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The 25 most important players in the Premier League this season

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and others who could potentially set the top flight alight.

25. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)

Romania v Switzerland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group A - Parc des Princes Source: Martin Rickett

ARGUABLY SINCE THE days of Patrick Vieira, Arsenal have lacked a truly world-class defensive midfielder, despite the promise that Francis Coquelin has shown in recent times. Consequently, Xhaka might well turn out to be the missing piece in the puzzle to provide Arsenal with the edge that they have invariably lacked in pressurised circumstances over the past few seasons.

24. Dele Alli (Tottenham)

After a dreadful Euro 2016 campaign, it’s easy to forget just how good Dele Alli was last year. The 20-year-old managed 10 goals and nine assists as Tottenham ultimately fell just short in their Premier League title bid.

23. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Man United)

The Bundesliga Players’ Player of the Season last year, while Pogba and Ibrahimovic have attracted most of the headlines, the Armenian international is so good that he has the potential to eclipse them both.

22. Robert Huth (Leicester)

A towering figure at the heart of Leicester’s defence last season, Wes Morgan drew the acclaim in the form of a place in the 2015-16 PFA team of the year, but the German was arguably even more integral to their success as they conceded just 36 goals in 38 Premier League games.

21. Vincent Kompany (Man City)

Vincent Kompany File Photo Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Arguably the best defender in the Premier League over the past five years, Kompany’s influence last season was severely limited owing to a number of injury issues. Yet with big-money signing John Stones still raw and inexperienced, the availability of the Belgian could be the difference between City winning and losing the league in the coming campaign.

20. Diego Costa (Chelsea)

Costa struggled to emulate his prolific debut campaign in the Premier League last year, and the 27-year-old will know he can’t afford another disappointing season, particularly with the talented 22-year-old forward Michy Batshuayi waiting in the wings.

19. İlkay Gündoğan

Coming from Dortmund with a lofty reputation, at 25, Gündoğan will be expected to make an immediate impact at City. An out-and-out playmaker who appears to be a classic Pep Guardiola player, he will be aiming to prove he is well worth the £20 million that City reportedly paid for him in the summer.

18. Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)

At 24, Courtois is already rightly considered as being among the world’s best goalkeepers. He wasn’t helped last season by a shaky Chelsea backline, but the presence in the team of Kante — who had more successful tackles and interceptions than anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues last season — should certainly make the Londoners substantially more solid and reduce the Belgian’s workload considerably.

17. David Silva (Man City)

At 30, Silva should be at his footballing peak this season and could thrive under Pep Guardiola’s guidance in the coming campaign, having already been key to the two Premier League titles City have claimed in recent years, while racking up an impressive 11 assists in 25 appearances last season.

16. Dimitri Payet (West Ham)

Was the inspiration behind a terrific campaign for West Ham last season with 12 assists and nine goals, if he was five years younger he would be targeted by all the top sides in Europe. Yet given that the 29-year-old now looks set to stay with the Hammers, you can expect Slaven Bilic’s side to be a tough proposition for most teams this year.

15. Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

Wayne Rooney Testimonial - Manchester United v Everton - Old Trafford Source: EMPICS Sport

It was a measure of Lukaku’s talent that even in an Everton side that was poor for much of last season, he still managed to look as good as most of the strikers in the league. Whether the 23-year-old sticks with the Toffees or joins a bigger team, he is likely to be a major influence on proceedings in the coming campaign.

14. Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)

Is there a better defender in the Premier League than the Belgian international? Wes Morgan and Robert Huth were unquestionably dominant last year, but for a mixture of out and-and-out defending and comfort on the ball, Alderweireld is unparalleled. Moreover, with the exception of their final-day capitulation against Newcastle, Spurs were remarkably solid throughout last season and their centre-backs deserve plenty of credit for that, helping them earn the top flight’s joint-best defensive record in the process.

13. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)

At 24, Coutinho has already become indispensable at Liverpool. In 26 appearances, the Brazilian international managed eight goals and five assists last year, and will surely be even better with the added experience this campaign.

12. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

At one point last season, Ozil looked set to lead Arsenal to the title. The German international’s inspired form ultimately faded in the second half of last season, but his 19 assists was still far superior to any other player in the league.

11. David de Gea (Man United)

De Gea has been the best goalkeeper and United’s best player for a number of seasons now — the 25-year-old is the type of individual who will fill others in the team with plenty of confidence due to his reassuring presence between the posts.

10. Jamie Vardy (Leicester)

Leicester City v Manchester United - FA Community Shield - Wembley Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

One of the main reasons for Leicester’s 2015-16 title success with 24 goals in 36 Premier League appearances, Vardy turned down the advances of Arsenal to stay loyal to the Foxes in the summer, and will likely remain a potent presence in their attack for the forthcoming campaign.

9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man United)

At 34, Ibrahimovic may be past his best, but he still remains one of the world’s top strikers. In the past 15 seasons, he has won 13 league titles and few would bet against him continuing this trend in 2016-17.

8. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

The injury suffered by the Belgian international that caused him to miss a significant portion of last season was arguably the moment where City’s title challenge began to unravel. Even with limited game time though, he still managed a very impressive seven goals and nine assists.

7. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Didn’t enjoy the best of seasons last year, scoring just four goals in 31 appearances, so it’s easy to forget that Hazard was PFA Player of the Year in 2014-15, leading Chelsea to a comfortable Premier League title win. If anyone can get the best out of him though, it’s Antonio Conte — the man who helped an ordinary enough Italy side overperform so spectacularly at the Euros this summer.

6. Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Has scored 46 goals in 72 games in the past two Premier League seasons, therefore of all the strikers in England, only Sergio Aguero has come close to emulating the Spurs man’s consistency in the past two campaigns.

5. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)

AC Milan Chelsea Soccer Source: Bruce Kluckhohn

Cited by no less than Alex Ferguson as the best player of the season last year, Kante could be the key ingredient needed to rejuvenate a talented Chelsea side that were dormant for much of last year’s campaign.

4. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Arsenal are often accused of lacking tenacity and nastiness, but one player who certainly doesn’t fall under this category is Alexis Sanchez — the 27-year-old Chilean international managed 13 goals in 30 appearances last season as well as 16 goals in 35 the previous campaign, and will be the main man Arsenal look to again as they seek to go one better than last season’s second-place finish.

3. Paul Pogba (Man United)

If Man United are to have any hopes of winning the title or even getting in the top four, the world’s most expensive player will almost certainly be crucial. At 23, he is not the finished product, as Graeme Souness has noted, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute substantially to the Red Devils’ season. In Serie A, he produced 22 assists since his debut — more than any other Juve player during that time period. And so, along with Ibrahimovic, he will be expected to provide United with the cutting edge they were too often lacking last season.

2. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester)

Perpetually linked with one of Leicester’s rivals, provided he stays in England, Mahrez is bound to be a key player for whoever he lines out with. The deserving winner of the most recent PFA Player of the Year award with 17 goals and 11 assists, Mahrez will likely be a key influence as the Foxes bid to retain their title this season.

1. Sergio Aguero (Man City)

Real Madrid v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League - Semi Final - Second Leg - Santiago Bernabeu Source: Adam Davy

Has been one of the few consistently brilliant players in a wildly inconsistent Man City side over the years. Moreover, with the arrival of Pep Guardiola and the addition of high-profile attacking players such as Leroy Sane, İlkay Gündoğan and Gabriel Jesus, it would be no surprise if Aguero manages 20-plus goals for the third consecutive season.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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