The new Premier League season is nearly here, kick-off on Saturday cant come soon enough in my eyes, and for some players this season could be a defining one. I’ve picked five players who I think that this year could be a big one for. They aren’t necessarily all big money signings or even total unknowns but those who are at crossroads in their careers.
1) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
The 19 year-old English ‘whiz-kid’ has the world at his feet going into the new campaign. The dynamic midfielder made 26 appearances last season, scoring four goals and won widespread acclaim for some of his performances, the most notable in the 3-0 victory over AC Milan in the Champions League. An impressive summer away with England and a decent pre-season has set the stage for 'The Ox' to make this season his own. With Jack Wilshere sidelined until at least the end of September, the young Englishman has a real chance to form an exciting partnership with new signing Santi Cazorla if given the chance to in the centre of midfield. If he takes his chances there or out wide, keeps his head down and works hard, The Ox could have the season of his life.
2) Eden Hazard
Certainly not lacking in confidence, the Belgian international arrives at the Bridge with, I believe, a lot to prove. Hazard has said he feels no pressure on his young shoulders at the prospect of playing in the Premier League but after Chelsea’s loss to Manchester City in the Community Shield last Sunday, perhaps Hazard may be reassessing his comments. A quite blatant dive followed by a somewhat hilarious attempt at a back heel has seen the vultures circling above his head already, is he all talk? There’s no doubting he has talent, anyone that has seen him turn out for Lille in the past two seasons knows that there is magic in those boots, but Hazard has two paths he can take. Believe his own hype and his fall from grace will be swift, work hard and learn how the Premier League works and we could have another superstar on our hands.
3) Jan Vertonghen
Another Belgian, another London club as the versatile Vertonghen joins Tottenham for a reported £12 million. I think the former Ajax captain could have a big say in the success of Spur’s Season. With Ledley King now retired, William Gallas slowing down and Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul somewhat sporadic over the course of nine months, if Tottenham want that Champions League place, the big Belgian will need to hit the ground running. Say it quietly but if he can command that back-line efficiently, Tottenham have a real chance of finally finishing above Arsenal come the end of the season.
4) Javier Hernandez
Strange choice you might think but after a barnstorming first season from the ‘little pea’, last season saw things turn rather mushy (sorry!). A very impressive haul of 20 goals in his first season was followed up by a slightly disappointed 12 last time out. The emergence of Danny Welbeck and his partnership with Wayne Rooney coupled with fatigue from 12 solid months of football and sporadic injuries, saw the little Mexican’s opportunities limited last year and as a result I think his form and confidence suffered. Any chance he gets this season, either through good form in training or injuries, he must take, I would love to see him get back to the form of two seasons ago and become a real threat to Premier League defenders once again, and with Van Persie on board he will know how important it will be to take his chances.
5) Joe Allen
Making the move to Merseyside along with boss Brendan Rogers, Allen is to be Rodgers voice on the pitch. Rodgers wants Liverpool to play, quick passing, attacking football something Allen knows all about. At Swansea it worked a treat with the midfield maestro orchestrating everything from back to front. Liverpool now expect the same from these two and Allen has to make the step up. No offence to Swansea but Liverpool is a far cry from the comforts of South Wales and Allen has a big part to play if Rodgers and Liverpool are to succeed. By the end of this season, Allen could be one of the most coveted midfielders in the league praised with helping Liverpool get back amongst the big boys. It’s up to the young Welshman to take it all in his stride and carry on where he left off at the end of last season.
So there we have it, five players that I believe could see this season be career changing. Each have their destiny in their own hands, now lets sit back and see if they can fulfil it.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald