Premier League 100: Ranking the Top Players Entering 2015/16 Season

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterAugust 5, 2015

Premier League 100: Ranking the Top Players Entering 2015/16 Season

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    A new Premier League season beckons, which means a clean slate for everyone.

    Chelsea will be pushed hard for the title as Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United have tangibly strengthened in the transfer window, adding another layer of intrigue to an already exciting campaign ahead.

    Further down the table, the new TV deal has enabled mid-to-lower-table clubs to spend above what has traditionally been their stations, with Swansea City, Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Southampton, West Ham United and more all hauling in premium players to help them push on.

    It's not as if we needed an excuse, but all the new additions represent the perfect opportunity for Bleacher Report to deliver its pre-season Premier League 100, a ranking of the best 100 players in the division based on ability alone. With no form to speak of, we gauge players as they are right now, measuring them against each other to crown a champion.

    Rather than simply base the player's rank solely on the previous season's work, we take a more general view of each player and project into the coming season. For example, Luke Shaw had a horrible 2014-15, but looks primed to bounce back and re-establish himself as one of the best left-backs in the division this season. He's in the 100 here; he was distinctly absent from our end-of-season iteration in May.

    Who is the best overall player in the Premier League as we enter 2015-16? Take a peek inside and find out!

     

    All statistics are via WhoScored.com

Eligibility, Exclusions and Honourable Mentions

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    All Premier League players are eligible for the list, though we have drawn a line in the sand when it comes to incoming players. Any new arrivals must have been confirmed as signings by Sunday, August 2, by 11 p.m. BST.

    We've opted to exclude backup goalkeepers (like Asmir Begovic)—they won't play, so they'd simply occupy a space in the 100 for no reason—and Angel Di Maria does not appear due to his impending transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, as confirmed by BBC Sport.

    Some players who are returning from lengthy injuries (like Jay Rodriguez) and some players who simply haven't settled (like Juan Cuadrado) are impossible to gauge and have been left to one side.

     

    Honourable Mentions 

    Idrissa Gueye, CM, Aston Villa

    Ramires, CM, Chelsea

    James McArthur, DM, Crystal Palace

    Simon Mignolet, GK, Liverpool

    Fernando, DM, Manchester City

    Jordy Clasie, DM, Southampton

    Marko Arnautovic, Wing, Stoke City

    Bojan, ST/AM, Stoke City

    Franck Tabanou, LB/LW, Swansea City

    Lukasz Fabianski, GK, Swansea City

    Danny Rose, LB, Tottenham Hotspur

    Saido Berahino, ST, West Bromwich Albion

    Adrian, GK, West Ham

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    100. Aaron Cresswell, LB, West Ham

    Cresswell was a revelation in 2014-15, excelling for West Ham at left-back as Sam Allardyce's charges chased a European dream. As with several others scattered throughout this list, we've tempered his ranking until he's proved himself over more than just a one-year span.

     

    99. Winston Reid, CB, West Ham

    West Ham extended Reid's contract earlier this year, giving him £60,000 per week for an eye-watering six-and-a-half years, as noted by Adam Shergold of the Daily Mail. Is that a good move or an expensive mistake? His performances this term could go a long way toward dictating the answer.

     

    98. Chris Smalling, CB, Manchester United

    Smalling's surprisingly strong 2014-15 hasn't been forgotten, but he'll need to prove he can do that again before he troubles the top order of our overall top 100.

     

    97. Ashley Williams, CB, Swansea City

    Williams continues to play at a high level, leading a Swansea City side that continues to build and get stronger with every passing summer. He's the glue that holds it together.

     

    96. Marcos Rojo, CB, Manchester United

    Rojo's a good, solid centre-back who will likely be an important part of United's defence this season, should they fail to secure a truly world-class acquisition. He's brave, robust and aggressive.

     

    95. Cedric Soares, RB, Southampton

    Cedric is nearly a carbon copy of Nathaniel Clyne, meaning Southampton have effectively replaced their departed right-back like-for-like. The Portuguese speedster has great control and overlaps with gusto.

     

    94. John Stones, CB/RB, Everton

    According to Simon Rice of the Independent, Stones may just stay at Everton for the year after Chelsea's overtures fell on deaf ears. If his progression continues, he'll be a top centre-back in the division in no time.

     

    93. Cheikhou Kouyate, CM, West Ham

    Kouyate took to the Premier League like a duck to water, giving Sam Allardyce a combative, powerful edge in midfield. He plays box-to-box, as an anchor or in central defence.

     

    92. Moussa Sissoko, CM, Newcastle United

    When Sissoko can be bothered, he's brilliant, but he's a highlight-reel player. A powerful box-to-box threat, rogue touches are spattered in among his game-breaking moments, perhaps creating a perception that he's better than he is.

     

    91. Hector Bellerin, RB, Arsenal

    Bellerin's made huge strides in a short space of time, but he still has a lot to learn. He's positive and extremely fast but rash and positionally ill-disciplined.

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    90. Bacary Sagna, RB, Manchester City

    Sagna's performances weren't quite what were expected last season after he signed a big contract with City, but he has the start of this campaign, sans Pablo Zabaleta, to prove a point.

     

    89. Jeremain Lens, Wing, Sunderland

    Lens is a very good signing for Sunderland, who are in need of some options out wide. The Dutchman is rapid, creative and decisive. He should improve the level of service to Jermain Defoe and Co.

