverpool

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    A powerful and rangy defender, Mamadou Sakho’s first campaign was interrupted by injury, but he showed enough of his game to cement cult status among supporters and establish himself as the preferred choice alongside Martin Skrtel at the heart of the Liverpool defence.

    However, the arrival of Croatian stopper Dejan Lovren means that Sakho will have to prove himself once again to dismiss doubts over a perceived lack of technique and sometimes erratic decision-making.

    Despite that, the 24-year-old has enormous potential, and Brendan Rodgers will be expecting the Frenchman to deliver on that promise this season.

49. Erik Lamela, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Here at B/R, we're tipping a bounce-back season for Erik Lamela, who has finally found a coach who knows how to use him in Mauricio Pochettino.

    The €30 million winger should have hit top form last season but was plagued by a back injury and some serious coaching incompetencies. As a result, many in England have no idea just how good he is.

    His pre-season showings have been very promising, and some inside the Tottenham Hotspur camp are starting to become rather excited about what he can do in the season ahead.

48. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal

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    Jack Wilshere will feel this is the season in which he needs to kick on and with good reason, as Arsenal's midfield is now exceptionally deep in both numbers and quality.

    Aaron Ramsey has emerged as the key man in the centre and Mesut Ozil is the designated No. 10, so for Wilshere to play in anything but a 4-3-3, Arsene Wenger would have to sacrifice a stable defensive midfielder like Mikel Arteta.

    It may be that we see Wilshere playing all over this season, and he'll lap up every chance he gets.

47. Wojciech Szczesny, Arsenal

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    Wojciech Szczesny put together an excellent 2013-14 campaign for Arsenal, but many snub the obvious evidence of progression due to the fact he makes the odd high-profile mistake.

    Szczesny is steadily becoming one of the better shot-stoppers in the league but needs to kick the habit of rushing out unnecessarily. Once he does, all will consider him one of the best goalkeepers in Europe.

    David Ospina, regarded as an incredibly safe pair of hands, could be the just the influence he needs. 

46. Dejan Lovren, Liverpool

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    When Dejan Lovren is done playing football, perhaps he should become the world's most expensive career counsellor.

    He looked down and out at Lyon after being benched by Remi Garde in 2013, and for Southampton to take a punt on him at circa £8 million was a big call. A season later, he's a £20 million Liverpool signing who huffed and puffed his way to Anfield, and the pressure's on for him to show his best.

    Luckily, he's an ideal fit for Brendan Rodgers: quick, capable of playing a high line and great on the ball.

45. Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham Hotspur

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    The only red flag Jan Vertonghen possesses is his attitude, as it became quite clear last season under Tim Sherwood that he was fed up and didn't want to play.

    So long as Mauricio Pochettino can fix that, he has one of the league's finest centre-backs back onside and into a sterling XI.

    The Belgian's blend of possession-based brilliance and calmness on the ball, in addition to his ability to surge forward and become a playmaker, is tough not to love.

44. Victor Wanyama, Southampton

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    Many have jumped ship at Southampton this summer, but Victor Wanyama remains and will play an even more vital part in protecting their defence in the coming season.

    He was a rock in the centre last year and Saints' incredible defensive record had a lot to do with his size, bulk and tackling ability. When he broke his leg against Aston Villa, it coincided with a fall from grace for Mauricio Pochettino's defensive line.

     

43. Ander Herrera, Manchester United

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    To say that Manchester United have had midfield concerns over the past few seasons would be an understatement. The hope among Red Devils is fans that the arrival of Basque central midfielder Ander Herrera will go some way to solving those issues.

    Herrera caught the eye of United management two years ago when Athletic Bilbao starred in victory at Old Trafford and they have retained an interest ever since, notably failing to secure his capture last summer. This time around, they would not be denied.

    Over the course of pre-season, the signs have been encouraging. In addition to his excellent passing ability that brought three assists in his first friendly outing alone, he has also shown a willingness to make his presence felt in midfield that will undoubtedly please his new supporters.

