EPL: 15 Attacking Players Who Could Set League on Fire Next Season
God, I miss football.
There is no World Cup, No Euros and no Olympics this summer. Even the Rugby World Cup is in October.
All this means that I am very very bored and cannot wait for the new league season to get underway.
And with that in mind, lets look at some of the dazzling prospects for the upcoming year that could set the Premier League on fire.
This list does not have a player from every team, because quite simply there are more than 15 teams. Some teams are better than others and have multiple class players. Therefore, some teams are repeated. This is merely a list of 15 players in the league likely to have big seasons.
It is also not the 15 best players in the league—just the best attackers. For that reason, players like Essien, Luiz, Vidic, Lucas et al have not been considered.
Finally, while some of these players have been the subject of transfer rumors, all conventional wisdom would indicate they will remain in the league even if transferred. Players like Alexis Sanchez, Falcao and Mata et al have not been considered because there is no guarantee they will be in the league next season.
Finally, this is all opinion. Feel free to agree, disagree or demonstrate some glaring ignorance in the comment section below. Enjoy folks!
Last season was a tumultuous one for Rooney. Contractual disputes and allegations concerning his private life, as well as injury, overshadowed his football and visibly affected his confidence.
He did however improve toward the end of the year and began to flash some of the old magic that made him the most talked about youth prospect in English football since as long as I can remember.
And what is more encouraging is that toward the end of the season, he seemed to have forged a fine understanding with Javier Hernandez that allowed us to not only see the goal-scoring side of Rooney's game but also the innate creativity that makes him so very special.
With a summer out of the limelight to re-energize and refocus, we are likely to see an altogether more positive, confident and dangerous Rooney who can erase some of the negativity that hounded him last year and remind us all why he is one of the best in the world.
Blackpool were, when they arrived in the Premier League, derided as one of the worst teams to ever come up and a sure thing to be relegated.
What followed was one of the most amazing and uplifting, though ultimately tragic, Premier League stories. Blackpool went down on the last day. But they fought to the bitter end and very nearly survived. And that is largely due to the efforts of Charlie Adam.
Adam was a man on fire last year, scoring 12 goals for Blackpool from midfield and basically carrying them to draws and wins that, without him, they could not have dreamed of achieving. He was truly outstanding and was one of the success stories of the season.
Now, I am a Liverpool fan and I do not want the Reds to sell Raul Meireles and buy Adam. I think Meireles is a better player. However that does not mean I do not rate Charlie. I think he is a fine young footballer who will be an excellent addition to some Premier League squad this summer and has the potential in the right system to have another stellar campaign.
Next Halloween I intend to go to Maicon's house dressed as Gareth Bale.
The Wales and Spurs phenom is a fabulous player. On his way to winning PFA Player of the Year last year, Bale scored seven goals and was a constant thorn in the side of opposing defences, Although I do not agree with him winning the award—he basically only played half a season through injury and if a half season's performance is enough to win it, then RVP was clearly the most deserving—he is still a great young talent.
Many commentators feel he was given the award on the back of his exploits against Inter Milan in the Champions League and the almost-cruel roasting he gave to the aforementioned Maicon. It was a thing of pure beauty to watch the world's best fullback get so comprehensively torn asunder by the flying Welshman who finally seems to have figured a way to combine his raw speed with a devastating final product.
If he can stay fit next year, I expect Bale to have a huge season. And I'll bet Maicon is thanking his lucky stars that Spurs missed out on Champions League qualification.
Some Manchester City fans have told me that at Eastlands, during a lull in crowd activity, it is possible to hear the wind whistling through the gap in Tevez's front teeth. It whispers "Goals...goals..."
OK, so that was a lie. But you get the point.
Carlos Tevez is a petulant, immature, spoiled and conceited individual who cares far more about himself than about the welfare of his team. Now I'm not saying that missing his family is an invalid issue, but when he has a problem, instead of having private discussions with the manager he goes to the press. He slams in transfer requests. It is hard to know why City put up with him.
Oh yeah...because he is a goal machine. He scored 23 goals in 39 games last year. He is a pure unadulterated assassin. He scores more than Leonardo DiCaprio in an Amsterdam brothel with a Mastercard in his zipper.
He appears set on staying in Manchester at least one more year. Expect drama. Expect tantrums. But, above all else, expect lots and lots of goals.