     

    88. Kevin Mirallas, Wing, Everton

    Mirallas, on his day, is a top-30 player, but an utter lack of consistency has held him back in his career so far. 

     

    87. Erik Lamela, Wing, Tottenham Hotspur

    Like Mirallas just below him, Lamela is inconsistent and only flashes ability. He's as likely to score a rabona strike from 20 yards as he is to give the ball away in the cheapest fashion possible.

     

    86. Graziano Pelle, ST, Southampton

    Pelle netted 12 Premier League goals last season and struck the woodwork seven times—more than any other player in the division. With better luck he'd have netted 20 and likely would've led the Saints into the Champions League.

     

    85. Georginio Wijnaldum, CM, Newcastle United

    Wijnaldum has developed into a brilliant player, capable of driving at the heart of teams with the ball at his feet and instigating attacks from deep. A wise acquisition by Steve McClaren.

     

    84. Diafra Sakho, ST, West Ham

    Sakho was one of the finds of last season—credit Sam Allardyce and his staff for the scouting job. The Senegalese forward is dynamic, strong and capable of scoring a variety of goals. West Ham played their best football with him in the side.

     

    83. Marouane Fellaini, CM, Manchester United

    Fellaini was largely reduced to an aerial colossus by Louis van Gaal last season, but his effectiveness can't be doubted. He's borderline unbeatable in the air and still forms a good "Plan B" for Man United.

     

    82. Ryan Shawcross, CB, Stoke City

    Shawcross' talent is frequently overlooked due to the fact he plays for an unfashionable club like Stoke City, but his continued excellence over the last five years has proved, without question, that he's a top player.

     

    81. Phil Jagielka, CB, Everton

    Still Everton's best central defender (though he won't be for long), Jagielka remains durable, consistent and commanding from the back.

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    80. Francis Coquelin, DM, Arsenal

    Arsenal have looked very good defensively since Coquelin slotted into their midfield, and the Frenchman gets through an obscene amount of defensive work. His passing needs work and there's still plenty of room for him to grow, but he looks to be the answer.

     

    79. Enner Valencia, ST/Wing, West Ham

    Valencia eschewed the suggestion he'd be a World Cup flop last season, turning in a good collection of performances. For him to trouble the top 50, his productivity and output must improve, but first he must recover from right knee and ankle injuries that are expected to keep him out for 12 weeks.

     

    78. Emre Can, DM, Liverpool

    Can developed nicely last season at centre-back but will now switch into his natural role as a holding midfielder. Expect to see power, surging runs and the odd long-range goal.

     

    77. Danny Welbeck, ST, Arsenal

    Eleven months ago, things looked rather rosy for Welbeck, Arsenal's then-first-choice striker. Now, injuries and a lack of cutting edge have relegated his status to backup; there doesn't appear to be a route into the Gunners XI for him.

     

    76. Fabian Delph, CM, Manchester City

    After a tenuous will-he-won't-he saga, Delph joined Manchester City this summer. He's risked his spot at Euro 2016 but backed his own ability shine at the top level. He'll need to severely improve his goal output at the Etihad Stadium to win over the doubters.

     

    75. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wing, Arsenal

    Chamberlain needs to use his performance against Chelsea in the Community Shield as a springboard for a big season. It's about time he was given the chance by Arsene Wenger, and he has to seize it.

     

    74. Victor Wanyama, DM, Southampton

    Wanyama is a consistent, brute-force defensive midfielder who can cleave through opposing players at will. With Morgan Schneiderlin gone to Manchester United, he may just shine a little brighter on the south coast.

     

    73. Ki Sung-yueng, CM, Swansea City

    Ki was one of last season's under-the-radar star performers, and if he puts together another campaign full of slick passes and key goals, the big boys will start sniffing with interest.

     

    72. Fernandinho, CM, Manchester City

    Fernandinho had a rough 2014-15 and will be hoping to bounce back this term. It's important City's midfield returns to its physical, creative best, and Fernandinho will be key to any turnaround.

     

    71. Luke Shaw, LB, Manchester United

    "It shall be the season of Luke Shaw," declared Louis van Gaal last week, via Simon Rice of the Independent. We believe him. Prepare for the return of a barnstorming, physical full-back.

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    70. Federico Fernandez, CB, Swansea City

    Swansea City dodged a bullet when Federico Fernandez was dropped from Argentina's preliminary Copa America squad—it means they'll get a fully rested, prepared centre-back to start the season. Fernandez is quietly very good—not outstanding in any category—but error-free and very dependable.

     

    69. Jefferson Montero, Wing, Swansea City

    If Montero could stay fit, he'd be incredible, but injuries tempered his impact in 2014-15. Calum Chambers is well-aware of the Ecuadorian's capabilities, and other Premier League defenders will be too if "Jeff" puts a run together.

     

    68. Ryan Bertrand, LB, Southampton

    Bertrand built on a good loan spell at Aston Villa in 2014 by signing for Southampton and turning in consistently excellent showings. He's forced his way into the England reckoning, too.

     

    67. Leighton Baines, LB, Everton

    We've probably seen Baines pass his peak, but at 30 years of age, he still has a lot to offer. Like many of Everton's players last season, he struggled with a Europa League schedule and should be fresher and fitter this time around.

     

    66. Per Mertesacker, CB, Arsenal

    Mertesacker's under pressure from Calum Chambers and Gabriel Paulista, who are both vying for his spot in the defensive line. The German will need to stay consistent and continue to play well alongside Laurent Koscielny to keep them at arm's length.