    Given United’s wait for new blood in midfield, he is sure to quickly become a crowd favourite.

42. Seamus Coleman, Everton

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    Seamus Coleman likely won't be repeating his six-goal season for Everton in 2014-15, but he's still a top-tier full-back who's well worth a glance.

    Everton will again benefit from his services after The Guardian confirmed the Irishman signed a new long-term contract this summer, with his lung-busting runs and penetrative crossing an eye-catching feature of his game.

    Remember: He cost £60,000 from Sligo Rovers, proving there's value out there if you look!

41. Jesus Navas, Manchester City

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    Jesus Navas remains one of the few true top-tier wingers who can provide genuine width in modern football, and pre-season has shown us he's fully recovered from the injury that kept him out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

    With the ball at his feet, he has the ability to torment a full-back by going inside and out. He's also lightning over the top running onto diagonals and has one of the finer stand-up crossing techniques in the league.

     

40. Leighton Baines, Everton

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    Leighton Baines stands to improve upon his 2013-14 season; he was by no means a poor player, but the man playing opposite him ended up outshining him.

    The "Baines underlap" should be out in full force and his crossing will return to the previous campaign's accuracy. Roberto Martinez knows how to free up the England international in space and with Romelu Lukaku on board, he has a big target to find.

39. Oscar, Chelsea

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    With Cesc Fabregas confirmed as a No. 8 at Chelsea this season, Oscar is free to continue as a No. 10 just ahead.

    The Brazilian played very well at the 2014 FIFA World Cup but struggled for the rest of the calendar year, with Jose Mourinho eventually benching him toward the end.

    At his best, he's a goalscoring threat and a vital figure in triggering rotations and fluid movements. A lot of unsung play goes through Oscar.

38. Fernando, Manchester City

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    Fernando is yet another astute signing from Txiki Begiristain and his crew, adding beef and depth to the defensive midfield department of Manchester City.

    Fernandinho and Yaya Toure were a little over-stretched at times last season but patched it together. However, if Javi Garcia can't hack it in midfield and Jack Rodwell's gone, help was always going to be required.

    As it happens, City have secured one of the best natural anchors in world football.

37. Per Mertesacker, Arsenal

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    Arsene Wenger protected Per Mertesacker last season and he prospered, but Joachim Low left him exposed and we saw his frailties on the world stage.

    It makes the German altogether difficult to gauge, as he cannot simply succeed in any given situation or team. This season, with Bacary Sagna gone and the more adventurous Mathieu Debuchy in his place, will really test Mertesacker's ability in space.

     

    Is Mertesacker too low?

    The fact he needs a system tailored to him is a worry; it means he doesn't trouble our top 20.

36. Tim Howard, Everton

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    Tim Howard's last competitive match was the magnificent 15-save display he put in against Belgium at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, meaning he's remembered rather fondly and his stock is at an all-time high.

    Interestingly, he was also the highest points scorer in the official Premier League fantasy football game last season, capping an unsung, yet rather incredible, 12 months in the sport.

    With a new deal under his belt, Roberto Martinez is in agreement with the rest of us: Howard isn't slowing down any time soon.

35. Andre Schurrle, Chelsea

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    Andre Schurrle is fantastic at making the best of what he's given, and sometimes he isn't given a whole lot. For Chelsea, he made just 15 Premier League starts in 2013-14, yet still had a say; for Germany, at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, he didn't make a single start but managed three goals.

    That he can't start regularly for the Blues isn't a surprise given how Eden Hazard dominates his favoured position, and his exploits in Brazil mean he's short on fitness and will slowly come into the new season again.

    It may be another slightly frustrating campaign for him in terms of playing time.

34. John Terry, Chelsea

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    John Terry will turn 34 years old midway through the 2014-15 season; a player as combative as him does not usually remain at the top level for so long.

    He may well begin time-sharing his spot in defence to preserve fitness, with Kurt Zouma perceived as his natural, aggressive replacement. Since the Blues are sans Frank Lampard this season, however, they'll need a full dosage of Terry's leadership wherever possible.

