English Premier League: The Top 10 Europeans to Watch in 2011/2012
The first month of the 2011/2012 English Premier League season has now passed, and in the first three games there has been excitement, controversy and goals. Manchester is the place to be, with both United and City boasting a 100 percent record from the opening exchanges.
The summer transfer window has now closed, ensuring that the whirlwind of speculation and movement that dominated the preseason will cease to exist, and fans can turn their sole focus to the months of football that lay ahead.
The English Premier League is widely considered the strongest and most intense competition in world football, but not necessarily due to the leagues English players.
Many foreigners ply their trade in England, and many have rapidly become the best players in the world. Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba and Ruud van Nistelrooy, the list is long and illustrious.
There is no denying that without a continental influence, the Premier League would not possess its flair, speed and magnificence. Therefore Bleacher Report predicts the top 10 Europeans to watch in the 2011/2012 Premier League season.
Please bear in mind it does not include English players.
10. Gael Kakuta-Bolton (On Loan from Chelsea)
The French youngster is highly rated by Chelsea officials, and their eagerness to sign Kakuta in 2007 from French outfit Lens, lead a FIFA dispute and a transfer embargo for Chelsea. However, the 20-year-old has struggled to gain sufficient opportunities at Stamford Bridge despite thriving for Chelsea's reserves and youth sides.
The Frenchman greatly impressed in the dying stages of last season whilst on loan with Fulham, amassing seven appearances and one goal under Mark Hughes, before impressing at the U-20 FIFA World Cup with France.
The winger was loaned to Bolton on the final day of the summer transfer window, and with Owen Coyle's renowned ability to enhance youngsters at his disposal (Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge are two glistening examples) it is set to be pivotal in Kakuta excelling his development.
Fast, balanced, skillful and clinical, Kakuta is a European to watch in 2011/2012.
9. Apostolos Vellios-Everton
The giant teenager was signed in January from Greek outfit Iraklis, and has since impressed in the Everton reserves. An hugely imposing and composed forward, the 19-year-old is touted to become a strong presence in David Moyes's line up.
At 6'3", Vellios has been a force for the Greece U-19 amassing seven goals in 14 games. With Everton in need of a clinical, consistent figure up front in order to provide efficiency, and support the array of talented midfielders, the Greek giant is one European to watch in 2011/2012.
8. Hatem Ben Arfa-Newcastle United
The Frenchman was considered one of the most exciting prospects in world football before a dangerous challenge by Manchester City's Nigel De Jong (in October 2010) resulted in a broken tibia and fibula. The dynamo had been in impressive form for Newcastle United in his debut season, but missed the remainder of the campaign.
However after a minor pre-season set back with an ankle injury, the 24-year-old is boasting full fitness and ready to wreak havoc on Premier League defences. A quick, lethal and intelligent winger, Ben Arfa was the 2008 Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year in 2008, and played a pivotal role in Olympique de Marseille's 2009/2010 French triumph, with 41 appearances and seven goals.
The France international is destined to be at his damaging best in the second half of the season. Keep an an eye on Hatem Ben Arfa.
7. Patrick Van Aanholt-Wigan Athletic (on Loan from Chelsea)
The Dutchman has become an exciting prospect over the years at Chelsea with some stellar loan spells at the likes of Coventry City, Newcastle United and Leicester City. The 21-year-old signed with Wigan Athletic on deadline day, and is set for a breakthrough season in the English Premier League.
A quick, strong left back who possesses impressive attacking prowess, the Dutch U-21 star has played at both Premier League and UEFA Champions League level, and is considered the man to dethrone Ashley Cole at left back for the Blues.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez thrives with young loan prospects, with Manchester United's Tom Cleverly and goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi two strong examples. Van Aanholt is certain to be consistent presence in the Latics side, thus making him a European to watch in 2011/2012.
6. Ruben Rochina-Blackburn
The 20-year-old is a graduate from European kings Barcelona, which is a tantalizing prospect for Blackburn fans. The Spaniard is set to play an influential role in Steve Kean's attack, with Rochina already proving his worth with a recent double against Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup last month.
A quick, skillful and creative forward, the Spain U-19 star possesses all the attributes to thrive in the Premier League, and with Rovers in desperate need of attacking creativity and consistent goals, Ruben Rochina could just be the saviour at Ewood Park.
5. Nicklas Bendtner-Sunderland (on Loan from Arsenal)
After a disappointing 2010/2011 campaign with Arsenal, in which the 23-year-old managed a mere three Premier League starts despite amassing nine goals for the season, Bendtner declared his desire to depart the Emirates. It was not until the final day of the summer that a move to Sunderland was completed.
With a vow never to return to Arsenal, big things are expected of the highly rated Dane at the Stadium of Light. A strong, imposing and creative forward, the former FC Copenhagen youth player has 45 goals in four seasons of first team football for the Gunners, and can implement a lacking efficiency upfront for the Black Cats.
Steve Bruce believed Nicklas Bendtner will be a force for Sunderland, is the Sunderland manager right?
Better keep your eye out.
4. Royston Drenthe-Everton (on Loan from Real Madrid)
Royston Drenthe is a quick, balanced and versatile winger, who has impressed for giants Real Madrid in recent seasons, and is highly rated at the Bernabeu. However injuries and attitude problems whilst away on loan have restricted the Dutchman, but following a deadline day signing with Everton, the 24-year-old has the chance to shine in the Premier League.
Equally capable in attack and defence, Drenthe has the raw ability to become a force in European Football, and with Everton requiring a spark on the wings, Royston Drenthe could be a starring presence in 2011/2012.
3. Juan Mata-Chelsea
One of the most devastating wingers in European football, Juan Mata enjoyed a stellar 2010/2011 season with Valencia, managing 43 appearances, nine goals and 17 assists, the Spaniard enjoyed a stellar U-21 European Championships, in which Spain secured the crown and Mata was named in the Team of the Tournament.
After attracting attention from almost every giant footballing team, the 23-year-old signed with Chelsea for over £23 million and in his debut scored against Norwich City. A balanced, damaging and creative dynamo, Mata is tipped to become one of World Football's best players.
2. Mikel Arteta-Arsenal
Arsenal endured a tough summer with key midfielder, and captain, Cesc Fabregas joining Barcelona, and winger Samir Nasri signing for Manchester City. With the Gunners creativity and attacking capabilities starved, Arsene Wenger secured Mikel Arteta's services on the final day of the transfer window for £10 million, to inject the missing flair in North London.
The Spaniard, who has been a renowned force for Everton since 2005, is a smart, influential and composed play maker who is set to thrive at the Emirates. Possessing experience and leadership, the 29-year-old is a welcomed addition to the Gunners, who will need all the magic they can get to succeed in 2011/2012.
1. Edin Dzeko-Manchester City
The giant Bosnian was signed by Manchester City in January, but failed to make a huge impact during the second half of the 2010/2011 campaign. The 25-year-old had amassed a phenomenal 86 goals in a 138 appearances for VfL Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga, and was expected to make an immediate impression.
However in the opening three matches this season, Dzeko has arguably been the star of the Premier League, amassing six goals in the first month of EPL football. With City in tremendous form and expected to be huge title contenders, Dzeko is set to lead the front line and become a favourite for the Golden Boot.