     

    65. Ashley Young, Wing, Manchester United

    Young played superbly last season but stands at risk of losing his place in 2015-16 due to increased competition. It's likely his performances will fall back a notch or two.

     

    64. Romelu Lukaku, ST, Everton

    Many thought Lukaku would have been further along in his progression at this point, but the situation at Everton hasn't helped. He makes too many heads-down dribbles, which means that his runs are ignored, and he sometimes struggles to get into any sort of groove.

     

    63. Dusan Tadic, AM, Southampton

    Tadic started the 2014-15 season on fire, tearing defences to shreds, but he disappeared after Christmas and never returned. Saints fans will hope for 38 games out of him this season instead of a half-done job.

     

    62. Nacho Monreal, LB, Arsenal

    Monreal quietly ousted Kieran Gibbs at starting left-back at Arsenal last season and produced a brilliant run of form. Dependable, technical and more aggressive than he looks.

     

    61. Nabil Bentaleb, DM, Tottenham Hotspur

    If Bentaleb continues his current trajectory, he'll be a top-tier holding midfielder by next May. He is a lean, classy, intelligent anchor with a good passing range—shades of Morgan Schneiderlin.

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    60. Memphis Depay, LW/AM, Manchester United

    Depay is difficult to gauge, but it looks as though Louis van Gaal has decided to give him the chance to impress right away. His athleticism, long-range shooting and drive are Cristiano Ronaldo-esque, but temper your early expectations.

     

    59. Daley Blind, LB/DM, Manchester United

    Blind is a very talented, versatile player, but his role this season could be severely diminished by the re-emergence of Luke Shaw and the signing of two more central midfielders for the squad.

     

    58. Yohan Cabaye, CM, Crystal Palace

    What a coup for Crystal Palace, who signed Cabaye off the Paris Saint-Germain bench. He could well be the signing of the season and will take them one big step toward a European challenge.

     

    57. Jose Fonte, CB, Southampton

    Fonte has stood the test of time, proving himself a high-calibre player. But this season will be his biggest test, as Morgan Schneiderlin's protection has defected to the north-west.

     

    56. Seamus Coleman, RB, Everton

    Coleman dipped last year after a ridiculously efficient 2013-14. Everton fans will hope he can rediscover his previous barnstorming, goalscoring form from the right side.

     

    55. Nathaniel Clyne, RB, Liverpool

    The sum of £12.5 million for Clyne, one of the Premier League's best right-backs, is a bargain. He's a distinct upgrade on Glen Johnson.

     

    54. Jan Vertonghen, CB, Tottenham Hotspur

    Vertonghen is expected to have a significantly more consistent campaign in 2015-16 and should strike up a good partnership with compatriot Toby Alderweireld. If he's mentally right, he's great.

     

    53. James McCarthy, DM, Everton

    McCarthy has emerged as one of the Premier League's finest destroyers, snapping about with intensity and mobility. At 24 years of age, there's room to refine his technique and passing to make him an all-round threat.

     

    52. Theo Walcott, ST/Wing, Arsenal

    Walcott fancies himself as Arsenal's first-choice centre-forward but has a lot to prove. He needs to show he can be effective against the top defences, rather than simply a flat-track bully.

     

    51. Sadio Mane, Wing/AM, Southampton

    Expect a big season from Mane, who stands as Southampton's most potent offensive weapon. His three-minute hat-trick against Aston Villa late last term was a sign of things to come.

50. Loic Remy, Chelsea

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    Loic Remy won't be happy with his Community Shield performance and will have to do an awful lot better if he's to adequately replace Diego Costa when the latter is injured.

    Last season, he flashed excellence when fit but very often went missing, leaving the Blues in a bit of a fix up front. Just like Costa, Remy's durability is the biggest question mark hanging over his head.

    When he's fit and firing, he's direct and pacy and boasts that poacher's instinct in the box. Stylistically, he's not that different from either of his two forward colleagues, but he needs to stay onside and work the channels well in order to find success.

49. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea City

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    Gylfi Sigurdsson has emerged as one of the Premier League's better playmakers and seems truly at home in the Swansea City shirt.

    He seems to be able to excel in any given situation: He made for a lethal combination with Wilfried Bony before the Ivorian was sold to Manchester City in January and then continued that form in the 4-4-2 diamond, playing at the tip behind Bafetimbi Gomis to great effect.

    Long-range shots, deadly free-kicks and perfectly weighted passes are his tangible strengths, while he also works diligently off the ball for the good of the team.

48. Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

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    It's a big, big season for Harry Kane. He'll be out to prove those who suggest he's a one-season wonder wrong.

    He has all the tools to be a success over a long stretch, combining predatory instinct with good buildup play and an underrated passing range. His ability to drop in and create makes him an integral part of Tottenham Hotspur's performances even when he's not scoring.

    With 21 Premier League goals bagged last season, he's under pressure to procure a repeat feat and simultaneously establish himself as England's next great footballing hope. Good luck, Harry! 

47. Joe Hart, Manchester City

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    Joe Hart bounced back from an iffy 2013-14 by playing some excellent football in 2014-15. It perhaps went unnoticed on a wider scale, but his performances for Manchester City were game-saving at times.

    His rocky patch is firmly behind him, and Hart now exudes confidence once again. He's commanding, aerially strong and still one of the most reflexive, agile No. 1s in the game.

