YOUR Premier League club’s most important player for 2017/18
Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha
Frank de Boer was a left-field appointment (perhaps also a study into how quickly and unfairly a manager’s reputation can be re-evaluated) and Palace have made some interesting signings. They’ve needed a new centre-half for some time and Jairo Riedewald has ticked that box, while prospect-in-perpetuity Ruben Loftus-Cheek has also arrived.
But ultimately, looking beyond Zaha would be contrary. He’s their best player and the one capable of hurting opponents the most. The great success of this window has been Steve Parrish’s nous in pricing his biggest asset out of a move and, inevitably, Zaha’s fitness and form will go a long way to defining the tone of the season ahead.
Everton: Jordan Pickford
Everton haven’t enjoyed good goalkeeping for years. In fact, it hasn’t really been a true strength since Neville Southall was at his peak.
Over the summer, Ronald Koeman has made important additions in every department, but Pickford is the master brick. He’s an outstanding shot-stopper, a prerequisite, but he’s also a vocal figure too and the organisation and authority he brings to the role will be essential to creating some stability behind a reconstructed defence.
Huddersfield: Aaron Mooy
Premier League audiences might well have seen Mooy for the first time during the 2016 Championship play-off final. It wasn’t a day for creation or flair, being an agonising struggle of a match, so better to reserve judgement.
Huddersfield are the weakest of the promoted teams and they will have to lean heavily on Mooy if they are to survive. Athletically he’s not the most impressive and might struggle with the pace of a higher division, but the quality of his distribution should allow him to belong and his set-piece delivery will be particularly important.
Leicester: Wilfred Ndidi
Perhaps chastened by the expensive blanks they fired a year ago, Leicester have remained relatively quiet over the summer. Harry Maguire and goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic have been signed from Hull, and defensive midfielder Vicente Iborra has joined from Sevilla. It’s also anticipated that Kelechi Iheanacho will eventually sign, but for the moment much remains as it was.
Wilfred Ndidi, therefore, should grow to prominence. The Nigerian's first season was characterised by two wonderful goals, but those were welcome anomalies rather than true depictions of style.
He’s a force in central midfield and, frighteningly, won’t even turn 21 until December. Leicester will depend on Kasper Schmeichel, on the new centre-back pairing in front of him, and - naturally - on the goals of Jamie Vardy, but Ndidi’s performances will define the steadiness of their footing in games.
Liverpool: Sadio Mane
Even with Mohamed Salah’s arrival from Roma, Mane still brings the essential thrust. With him they are cutting, dynamic and extremely difficult to contain; without him Jurgen Klopp’s side are often sluggish and predictable.
Salah should dilute his importance slightly, because there’s a stylistic overlap between the two, but losing Mane for any great length of time would still be a disaster. Liverpool depend on the penetration he provides and they are an entirely different proposition when he plays.