Premier League Preview: The Top 10 Players to Watch in 2011/2012
The 2011/2012 English Premier League season commences on August 13th, and this campaign is set to be even more exciting, intense and controversial then the previous.
With clubs progressing internal through the increased influence of overseas investments alongside new tactics and managers, the upcoming season is set to be one of the best yet.
There have been some new arrivals into the Premier League this Summer whilst youngsters are developing rapidly, and with the league tighter than ever in terms of quality and consistency, no fan can predict the outcome of 2011/2012.
Champions Manchester United will be eager to retain their crown and have exercised their dominance by acquiring some big names, including England international Ashley Young. Chelsea are preparing for a new era under newly appointed manager Andres Villas-Boas, who has arrived from UEFA Cup champions FC Porto to replace Carlo Ancelotti. Manchester City boast even more funds but are preparing for life without heroic leader Carlos Tevez.
Arsenal have been quiet all summer in terms of transfers but could commence the season without star play makers Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, who are both under a speculation cloud. Liverpool have arguably been the team of the summer Transfer Window, purchasing the likes of Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing to bolster their squad and pose as real title contenders.
Tottenham, Everton and Bolton will all be eager to influence the top four whilst Aston Villa prepare for a new direction as Alex McLiesh takes charge of the Villains. Wigan Athletic will be eager to gradually make their way up the EPL table whilst Wolverhampton will also be keen to enforce their tough presence.
It is set to be a scintillating, breathtaking campaign but just who will prevail?
Managers can only do so much but it is up to the players to deliver. With the Premier League boasting so many quality, high calibre presences, one simply cannot decide who will be a player to watch in 2011/2012.
Fortunately, Bleacher Report attempts to make it easier for World Football fans by establishing 10 players who appear as if the upcoming campaign will be their best yet.
Take a look.
10. Barry Bannan-Aston Villa
Aston Villa have endured a whirlwind summer. The Midlands clubs appointed Alex McLiesh as the new manager before star dynamo Ashley Young was sold to Manchester United for £25 million, which was followed by the departure of 2010/2011 Player of the Year and England international Stewart Downing, who joined Liverpool for £18 million.
The squad boast an impressive amount of young talent, and with the respective departures of the English duo, a superb opportunity arises for the young guns. One player who is certainly set to play a big role in Villa's 2011/2012 campaign is Scottish play maker Bary Bannan.
A diminutive yet quick and composed midfielder, the 21-year-old was compared by former manager Gerard Houllier to Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta due to his exciting array of talent. Bannan has been somewhat of a fringe player in recent seasons, acquiring experience gradually.
In recent seasons the Scotland international has excelled on loan spells in the Championship with Derby County and Blackpool, respectively, and last season amassed 19 appearances and one goal for the Villains before impressing with 10 appearances on loan with Leeds United.
Capable of fulfilling either wing or central midfield roles and possessing skillful feet and impressive movement, the youngster is a talented prospect and certainly a player to watch in 2010/2011.
9. Chris Smalling-Manchester United
The Englishman had been barely showcased by Fulham when Manchester United secured the defender for an undisclosed fee in January 2010. However, the 21-year-old enjoyed a strong first season for Sir Alex Ferguson, acquiring a Premier League medal and amassing 33 appearances and one goal.
A tough, imposing centre half who possesses impressive speed and composure, Smalling formed a strong partnership with United captain Nemanja Vidic during his debut campaign and grew with each appearance.
Entering his second full season in the Premier League, the Englishman is fresh from a sterling campaign with the England U-21 in the 2011 U-21 European Championships, where Smalling was named in the Team of the Tournament.
With United eager to maintain their crown in 2011/2012, Smalling's experience and contribution will be vital, and should the ageing Rio Ferdinand struggle, then it is certain Chris Smalling will be immediately utilized.
One to watch in 2011/2012.
8. Daniel Sturridge-Chelsea
The English striker still possesses somewhat of an uncertain future, but regardless of where Daniel Sturridge commences the 2011/2012 English Premier League season, the young forward will be one to watch.
The 21-year-old has long been touted an emphatic prospect but since joining Chelsea in 2009, the former Manchester City ace had struggled to achieve sufficient opportunities. Occasionally brilliant and possessing lethal speed and a vicious shot, Chelsea loaned Sturridge to Bolton in January last season.
It proved to be a sensational spell for the England U-21 star, who thrived at the Reebok, amassing eight goals in twelve appearances for Owen Coyle's squad and conveying impressive ability. Sturridge now boasts adequate experience, and with an ageing Chelsea forward line, there is a ripe opportunity for the Englishman to become the focal point in the Blues attack.
Many believe the Englishman has the potential to become the best striker in the English Premier League rendering Daniel Sturridge one to watch in 2010/2011.
7. Stuart Holden-Bolton
The American was one of the form players in 2010/2011 and a thriving part of the Bolton midfielder, as they enjoyed a strong start in the opening half of the campaign. However, the 25-year-old had his debut full campaign terminated prematurely due to a season ending knee injury in March but still managed to acquire the Bolton Player of the Year award.
The USA international has returned strongly, and with Bolton developing strongly under Owen Coyle and the former Houston Dynamo midfielder possessing experience and desire to retrieve his impact, Holden will be one to watch in 2010/2011.
