The new Premier League season is drawing closer and this week we are examining which players have a point to prove in 2017/18. In the first of our five-part series we pick out five men in the spotlight, from Granit Xhaka to Will Hughes…
Xhaka arrived at the Emirates Stadium to high expectations last summer. His £34m move from Borussia Monchengladbach was one of the most expensive deals of the transfer window, but after a mixed first season in the Premier League he still has plenty to prove.
Arsene Wenger will be hoping he can build on a strong finish to the campaign. The 24-year-old finally nailed down a spot in Arsenal’s midfield from February onwards and looked more assured following the switch to three at the back. Having settled into his new surroundings, Xhaka’s next challenge is to kick on.
Swansea won the race to sign the highly-rated Abraham on loan from Chelsea after he scored 26 goals in 48 games in a breakout season at Bristol Rovers last year, but can he now carry his Championship form into the Premier League?
The tall, athletic striker showed glimpses of his potential during England’s European U21 Championship campaign in Poland, and Swansea boss Paul Clement will be confident of getting the best out of him having previously coached him in Chelsea’s youth teams. If Abraham can live up to his undoubted potential, Swansea can aim higher than last year’s 15th-placed finish.
It seemed unthinkable that Aguero, scorer of 136 goals in his first five seasons at the Etihad Stadium, might find his place at risk when Pep Guardiola took over last summer, but the Catalan has shown he is not afraid to ruffle a few feathers. Guardiola made it clear that he expected more work from Aguero without the ball, and the arrival of Gabriel Jesus piled on the pressure.
The situation threw Aguero’s future into doubt but he responded by netting 15 goals in his final 17 appearances of the season. It was a formidable run of form which proved he is far from finished at City, but he might need to continue at the same rate if he is to keep his place in Guardiola’s team.
Pogba’s world-record move to Old Trafford placed him under intense scrutiny from the moment he first donned the Manchester United shirt. The Frenchman finished his first season with plenty of silverware, but whether or not he has lived up to his £89m price-tag is still up for debate.
In order to silence his doubters, Pogba will need to help United mount a genuine title challenge and improve on his totals of just five goals and four assists in the Premier League last season. The pressure weighs heavily on Pogba’s shoulders. Jose Mourinho can help the process by finding a settled role for him in United’s midfield.
Hughes has long been regarded as one of the hottest prospects in the EFL, but having amassed close to 200 appearances for boyhood club Derby County, it is only now that he will get his chance in the top flight. Watford have paid a club-record £8m fee, so there is little room for error.
With his intelligent passing from central midfield, Hughes will be responsible for injecting some creativity into a side who only scored 40 goals in the Premier League last season. “I’m looking to score a lot more goals than I have previously and to set up lots of chances, too,” said the 22-year-old. He could be key for Marco Silva’s new side – if he can make the step up.Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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