We are a mere two days away from the 2020/21 season of the Premier League and the feral activities done in the transfer market is sure to spice things up in as early as the opening gameweek of the competition.
While the star names such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or even Mohamed Salah are rightly expected to be in the limelight, a few players from the newly-promoted teams - Leed United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham - are well and truly capable of matching the ordeal.
That said, here we look at five players from the aforementioned teams who could leave a positive mark in the 2020/21 season of the Premier League.
Alphonse Areola (Fulham)
Acquiring goalkeeper Alphonse Areola from last season’s Champions League runners-up, Paris Saint-Germain is a signing of intent from Fulham, to say the least. The 27-year-old France international has arrived on a season-long loan after spending the 2019/20 season as an understudy to Thibaut Courtois at Real Madrid. Scott Parker’s side, in fact, fended off interest from Rennes, while he was also offered to Arsenal, but with Emiliano Martinez staying, the PSG keeper decided to move to Fulham.
Areola, having had enough experience of top-division football, is certain to improve a rather shaky Fulham defence and displace Marek Rodak between the stick. The Cottagers conceded a whopping 48 goals in the 2019/20 season of the Championship; the second-worst figure amongst the top-five teams. And Areola has been brought to bring in the much-needed stability.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham)
Serbian goal-machine, Aleksandar Mitrovic struggled during his initial years in the Premier League, but once he got the ball rolling, there was absolutely no stopping him. For someone who has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances last season, the 2020/21 campaign remains an opportunity to future cement the stakes. Given his record in the Premier League (20 goals in the last two editions of the competition), it is safe to say that he remains the biggest threat for his opposition.
A brawny physique combined with a natural nack of finding the net, Mitrovic will be key to Fulham’s approach in the Premier League under Scott Parker. The Cottagers have played some impressive football under the former midfielder, and the Serbian has duly thrived in the process.
Grady Diangana (West Brom)
Winger Grady Diangana notched up eight goals and seven assists in the 2019/20 Championship season, a return enough for West Brom to make his stay a permanent one as they paid his parent club, West Ham United, £12m up-front, with the potential of that fee rising to club-record £18m. Hammers’ captain, Mark Noble seemed gutted about the fact that the lost a promising talent, and when a player of Noble’s quality expresses his concern over the loss, you know the quality Diangana possesses.
As captain of this football club I’m gutted, angry and sad that Grady has left, great kid with a great future!!!!! https://t.co/oNPPEp8Pt6— MARK NOBLE (@Noble16Mark) September 4, 2020
Diangana was sent to West Brom to gain quality first-team experience, and the initial plan was to bring him back and slot him into the starting XI as the season progresses. As things turned out though, the Hammers went for a ‘business deal rather than a sentimental one’ to allow their young prodigy to leave.
“The money received for Grady will be reinvested entirely in the team, in line with the manager’s targets,” a club statement read.
Unproven in the Premier League, the 22-year-old is certainly a gamble but is highly tipped to get paid off.
Rodrigo (Leeds United)
Leeds United have made a significant impact in the transfer market thus far, and are reportedly hunting for more options before starting their Premier League journey. So far, the acquisition of Rodrigo from Valencia for a club-record £30m fee remains the highlight of their adventure.
The Spanish international didn’t have an impactful season last term, having scored a mere seven goals in 34 appearances, but Leeds’ faithful have rightly placed high expectations on him. The Whites have played an impressive free-flowing football under Marcelo Bielsa, and the Spaniard is touted to be one key element of their ride.
Rodrigo is known for his sheer understanding of the situation rather than being a poacher. He likes to create space for himself in the final third that eventually culminates in his teammates getting yards of space in the situation. Furthermore, being versatile enough means he can be duly deployed as a centre-forward, a right forward or sometimes even as a second-striker.
Pablo Hernandez (Leeds United)
Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Leeds’ attacking midfielder, Pablo Hernandez has been one of the biggest assets of his club. In fact, a return of nine goals and as many assists in 36 Championship games last season made him one of the reasons why Leeds achieved promotion to the Premier League.
The 35-year-old’s last appearance in the Premier League came six years back, wearing the whites of Swansea City. Since then, he has been crowned Leeds’ Player of the Season three times, and the fans will be hoping for more of the same when he takes the field against Liverpool on Saturday. Admittingly, Hernandez has played his finest football under Marcelo Bielsa, being deployed on several positions including right on the wing or even in the heart of midfield, throughout the 2019/20 season.
Expectations from the Spaniard would be high, to say the least.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Peter Parks, Adrian Dennis