English football is home to the most watched league in world football and Premier League fans across the globe have been treated to some brilliant football during the current campaign.
In addition to the Premier League’s established names this season has seen a whole host of top talents emerge, from marquee signings, to returning loanees and exciting young talents.
As the Premier League campaign reaches its conclusion, we’ve chosen 10 of the best players to have made their debut in the division this season.
Arsenal fans have had to wait what seems an eternity to watch William Saliba debut, with the centre-back sent on various loan spells since arriving from Saint-Etienne in 2019.
Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille have all had a role in the development of the defender, who was named as Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Season during his loan with the latter last season. Introduced into the Arsenal side this season, the Frenchman has been an instant hit to establish himself as one of the best young defenders in Europe.
🔴 William Saliba. The future's bright 💫@Arsenal || #UEL pic.twitter.com/3KjfOSar8A
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) March 15, 2023
The 22-year-old – who has won eight caps for France since his debut last year – has epitomised the traits desired in a modern defender. Proactive, composed in possession and comfortable striding forward with the ball at his feet, Saliba has been a crucial cog for Arsenal in both building attacks and stopping those of the opposition.
His impact has perhaps been felt most in his absence, as Arsenal’s title challenge has unravelled. Saliba had started every Premier League fixture before injuring his back against Sporting Lisbon last month and Arsenal have failed to keep a clean sheet since. The Gunners have conceded 11 goals in a four-game winless run, one which has handed the title initiative to Manchester City.
What might have been, had Saliba been in the side.
Boubacar Kamara’s contribution this season has flown somewhat under the radar outside of Aston Villa, but those who have watched the midfielder in action closely this season will tell you he is one of the bargains of the campaign.
A free transfer arrival from Marseille last summer, Kamara has screened Villa’s back four with class this season and offers both defensive security as a midfield anchor and assured presence in possession to build from the back.
Boubacar Kamara. Monsterclass. pic.twitter.com/mOVXTQD3aH
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) January 2, 2023
No player at Villa has averaged more tackles per game than Kamara, whose encouraging first campaign was halted as a result of an ankle issue. Unai Emery will be keen to have the midfielder available as soon as possible, with Kamara having shone in a struggling team earlier in the campaign. Villa have found their form in his absence and the 23-year-old could make an improving team even better on his return.
Brighton’s recruitment team continue to unearth gems and Kaoru Mitoma is among the latest crop turning the heads of the Premier League’s wealthiest sides. The Japan international spent last season on loan with Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium as he awaited a work permit, before making his debut for the Seagulls this season.
Mitoma had to be patient under Graham Potter, but has been a revelation since Roberto De Zerbi took charge at the Amex Stadium. Exhilarating when left one-against-one with full-backs, the 25-year-old has been a must watch this season with his ability to leave defenders in his wake.
The most goals of any Japanese player in a single #PL season! 🇯🇵
Congratulations, @kaoru_mitoma 👏 pic.twitter.com/UBgGbzbgD0
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 1, 2023
He has seven goals – a record for a Japanese player in a Premier League season – and four assists this season. Brighton might just have a queue at their door for his services this summer.
At a time where it appears several of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ are desperately in search of midfield presence, it is puzzling that Joao Palhinha was overlooked last summer.
Palhinha has made a major impression since signing for newly-promoted Fulham, stamping his authority on Marco Silva’s midfield. The Portugal international has been a prolific ball-winner, leading the Premier League for tackles won and adding four goals – often spectacular – for good measure.
"He's been absolutely sensational this season."
"You need someone like that in front of you as a defender."@rioferdy5, @sjsidwell and Joe Cole single out João Palhinha for his incredible first season at Fulham ⛔️💪 pic.twitter.com/AvdKajTTdq
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 22, 2023
Combative, good on the ball and with an imposing physical frame, he has all the ingredients to screen a backline. There’s good reason that several wealthier sides have been backed to offer Fulham an instant profit on their £20m investment.
Liverpool searched for added spark during the January transfer window and added Cody Gakpo to the club’s forward ranks. The Dutchman had sparkled during a sensational first half of the season at PSV Eindhoven and enhanced his reputation with three goals at the World Cup in Qatar.
He arrived in the midst of a torrid run of form for Liverpool and took time to find his feet, but his recent form has offered huge encouragement to Jurgen Klopp ahead of next season. Gakpo has six league goals since his arrival in the winter window and has shown signs he can be Roberto Firmino’s replacement as the Brazilian prepares to depart this summer.
Having impressed in a left-sided role at PSV, Gakpo has taken to a central one at Liverpool, where his ability to receive the ball, link-play and intelligent pressing have improved week on week. He has been the heart of Liverpool’s recent three-game winning run and offers a different option to the raw wrecking ball that is Darwin Nunez or the scampering industry of Diogo Jota at number nine.