    Perhaps it was a maturation thing, or perhaps the signing of Willy Caballero pushed him to iron out the kinks in his game. Whatever it was, it worked, and long may it continue for both City and England's sakes.

46. Matteo Darmian, Manchester United

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    Matteo Darmian should oust Antonio Valencia for the starting right-back slot and provide an immediate and tangible upgrade to the position. People have asked whether he's good enough, but there's no doubting his calibre as a player.

    He's quietly very good; not eye-catching, but remarkably solid defensively and efficient going forward. He's got good size, recovery pace and ball skills, is a good crosser and senses the right time to overload to open up the right flank.

    Torino to Manchester United is a big step, but his experience with the Italian national side—he played against England at the 2014 World Cup!—should ease the transition.

45. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Manchester United

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    Bastian Schweinsteiger likely features a lot lower on this list than anticipated, but the truth is he's not the player he once was.

    His warrior-like performance in the 2014 World Cup final was the exception, not the rule; injuries have caught up with him, and he's declined pretty sharply as a player over the last two years. There's a reason Bayern Munich let him go: He's no longer seen as a world-class midfielder.

    In a situational role he'll do well for Manchester United; with depth in midfield he won't be strained, so we should see the best of what he's got left in England. Just don't expect him to set the league alight with dynamic, box-to-box showings every week—he's not that player anymore.

44. Olivier Giroud, Arsenal

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    If Arsene Wenger's last two competitive XIs are anything to go by, Olivier Giroud is in trouble.

    Theo Walcott started both the FA Cup final (4-0 vs. Aston Villa) and the Community Shield (1-0 vs. Chelsea), leaving the Frenchman stuck on the bench for two showpiece events.

    Giroud is a strong, tall target man capable of instigating some excellent one-touch passing in Arsenal's midfield, but a crippling lack of pace, an inability to finish one-on-one chances and his tendency to go missing against the best defences or in the biggest games will hurt the team.

    He's still an outlet for which 16 other Premier League clubs would pay good money, but with Arsenal's title aspirations, the question must be asked: Can Arsenal win the title with Giroud as their No. 9?

    The popular consensus is no.

43. Andre Ayew, Swansea City

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    Andre Ayew shocked many by signing for Swansea City off the back of a monster season with Marseille, but perhaps that simply serves as yet more evidence of the strides the south Wales club are making.

    The Ghanaian can play across the advanced midfield but usually frequents the left or central zones, so it will be interesting to see what Garry Monk's role for him will be—they already have Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jefferson Montero on the books for those positions.

    Ayew is quick, committed and creative and has developed an eye for a goal. He's seen as the better of the two Ayews (his brother, Jordan, has signed for Aston Villa) and is a consistently strong performer.

42. Mamadou Sakho, Liverpool

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    Mamadou Sakho, so often ridiculed for how awkward he looks on the ball, is our fifth-best centre-back as we approach the 2015-16 season. He may look gangly, but he very rarely commits errors and stands as Liverpool's best central defender by a distance.

    The harrowing thing is, Brendan Rodgers appears poised to start Dejan Lovren ahead of him again, relegating Sakho to a bench role a year ahead of Euro 2016. Rodgers' attempt to get Lovren going is admirable, but Sakho cost a lot too and has to be used.

    The Frenchman is stellar in the air, instigates attacks with firm passes and is the best positional defender on the Liverpool roster.

41. Gary Cahill, Chelsea

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    Gary Cahill responded very well to being dropped late last season, winning back his berth in the Chelsea side and showing Kurt Zouma he's got a lot of work to do to permanently oust him from John Terry's side.

    The Englishman is a very dependable figure, strong in the air, a threat from set pieces and a strong marker. He's struggled a little in matching strikers yard-for-yard over the last 12 months or so—if you split him and Branislav Ivanovic and hit the channel, he struggles—but due to the shortage of top-tier centre-backs in 2015, it's difficult to upgrade on Cahill unless you drop €50 million on Nicolas Otamendi.

    Cahill will certainly do for another season.

40. Dimitri Payet, West Ham

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    Dimitri Payet is a hell of a signing by West Ham and a true statement of intent. It was one of the first dominoes to fall in a summer that's proved that the Premier League's spending power offers lower-to-mid-table teams the chance to accelerate growth and take large steps in a short space of time.

    The Frenchman is coming off the back of a terrific season for Marseille in which he forced himself into consideration for his country's Euro 2016 squad. He shone under Marcelo Bielsa, searing forward with pace and trickery, splaying passes left and right and scoring goals.

    Slaven Bilic has a good track record with players of his ilk, and Premier League fans can look forward to being wowed by a highlight-reel player.

39. Wilfried Bony, Manchester City

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    Wilfried Bony will look to finally get his Manchester City career going this season, as he joined in January but barely made a splash. The Africa Cup of Nations destroyed the latter half of his campaign.

    Sergio Aguero is still the No. 9 for Manuel Pellegrini, but Bony will see minutes as the second choice in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, while he'll perhaps come in and play alongside the Argentinian against weaker sides.

    He's big and strong but surprisingly mobile and superb when building attacks, and he's capable of developing real chemistry with attacking midfielders.

38. Roberto Firmino, Liverpool

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    A fee of £22 million, rising to £29 million, creates pressure. Roberto Firmino is making the step up from unfashionable Hoffenheim to storied side Liverpool, and it will be intriguing to see how quickly he adapts.

    Over the last two years the Brazilian has split his time between the No. 9 and No. 10 roles in Germany, rounding off his game superbly. He understands runs and makes them; he picks out passes, dribbles round defenders with ease and offers a genuine goal threat.