33. Jordan Henderson, Liverpool

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    Jordan Henderson needs another season just like the last one, proving his 2013-14 heroics weren't a flash in the pan.

    His debut season with Liverpool under Kenny Dalglish was awful and he was criminally misused, but Brendan Rodgers has crafted an important role for him and unleashed his box-to-box, energetic style.

    The England international is now one of the first names on the team sheet, a key catalyst in changing formations and a physical marvel all rolled into one.

32. Christian Eriksen, Tottenham Hotspur

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    The hope is that Mauricio Pochettino can do what Tim Sherwood failed to, and that's use the genius that is Christian Eriksen in the right way.

    A glance at pre-season film will tell you he is, as Eriksen—despite playing in an assortment of positions across the midfield—has combined superbly with his team-mates to push the "Poch" revolution forward.

    The Dane caught fire at the end of last season and we hope to see more sumptuous, whipped deliveries and free-kicks.

31. Fernandinho, Manchester City

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    Fernandinho had a magnificent 2013-14 season, playing a reserved defensive midfield role and allowing Yaya Toure to bomb forward.

    The restraint on show was admirable given the reputation he crafted in Ukraine for embarking upon slaloming runs and scoring, with a different side to his game winning over the floating voters.

    This year he could see more opportunities to open his legs—especially if Fernando comes in for Toure during rotation.

30. Willian, Chelsea

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    Willian surprised us all with his role under Jose Mourinho last season, as after previously barely making a tackle for former clubs Shakhtar Donetsk and Anzhi Makhachkala, he fulfilled an industrious, hardworking role on the right wing that was key to winning the ball back early.

    He was far less tricky and imaginative than he was over in Ukraine, instead using his physical ability to shuttle forward and move his side up the pitch in effective, yet bland, fashion.

    How Mourinho adapts the Brazilian's role for the 2014-15 season will be of particular interest to us.

29. Bacary Sagna, Manchester City

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    Arsenal fans convinced themselves Bacary Sagna's thirst would be renewed by the 2014 FA Cup victory but instead the Frenchman saw it as the perfect parting gift.

    He's now a Manchester City player, meaning two of the top three right-backs ahead of the 2014-15 season play in Citizen Blue. He's the ideal running-mate for Pablo Zabaleta who plays way too many games as it is, and it gives Manuel Pellegrini the chance to mix and match his full-back duo.

28. Samir Nasri, Manchester City

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    Samir Nasri's performances for Manchester City last season were nothing short of sublime at times and an injury that saw him shelved for several months truly threatened to derail his club's title bid.

    He's carved out an important role for himself on the left-hand side in Manuel Pellegrini's system, ducking in and creating while offering a goal threat, too.

    Gael Clichy, from left-back, links superbly off him to canter forward on the outside.

27. Raheem Sterling, Liverpool

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    It's easy to forget Raheem Sterling is still just 19 years of age, and while he looks on course to take the Premier League by storm once again, Brendan Rodgers may protect him (physically) by dropping him in and out of the side once again.

    Liverpool fans will hope he's unleashed in full and can be the Luis Suarez replacement they've been courting in the transfer market. His electric pace, dribbling and ability to engineer space and skip challenges makes him a truly remarkable watch.

26. Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool

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    Philippe Coutinho finds himself in a slightly odd situation, whereby he seems as likely to emerge as a 2014-15 key player as he is to be relegated to a bench role.

    There's a clear place for him in the diamond where his creative genius shines through, but in the 4-3-3 he may struggle to find a regular role if Brendan Rodgers plumps for Lazar Markovic early.

    All told, though, we expect "Phil" to continue his fantastic progress and keep on slicing open defences. He's been key in pre-season.

25. David De Gea, Manchester United

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    David de Gea's 2013-14 season was excellent, and we're expecting him to move from strength to strength under Louis van Gaal in the coming campaign.

    The Spaniard will be playing with a back three for the first time in his professional career and will need to assist his defensive line in possession.

