Alex Hess looks at a clutch of stars who'll need to prove their worth in 2016/17
1. Andy Carroll (West Ham)
If Carroll doesn’t keep himself fit this season, it’s plausible he’ll stop being considered a viable first XI player and be forever slapped with the unwanted label of ‘useful Plan B’
It’s a minor tragedy that Carroll setting foot on a Premier League pitch is only a semi-regular occurrence: the Geordie hurling himself forehead-first at an inbound cross isn’t just one of the most glorious sights in the division, it’s one of the most effective too.
Expectations of Carroll may have been skewed somewhat by his early-career purple patch as well as that transfer fee (cheers, Kenny) but broadly speaking, he has little to prove to anyone regarding his capacity to brutalise top-flight defences with gay abandon.
He does have plenty to prove regarding his capacity to keep himself intact in the process. For a number of years, Carroll’s perennial fitness issues tended to be euphemistically chalked down to ‘lifestyle’. Now, the worry is less that he can’t resist the urge to sink a vat of jagerbombs each weekend and more that he simply may not have a sportsman’s body – a considerable irony given that a fit and functioning Carroll is perhaps the most physically terrifying striker in the division.
Once England’s next great hope, Carroll’s now no spring chicken. He is 27, and a total of 143 league starts is a seriously meagre number for a player who’s rarely been anything other than first choice throughout his club career (team-mate Aaron Cresswell, a year his junior, has made roughly double that). His effectiveness means West Ham are unlikely to call time on Project Carroll just yet, but that patience won’t last forever.
If he doesn’t keep himself fit this season, it’s plausible he’ll stop being considered a viable first XI player and be forever slapped with the unwanted label of ‘useful Plan B’.