Ghana v USA: Group G - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Ten potential breakout stars for the 2014-15 Premier League season

1 Comment

Good luck defining the term “breakout star” in a way that makes everybody happy. Only slightly less difficult: Coming up with a list that satisfies all those definitions. When you’re talking about potential, it’s all hypothetical.

So notice the little trick (read: cop-out) in the headline? This isn’t the 10 players who could breakout. It’s just 10 players, a nod to the 15-20 names left on the scratch pad.

Ultimately, we’re trying to find players who will make a leap in 2014-15. These are players who will play decisive roles – talents who were either elsewhere or struggling last season.

Players like Diego Costa, who we all know are going to be good? There’s no breakout there. That under-the-radar signing from Mexico, or the guy who earned more playing time this summer? They’re what this list is about.

And we start with somebody who captured headlines today:

(Players listed in alphabetical order.)

Christian Atsu, Everton (above, on loan from Chelsea) – The Ghanaian international failed to meet expectations on loan at Vitesse last season, scoring only five times in 28 games in a league that hands out goals like second grade Valentine’s cards. Under Roberto Martínez’s tutelage, Atsu should be able to harness the talent that convinced Chelsea to buy him from Porto.

Ryan Bertrand, Southampton (on loan from Chelsea) – Under Roberto Di Matteo, Bertrand worked his way into the England set up, competing with Chelsea’s then-first choice Ashley Cole in the process. Now, the 25-year-old is set to get some much need reps, with Ronald Koeman giving him the opportunity to put up some impressive numbers.

Remy Cabella, Newcastle – No team is making better use of France than Newcastle, who dipped back into Ligue 1 in search of a replacement for Yohan Cabaye. The 24-year-old Cabella is a different type of player but capable of having a similar impact. Though he won’t replicate his 14-goal season, Cabella should make Newcastle less dependent on goals from its forwards.

source: Getty ImagesFraser Forster, Southampton (right) – For some people, the England international is too established for a breakout. For others, four years in the Scottish Premier League doesn’t mean much. Back in England for the first time in since, Forster has a chance to prove his Champions League highlights can translate into saves on the south coast.

Danny Ings, Burnley – Ings’ Championship breakout was one of the keys to Burnley’s surprise success. With talk of an England callup accompanying the 22-year-old’s first year in the top flight, the Clarets’ leading goal scorer could breakout on multiple new levels.

Erik Lamela, Tottenham Hotspur – One of the biggest disappointments of Spurs’ post-Bale splurge, Lamela became a forgotten man around White Hart Lane. After an impressive preseason, the former Roma standout looks set to make his first impact in the Premier League. He may be the most talented player in Spurs’ squad.

Eliaquim Mangala, Manchester City – One of the most sought after young defenders in Europe, Mangala is making the jump from Portugal’s Liga to the top of the Premier League. Though City has cover should that transition slow, Mangala’s talent and physicality could make him a significant boost to the Citizens’ title hopes.

Jefferson Montero, Swansea City – The Ecuadorian will take some time to adjust to the Premier League, but once gets a feeling for which spaces he can exploit, Montero will be one of England’s best one-on-one players. Garry Monk just needs to figure out how to harness that talent.

John Stones, Everton – Fresh off a new five-year deal, Stones is ready to claim a permanent spot in the middle of Everton’s defense. Only 20 years old, the England international is expected to establish himself in the Three Lions’ setup this cycle. This year gives the Barnsley product a chance to take that next step.

Connor Wickham, Sunderland – Two years of frustration after leaving Ipswich Town ended dramatically at the end of last season, with a goal-scoring run from the Black Cats’ 21-year-old proving crucial to the club’s Premier League survival. If Gus Poyet can continue nurturing the England U-level talent, double-digit goals is not out of the question – something that could up the price for a player whose in the last year of his deal.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
Leave a comment

Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
1 Comment

Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.