20 Under-the-Radar EPL Players Who Will Make a Difference for Their Side

Stew FlatsCorrespondent IAugust 6, 2010

20 Under-the-Radar EPL Players Who Will Make a Difference for Their Side

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    We all know who the stars are.  Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba and Steven Gerrard are all guaranteed to make an impact on games throughout the season.

    While game winners are important, over a 38-game season, players who are previously unknown can rise to the fore and make a dramatic impact on the season of a team.

    Whether it be someone like Bobby Zamora exceeding expectations all season as he did last term, or someone like Macheda making a short but dramatic impact on the title race as he did from the bench in 2009.  Under the radar players will always rise to the fore.

    Here we predict who will impact the coming season, while none of these guys will likely make your fantasy team today, they will have a very real impact on their teams' fortunes this season.

Marouane Chamakh - Arsenal

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    At a club with as high a profile as Arsenal, few players can be genuinely called 'under the radar'.  However, we all know who the stars are. 

    Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin and Robin Van Persie will be key factors if Arsenal are to produce a title challenge.

    In Moroccan forward Marouane Chamakh, Arsenal may just have their biggest weapon.  The studious Wenger has brought in a player that will seamlessly fit into his team. 

    "I am not what you would call a very selfish striker," said Chamakh.

    The technical ability of Chamakh has already earned him the respect of his new teammates. 

    "I will trust him with the ball because he can keep it quite easily, and it will give us a chance to come and support him," said full back Bacary Sagna.

    Sagna's words also speak to what could the biggest benefit of Chamakh.  The 6 foot 2 inch hit man brings with him a physical presence that is uncommon at Arsenal. 

    The ability of a strong forward to hold the ball up and challenge on the air has long separated Arsenal from the true elite.

    Come May, Chamakh could be described as one of Wenger's biggest signings in his time at Arsenal.

    PREDICTION: Chamakh to gain a starting spot and add a presence up front that will cause problems for opposition, and allow Van Persie to run riot.

Marc Albrighton - Aston Villa

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    Much is being made of the likely departure of attacking midfield player James Milner.  Aston VIlla may be better equipped to sustain the loss than people realise. 

    Wingers Stewart Downing and Ashley Young remain, and behind them is tricky and exciting winger Albrighton.

    The midfielder, who was recently called up to the England Under-21 squad, made his Villa debut in the Europa League last season.  In a case of being thrown in at the deep end, Albrighton started and played well at CSKA Moscow.

    Downing tips Albrighton to make an impression soon, as the youngster is currently enjoying an impressive preseason. 

    "He's obviously got the ability.  He's scored some good goals.  The manager will play him.  I know he likes him so myself, and Ashley had better stay sharp."

    PREDICTION:  Will depend on the Milner transfer.  If Milner moves on, expect Albrighton to step up and become an impressive every-game starter.

    If Milner stays, expect Albrighton to start 10 to 15 games, and make a few game altering cameos from the bench.

Ben Foster - Birmingham City

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    Joe Hart is one of English goalkeeping's hottest properties after an excellent loan spell with Birmingham City.  It is easy to forget he is not the only young English goalkeeper to go down that route.

    Manchester United's shot stopper, Foster, was sent out on loan to Watford in 2005.  In a careful attempt to not put pressure on the young keeper, then-Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd states, "he is a better goalkeeper than Edwin Van Der Sar.  He is going to be the best goalkeeper in the world."

    Foster has a successful season with Watford, helping them to the Premier League and starting in their 3-0 Playoff Final victory over Leeds United at Wembley.

    After promotion, Watford re-signed and he went to have another excellent season despite relegation for the Hornets.

    Foster won the club's Player of the Season award and returned to Manchester United with what seemed to be a bright future.

    The high point of Foster's Manchester United career came in the 2009 League Cup final, where he put on an excellent display and starred in a 4-1 penalty shootout victory.

    Foster famously prepared for the shootout by watching footage of the Tottenham players taking penalties on his iPod.

    In what could be a warning to Joe Hart, Foster has spent most of his days recently on a Manchester bench, and is looking at this current loan move as a chance to revive his career.

    If Foster was to star at Birmingham while Shay Given held his starting job at Eastlands, could Foster emerge once more into the England squad?

    PREDICTION:  Foster to star for City, and reemerge in the England goalkeeper discussion.