Apparently wanted by Chelsea and Arsenal, Taraabt currently resides as the captain of QPR having had a glorious season in the Championship.
His 15 goals from midfield for QPR last year were accompanied by excellent passing, vision and fantastic dribbling.
He is still young and his best season was in a league of a far lesser standard than the Premier League. Also he has shown a capacity to be as infuriating as he is mesmerizing at times.
But with the added competitive zeal of the Premier League, the hopes of impressing one of the big sides into signing him and an extra year of maturity, Taraabt could well be the Charlie Adam of the forthcoming season and provide some golden moments.
He has all the ingredients to become a Premier League fan favorite for years to come.
Robin Van Persie
In only half a season last year he was, to my mind, the clear outstanding player in the league.
Twenty goals and seven assists in 30 domestic appearances from the turn of the year, along with two in three European matches speaks for itself. Many great strikers have been proud of statistics like those for full seasons. For RVP to do it in half a season is remarkable.
He is a fabulously gifted player, full of class and skill and guile. The only issue ever raised with him was—much like Arsenal's previous Dutch genius Dennis Bergkamp—could he be a clinical and regular goal scorer.
He answered that conclusively last year with his stunning form and lethal finishing. If he can carry it through to next season and remain fit, Arsenal will have once more the thing they have been missing since a certain Frenchman said au revoir—a truly lethal striker.
This may be somewhat of a surprise inclusion on the list, but Arteta is one of the most technically gifted players in the league.
The Everton midfield man is by far the most talented man in that squad. Even in the midst of what he referred to as a "pig of a season" last year, it was patently obvious that he was a cut above the rest of the Everton players in terms of class.
Everton rely a lot upon Arteta as their driving force. He initiates their attacks, keeps the ball moving, occupies defenders with his runs to the edge of the box and provides an invaluable source of goals.
While last year was a down year, it was tainted by injury at the start of the year and a general lack of fitness or form as he was rushed almost immediately back into a team that basically is nowhere near as good without him. With a summer off to recuperate fully, he should be fighting fit and back to his excellent best next year.
As a Liverpool fan I have no problem saying that Fernando Torres is a truly awesome footballer.
He left our club having been promised the world and given nothing. He had had enough and needed out. He wasn't prepared to wait on Dalglish and another revolution because he had seen to many false dawns and was not going to allow his talent be wasted at a club going nowhere. It would be impossible to hold it against him.
While Dalglish and John Henry look like they may be the real deal, Torres could not have known that at the time and, as a footballer with a short window for success, he had no choice but to jump ship. He left behind a fabulous goal-scoring record and should, in my view, be remembered fondly by Liverpool fans for what he did at the club. I have nothing but happy memories of El Nino.
He is a terrific football player—a real diamond. He is strong, quick, agile and daring. He can pick a pass, play off the shoulder and compete in the air. He has a deadly eye for goal and, when in form, he is the most dangerous finisher on the planet.
He will show all that and more this season. With a summer to get fit, shake off any confidence issues and get himself settled, Torres will return to Stamford Bridge not as a new man but as the old one we all knew and loved. And there he will meet Andre Villas-Boas, an attacking guru who will give him the freedom of the pitch and create a system that best fits his strengths and allows him to get chances at goal.
I'm heading down to the bookies tomorrow to put a tenner on Torres to be the top scorer in Europe next year. Premier League defenders be warned, El Nino is coming back in a big way.
Arsenal's newest baby genius is a player with a bright and shining future.
The 19-year-old Englishman has the range of passing, vision, dynamism and combative nature to be a superstar in this league. He also seems to have that ice in his veins that allows him to take it all in his stride and not get overawed by the position he is in. While he may not be the most obvious out-and-out attacker on this list, he qualifies because Arsenal's entire attacking prowess hinges on his distribution in midfield and his link-up play with the more illustrious Cesc Fabregas.
He had a tremendous season last year alongside the Spaniard. If Cesc remains at Arsenal this year—and anyone who loves Premier League football must hope that he does—he and Wilshere will again form the most creatively devastating central partnership in the league. If Cesc leaves, Wilshere seems to be just the type of guy to step up and pick up the slack.
Either way, I'm expecting this budding superstars meteoric rise to continue next season.
Partner in crime to the aforementioned Wayne Rooney, Chicarito is a young man with a lot of potential.
His performances last season in relegating to the bench Dimitar Berbatov—the man who ended up the top scorer in the league—should tell you all you need to know.
