The phrase “like a new signing” is usually used to refer to players who have just returned from long-term injury layoffs, but the term could also be applied to overseas stars who had trouble immediately adjusting to the Premier League. There are many instances of exceptional footballers initially struggling with the multiple challenges they are confronted with both on and off the pitch in England but, once they have been negotiated – and doing so often takes an entire season – countless have gone on to thrive. Here are five players looking to step up in their second seasons in the Premier League...
The fact that Manchester City made Mangala the Premier League's most expensive defender when they signed him for £32 million 12 months ago increased the pressure on a 23-year-old who was widely considered to be one of the world's most promising players in his position.
Unfortunately, Mangala joined a team in need of rejuvenation and was paired in central defence with captain Vincent Kompany, who was significantly below his best in 2014/15.
It is often noted that defenders improve with age because of an increased understanding of the game; while Mangala's positioning and concentration still need work, his technique and athleticism are already of a high standard. In a swiftly-improving team - that now includes a rested and revitalised Kompany - Mangala will likely show English audiences exactly why he was so highly rated at Porto.
Nicolas Otamendi, incidentally, could struggle to justify his own £32m price tag. The Argentina international was superb for Valencia last term, but it can often take a while for central defenders to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League, with Jaap Stam and Laurent Koscielny among those who needed time to show their true ability. Were Otamendi to also endure a slow start, an improved Mangala could take advantage.
The Ecuadorian winger may find it difficult to sustain the level of performance he has produced in Swansea’s opening fixtures but, having already demonstrated his potential last season, Montero looks set to become an increasingly important member of Garry Monk’s upwardly-mobile Swansea City outfit.
A player who relies upon confidence to thrive, Montero is likely to benefit from being more settled in the Premier League in 2015/16. A growing understanding with team-mates Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bafetimbi Gomis and Jonjo Shelvey will help matters further, too.
Swansea's recruitment since winning promotion to the Premier League in 2011 has been consistently impressive, with the capture of free agent Andre Ayew this summer the latest excellent addition following previous noteworthy signings such as Wilfried Bony, Michu, Sigurdsson and Gomis.
At just £4m, Montero, with his pace, directness and versatility – the former Villarreal man is comfortable on either the left or right flank – could prove to be the best value of the lot.
Fazio's disappointing season at Tottenham in 2014/15 was a reflection of more than just his personal struggles to adapt to the Premier League. Indeed, had he arrived this summer instead of last, the Argentine would probably have a greater chance of prospering in a team that had benefited from a year of acclimatisation to manager Mauricio Pochettino’s methods.
Though Pochettino's demand for high-intensity football and pressing as a unit can be extremely effective, sides employing similar tactics have often found that the approach can also be full of risk, particularly when players are unaccustomed to such demands. Fazio was at times left exposed by his colleagues in front of him, with worrying holes often appearing between the midfield and defence as a result of an individual failing to press properly.
Put simply, the former Sevilla stopper did not become a bad defender overnight. A red card little over an hour into his league debut would not have helped his confidence, but Fazio is hardly the first centre-half to struggle to contain Sergio Aguero, the man he fouled to concede a penalty in a 4-1 defeat last October.
A mooted move to West Brom ultimately did not materialise, so Fazio remains at White Hart Lane for now and must compete with Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld for a starting spot. With a greater understanding of Pochettino’s methods under his belt, Fazio could surprise a few people this term.
Manchester United’s transfer dealings this summer have come under a great deal of scrutiny, but Herrera may prove to Louis van Gaal that the solution to many of the Red Devils’ current problems is already within the dressing room.
A surprising lack of game time meant that Herrera’s first season at Old Trafford was a disappointing one. Despite excelling in United’s best run of the entire campaign - consecutive defeats of Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester City in the spring - Herrera never seemed to fully win over Van Gaal.
It is probable that the midfielder would have adjusted to English football more swiftly had he been handed more competitive minutes – Herrera was substituted at half-time in only his fifth Premier League start and was selected in the starting XI just once between mid-October and mid-February - but he nevertheless looks set to play a key role in 2015/16.
Herrera's speed of thought and vision were crucial to United in that fruitful run earlier this year; the Spaniard bringing a balance to the side that had previously been lacking. The same problems appear to be present at the start of this season; handing Herrera a regular spot in United's midfield should help to correct many of them.
Barcelona youth product Deulofeu may never justify the tag of La Masia’s ‘next big thing’, but the 21-year-old is unquestionably a promising prospect. Under the right manager – and Roberto Martinez, despite his flaws, may be just that given his preference for attacking football – he could yet thrive.
The forward showed flashes of his quality in a season-long loan spell at Goodison Park in 2013/14, but was limited to only nine league starts as he competed for a place in the team with Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas. Returning to Merseyside on a permanent basis after a disappointing year at Sevilla, Deulofeu is older and more experienced than he was two seasons ago.
He has also returned to a team that is relatively unchanged in terms of style and personnel, so assimilating back into the Everton way of doing things should not be too complicated a process. The Spaniard will bring speed and trickery to the side, with a possible combination with local lad Ross Barkley having the potential to be one of the most exciting link-ups in the Premier League.
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