Every team has a star player. Ex-Liverpool striker Luis Suarez proved that during the 2013-14 season when his partnership with Daniel Sturridge almost won the Reds their first Premier League title. Robin Van Persie’s switch to Manchester United from Arsenal in 2012 was an inspired one and he was the missing link to help Sir Alex Ferguson’s side claim another title. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez made the difference for Leicester City last season and Eden Hazard was the star man for Chelsea the year before.
But which five players could be the key to their side’s success this season?
The Manchester United striker has already made a thrilling start to life in the Premier League. The man from Sweden was always going to be one of the club’s biggest stars and although Paul Pogba’s introduction has been less exhilarating, the same can’t be said for his teammate.
Ibrahimović made the switch from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer and after picking up domestic titles in four different countries including Ligue 1 (France,) la Liga (Spain,) Serie A (Italy) and the Eredivisie (Netherlands) titles, he was expected to set the Premier League stage alight. So far, he’s done just that.
The confident goal-scorer has already netted four goals in his opening five games for United and has averaged five shots a game so far this season. He already sits in fifth place in the top goal-scoring and assists table and he’ll be disappointed in himself if he isn’t sat at the top by the end of the season.
United lacked firepower in front of goal last season, with the introduction of Marcus Rashford proving to be the difference in the second half of the season but it wasn’t enough to save a damaged campaign. Ibrahimovic has averaged just short of 26 goals a season for the last four years so if he can produce that rate in the Premier League, United will certainly remain big favourites to lift the trophy next summer.
Kevin De Bruyne
Pep Guardiola has already transformed Manchester City’s style of play since his arrival in the summer. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has brought the best out of his players so far, most notably Raheem Sterling. However, Manchester City fans have already witnessed how good De Bruyne can be and he’s started in similarly spectacular fashion this season.
The Belgian international was missed last season when he missed two months of action with an ankle ligament injury towards the end of the campaign. Prior to that, he had bagged 12 goals and 12 assists and was in hot form in Champions League competition.
This season, the attacking midfielder has already netted two goals and has provided three assists in the opening five games and has produced some sublime performances. He was world-class in the Manchester derby and could be the difference for the Blues this season, especially if Sergio Aguero suffers another injury.
Arsenal fans have missed their Spanish midfielder after he was forced to sit out over five months with a serious knee injury last season.
The Gunners may not be strong contenders for the title but they are always a side to be reckoned with and will always be competing among the best when the season draws to a close. If Arsene Wenger’s side hope to impose themselves this season, its crucial Cazorla stays fit.
He offers something different from midfield; creativity, dynamism and flair. With him in the side, Arsenal are able to exploit the talents of Ramsey, Sanchez and Giroud more effectively and they’ll need all of those firing if they want to secure a Champions League spot and mount an effective title claim.
The Spurs man may not be as glamorous as Ibrahimovic or Cazorla but his tenacity and strength in Tottenham’s midfield cannot be underestimated. Dembele’s presence was missed during Spurs’ opening four fixtures and Mauricio Pochettino’s side haven’t quite picked up the form the showed on so many occasions last season but Dembele’s return has certainly given fans something to feel positive about.
Last season, the midfielder’s stats were some of the best in the Premier League. He scored the first best performance rate in the Tottenham squad according to Squawka, with only Premier League Golden Boot winner, Harry Kane, and Toby Alderweireld performing more consistently. Defensively, he provided support and protection for the back four but it was his ability to create chances and keep possession moving that made him so invaluable.
Not only does he break down opposition play, Dembele is the pivot in midfield and he maintained a passing accuracy of 90% last season. The average length of those passes were over 15m and this season he made a bright return in his opening fixture with 71% of his passes being forward – demonstrating his willingness to turn possession into an attack for his side. He created three chances too and it was clear what he brings to the side as Spurs dominated Sunderland on his return. He’ll be a crucial part of the team this season and could be the difference if Tottenham hope to have a successful title chase this time around.
Like Arsenal, Liverpool won’t be considered as title contenders by many but the way Jurgen Klopp’s men have started this season suggests otherwise. The Reds had some tough fixtures to kick-start their 2016-17 Premier League campaign but with victories against Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City they’ve put out a statement of intent.
Roberto Firmino has been at the centre of all things good so far this season and although it was new signing Sadio Mane who picked up the club’s Player of the Month award, Roberto Firmino’s contribution has been nothing short of remarkable. The Brazilian has been played as a striker, a number 10 and a wide attacker by Klopp and has delivered in all three superbly.
Already this season, he’s notched up two goals in four appearances and his off-the-ball pressing has been a major factor in Liverpool’s early success. With Mane, Origi, Sturridge, Coutinho and Lallana in the squad, there’s plenty of attacking options for Klopp but Firmino has made it almost impossible for his manager to leave him out of the side and if he continues his impressive performances, he could be the man to spur Liverpool on to Premier League glory.