YOUR Premier League club’s most important player for 2017/18
Arsenal: Alexandre Lacazette
What Arsenal will be in 2017/18 is difficult to know. At the time of writing, Arsene Wenger is yet to convince anyone that Alexis Sanchez is really staying. If the Chilean does see out the final year of his contract then obviously he will be tremendously valuable. So too will Mesut Ozil, who remains a player of the highest calibre.
But in Lacazette, Wenger finally has a blue-chip goalscorer. He might not belong within the premier group of elite European forwards, but he does score goals - lots of them. Only twice over the last 10 years has an Arsenal forward scored more than 30 goals (all competitions) in a season - Robin van Persie in 2011/12, Sanchez in 2016/17 - so Lacazette could potentially be a real variable.
He moves well off the ball, works hard out of possession and his diversity of goals is very broad. With the range of supply behind him, he should do very well.
Arsenal finished fifth last season and were outscored by every team above them. This transfer comes at an important time and should go some way to making up that shortfall.
Bournemouth: Nathan Ake/Asmir Begovic
A tie, because both new signings were made to target the same problem: Eddie Howe’s porous defence.
Bournemouth conceded just one fewer goal than Sunderland in 2016/17, and that their back five remained largely unchanged since their promotion was, respectfully, an issue.
Still, it’s one which is being attacked. Begovic is an outstanding addition and still one of the best goalkeepers in the division, while Ake not only raises the talent level of the defence but could potentially allow it to adopt a different shape. Comfortable at centre-back and full-back, but also within a back four or three, he brings a versatility and quality which Howe desperately needed.
Brighton: Anthony Knockaert
History teaches us that newly promoted teams rarely succeed by trying to grind their way to safety. They can’t be reckless, of course, and Brighton won’t be under Chris Hughton, but they will have to be moderately ambitious to survive.
Knockaert is their best player, the one who will instantly belong within the Premier League. Glenn Murray’s goals were a big part of their promotion and he will have to reach double figures again, but Knockaert is the one who will frighten top-flight defenders. An elegant ball-carrier with upper-body strength which belies his light frame, he and his left foot will cause all sorts of chaos.
Burnley: Andre Gray
Burnley’s inability to score goals last season nearly cost them their Premier League place. The only three teams that scored fewer goals were all relegated.
Gray is an interesting player. Nine league goals was a decent return for a forward experiencing the top flight for the first time, but around those strikes was the evidence that he’s capable of much more. Think, for instance, of his twist-and-hit at Swansea.
Supply is a problem. Burnley didn’t necessarily struggle in front of goal because of profligate finishing, but rather because their attacking patterns were formulaic; there was nothing subtle to their threat. If that can be remedied, though, and if Gray can diversify his game and vary his runs accordingly, all will be well at Turf Moor.
Chelsea: Eden Hazard
Unoriginal, but still true. Antonio Conte has built a highly structured side which likes to grind opponents down by attrition and pin them within their own half. The wing-backs are a very important part of that, Alvaro Morata will need to score goals, and Tiemoue Bakayoko’s partnership with N’Golo Kante will certainly be interesting. But Hazard poses the unique threat.
He obviously greases the gears of Chelsea’s counter-attack, a really underrated part of their game, but he’ll be responsible for creating the incisions against teams who choose to sit deep. Seasons come, seasons go, but still nobody has a proper answer to the threat he poses.