Smart, electric paced and a natural play maker, Holden will be keen to add to his 30 appearances and two goals for Bolton.
6. Philippe Senderos-Fulham
The Swiss defender has endured injury traumatic seasons recently but has finally regained full fitness and is eager to reinstate his presence on English football.
Senderos was restricted to a mere three appearances in his first season for Fulham due to a persistent Achilles injury, but the former Arsenal centre half has enjoyed a strong preseason, conveying an abundance of promise.
An imposing and quick defender, the 26-year-old has showcased his ability having amassed over 60 appearances for Arsenal in the Premier League, where the Switzerland international drew comparison to legendary England defender Tony Adams.
With newly appointed Fulham managed Martin Jol impressed with Senderos's work rate and leadership, the 6'3'' giant is certainly hard to miss and will be a player to watch in 2011/2012.
5. Simon Mignolet-Sunderland
The 22-year-old shot stopper was highly impressive last season as injuries and lapses in form to Craig Gordon ensured the Belgian received a handful of opportunities to impress. Mignolet managed 23 league appearances for the Black Cats and kept nine clean sheets as Sunderland registered a top ten finish.
A composed and reliable keeper, the Belgium international will begin the 2011/2012 season as favourite for Sunderland first choice keeper role, and with Premier League and international experience behind him alongside an array of promise, Simon Mignolet is one to watch this season.
The Ivorian striker has become Arsene Wenger's first summer signing, arriving from French giants OSC Lille for £10.5 million. A quick and clinical striker, many expected the 24-year-old to join the Gunners' due to his natural incisive ability.
Gervinho enjoyed a stellar season as Lille achieved their first Ligue 1 title in 57 years alongside the Coupe de France. The Ivory Coast star managed 53 appearances, eighteen goals and ten assists and was named in the French Ligue 1 Team of the Year.
Arsenal are aiming to eradicate their notorious six season trophy drought, and with the Gunners' needing a versatile and clinical striker, Gervinho can provide just what the North London giants require. The forward has already made a strong impact, notching two goals in his first appearance for Arsenal, when Wenger's men took on German outfit FC Cologne in a preseason friendly.
Gervais Yao Kouassi is definitely one to watch in 2011/2012.
3. Luis Suarez-Liverpool
The striker who recorded an amazing 49 goals in 48 appearances for Dutch giants Ajax in 2008/2009, received a necessary taste of English football from February onwards after signing for Liverpool in a deal worth £22.8 million. Suarez managed 13 appearances and four goals, but most importantly, experienced the pace and physicality of the Premier League.
The 24-year-old was not over awed by the intensity and now with a full pre-season and experience under his belt, the Uruguayan is destined to thrive in 2011/2012. Strong, quick and efficient, Suarez is a natural leader who performed credibly with Liverpool's style of play.
With the Reds improving their roster and boasting a formidable midfield, the forward will receive strong service from the centre, and with his ability and vicious strike, can easily conclude the season at the Premier League top scorer.
Luis Suarez is one to watch in 2011/2012.
2. Demba Ba-Newcastle United
The Senegal international was finally brought to the Premier League after four seasons of thriving in the German Bundesliga in January, when West Ham secured the striker's services. The Hammers' were eventually relegated, but there was no denying the impressive efforts of Demba Ba.
The 26-year-old managed 12 appearances and seven goals and immediately enforced a bright spark in an otherwise dark West Ham attack. Fast, strong and a tireless worker, the former FC Rouen striker's efforts caught the attention of every club in the Premier League.
Newcastle United have secured Ba's signature for three seasons now, and the Senegalese sharp shooter is the ideal replacement for Andy Carroll, who departed to Liverpool for £30 million in January.
The Magpies will certainly be one of the teams to watch in 2011/2012, as they aim to build on a strong return to the Premier League. Furthermore, Demba Ba will certainly be a player to watch, too.
1. Aaron Ramsey-Arsenal
Feb. 27, 2010. The horrific day when Arsenal beat Stoke City 3-1.
Despite this victory, the Gunners' lost young midfielder Aaron Ramsey after a precarious, mistimed challenge from Ryan Shawcross resulted in the Welsman suffering a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg.
2009/2010 had been a breakthrough season for Ramsey, who was fast becoming one of the Premier League's best midfielders.
The injury, however, stole eight months from the Wales international whose rapid development was immediately halted. Last season, Ramsey was forced to experience short loan spells with Championship sides Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City before returning to the Arsenal first team.
A shinning light in Arsenal's second half season demise was the return of the 20-year-old, who concluded the season with eight appearances and a memorable goal against Manchester United that secured the match.
Fully fit and enjoying a strong preseason and diminishing the lingering tentative approach that naturally arises from a serious injury, Ramsey is destined to have an emphatic season, particularly with Fabregas' certain departure.
Signed in 2008 from Cardiff City for £4.8 million as a promising 18-year-old, the midfielder has recorded 34 Premier League appearances and is touted as the best replacement as Cesc Fabregas.
Blessed with scintillating composure and a sublime passing range, Aaron Ramsey will have a big say in Arsenal success, particularly with his experience as the Wales national team captain.