Phil Jones - Blackburn Rovers

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    This 18-year-old central defender may have played only nine Premier League games, but he has already made quite an impression.

    On his Premiership debut, Jones was entrusted by Sam Allardyce to mark none other than Didier Drogba. 

    Drogba netted after only five minutes and fans sat back and got ready to watch Chelsea expose the youngster in a cricket score.

    What happened was quite the opposite.  Jones marked Drogba out of the game for the next 85 minutes, and the excellent Zonal Marking website explained that Jones won 12 of the 14 challenges he went in for during the game.

    Jones scored his first senior goal in pre season against AEK Athens, and has been called up to the England Under-21 squad. 

    Premier League stars like Damien Duff, David Dunn and James Beattie have already graduated from the Blackburn Academy, Jones may be the next one.

    PREDICTION:  Jones to establish himself as a starter in a defensively strong Blackburn team.  WIll soon be mentioned as the man in line to replace Terry and Ferdinand when they retire.

Ian Evatt - Blackpool

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    Ian Holloway has stated a desire to keep the core of his promoted team together in the Premier League. 

    If that is the case, their ability to shut down opposing attackers will be vital, and Evatt will be at the heart of the defensive effort.

    Evatt has played over 100 games for Blackpool after a previously solid football league career.  Evatt was a star of Blackpool's surprising promotion season, proving solid both in the tackle and in the air.

    Blackpool will likely need to play with a chip on their shoulder to stay up this season, and Evatt may just fit the bill. 

    "Everyone is going to think Blackpool are in the Premier League, how are they here?" said the defender. 

    "We know they are going to look down their noses at us.  But it's up to us to prove people wrong again.  The more people write us off, the more this bunch of players seem to come together and prove people wrong."

    PREDICTION:  Evatt will be in for a tough season, but will not lay down and will be key to the Tangerines' survival hopes.

Martin Petrov - Bolton Wanderers

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    In 2007, Petrov emerged as a Premier League force.  The gloved winger attacked fullbacks, racking up goals and assists for Sven-Goran Erikkson's City team.

    However, the Eastlands revolution has brought in Adam Johnson, David Silva, Yaya Toure, among others, and the Bulgarian has become an afterthought.  So much so he has been released on a free transfer to Bolton.

    Petrov will start for Bolton and re-establish himself as the exciting winger that he is. 

    When you think of the front pairing Bolton will field from Kevin Davies, Johan Elmander and Ivan Klasnic, a direct winger who can cross a ball could do some serious damage.

    PREDICTION:  Petrov to rack up the goals and assists; he will be on your fantasy team by season's end.

Ross Turnbull - Chelsea

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    There is not a single Chelsea starting player for Chelsea who could be described as 'under the radar.'  They are a team of internationals and world stars.

    However, when you are chasing a title, the difference between winning the championship and finishing in second place can come down to depth.  During the 2008/2009 season, Chelsea's title run was seriously damaged by an injury to Petr Cech.

    More recently during a Cech injury at the end of last season, the handshake incident between John Terry and Wayne Bridge diverted attention away from a horror show in goal from Hilario. 

    Hilario's errors helped City run out 4-2 winners at Stamford Bridge.

    Turnbull performed well against Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League last season, and reports suggest he has beaten out Hilario to replace the injured Cech for the Premier League opener.

    Cech is out for at least three games to open the season, so Turnbull will play an important role in Chelsea getting off to a good start in what should be a tight race for the title.

    PREDICTION:  Turnbull will play only five to 10 games, but his performance will be crucial to the Blue's not dropping points in the absence of Cech.

Jack Rodwell - Everton

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    A superstar waiting to happen.  The defensive aspect of England's midfield play was picked apart by fans and media alike.  Fabio Capello has been urged to bring in new blood and young talent to rejuvenate the England team.

    Jack Rodwell is set to explode onto the international scene and will see this season as a coming-out party on to the big stage.  Rodwell is athletic, dominant in the tackle and a fantastic ball player.

    He certainly caught the attention of USA star Landon Donovan during his Everton loan spell. 

    "I really believe Jack could rejuvenate this England team." said Donovan in an interview with goal.com. "I don't give out false praise, but this young guy really is a future world beater. 

    "I'm sure he can make the same impact for club and country that Wayne Rooney and David (Beckham) have, that's really how good he is."