    The Copa America 2015 has delayed his integration to the side, so we're still waiting to see how Brendan Rodgers wants to utilise him, but his quality and talent should shine through in any role.

37. Jack Wilshere, Arsenal

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    Jack Wilshere had a rough 2014-15 due to injuries, and with Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla hitting form and Francis Coquelin emerging as an anchor, it's now difficult to see how he slots into the Arsenal XI.

    Like Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere must capitalise on any chance thrown his way. He's naturally commanding, utilising great energy in his box-to-box role, and the final part of last season showed he's a real threat shooting from outside the box, too.

    He's a polarising personality, but still a damn good footballer.

36. Christian Benteke, Liverpool

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    After three successive years of hauling Aston Villa to Premier League safety, Christian Benteke has opted for pastures new, signing for Liverpool in a whopping £32.5 million deal.

    When that kind of money is spent, the spotlight shines ever harsher, and the truth is Benteke is a rough tactical/stylistic fit with the Reds. There will need to be some serious compromises between his preferred style and Liverpool's, and it's up to Brendan Rodgers to succeed here where he failed with Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert.

    He's a cracking, cracking player in isolation, strong as an ox, more aerially dominant than any other player in the league over the last three seasons and capable of netting one of every two chances with good service. If Liverpool cross a few balls, this might just work.

35. Christian Eriksen, Tottenham Hotspur

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    It's easy to forget Christian Eriksen is just 23 years of age and likely has far more room for improvement.

    The key to getting the best out of him this season is to temper his minutes. With Alex Pritchard and Dele Alli coming in to boost the midfield selection, he may get an appropriate amount of rest throughout the course of the campaign.

    When fresh, Eriksen is deadly, capable of scoring key goals to win games and arrowing in delicious free-kicks for his team-mates to gobble up. But he can't help if he's exhausted, and Mauricio Pochettino needs to understand that the Dane is not Skynet—he's a human being with lungs and a physical limit.

34. Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City

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    Pablo Zabaleta had an off season last term, suffering from a World Cup fitness hangover and failing to provide his usual barnstorming performances.

    At his peak he's still one of the finest right-backs around, and the hope is he'll rediscover his early 2014 level, but he played close to a full campaign at the Copa America in Chile this summer, so his return and catch-up will be delayed once again.

    He's a wonderful late-breaker into the box and relishes taking the outside lane to open up the flank for his winger, and his tireless work ethic and committed defending complement his surprisingly tidy technical game.

33. Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Tottenham Hotspur made one of the smartest moves of the summer by signing Toby Alderweireld. It's very, very confusing why teams such as Manchester United and Manchester City didn't acquire his services instead.

    The Belgian showed last season for Southampton that he's a Premier League-suited, top-tier central defender, capable of outmuscling strikers and bruising his way through aerial duels yet also able to play out from the back and step out from the line.

    He transferred for a relative pittance given today's prices and will strike up an excellent understanding with compatriot Jan Vertonghen.

32. Samir Nasri, Manchester City

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    Samir Nasri may have to settle for less playing time at Manchester City this season and may find his minutes in a slightly different role, too.

    The addition of Raheem Sterling will force Nasri to find an element of consistency he's never really shown in the Premier League. He is always a flashy playmaker but too often is unable to make a definitive impact on the game.

    Injuries have slowed him down over the last season, and when he's gone fans notice a Nasri-shaped hole in the Manchester City side. He can be brilliant, but it's just not a regular-enough occurrence.

31. James Milner, Liverpool

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    Liverpool paid through the nose (in wages) to secure James Milner's services this summer, but it's probably one of the safest purchases Brendan Rodgers will ever make.

    You know exactly what you're getting with Milner, who works the hardest, trains the longest and runs the most. He's come to Anfield to play in central midfield—the position he's been yearning to occupy since he left Villa Park—and looks to have struck up a good partnership with Jordan Henderson already.

    Milner scores, creates, tracks runners and presses. He's the perfect signing for Liverpool and a model pro and leader to boot.

30. Raheem Sterling, Manchester City

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    Where Raheem Sterling will line up for Manchester City remains to be seen, but what is clear is that a Sterling-Sergio Aguero-David Silva trio up front is absolutely devastating on paper.

    For Manuel Pellegrini, it should be regarded as £49 million well spent. It's an expensive deal due to the English tax on it, but City are smugly assured that they've acquired the nation's most promising young talent, already capable of starting in and improving their first XI.

    Sterling's acceleration, pace and football IQ make him a deadly prospect, and if Aguero and Co. can help him hone his finishing skills, he'll slaughter defences for fun this season.

29. Michael Carrick, Manchester United

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    With Morgan Schneiderlin purchased, Manchester United can begin to rely a lot less on the aging Michael Carrick. He's central to their playing style and instigates attacks from deep, but his durability has reached critical levels due to the amount of wear accumulated on the tyres.

    United were tactically and emotionally reliant on Carrick last season, and whenever he played, the team played well. He was the key figure in their wonderful run that saw them beat Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City in a matter of weeks but was injured shortly after, and the team's level dipped violently in correlation.

    Cool heads like his are in short supply.

28. Jordan Henderson, Liverpool

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    Jordan Henderson is in for a massive season. Having been handed the captain's armband on a full-time basis, he will be the image, representation and face of Liverpool in the post-Steven Gerrard era.