Cody Gakpo. That's it, that's the tweet 🔥 pic.twitter.com/mPfVGyws4q
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 26, 2023
If Liverpool can freshen up this summer and find a fully functioning midfield, Klopp could have an embarrassment of riches – and variety – in his forward line.
Manchester City’s detractors have often cited the club’s spending as the key reason for their modern success, but the Premier League champions have shown their eye for a bargain in recent windows.
Manuel Akanji arrived in an understated £15m deal from Borussia Dortmund on deadline day last summer, a surprise signing given the presence of Ruben Dias, John Stones, Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte among Pep Guardiola’s defensive options.
The Switzerland international has been a shrewd signing, one comfortable in almost any role across the backline. His attributes have been perfectly suited to Guardiola’s new defensive game plan, one which relies on its central defenders being comfortable when moving into wide areas.
This is a Manuel Akanji appreciation post! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/HwLf8l3j8M
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 27, 2023
Akanji was excellent in an unfamiliar left-sided role against Arsenal this week, as he shutdown the threat of Bukayo Saka. Not many in the Premier League have succeeded in that task this season.
What more is there to say about Erling Haaland?
A footballer breaking every goalscoring record in sight.
It’s now 49 goals in all competitions and counting for Haaland, who has obliterated records during a sensational debut season at Manchester City. The signing designed to take City to Champions League success might just do that and more, with Pep Guardiola’s side in fine fettle and chasing a historic treble this season.
Erling Haaland becomes the outright top scorer in a 38-game Premier League season! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/IA2N05FDcC
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 26, 2023
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo might have warped perceptions about what is possible on foreign shores, but for arguably the first time the Premier League is witness to such feats. His 50th goal of the season appears a matter of time. On current form, City and Haaland appear unstoppable.
Manchester United’s midfield issues had long been documented before last summer and the Red Devils turned to an established name in search of a solution.
In came Casemiro, in need of a new challenge after a decorated career at Real Madrid, and revamped the side. The Brazilian has been brilliant during his debut season in the Premier League, producing examples of the class that led to five Champions League winners’ medals at the Bernabeu.
The 31-year-old has dominated duels and allowed those ahead of him to flourish, with Manchester United unbeaten this season when Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes have started in the same midfield.
There’s been more to his game than defensive grind however, with five goals and the exhibition of an expansive passing range that often took a back seat given the presence of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric at Real Madrid.
Casemiro's performance went under the radar for @ManUtd in the #EmiratesFACup semi-finals 🔥 pic.twitter.com/fFKtLej4su
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) April 24, 2023
Casemiro was excellent as the Red Devils beat Newcastle to win the League Cup final in February and produced another strong performance as Erik ten Hag’s team reached the FA Cup final by beating Brighton on penalties last weekend.
A born winner.
It seems a long time ago that there were doubts over Lisandro Martinez’s suitability to the Premier League.
The centre-back came in for criticism after a difficult start to the season at Manchester United, with widespread reservations over whether the diminutive defender could cut it in English football. Since then the Argentine has grown in stature, becoming a firm fans’ favourite at Old Trafford for his warrior-like approach.
🔴 Licha 🔴
Enjoy all the best moments from @LisandrMartinez's #MUNLIV performance Monday night 🙌#MUFC || #PL pic.twitter.com/QdOc2Qr2Cb
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 24, 2022
Martinez wins aerial duels with well-timed leaps, positions himself well defensively and rallies those around him, each traits which have made him a popular figure at his new side.
Add in excellent distribution and a genuine desire to defend and the £57m addition from Ajax – who won the World Cup with Argentina last winter – has made a big impression.
Newcastle broke their transfer record to sign Alexander Isak last summer and it’s popular opinion on Tyneside that it has been money well spent.
Isak has been linked with several leading clubs before joining Newcastle’s ambitious project and the Swedish striker has made an immediate impact. The 23-year-old has scored 10 goals in just 11 league starts for the Magpies, a return which only injury has prevented from being increased.
Isak is a formidable combination of pace, size and nimble footwork, while he’s already shown this season that there’s an ice-cold composure when opportunities arrive.
Alexander Isak in the Premier League 📈🔥 pic.twitter.com/rjg3GxqNjv
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) April 23, 2023
There’s nothing Newcastle fans quite appreciate like a goalscoring centre-forward and Isak already appears to have been taken to the hearts of the Toon Army.
His recent run of form – which included a brace in the club’s 6-1 thrashing of Tottenham – might just fire Newcastle back into the Champions League for the first time in two decades.
Read – Remembering every time a team scored 5+ goals in the first half of a Premier League game
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