The Premier League is finally about to return and many of its star players find themselves with points to prove. Now we can stop pretending to know about the Bundesliga and focus on the soccer teams we know and love. Many teams and players find themselves playing in a game with high stakes.
Some of them have been inconsistent all season but suddenly have an opportunity to prove their worth. Others are returning from injury and know they have the chance to be a hero. Every sports league faces challenges to return from the health crisis, and the Premier League is no different. It’s a fascinating time, so let’s take a look at players from each of the Premier League 20 teams with something big to prove. Check out our list below.
20. Mesut Ozil – Arsenal:
Ozil is entering the final year of a strange career at Arsenal. Over the past couple of seasons, his ingenuity and invention have disappeared. Meanwhile, he’s on the wrong side of 30 with extremely high wages so most Gunners fans won’t be sad to see him exit.
However, Arsenal will definitely need him in the run-in if they want to qualify for the Champion’s League. They say that form is temporary but class is permanent. It’s time for him to prove this is true. Who knows? He might even convince another big club to take a chance on him.
McGinn is chomping at the bit. He’ll be desperate to play again after a frustrating injury left him on the sidelines for three months. In the meantime, Jack Grealish has taken all of the plaudits. But McGinn’s grit and drive could help Villa to survive the drop.
Don’t forget that Manchester United almost paid $50 million for him last summer. McGinn is a classy player who definitely belongs at this level. However, the question is will he stay in the Premier League with Villa, or is it going to be an advertisement for his suitors?
Out of contract soon, Fraser’s head hasn’t been in the game for the past few months. The Scot will want to convince the best teams that he’s capable of stepping it up a level, so it’s up to him to prove himself. Otherwise, he may find himself moving sideways into another relegation battler.
Fraser has sold himself short this season, which won’t help him as he looks for the biggest move available. He suddenly has an opportunity to help save Bournemouth and also to show other teams just what he can do. It’s time to put the team first.
Irish defender Duffy spent three seasons as Lewis Dunk’s main defensive partner. However, the giant Donegal man has been on the bench for a lot of this season because of the form of Adam Webster. A ball-playing center-back, Webster fits in better with Graham Potter’s tactical philosophy.
Duffy is playing for his future. Whether or not that is at Brighton remains to be seen. But after the restart, he’ll be desperate to prove that he’s not finished. Duffy will leave if Brighton doesn’t start him regularly. His qualities should attract a number of suitors.
One of Burnley’s cult heroes, Barnes suddenly finds himself fourth in the pecking order of forwards. However, you can bet the 30-year-old will be up for the challenge. He has to contend with the revival of Matej Vydra after suffering a hernia injury.
Barnes is very effective in a direct team but he has to prove that he can evolve with the team as it solidifies itself in the Premier League. Jay Rodriguez and Chris Woods are the established front two, but there will be opportunities for Barnes when the league returns.
Abraham got lucky this season because of the lack of other options. But next season will be a different story because of the expensive arrivals of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziykech. Meanwhile, Abraham is holding out because he wants more money.
Abraham needs to prove he’s worth it. If he wants to start the season as Chelsea’s number nine, then he needs to fire his club into the top four. Werner is the biggest competition that he has faced in his career so far, so he needs to build momentum fast.
While he’s definitely Palace’s most talented player, Zaha has been inconsistent this season. Instead, Jordan Ayew has been their main source of goals. Perhaps he’s stayed too long at Selhurst Park, but it may be too late for him to seek a move as teams recover from revenue loss during the shutdown.
Unfortunately for Zaha, that means he just has to get on with it. He must put himself in the shop window because Palace are quite content to hang onto their star man. He has an opportunity to flaunt his talents. A couple of wins will guarantee Palace’s Premier League status and he can play with freedom.
Back in 2018, Pickford was an England hero, but his fall from grace has been sharp. In short, he could be one of the big losers of the decision to delay Euro 2020. Nick Pope’s form and the rise of Dean Henderson puts him under severe pressure to keep his international place.
In sum, he needs to step it up at the club level and prove that he’s the most mature of England’s goalkeepers. Extremely self-confident, Pickford has got to improve and be more consistent. Otherwise, Gareth Southgate will make a decision he won’t like. It’s in Pickford’s hands unless he drops it.
Turkish international Soyuncu was a revelation up until the midpoint of the season when Leicester suddenly dipped as a team. But the rest will have done him good as the Foxes play a very intense style of football. He wants to prove that he can be Jonny Evans’s partner next season.
If Leicester qualifies for the Champion’s League, then they’ll surely invest in another defender. Soyuncu knows all his good work will go out the window if he doesn’t maintain his form until the summer. He’s got the good will of fans but his slump can’t continue.
It’s been a stop-start story for Keita at Liverpool so far. The Guinean midfielder has only shown flashes of his ability because he has such a bad injury record. If he wants to get the fans on his side then he needs to get some consistent form going. After two seasons, time is running out.