    That's not an easy task, but if anyone's got the grit and focus to carry it out, it's him. Famed for his remarkable stamina, work rate and tactical intelligence, he figures to be part of a fluid midfield and make a crucial impact from a box-to-box role.

    He developed the first semblance of a knack for grabbing goals in 2014-15, and if he can continue to hone his shooting craft and reach double figures for the campaign, he could be a major factor in the Reds' Champions League chase.

27. Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea

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    Branislav Ivanovic was the Premier League's best right-back last season, putting together a pretty consistent run of performances and impressing at both ends of the pitch.

    His vice is that he gets carried away when bombing forward, raining down on the goal with ambitious shot after ambitious shot, and if he finds the net with the one, the frequency only increases. That said, he was the only width Chelsea could offer last season and held the flank largely on his own with Willian drifting infield.

    But he's 31 years of age, so fans will be watching closely for signs of degradation in his play.

26. Ander Herrera, Manchester United

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    Ander Herrera endured a curious 2014-15. After he was locked out of the XI by Louis van Gaal for months despite Manchester United's poor performances, speculation was rife that the Spaniard had done something very wrong to get himself permanently excluded.

    But eventually he was thrown in, and the results were marvellous. A tenacious, energetic, goal-getting midfielder, he upped the side's tempo and linked the play on the right side superbly. His bond with Juan Mata on the pitch grew by the game, and he clearly enjoyed playing with Wayne Rooney, too.

    With increased competition, he may struggle for minutes once again in 2015-16, but United fans know Herrera doesn't get rusty and that should his number be called, he'll be ready to contribute at a moment's notice.

25. Morgan Schneiderlin, Manchester United

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    Morgan Schneiderlin finally got his big move, joining Manchester United as part of Louis van Gaal's new "Schmidfield" (Bastian Schweinsteiger was unveiled the same day).

    The Frenchman should take like a duck to water to the highest level, and perhaps now the masses will realise what a wonderfully talented, complete player he is. A crunching tackler at anchor midfield, he intercepts like Javi Martinez and passes like Steven Gerrard.

    Given the shortage of true controller midfielders on the market, the £25 million Man United spent to secure his services looks borderline cheap.

24. Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal

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    Laurent Koscielny is the only Arsenal defender whose job is 100 percent secure, such is his dominance over the left-centre-back spot.

    It's a well-deserved luxury, as he's been consistently excellent for the last two or three years and is far and away the best central defender on the north London club's books. He's aggressive and quick on the recovery, defends the wide areas superbly and manages one-on-ones well.

    In an ideal world, he'd start impacting on the scoresheet with the same regularity as John Terry—that's probably the next logical step for improvement.

23. Juan Mata, Manchester United

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    Despite Manchester United's seeming switch to 4-2-3-1 ahead of this season, Juan Mata still can't get a game at No. 10. It's Memphis Depay who starts there, with the Spaniard on the right.

    He took to that role eventually last season and, combining superbly with Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia, began to inflict some real damage on opponents. His brace against Liverpool at Anfield was nothing short of sublime.

    Louis van Gaal is committed to playing him, and with his latest admission of United's need for elite creativity, via Tom Dutton of the Standard, it should be Mata who provides it.

22. Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool

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    No one's doubting Daniel Sturridge's ability, but you'll struggle to find any Liverpool fans who aren't frankly fed up with how injury-prone he seems to be. His 2014-15 campaign was destroyed by ailments, and the Reds suffered badly up front without him, cycling through forward options but never truly finding the goals.

    Sturridge is still the best overall forward Liverpool have on their books, despite the acquisitions of Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, and should be guaranteed a starting role if fit. He can drop in and out of the line, run in behind and lash them in from distance.

    The only critique is that he takes too many touches sometimes, killing attacks.

21. Oscar, Chelsea

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    Oscar is a strange player, and over the last three years he's been very difficult to judge. For half the season he's incredible, but the sheer amount of games he's played always curtails his campaign and forces him into fatigue-induced retreat.

    Amazingly, this summer represents the Brazilian's first pre-season with the Blues, and he only managed it because Chelsea shut him down for once, making him unavailable for selection for the 2015 Copa America.

    Peak Oscar presses, harasses, links play and chips in with goals. He's a fine player, tactically intelligent and physically very strong. Perhaps in 2015-16 we'll see a first full term of good performances.

20. Willian, Chelsea

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    If Willian is able to carry his Copa America form into this coming Premier League season, he will emerge as a legitimate star winger in the division. Until now he's simply been Jose Mourinho's willing runner, but now he's threatening to make a decisive impact consistently in games—the watershed moment for a winger, when he transitions from very good to elite.

    Still a No. 10 at heart, he looks to cut inside off the right constantly and favours the central zones. With Branislav Ivanovic pushing forward outside him, he's able to look for the pass or shot regularly, playing to his own creative strengths.

19. Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool

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    Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool's best overall player and the key to their progression. Any new signing Brendan Rodgers makes should be with consideration as to how he fits or if he even suits the Brazilian's style of play.

    He plays his best football from the No. 10 role, surging into space and skipping around challenges, but he can play off the flank from the No. 8 position or even as a false nine.

    With Daniel Sturridge beset by injuries, this Reds side has come to rely on Coutinho more than ever, and if he can add a 10-to-15-goal Premier League season to his resume, perhaps more people will realise he's verging on the world-class tier of footballers.

18. Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

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    Filipe Luis' mildly embarrassing saunter back to Atletico Madrid after just one year in the capital is essentially one man's faultand the culprit is not Luis himself.

