This is the first of a two part series where we identify the top player on each English Premier League team. Big thanks to my friend Jack Venezia for helping me out with this one.
Jordan Ayew, Forward
Aston Villa just barely survived the Premier League last year placing 17th in the English top flight. To make matters worse, captain Fabian Delph and star forward Christian Bentke have left Villa for Manchester City and Liverpool respectively. However, both of those players went for hefty fees, leaving Villa’s manager Tim Sherwood a lot of money to play with. So far, Sherwood has spent all of that money on two things: replacing Delph and Benteke and giving Villa’s defense a much-needed overhaul. Idrissa Gueye from Lille looks to take Delph’s spot in the midfield while Jordan Ayew signed to help alleviate the loss of Benteke. Considering that Benteke scored or assisted just about every other goal Aston Villa scored since he joined the club, Jordan Ayew has the biggest shoes to fill. However, I would like to add an asterisk to this decision. Since Villa placed 17th last year, they are literally the worst team from last year still in the league. That means that more than just Ayew will have to step up this year if they expect to see improvement.
Eden Hazard, Wide Midfielder
Chelsea won the league last season and still have one of the most star-studded rosters in the world. It is difficult to say who is the most important player on Chelsea, because they have some many tremendously good players. Even if Diego Costa went down with an injury, Chelsea still have Loric Remy and Ramadel Falcao waiting in the wings to take his place. This is true at practically every position. Hence the difficulty in picking Chelsea’s best player. Personally, I am going with Eden Hazard. He won best player in the league for a reason. Not to mention Hazard is only 24 years old. He is both the present and future star of this team. If Chelsea wants to repeat as champions, Hazard must perform.
Romelu Lukaku, Forward
After a disappointing 11th place finish, Everton will be looking to return to their winning ways. In the 2014/2015 season, Everton scored 13 fewer goals than the year before and had 5 fewer shutouts than the year before. Everton’s worst spell ran between the end of November and March. A span where Everton only had two wins, five draws and nine loses. That spell can likely be attributed to Tim Howard’s winter injury. Still, all of the onus cannot be placed on Howard’s injury. As mentioned above, substantially fewer goals were scored. This lack of goals was likely due to Samuel Eto’o being a flop of a signing. That means the pressure falls on Romelu Lukaku as Everton’s most important player. He is being asked to be THE goal scorer for this team and there are not many options behind him. Plus, Everton shelled out more money for Lukaku than any other player in club history. If Lukaku disappoints, Everton will be in deep trouble.
Philippe Coutinho, Attacking Midfielder
Last season was slightly disappointing for Liverpool, placing 6th in the Premier League. Liverpool’s goal is always a top four finish and qualification for the UEFA Champions League. A positive aspect to last year’s disappointment was the play of Phi lippe Coutinho. Coutinho is obviously the most important player on for Liverpool right now. He will have many new players around him in James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke, but Coutinho must be the glue which holds this new group together. With the loss of Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, the team will need a new leader on and off the field; Coutinho is in poll position to pick up where Gerrard left off. I am not saying that Coutinho will be replacing Gerrard, but Coutinho can take control of this team and lead it where he likes.
Wayne Rooney, Forward
Manchester United finished fourth in the Premier League last season, just barely reaching their goal of Champions League qualification. Over this summer, Manchester have been wheelin’ and dealin’ with transfers both in and out of the club. The biggest of exit had to be the loss of Robin van Persie. Even though RVP didn’t always impressed at United, he gave them more options up front. With van Persie out of the picture, Wayne Rooney is the only pure striker on United of first team quality. I know Memphis Depay was brought in, but it is looking like he will play as an attacking midfielder rather than a second striker up front with Rooney. When you look at Man U’s midfield (Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Juan Mata, Memphis Depay and Ashley Young just to name a few) I have little doubt that Rooney will get the service he needs either. It might seem like a forgone conclusion but I am pegging Rooney as United’s most important player.
Nathan Redmond, Winger
After only one season in the Championship, Norwich have rejoined the ranks of the Premier League. Due to Norwich’s promotion, their numbers form last year sound a lot better than they actually are. Therefore, picking the most important player becomes very difficult. To be honest, in the short term, I cannot point to any one player on the Canaries who has a more important job than another. Cameron Jerome has the weight of scoring goals on his shoulders, Steve Whittaker has to hold down the team defensively, and Nathan Redmond is expected to be the set up man. All of them played well in the Championship but will have to play better to stay in the Premier League. However, in terms of Norwich’s long-term success, Nathan Redmond is 21 years old and may carry this team for years to come if they stay in the Premier League. On a side note, if Norwich fall back to the Championship after one season, I have a feeling Redmond will be picked up by a bigger name club.
Bojan Krkic, Forward
Stoke City finished in the top 10 of the Premiere League, their best ever finish in the Premiere League, last season. Stoke’s manager Mark Hughes is also an interesting one. He has a very deep team and is apt to use that depth across the board. For example, no one striker played more than 28 games last season. However, that statistic may have been different had Bojan Krkic not gone down with an injury. Krkic is a product of the Barcelona academies and has often been compared to Lionel Messi due to his size, speed, and footwork on the ball. If Krkic can stay healthy, (a big ‘if’ considering last season’s injury was not his first) he can do wonderful things for this football club.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Winger
Swansea also had their best ever finish in the Premier League sitting at 8th place. Moving forward, Swansea have added a few new players up top with Andre Ayew, and Eder. Both of these players will be supplemental to Gylfi Sigurdsson, who finished third in the league in assists. Sigurdsson spent a lone spell with Swansea back in 2012 and now returns on a permanent transfer. He is the nucleus to this team’s offense. Like many other players who I have named to be most important to their respective teams, Sigurdsson is relatively young at 25 years old. As is Swansea’s manager at 36 years old. This team is playing well now and looks like they will be playing well for quite some time.
Etienne Capoue, Defensive Midfielder
Coming from the Championship, Watford have brought a lot of players in this season. That is most likely a result of Watford’s two previous visits to the Premier League, where they were immediately relegated. Fortunately, Watford already have two good goal scorers in Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo who combined for 41 goals last season. However, I believe new signing Etienne Capoue will be just as important as those two. Tottenham was willing to part with Capoue because he never broke into the teams staring 11. Now, he has the job of protecting Watford’s back four from the Premier League giants. If Capoue is a bust, it might not matter how well Deeney and Ighalo play. Similarly though, if Capoue plays incredibly it wouldn’t be able to make up for a lack of goals. I think Watford has a solid chance of staying the top flight of English football, but I am not making any guarantees.
Winston Reid, Center Back
West Ham had a lackluster season last year finishing just 13th in the Premiere League. An interesting statistic I found was that the Hammers lost more games in which they scored first than any other team in the league. Even more surprising is that they lost 20 such games. Let me reiterate that: West Ham was lost the lead in 20 games. Therefore scoring goals is not the issue for this team. Instead, I believe West Ham need more defensive help. Luckily, they do not have to make any big trades to find it. Center back Winston Reid played phenomenally two seasons ago but was injured last season. With Reid’s return, West Ham can hold onto a few more of those leads.
To see part two of this series, click here.