Last year was tough for pretty much every team not named ‘Leicester’ – and as such, a summer of great change has had a positive impact on this previously dirty dozen
1. Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
Otamendi took a while to adjust to the English game following his £28.5m move from Valencia last summer, but his displays so far this season have dismissed all notions that he was a transfer market flop. As well as demonstrating his physical prowess in one-on-one duels with opposition strikers, the Argentina international has also proven an able distributor of the ball from the heart of the backline. Perfect for Pep.
2. Adam Lallana (Liverpool)
Lallana’s always been easy on the eye and a player capable of making things happen in the final third, but his inconsistent end product let him down throughout his first two years at Anfield. He’s shown a huge improvement in that regard this term, though: Lallana’s already netted three times, leaving him just one goal shy of his top-flight return in 2015/16. Jurgen Klopp praised the England international’s hard work as the key reason for his progress, but the German’s own role has been huge.
3. Diego Costa (Chelsea)
Costa spent much of last season sulking and throwing his toys out of the pram, but that wasn’t necessarily a problem: after all, he tends to do that that even when things are going well. The Spain international – back in for his national team too – already looks much sharper this season, having scored five goals in his six Premier League appearances and causing problems for defenders with his powerful running and hold-up play. Costa was linked with a return to Atletico Madrid in the summer, but Chelsea fans will be grateful he stayed put.
4. Kevin Mirallas (Everton)
Mirallas fell out of favour at Goodison Park last term, starting only 10 Premier League matches under Roberto Martinez. In contrast, new Everton boss Ronald Koeman has included him in all six of his line-ups this year, and the Belgian has repaid his manager’s faith thus far. Granted, Mirallas is still inconsistent and wasn’t quite at it against Middlesbrough and Bournemouth, but his performances in clashes with Tottenham, West Brom and Stoke suggest he’s making positive strides in the right direction.
5. Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
Manchester United’s best showing of the season may have come when Fellaini was absent, but it would be churlish not to acknowledge the midfielder’s contributions before last Saturday’s 4-1 defeat of Leicester. Although Fellaini’s not a natural holder, he performed admirably in the role against Bournemouth and Southampton, and also did pretty well in the loss to Manchester City considering he was afforded little protection from his team-mates.
6. Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
“I said many times at the start of the season that we would see a different Theo Walcott,” Arsene Wenger said after Saturday’s obliteration of Chelsea. “I could see he made a decision and sticks to it.” The 27-year-old has certainly caught the eye in the opening weeks, playing an important role in the fluid frontline which has propelled Arsenal to third in the early standings. Walcott is now seemingly content to settle for a spot on the right flank after previous demands to be fielded through the middle.