No Premier League player had a bigger or less expected impact on the PFA Bristol Street Motors Fans’ Player of the Month award last season than Liverpool signing Mohamed Salah. Upon his return to the Premier League after an underwhelming spell at Chelsea by way of Serie A, the Egyptian attacker set a new record for goals scored in a 38-game season and went on to lift four of eight monthly awards – alongside the PFA Bristol Street Motors Fans’ Player of the Year award at the end of the campaign.
Which begs an interesting question: who could replicate the Salah effect in the coming season, emerging from nowhere to take the Premier League by storm? We take a look at ten signings this summer who could be the name on everybody’s lips when monthly and seasonal voting comes around…
Liverpool agreed a deal for Naby Keita over a year ago, allowing him to spend last season at former club Red Bull Leipzig, and the 23-year-old midfielder looks well worth the wait. He bagged six goals and five assists in just 23 Bundesliga starts last season, and in terms of his energy and mobility is perfect for the roaming midfield role that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain began to flourish in at Anfield before his injury.
Perhaps the only counter-argument is simply the amount of expectation on the Guinea midfielder; if he doesn’t quite live up to the hype, which is entirely possible for a young player enduring his first ever Premier League season, that will inevitably be reflected in the voting. But should Keita have the impact many are anticipating, he’ll no doubt be one of the Premier League’s standout performers this season.
Attacking players usually enjoy much greater recognition when it comes to Premier League awards but N’Golo Kante lifted the PFA Player of the Year honour for 2016/17 after winning back-to-back titles with Leicester and Chelsea, so there’s certainly some hope for Arsenal addition Lucas Torreira.
Scrappy, ruthlessly energetic and impressive on the ball, the Uruguay international who impressed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia represents exactly what Arsenal have been missing at the base of midfield during the last few years. Therefore, if he can inspire a strong start to Unai Emery’s reign by pushing the Gunners into genuine title contention territory, he has a decent chance of picking up some accolades this term.
Maurizio Sarri’s first official signing as Chelsea boss who was also wanted by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Jorginho arrives in England with a preceding reputation as a deep-lying playmaker of the Andrea Pirlo variety, capable of orchestrating play from the anchoring role with an incredibly crisp and varied passing game.
No player in Europe’s top five leagues averaged more passes per match than the Brazilian-born Italy international last season and if he can bring that dominance of possession over to the Premier League instantaneously, voters will no doubt take note – especially if Chelsea maintain the trend from recent years of bouncing back from a disappointing campaign with a Premier League title win.
His transfer fee has created controversy, but it could seem a small price to pay in a few months’ time if Marco Silva – who the Brazilian forward describes as a father figure – can bring the best out of Richarlison once again after starting his Watford career with five goals and 4 assists in his first 17 Premier League appearances.
The 21-year-old certainly has the potential to silence his doubters as well; he’s fantastically quick and technically gifted like most young Premier League attackers but accompanies it with a unique aggression and power. If Richarlison takes advantage of Everton’s fortunate fixture list at the start of the campaign by rediscovering his confidence in front of goal, he could be in for a real coming-of-age season.
Once coveted by Barcelona, Fulham appear to have landed one of the coups of the summer in Jean Michael Seri, a diminutive but busy midfielder who will add further creativity and attacking flair to an already offensive-minded team at Craven Cottage.
The likelihood of Fulham being involved in a relegation battle may well affect Seri’s chances of scoring big when it comes to the monthly and seasonal awards, but if his promising reputation is anything to go by then he’ll be one of the recurring entertainers in the Premier League this season.
Once described as a ‘little Fernandinho’, Fred could be the signing that finally brings Jose Mourinho’s often clunky Manchester United team to life. He’s seen as a key balancing act between Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic in a midfield that was worryingly disjointed for large sections of last season, combining real tenacity off the ball with the ability to stage instant counter-attacks through daring dribbles in central areas or forward-thinking passes.
Big money was rightly spent on the Brazilian after his impressive performances in the Champions League for Shakhtar last season and if he can bring that over to the Premier League, he’ll have a big impact on United’s campaign – which needs to be a lot more competitive with Manchester City than it was last time out.
West Ham’s most expensive signing amid a summer of lavish spending, club-record acquisition Felipe Anderson has all the makings of another Dimitri Payet – a creative player who comes into the east London club and really elevates them to new levels with talismanic performances.
Perhaps that’s a generous comparison at this moment in time considering Anderson’s still very much a patchy player who has only been able to show his quality in fits and spurts over in Serie A. But if Manuel Pellegrini can bring a higher level of consistency out of a talent that bagged four goals and seven league assists for Lazio last season despite making more sub appearances than starts, the Irons will have a real talent on their hands capable of hurting any Premier League defence.
We’re all more than aware of Riyad Mahrez’s miraculous heroics from Leicester’s Premier League title-winning season in 2015/16, and it’s now a question of whether the Algerian international can be more than the shining light in an underdog team following a big money move to Manchester City.
Mahrez has plenty of competition for places in the starting XI, let alone for actually being crowned PFA Bristol Street Motors Fans’ Player of the Year, but if he can hold onto one of the wide berths in Guardiola’s 4-3-3 setup as City march to another title, the former Foxes talisman will inevitably be in contention for the award come the close of the campaign.
The man signed to try and help fill Mahrez’s void at Leicester City, big things are expected of James Maddison – who represents a real swell of exciting English talent that has developed in the Football League over the last few years. The attacking midfielder was electric in the Championship last season, bagging 14 goals and eight assists to win Norwich City’s Player of the Year award, and at the age of 21 there’s certainly room for further growth on a fantastic campaign.
Perhaps we’re predicting too much from Maddison too soon, but with a lethal centre-forward in front of him in the form of Jamie Vardy, he should get plenty of opportunities to rack up an impressive haul of assists.
Mohamed Elyounoussi has been signed to bring exciting spark back to a Southampton team that unexpectedly found themselves stuck in a relegation battle last season, chiefly through their inability to find the net. If the Norway international’s Champions League performances are anything to go by though, he’ll surely help in that regard having found the net against Benfica and Manchester City.
In terms of direct comparisons with Salah, the tricky wide-man joins Southampton from FC Basel – the club where the now-Liverpool sensation first made his mark in European football, earning a move to Chelsea. It was a while before we saw the best of Salah in England, but that likewise journey bodes well for Saints’ new signing.
Make sure you have your say on which Premier League star deserves the first PFA Bristol Street Motors Fans’ Player of the Month award of the season by checking back on Football FanCast at the end of August. To vote go to www.footballfancast.com/pfa-