    PREDICTION:  Rodwell will start just about every game and lead Everton to European qualification.

Alex Smith - Fulham

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    The last little-known young Fulham star was surprisingly signed by Manchester United for a reported 8 million pounds.  Alex Smith would certainly love to follow in the footsteps of Chris Smalling.

    Smith has yet to break into the Fulham first team in Premier League play, but has featured heavily in preseason.  Smith plays primarily left and center midfield.

    The fact that aging players such as Damien Duff and Danny Murphy play there for Fulham mean the odds of Smith spelling the stars as the season goes on is high.

    An attacking player, Smith once scored 15 goals in one academy season.

    PREDICTION:  Will make his debut, and consistently contribute from the bench.  May gain a handful of starts.  Could be the future of an aging Fulham midfield.

Lucas Leiva - Liverpool

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    While he may be known, the name of Lucas Leiva seldom draws praise from a Liverpool fan.  Some partcularly cruel Scousers have even demanded to see his passport as "there is no way he can be Brazilian."

    However, the impending departure of Javier Mascherano means Lucas could define Liverpool's season. 

    Mascherano is an excellent ball winner, and covered a massive amount of ground during games.  Lucas is the player best placed to step into that role.

    If Lucas is not able to provide a consistent shield, the attacking brilliance of Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, and Fernando Torres could once again be fruitless in terms of a title challenge.

    PREDICTION:  Roy Hodgson turned Bobby Zamora from a laughing stock to a consistent Premier League performer, Lucas will be his next successful project.

Jerome Boateng - Manchester City

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    It seems outrageous that a German World Cup player would be 'under the radar.'  However, such is the star power at Eastlands that it is fair in this case.

    Superstar Carlos Tevez and World Cup finalist Nigel De Jong have been joined by Yaya Toure and World Cup winner David Silva.  Relatively little media attention has been paid to the German fullback's arrival.

    However, his arrival could be the most important.  City would have been a potent attacking force without any summer arrivals, it is defensively where improvement is needed to become a Champions League team.

    Boateng must add power and stability to the back line, allowing the City front line to win enough games for a top four spot.

    PREDICTION:  Boateng to establish himself as a rock-solid defensive force.  His contribution will help City achieve a top four spot.

Jonny Evans - Manchester United

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    Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have been an excellent defensive force for Manchester United.  While Vidic recently put an end to transfer rumours, the reliability of the pair is questionable.

    Regular injuries left United exposed last season in central defence.  The same scenario will repeat itself to start the season, with Ferdinand reportedly still six weeks away from recovery.

    Youngster Jonny Evans could establish himself early on and stake his claim to play a part going forward for United. 

    Evans was excellent in a loan spell at Sunderland, and rated highly enough to allow Alex Ferguson to sell World Cup winner Gerard Pique.

    While Evans has played over 60 games for the Red Devils, he is yet to establish himself as a regular.  This could be the year that changes.

    PREDICTION:  Evans to start the season well, and play in 10 to 20 games covering for Ferdinand and Vidic.  His performance will be vital over the course of a title run.

Leon Best - Newcastle United

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    Goals will be crucial to United's fight to stay in the Premier League.  The Toon defence does not appear very string at Premier League level, and was recently dealt a blow when Steven Taylor was ruled out for three months.

    Powerhouse forward Andy Carroll will be a handful, but the Toon Army will also need at least 10 goals from Best if they are to be successful in their return to the top flight.

    Republic of Ireland international Best joined Newcastle in the transfer window with high expectations. 

    He got off to a slow start, but is the club's leading goal scorer this preseason, and will look to establish himself as a Premier League force.

    PREDICTION:  Best to net around 15 goals, and help Newcastle to safety from the relegation fight.

Mamady Sidibe - Stoke City

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    Sidibe should be in for a big season, based purely on the fact he is the only forward left on the squad to have not fallen out with Tony Pulis. 

    WIth James Beattie, Tuncay, Dave Kitson and Liam Lawrence all having had run-ins with short-tempered Pulis, Sidibe is just about the last man standing.

    Sidibe is yet to tally double figures in one season for Stoke, but this could be the year.  His 6-foot-4 athletic frame and aerial ability should be a threat from set pieces.  

    The range on Rory Delap's throw-ins means Stoke have more attacking set pieces than any other team in the league.