    Expect his good feet, distribution and, of course, his stellar shot-stopping skills to play a big part in any Manchester United success.

24. Filipe Luis, Chelsea

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    In Filipe Luis, Chelsea signed the most complete left-back in world football to shore up a troublesome flank.

    That's not to say he's the best, but he does have the most complete set of skills of any who play his role. Luis defends superbly, matches up one-on-one with wingers and plays an economic attacking game.

    His link-up play, once settled, can be a joy to watch.

23. Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City

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    Another year, another season in which Pablo Zabaleta reigns as the finest right-back in the Premier League.

    The FIFA World Cup 2014 runner-up has a magnificent engine, doesn't neglect his defensive duties and penetrates the final third superbly. He's a goal threat and a strong low crosser and underlaps his winger very, very well.

    Manuel Pellegrini has bought him a running mate in Bacary Sagna, so we could see him rested a little this year, reducing his short-term impact but ensuring he carries on for years to come.

22. Juan Mata, Manchester United

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    We didn't see the best of Juan Mata last season because he was largely played out of position. David Moyes couldn't find room for him in a central berth and stuck him out on the left.

    Under Louis van Gaal, though, it seems the Spaniard will enjoy the status of first-choice No. 10 in the 3-4-1-2 and pip Shinji Kagawa to most games.

    Mata is a pure creator with a wicked left foot. Playing back in the hole behind such impressive strikers means the assists are certain to flow.

21. Vincent Kompany, Manchester City

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    Vincent Kompany enjoyed a magnificent FIFA World Cup 2014 at the back for Belgium, and Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping he sees more of the same once he rejoins the Manchester City setup.

    Two years ago, Kompany was suggested as the best centre-back in world football. Since then he's been sliding in our estimations, and the rot needs to stop.

    He's in prime position to improve and should strike a great partnership with Eliaquim Mangala.

     

    Is Vincent Kompany a little low?

    If he finally plays up to his Belgium standards for City, he'll be shooting upward again.

20. Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

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    With a proper left-back signed in the form of Filipe Luis, expect Cesar Azpilicueta to move back to his natural right-back slot for the 2014-15 season.

    The Spaniard played superbly whilst on the wrong flank last year and finished as the highest full-back (11th) in our end-of-season Premier League 100 back in May.

    His energy, determination, clean tackling and positioning skills are all top-notch.

19. Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal

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    Laurent Koscielny enjoyed a phenomenal season with Arsenal in 2013-14 but was still a reserve feature for France at the FIFA World Cup 2014.

    His part as the aggressor in a two-man partnership was well carried out, but he still falls short to Mamadou Sakho in Didier Deschamps' eyes. Gooners will hope he uses this as motivation to cut out the few errors in his game and become a universally accepted elite centre-back.

    His recovery pace and willingness to step out are underrated features of his game.

18. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool

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    Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was the butt of plenty of jokes at the end of last season with the Reds and over the summer with England, but the truth is he very nearly led his side to a Premier League title and is back in the Champions League this term.

    His transition to the deepest of Liverpool’s midfielders has re-established his great worth to the team, setting many an attack in motion from the base of a diamond or the controlling role in a 4-3-3.

    Gerrard’s passing range has never been in question, and now he picks up the ball more than ever, dropping between centre-backs to receive possession and looking to either move into midfield or go diagonal to the forwards.

17. Hugo Lloris, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Despite his France side dominating the first four matches at FIFA World Cup 2014, Hugo Lloris still managed to make himself heard, seen and appreciated—but not to the detriment of the team.

    In the age of sweeper-keepers and confident ball-players, it's getting easier for goalkeepers to become star players, but Lloris does it even when he's playing on the best team in the park.

    He is, undoubtedly, our No. 3 goalkeeper ahead of the big kick-off.

16. Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

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    Alexis Sanchez cost Arsenal a lot of money (£35 million, per BBC Sportso the pressure is on to succeed. If Arsene Wenger plays to the Chilean's strengths, there's little chance he doesn't.