    Cesar Azpilicueta had a stunning 2014-15 season at left-back, keeping John Terry safe and his side balanced out despite naturally being a right-sider.

    The Spaniard likely harbours hopes of returning to the right, but he stands no chance of doing so if he keeps up these performances, tackling firmly and locking up his flank in 90 percent of games.

    He's stunted going forward—wrong-sided full-backs often struggle to contribute offensively—but with Eden Hazard up ahead, he's rarely called upon to make that sort of impact.

17. Hugo Lloris, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Tottenham Hotspur fans are counting their blessings that Hugo Lloris is still on their books; for yet another summer, it seems, they've fended off interest from Champions League clubs for his services.

    The Frenchman is in the same tier of goalkeepers as Claudio Bravo, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Diego Alves—the one just below David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois.

    A quality sweeper-keeper who consistently bailed Spurs' defence out last year, he'll be looking forward to having to come to the rescue with reflexive saves much less behind an improved, Toby Alderweireld-led line.

16. Petr Cech, Arsenal

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    It'll be interesting to see how rusty Petr Cech is, having rarely played for 12 months. He got the odd game here and there as Thibaut Courtois' deputy at Chelsea in 2014-15, but the opening salvo of Arsenal's games will be the true test.

    Ever the consummate professional, any lingering fears will likely be allayed quickly. The Czech international possesses marvellous goal-line instincts and reflexes and is capable of making consistently excellent saves at key moments.

    There's a tactical concern, though, over how he'll fare behind Arsenal's high line, since he's not good at timing his sweeping.

15. John Terry, Chelsea

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    The best centre-back in the Premier League, still, after all these years, is John Terry. The 34-year-old is fresh off the back of a monster season and has hardly had a bad game in the last two years spent under Jose Mourinho.

    He's lacking in pace but makes up for it with tactical intelligence and seasoned instincts: He knows where to be, when to be there and what to expect at every moment.

    Terry's knack of netting from set pieces came in handy for the Blues once again last season, with the captain grabbing several key goals. Silverware only seems to increase his hunger for the game, so expect him to continue at a high level despite turning 35 in December.

14. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

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    Wayne Rooney is set for just his third season in seven as Manchester United's dedicated No. 9. Despite his reputation as a world-class striker, the Red Devils have used him in all sorts of different positions, most recently as a central midfielder.

    He'll be charged with leading the line and firing United to victory week in and week out with both Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao gone, and he'll need to call upon all of his bullish, predatory instincts in order to be a success.

    In both seasons played as a centre-forward, he's breached the 20-goal mark. Would you bet against him to fail this time around?

13. Santi Cazorla, Arsenal

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    Santi Cazorla has penned a new deal at the Emirates Stadium, and it's a richly deserved reward for his outstanding 2015 so far. The level he's playing at right now borders on breathtaking at times.

    Once strictly used in an advanced midfield three, Cazorla has dropped deeper in the formation as the seasons have ticked by. He now operates from the slot right next to anchor man Francis Coquelin.

    His ability to control games stands out here, and he's started fizzing cutting passes from every angle, ceaselessly creating clear-cut chances for his team-mates. He can pick out Theo Walcott's runs just as easily as he can drop it on a sixpence for Olivier Giroud's head.

    He's playing in the form of his life, threatening to lock Jack Wilshere out of the Arsenal XI for good.

12. Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal

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    After he truly broke out in 2013-14, last term didn't really go to plan for Aaron Ramsey. Injuries hurt him again and he lost his rhythm, but his other midfield colleagues found peak form when he was in a trough, contributing to a severely lessened impact from the Welshman.

    That doesn't hide the plain fact that he is one of the finest box-to-box midfielders in world football, let alone the Premier League. His technical ability and jaw-dropping passes are one thing, but his athleticism and mental attributes take him to another level.

    Arsene Wenger might struggle to play him in his true No. 8 role this season due to the emergence of Francis Coquelin and the form of Santi Cazorla, but he will find a way to sneak him in, even ahead of Jack Wilshere.

11. Yaya Toure, Manchester City

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    It's a big season for Yaya Toure.

    It's rare that players of his calibre and standing undergo "prove it" campaigns, but his up-and-down 2014-15, mixed with birthday cake shenanigans and contract disagreements, mean that he has something to prove to Manchester City here.

    At his best he's nothing short of beast-like, barrelling forward, outmuscling midfielders and shooting on goal with precision accuracy. He's scored 30 Premier League goals over the last two seasons combined—a record with which even Frank Lampard would be pretty pleased.

    A strong, committed mentality that lasts the entire season—in addition to physical well-being, sans Africa Cup of Nations exertions—could be a trump card in the title race.

10. Nemanja Matic, Chelsea

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    Nemanja Matic retains the title of best holding midfielder in the Premier League, but the contenders are creeping up on him quietly.

    The Serbian dazzled in the first half of last season, combining superb defensive technique and commitment with graceful physicality and winding, weaving meanders forward. In the second half of the season he stopped roaming forward to conserve energy—the Blues were a little light numerically in holding midfield—but remained a defensive doorstop.

    He's the complete package from his position: tall, surprisingly agile, determined and positionally sound.

9. Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea

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    Thibaut Courtois successfully ousted Petr Cech in goal for Chelsea last season, then kept him on the bench. His performances were akin to those we'd been seeing on loan at Atletico Madrid: With his lanky, long frame, he dominated aerially and excelled in shot-stopping.