    PREDICTION:  Sidibe to establish himself as the top forward, his goals will be crucial in what could be a relegation battle for the Potters.

Lee Cattermole - Sunderland

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    Sunderland have a top-class goalkeeper in Craig Gordon, and a top-class goal scorer in Darren Bent.  What is in between them is often a matter for debate.

    This Sunderland team have more talent than many realize, and will look to remain the highest-ranked team in the North East despite the arrival of Newcastle into the league.

    Lee Cattermole is a good short- to medium-range passer, and a dynamite ball winner.  He will lay the foundation for the highlight reels created by Darren Bent, Kenwyne Jones and newcomer Christian Riveros.

    Many Middlesbrough fans cite the loss of Cattermole's physical style as a factor in the clubs tame slide to relegation.

    PREDICTION:  Cattermole to win thousands of tackles, but few friends throughout the season.  Expect the midfield terrier to do the dirty work and lay the foundation for the more attacking players in the team.

Younes Kaboul - Tottenham Hotspur

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    Kaboul is in his second spell at Tottenham, without ever truly establishing himself as a star.  This coming season will likely be his most important yet.

    The added rigours of a Champions League campaign make the chances of Ledley King remaining healthy minimal. 

    Bearing in mind how important the pairing of King and Dawson was to the success of Spurs last season, it is crucial someone steps up in King's place.

    Kaboul is the most likely candidate, and good performances could have a defining impact on Tottenham's season.

    PREDICTION:  Spurs will find it very difficult to replicate the success of last season, and the performance of Kaboul will be key in the games he plays.

Graham Dorrans - West Bromwich Albion

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    He may not be on the Premier League radar, but Championship Player of the Year Graham Dorrans will be very soon. 

    Dorrans racked up goals and assists last season in West Brom's promotion run, and the Scotland international has the ability to do so again in the Premier League.

    The Baggies will likely be fighting relegation this season, and one or two match winning displays could be the difference between survival and relegation.  Dorrans is the man who could provide that difference.

    PREDICTION:  Dorrans to lead a band of players earning renewed respect for Scottish football.

Frederic Piquionne - West Ham United

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    While Carlton Cole is the star of the Hammers' front line, he could be passed by this year by this athletic, hungry Frenchman. 

    Piquionne will face competition for a starting place at West Ham with Cole, Benni McCarthy, and Frank Nouble.  However, it is nothing compared to the adversity that Piquonne thrived on last season under new coach Avram Grant.

    As the financial aspect of the club fell down around him, pay checks coming late and a points deduction making an already difficult task impossible, Picquionne stepped up and shone.

    He scored five goals, and notched the first goal in the club's miraculous 2-0 FA Cup semi-final win against Champions League qualifiers Tottenham.

    In a better environment, expect Picquionne's success to increase.  When you think of the soft players who represented France at the World Cup, you have to think a man of this character can break the squad also.

    PREDICTION:  A strong bond likely exists between Picquionne and Grant, who will entrust him with a starting spot and be rewarded with goals.

Antolin Alcaraz - Wigan Athletic

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    Alca(t)raz is a simply magnificent name for a defender.  The Paraguayan international who shone at the World Cup will be a good addition to a shoddy Wigan back line that ended last season on the wrong end of an 8-0 beating.

    Alcaraz scored against Italy at the World Cup, and will likely not take long to make a name for himself in the Premier League.

    Wigan have some solid attacking players, but will need the Paraguay star to establish himself quickly and firm up the back line.

    PREDICTION:  Alcaraz will do well sporadically, but the fact Wigan are much below his Paraguay team in defensive ability could lead to inconsistency.  If they are to shine in defence, he must lead the way.

Greg Halford - Wolves

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    It wouldn't be grossly unfair to describe the entire Wolves squad as 'under the radar.'  However, Jody Craddock made a name for himself as a goal scoring defender, and Andy Keogh is carving out a reputation.

    If Wolves are to survive again, Greg Halford is the type of player success must be built on.  A combative midfielder with versatility and a high work ethic that can make life hard for the opposition.

    Halford is also a long throw specialist, something that can decide games as we see at Stoke on a regular basis.

    PREDICTION: Wolves to struggle and be relegated, but the likes of Halford to scrap and fight every inch of the way.


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