He did arrive at Anfield for almost $60 million, which is a lot of money. He also inherited Steven Gerrard’s number eight which weighs heavily on his shoulders. However, he may benefit from playing behind closed doors without the fans on his back.
We all know by know how much Pep Guardiola rates Foden, but that doesn’t mean much if you’re not playing regularly. In short, Foden will be looking at the likes of Jaden Sancho at Dortmund and Tammy Abraham at Chelsea. Those players are featuring in every game, but Foden is lucky to scrape by with 10 minutes at the end of the game.
However, an opportunity beckons. With the new five-substitute rule and City’s pursuit of the Champion’s League, Foden will surely get the chance to prove what he can do. It’s up to him to show that he can step into David Silva’s shoes when the Spaniard leaves this summer.
Like much of 2020, this season has been nothing short of shambles for Pogba. After winning the World Cup with France, he should have pushed on to the next level. With just eight appearances in all competitions as well as alleged trouble behind the scenes, Pogba just has n0t made much of an impact this season.
However, the arrival of Bruno Fernandes has helped fans forget him and brought some joy to Old Trafford. Suddenly, Pogba is in danger. He needs to remind everyone how good he is. Playing beside the Portuguese could help to bring out the best in him.
Brazil’s Joelinton has become the unwitting scapegoat of Newcastle’s misfiring attack. However, the truth is that he has been playing out of position all season. He never played as a lone striker before arriving at Newcastle. All of this certainly hasn’t helped endear him to fans.
His struggles with the language, culture, and a new system have made it a baptism of fire. But a couple of goals will make fans forget about his early struggles. It’s up to Joelinton to prove he can be the difference and justify his hefty fee.
Pukki was the Canaries’ hero in their promotion campaign last year and took his form into the early games of this season. However, the Finland striker’s goals have since dried up. His supply hasn’t been great, but he’s definitely their most important player in the run-in.
As well as this, it’s also an opportunity to remind other clubs of his abilities. Pukki can score in the Premier League as we have seen, but would another team be interested in taking a shot on him? He’s happy at Norwich yet could end up beating the drop one way or another.
Most forwards come under pressure when they don’t score goals, but McGoldrick is a Blades cult hero. Even though he hasn’t scored a goal all season, he’s still as popular as ever. He is the Roberto Firmino of United’s attempt to win a European place this season. To sum, that’s why they gave him a new contract.
McGoldrick links the play brilliantly and is an invaluable team player in the Premier League. However, he definitely wants to prove that he can score and show opposing fans what he can do. It’s a pity there won’t be Sheffield fans in the stadium because if he does score they’d go insane.
Regarded as a potential England international, Gunn was an unfortunate casualty of Southampton’s horrific 9-0 defeat to Manchester City. A former City player, Gunn wasn’t even that bad in that game, but it was a massive dent to his confidence. Manager Ralph Hassenhuttl decided to take him out of the line of fire.
He started the season as Southampton’s first-choice keeper but has been replaced by Alex McCarthy. Gunn still has outstanding potential and can definitely be a starter in the future. He’ll be desperate to bounce back at the first opportunity.
It’s been an odd year for Ndombele but he will surely get some opportunities after the restart. First of all, Jose Mourinho effectively wrote him off. His injury record isn’t great either, which hasn’t helped. However, he can put all of this behind him with just a few good performances.
In recent training sessions, he looks leaner and sharper than before. Ndombele will be desperate to prove himself in the Premier League but needs to make an impact now before it is too late. It looks like he has patched up his relationship with Mourinho so there is a shot at redemption.
Watford fans know how good Sarr is, but the rest of the league still isn’t aware of the Senegal star. When he exploded into life against Liverpool in the Reds’ only defeat of the season so far, everybody sat up. He’s a devastating threat to fullbacks across the league.
Sarr is ridiculously fast and a very intelligent defender. Now he’s back from injury and knows he has to be at his best to help Watford in their battle against the drop. But he will also want to create a highlights package in case the Hornets do go down to prove that he belongs in the Premier League.
There are a whole host of players you could choose from including Felipe Anderson, as well as their underperforming left-backs Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku. But Haller arrived for big money last summer and it’s safe to say he has a lot to prove.
The rest of the team hasn’t helped him out very well. But if you cost a club $50 million, then you need to produce goals in the Premier League. If Haller can fire West Ham to survival then he’ll earn cult status and the love of fans. He has time on his side, but not unlimited.
It’s been a breakout year for Traore in the Premier League. Nuno has turned him into an explosive marauder of a player but now it’s down to Traore to prove he can do it consistently. He has all the physical gifts to be a worldbeater but didn’t put it all together before this year.
That’s all changed, however, and he can send a message to all his doubters that he’s here to stay. Traore’s searing pace will be a vital weapon against rusty defenses across the league. At this point, the Spaniard will surely be full of confidence. Let’s hope he can keep it going.