    He's a brave young man and occasionally takes the odd risk—not always for the betterment of his side—but is very, very close to the complete package despite being just 23 years of age.

    Should David De Gea leave for Real Madrid, Courtois will be promoted to the title of best goalkeeper in the Premier League. He's already rivalling Joe Hart for "best penalty"!

8. David De Gea, Manchester United

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    For now, David De Gea is a Premier League player and a Manchester United employee. The Real Madrid move feels inevitable, but Louis van Gaal may just be able to fight it for one more year.

    He ranks as the finest goalkeeper in the division based off the back of two stunning seasons—particularly 2014-15. His reflexes are truly outstanding, he's massive in one-on-one situations and he has improved immeasurably in the air.

    He just pips Thibaut Courtois to his title, though picking between them is very difficult.

7. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal

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    Mesut Ozil has completed his first pre-season with Arsenal despite joining just under two years ago. The freshness and familiarity a summer's training brings is expected to be the catalyst behind a monster season for the German.

    After a three-month injury sustained early in 2014-15, Ozil exploded into life and finally showed us his best football in the Premier League. Slicing opposing defences into pieces, his wicked passing range and remarkable creative brain sprung into action, taking the Gunners to the next level in their performances.

    If he can string together a full season in post-Christmas form, Arsenal will be a machine. It's lost on some who've laughed at the German's rough showings in the past, but he's one of the best players in the world.

6. Diego Costa, Chelsea

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    Diego Costa has but one nemesis: his own shoddy hamstring. He's already injured it, according to Jack De Menezes of the Independent, and he missed the Community Shield matchup against Arsenal as a result.

    It calls into question Jose Mourinho's decision to trust Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao as his deputies. Are either of them physically reliable enough to consistently step in for the Spaniard, who constantly plays on the verge of a tear?

    When fit, Costa is simply awesome. Quick, muscular and direct, he drives at the channels, latches onto through balls and presses with gusto. Add the true poacher's instinct to that, and you've got yourself a complete striker—the type Mourinho simply adores.

5. David Silva, Manchester City

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    Talk of Raheem Sterling's arrival at Manchester City, Sergio Aguero's consistent excellence and considerations as to how Wilfried Bony fits in have left one superstar disingenuously sidelined from the chatter: David Silva.

    The Spaniard, who will turn 30 this season (that crept up!), continues to represent a slippery eel between the lines, sliding between challenges and torturing defenders with no-look reverse passes. His game's never been about anything other than technical brilliance and craft, making him just as much—if not more—of a threat than he was at 25.

    Sterling and Aguero will provide the pace and finishing for the Citizens, but Silva still pulls all the strings.

4. Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea

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    From August to December of last season, it's arguable that Cesc Fabregas was the best player in the Premier League—even better than colleague Eden Hazard.

    It started on the campaign's first iteration of Monday night football, away to Burnley, where Andre Schurrle capped off a beautiful goal created by Cesc's pinpoint, stunning pass through traffic in the box. And it carried on from there, as team after team fell apart due to his magnificent creativity and slick deliveries.

    His 18 Premier League assists could have been 30 had he not tailed off dramatically, and the question ahead of this campaign is: Can Cesc avoid the post-Christmas collapse? He has a history of slowing right down once the festivities are finished, and it could seriously hurt Chelsea, given the more competitive nature of the league this coming year.

3. Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

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    A contender for the signing of the season in 2014-15, Alexis Sanchez ran through the red and beyond for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger last year and drove them to their second trophy in two years.

    An electric, world-class wide forward, the Chilean destroyed teams by dipping in off the flank and shooting from distance. His remarkable strike in the FA Cup final against Aston Villa, killing off any lingering hopes of a comeback for Tim Sherwood's men, summed up his deadly, efficient season in front of goal.

    He top-scored in the Premier League for Arsenal with 16 goals and bagged an additional eight assists, taking some teams apart at the seams nearly single-handedly. The fear will be whether he's burnt himself out: His exertions during the Copa America, emerging victorious with Chile on home soil, have ensured he will start the 2015-16 campaign late after a delayed offseason rest.

2. Eden Hazard, Chelsea

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    Eden Hazard finished as our No. 1 player over the course of the 2014-15 season, and in truth, no one else came close to reaching his level. He was far and away the best player in the division last year.

    But he's pipped to the post by one other extraordinary performer as we enter 2015-16, meaning the Belgian must settle for second place despite being poised to continue to improve—as Jose Mourinho suggests he can, via Steve Brenner of the Guardian.

    His weaving dribbling skills are rivalled by few, and he's impossible to dispossess in and around the penalty area. When Cesc Fabregas experienced a dip last season, Hazard fronted the entire creative responsibility, ducking, moving, threading passes and scoring key goals.

    If he gets any better, he'll be knocking on the door Neymar, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo sit behind.

1. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

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    Sergio Aguero finished the 2014-15 season as the Premier League's top overall scorer, netting 26 goals from 30 starts and adding a further eight assists. That's a stunning return, outlining what a stunning player he really is.

    As ever, as we look to 2015-16, it's about whether Aguero can stay fit. He deals with niggles, knocks and strains every week, and if he can avoid the physio's quarters for the first time in three years, City have every chance of winning the title.

    In Aguero, Manuel Pellegrini has the cleverest forward in the league, capable of creating space, squeezing shots into tight corners and linking play. A fantastic all-round player.