    The former Barcelona man showed at the FIFA World Cup 2014 how tailoring a system around him can bear fruits, with his manic work-rate, searing pace and high footballing IQ opening up lanes and passes all the time.

    With Mesut Ozil threading him passes, he'll be impossible to stop.

     

    Is Alexis Sanchez a little low?

    Alexis is the ultimate boom or bust, and we need to see how Arsene Wenger uses him before slotting him into our top 10 with immediacy. 

15. Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool

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    It's all on Daniel Sturridge's shoulders for the forthcoming season, as Luis Suarez has departed Anfield after the Liverpool brass decided enough was enough when it came to his on-field antics.

    The England international had a tendency to drift out of games last year but then remind us of his presence with a spectacular, important goal. With Suarez out, Brendan Rodgers needs consistent, quality production from his man.

    Can Sturridge step up to Suarez's level?

14. Petr Cech, Chelsea

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    Petr Cech faces the challenge of his life this season, with Thibaut Courtois returning from a three-year Atletico Madrid loan and now expecting to start.

    The Czech international has been in sensational form throughout pre-season as he fights his cause, tipping shots left and right in acrobatic fashion.

    It's a slight sore point with Blues fans, but the fact remains he could well be plying his trade for a different club soon enough if Courtois steps in.

13. Diego Costa, Chelsea

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    Diego Costa is top of the pile when it comes to target men despite only recently arriving from Atletico Madrid in La Liga.

    There are some who suggest the Spaniard is more of a bruiser and a hustler than a true finesse finisher, but the ability to sniff out your own chances is vital in the Premier League.

    He's had a strong pre-season and stands guaranteed to lead the line—even despite the return of club legend Didier Drogba.

12. Gary Cahill, Chelsea

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    Gary Cahill stands as the only Chelsea defender who's not under threat of losing his spot in the side—a remarkable achievement for a man who joined Bolton Wanderers to save a flailing career.

    He's a slightly limited, penalty-box centre-back, but his efficiency inside the box is perfect for Jose Mourinho's system and he can fulfill the role of stopper or sweeper fairly well.

    He was England's best defender at the FIFA World Cup, too.

11. Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal

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    Aaron Ramsey has gone from injury-affected flop to goalscoring hero for Arsenal, and he's now expected to pull in a similar ratio to the 10 goals in 20 starts recorded last season, per WhoScored.com.

    If he can steer clear of troublesome ailments, he could well take off. With only Yaya Toure ahead of him in the stakes for best box-to-box midfielder in the league, a perfect season could see him crowned world class in the eyes of the majority.

10. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal

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    Mesut Ozil was one of 2013-14's most polarising players, with Arsenal fans stoutly defending him whilst others attacked his slightly inconsistent performances.

    As a £42.5 million player, this is simply pressure you have to handle, and it continued into the FIFA World Cup as many outlets suggested the German underperformed—despite starting all seven games and winning the competition.

    With Theo Walcott returning and Alexis Sanchez now wearing Arsenal red, Ozil should be in for a much-improved second Premier League season. "Finally," he'll be muttering, "someone to pass to!"

     

    Does Ozil deserve to be in the top 10?

    Honestly, he's incredible. With runners to target with long passes, we'll see the real No. 10 here.

9. Nemanja Matic, Chelsea

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    Nemanja Matic grades out as our best defensive midfield anchor, and Chelsea will benefit hugely from a full season with him in position.

    The difference he made to the centre of the park from January onward last year was remarkable. Matic slalomed forward and crunched playmakers with his no-nonsense style.

    Only one player (Fabian Delph) was able to find any room around him in 15 Premier League starts.

8. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

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    Louis van Gaal's appointment as Manchester United manager initially looked like bad news for Wayne Rooney, but a switch away from the 4-3-3 and toward the 3-4-1-2 has enabled him to find a regular role.

    If that wasn't enough, then being awarded the captain's armband for the season certainly does spell out the faith his new boss has in him, and Rooney is expected to continue upfront in a partnership with Robin van Persie.

