With the Premier League return 48 hours away, thoughts begin to turn to just how players will cope with the restart. Which players will fly out the blocks, looking fit as a fiddle and which will look like they’ve been on a stag weekend? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Prior to lockdown there were plenty of surprises this season, including several stars who went above and beyond expectations with their performances.
Here’s a reminder of some of the players who have seriously laid doubts to rest this season and made the critics all look a bit silly in the process.
Who predicted that Tammy Abraham would have the success he’s had in his first full season at Chelsea? Not many I’d expect.
The young English striker was written off at the start, despite smacking in 25 goals in the Championship for Aston Villa the season before.
Despite the doubters, he went straight into Frank Lampard’s lineup and he seized his moment, scoring 13 in 25 before the break.
While he’s far from the finished article (and is set for heavy competition from Timo Werner soon enough), Abraham looks like a Premier League quality striker who will be around for years to come.
Another English striker, but a very different story. The forgotten man at Liverpool after an awful spell of injuries, Ings had made just 14 Premier League appearances in three years for the Reds.
The loan move to Southampton in 2018 – made permanent last summer – has kickstarted his career once more and his excellent form coincided with the Saints dramatic turnaround.
He sits on 15 league goals this season and surely should be on Gareth Southgate’s radar with a European Championships to plan for next year.
It was very surprising when the Foxes didn’t sign a centre half upon Harry Maguire’s departure to Manchester United last summer. So when Soyuncu stepped up to the starting lineup this season, Leicester fans and pundits alike, were skeptical to say the least.
Well as it’s turned out, the Turkish defender has been an absolute rock at the back alongside Jonny Evans and has given us all real taste of humble pie.
The guy has literally gone from virtual unknown to one of the most in-demand centre halves in Europe with Manchester City and even Barcelona supposedly interested.
Peter Schmeichel hailed Fred as ‘one of the great stories of Man Utd’s season’ and it’s easy to see why. The Brazilian has evolved from overpriced flop to one of the most valuable assets in just half a season.
Jose Mourinho seemingly didn’t rate the £52m signing and confined him to the bench but new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw something that his predecessor (and many United fans) hadn’t picked up on either.
His measured and at times, game-controlling performances have more than made up for his less than ideal start.
Tyrone Mings hasn’t had the easiest journey to the top but much like others who have journeyed up from the lower leagues, he is more than making up for lost time. Alongside Jack Grealish, the 27-year-old centre back is probably the only positive to take away from Aston Villa’s return to the Premier League and few saw it coming.
His domineering and mature performances this season caught the eye of Southgate and he made his England debut in an incredibly difficult night in Bulgaria in August of last year; where he was subject to racist chanting.
What is it with English strikers getting written off? Here’s another one who we all thought would never reach the level required. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti to thank really, as his confidence and goal tally shot up after the Italian took over.
The former England Under-21 man had been, in many fan’s eyes, treading water for a number of seasons. I mean, if Oumar Niasse is starting instead of you, you’ve got to wonder if it’s ever going to happen.
Thankfully for DCL, it has now quite definitely happened.
Finally, a talented Arsenal youngster who is only just beginning to prove the sceptics were maybe incorrect. Nketiah, 21, was loaned to Championship favourites Leeds this season and it just didn’t happen for him, playing a largely bit part role.
Whatever Marcelo Bielsa couldn’t discover, Mikel Arteta clearly can; as Nketiah was re-called and shoved straight into the first team ahead of Alexander Lacazette.
And so far, it’s gone pretty well, scoring three goals in seven matches before lockdown and hitting a hat-trick in a warm up match last week. It’s early days, but he’s certainly proving he’s up to it thus far…