This kid has pace to burn and excellent movement. Also, he is deceptively strong for his size and is very accomplished in the air. He is not the most technically gifted of players but he is an arch-finisher and his understanding with Rooney even in a short period playing together was bordering on telepathic.
He scored 20 goals in 45 games last season as a young rookie in a new league playing with entirely new players at one of the biggest clubs in the world. Not bad going. Next year he will be better again. He and Rooney have the makings of another legendary United partnership.
After making a slow start to his Chelsea career, Florent Malouda gradually worked his way into Chelsea fans hearts and is now one of the biggest favorites at the club.
He is an outstanding blend of pace, technical ability, vision and creativity. He is one of the best wingers in the league, and he is also one of the most dangerous goal scorers from the wide position. Last season he was Chelsea's top scorer in the league with 13 goals from out wide—no mean feat for a man playing alongside Didier Drogba, Nic Anelka and Fernando Torres.
His progress and adaptation to this league has been first class and, while he is consistently overlooked by pundits, he deserves to be considered as one of the league's most effective attackers.
With the addition of Andre Villas-Boas and the attacking style he will bring, I would expect Malouda to be key to Chelsea's plans next year as the main supply line to Fernando Torres & co. And I would expect Malouda to respond to this with another stellar season.
The Uruguayan striker was a breath of fresh air for the Premier League in the second half of last season.
He looked at times to be utterly undefendable. His speed, touch, dribbling ability and off-the-ball movement was something to behold.
He scored four goals in 13 appearances last year, but looked like he would have had a bag full of goals in him given a full season of regular football. Also, I do not think it is any coincidence that Liverpool started scoring goals when he arrived. His assists and movement and ability to create space opened up innumerable chances for his teammates. His performance against Manchester United was the first time I have ever seen another player besides Dirk Kuyt score a hat trick and not win man of the match. Such was the impact of Suarez.
I, as a Liverpool fan, can hardly wait for next year. If Suarez continues as he has started, Liverpool will be one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
Ashley Young has bid farewell to the Villa jersey seen in the picture, trading it for the red and black of Manchester United.
And it's easy to see why the young master was so hotly pursued by the Red Devils. He is a lightning fast player who has the feet to beat opponents, the vision to pick out a cross, the ability to deliver it and the much-sought-after capacity to get himself into the box and grab a goal.
He is a very fine player and he will lead the charge of regeneration at Manchester United as they wave goodbye to old-guard players like Paul Scholes and eventually Ryan Giggs and try to overhaul their lineup to give them more of a chance to compete with the European elite.
The loss to Barcelona in the Champions League final must have stung United fans as it was such an utter and complete hammering. Alex Ferguson will have been hurt by this even more. He is obviously intent upon setting his team up for a run at Barca, and signing players like Young is exactly the sort of move to help achieve his goal.
With other top-class players around him, I expect Young to flourish this year and emerge as a leading star in the league.
The delightful little Spaniard is really a joy to watch.
He has such grace on the ball, along with guile, incision, passing range and an uncanny ability to know where all of his teammates are at any given time.
He had a brilliant year last year, scoring four goals and contributing 15 assists to a Manchester City team that many complained was too focused on playing defensively. It is true that Mancini's strategies were typically Italian last season but, given the range and quality of attackers City now has at its disposal, it would be hard for me to believe that they will be similar next year.
Through sheer need, fan and ownership pressure and the natural inclination of many of his players, I would expect Mancini to have City playing a distinctly more expansive brand of football next year.
And it is my opinion that, if given this freedom, Silva will become one of the natural wonders of the Premier League.
Stevie G is the best player in the league, in the humble opinion of this extremely biased Liverpool fan.
I'm not even going to go into why. If you don't know, then you must have been living in a cave. On Mars. With your eyes shut. And your fingers in your ears.
He was plagued by injury last year but steps have been made and, based upon prevalent rumors, will continue to be made to make his job a lot easier next season. The addition of Henderson, the potential additions of Downing and Adam, the potential return of Aquilani as well as the (hopefully) continued presence of Meireles, Lucas and Spearing will mean that Gerrard can be given rests and breaks and will not be so heavly depended upon at all times.
And with these new conservation strategies in place, I hope and expect that Steven Gerrard will bounce back with a huge season for the Reds. His days are numbered, but I believe there is still gas in the tank for one or two more years of Captain Fantastic.