    It's all shaping up to be another excellent Premier League season for the England international.

7. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

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    Sergio Aguero's talent is not in question—he's a top-five Premier League player, without a shadow of a doubt—but his deteriorating body is.

    The amount of ailments he's suffered over the past six months is staggering, with repeated hamstring complaints dogging the second half of the 2013-14 season and thigh injuries restricting his FIFA World Cup 2014 impact.

    When fit, he's the best striker in the league, combining pace, power, movement and deadly shooting ability.

     

    Placing Sergio Aguero

    Weighing up Aguero's injuries with his talent made him tough to place in our 100. Where would you rank him?

6. Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea

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    How jammy are Chelsea, ending up with two world-class goalkeepers?

    We're still not 100 percent sure who will start between Thibaut Courtois and Petr Cech, but Blues fans have the assurances of boasting an immense shot-stopper between the sticks whomever is picked.

    For us, Courtois' last three seasons in La Liga have shown everything we need to be confident in naming him the best goalkeeper in the Premier League this season.

    His reflexes, length, aerial command and strong frame are all very impressive.

     

    Is Thibaut Courtois a little high?

    The standard of goalkeeping in 2014 should not be underestimated. We put Manuel Neuer top of the FIFA World Cup 2014 charts, and we rate Courtois in the same bracket.

5. Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea

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    Cesc Fabregas has crafted a reputation for being a goal and assist-giving machine, and if his pre-season performance is anything to go by, he'll settle in and torment defences from the word "go" at Chelsea.

    Jose Mourinho has confirmed, via Eurosport, he'll play as a No. 8 alongside Nemanja Matic in midfield, allowing Oscar to continue as a No. 10 and producing a mouth-watering midfield in the process.

    His mazy dribble and strike against Ferencvaros at the weekend was Lionel Messi-esque.

     

    Why does Cesc start so high?

    Cesc's always been a statistical monster, and he looks to be flourishing early on. We're projecting a big season from the Spaniard.

4. Robin Van Persie, Manchester United

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    Robin van Persie's 2013-14 campaign was a forgetful one, as he struggled with injuries and failed to impress in David Moyes' rigid system.

    But under Louis van Gaal, all is expected to change. We like his chances. The form he showed for the Netherlands at the FIFA World Cup 2014 should extrapolate over the course of the 2014-15 season.

    The Dutch connection will get him back to his best, as will the system employed, and RvP has every chance of breaching the 20-goal mark again.

3. Yaya Toure, Manchester City

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    Yaya Toure's 2013-14 Premier League season was so ridiculous on so many levels, it feels inevitable he'll drop off in production this year.

    He was laboured throughout the 2014 FIFA World Cup and during the Community Shield, so Manchester City fans hope he can get to his robust, powerful, box-to-box best on the opening day.

    When he's on his game and in full flow he is, quite literally, unstoppable.

2. David Silva, Manchester City

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    With Yaya Toure likely to dip in production, those Manchester City fans who maintain David Silva is the club's best player should be vindicated in 2014-15.

    The Spanish magician underwhelmed in a drab system during the FIFA World Cup, but his role for Manchester City is more expansive and critical to success.

    His passing range, agility and ability to sneak through gaps make him a serious challenge for defenders, and he's the master of the reverse ball.

1. Eden Hazard, Chelsea

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    Eden Hazard took just five minutes to remind us how sickeningly good he is at football, returning from an extended FIFA World Cup 2014 break to rinse Werder Bremen's defence in pre-season.

    The Belgian flopped badly on the summer stage in Brazil but should have no issues finding the heights again for Chelsea this season, with another year of Jose Mourinho's coaching likely to translate into excellent output and efficiency.

    He's a true threat with the ball at his feet, guaranteed to score goals. If he stays fit, he can lead Chelsea to the title.

     

    What makes Eden Hazard No. 1?

    Projecting a No. 1 ahead of the season is a little like making your prediction for the Premier League Player of the Year Award, and we're tipping Hazard to rinse the league.

     

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