It’s still early in the Premier League season, but we’ve already had a lot of good football, and even some bad football. While the samples are incredibly small, certain managers’ tendencies for team selection are becoming noticeable, and some of them are real head-scratchers that leave fans (and perhaps players) wondering how certain players will be used at their club, if they even have a future.
Let’s take a look at 11 different players that could have an immediate impact either on their own club or on another club.
GK – Anders Lindegaard (Manchester United) – Lindegaard was Sir Alex’s no. 1 for a little while in 2012 before injury sidelined him and David de Gea took over. Lindegaard has been good in his time, and has expressed that he doesn’t want to be a backup but a no. 1 option again. He could easily make an impact and start at a number of other clubs, Premier League or elsewhere.
RB – Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea) – Azpilicueta is considered one of Chelsea’s best signings from last season, and for good reason. He was an inexpensive pickup and has shown a lot of quality at least in defense (his movement pushing the attack forward has not been the same as Branislav Ivanovic). But to this point, he has been used only once in three games, on the final set piece against Manchester United. He will likely be used more as the Capital One and FA Cups begin and the fixtures begin to pile up for the West London side.
RCB – James Tomkins (West Ham) – West Ham have kept two clean sheets in two games, so there is little reason as of yet to change the look of the back four. As the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But Tomkins has shown good quality in the past, including being a target for Newcastle, Tottenham, and QPR two years ago while West Ham were still in the Championship. At age 24, it’s arguable that he has yet to reach his ceiling. He’s been on the bench for West Ham’s first three Premier League games and remains unused, but he’s a key piece in an effective defense thus far that will be interesting to watch.
LCB – John Brayford (Cardiff City) – Brayford is a bit of a gamble in this list, as he has never played in the Premier League. He has, however, shown quality everywhere he’s gone. He’s almost equally a gamble for being in this particular position, as he has played right and left back, and earned a bit of a reputation for being good in attack from those positions. But Cardiff have allowed two goals in both of their first two matches so far this season, and Brayford is a cog to keep an eye on in case Malky Mackay decides to shake things up in the back line.
LB – Martin Olsson (Norwich City) – Olsson is a newcomer at Norwich, but has the potential to play a big role. He has experience playing internationally for Sweden plus several years of experience in the Premier League from his time with Blackburn Rovers. He could shore up a defense that was below average in goals allowed last season.
MID – Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United) – Maybe this is a cheat of a pick, but without question, Yohan Cabaye will make an impact wherever he is. Arsenal have offered £12 million for him, while Newcastle want £20 million. Newcastle could use his creativity and passing, but he needs to be able to step up his game and shake off the transfer speculation from the past few weeks. It’s this kind of drama – a good player going on “strike” until he’s sold – that makes player power so cumbersome and frustrating. Hopefully we’ll see Cabaye threading needles again real soon especially after the impact he made after coming on as a substitute against Fulham.
MID – Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United) – This may be one of the more puzzling issues in team selection so far this season. He’s been a playmaker everywhere he’s been, and he’s been passed over in a midfield that has been criticized several times as lacking creativity and impetus. Dortmund fans, who grew to know and love Kagawa during his time there, recently started a twitter campaign with #freeShinji in efforts to see the beloved Japanese get a chance to show his brilliance for United. He’s the type of player that could (and probably would) play anywhere else and spark that team’s attack. His not being selected is a mystery.
MID – Juan Mata (Chelsea) – Mata started against Aston Villa, but was brought off after 66 minutes, the only minutes he’s played this season. Seeing him passed over for the likes of Andre Schurrle, Kevin de Bruyne, and Marko van Ginkel have some Chelsea supporters worried that Mata — whose accolades include being voted Chelsea’s player of the year twice, being man of the match in the 2012 FA Cup final, and being a part of the PFA Team of the Year in 2012-13 — is not seen as favorably by Jose Mourinho as he was by Chelsea’s former bosses. Like Kagawa, perhaps this is a knee-jerk reaction, but with a player as creative and technically adept as Mata, his not being selected is sure to raise a few eyebrows.
Winger – Victor Moses (Liverpool) – Chelsea had a tendency last season to pick up inexpensive commodities for the sake of rotation (see Demba Ba and Azpilicueta.) Moses is a player of good quality who possesses immense pace. He made immediate impact at Chelsea last season, opening up space on the right side of the pitch and being effective as an option in Rafa Benitez’s rotation of midfielders behind the striker. He’s not been selected at all this season for the Blues, and with the plethora of other options at Mourinho’s disposal, hopefully Moses can now make an impact at Liverpool after being loaned to the Reds for one season.
Center Forward – Arouna Kone (Everton) – There’s little doubt that Kone will continue to be selected, as Roberto Martinez has experience with him. However, Kone hasn’t seen more than 45 minutes in a match (including the International Champions Cup, the preseason tournament played in the United States.) The question is, will Kone become a starting option for the Toffees, or will he continue to come off the bench? To this point, he’s been a late-game option, and Everton have drawn all three Premier League matches. Kone’s attacking impetus may be necessary in the starting XI for Everton to start to go ahead early and see out matches with more than a point in hand.
Winger – Scott Sinclair (West Brom) – Sinclair battled injury during his first year at Manchester City, during which he was a mixed bag in terms of his play. He came to West Brom this season on loan, and played against his former side Swansea City. West Brom’s play has been fairly narrow through the first two matches, and Sinclair’s pace has the potential to open up space on either side of the wing. This also seems to be an important year for Sinclair, who has been unable to stay in one place for very long, and will look to prove his worth in the Premier League.
Surely there are other players whose futures are up in the air and/or it remains to be seen how they’ll be used. Injury has kept us from seeing Gary Hooper (Norwich,) Matija Nastasic (Manchester City,) and Chicharito (Manchester United). Wilfried Zaha will be interesting to watch in his first year in the top flight, and Chelsea’s striker situation remains a hotbed of discussion in light of their poor draw against Manchester United.
Who are some players you have your eyes on this year who could yet prove their worth?