Five surprise packages from the Premier League season so far. Rodrigo Muniz - Fulham
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Five surprise packages from the Premier League season so far

One of the criticisms of modern football is that it has become too predictable, but the Premier League has provided a healthy number of surprises this season.

Several stars have emerged from the shadows, or periods of underperformance, to impress this time around, reaching unforeseen heights in the 2023/24 Premier League campaign.

Here are five surprise packages from the Premier League season so far.

Rodrigo Muniz

Fulham fans feared the worst when Aleksandar Mitrovic was sold in the summer, as the Saudi Pro League’s riches lured away last season’s leading scorer. Mitrovic had scored 111 goals in 205 games for Fulham over the last five-and-a-half seasons, the sort of return not easily replaced.

The west London side’s reinvestment of the Mitrovic money was modest, with £5m spent to bring in Raul Jimenez from Wolves. The Mexican failed to score a league goal last season and despite showing positive signs at Fulham, he will turn 33 before the end of the campaign.

Fulham, however, might just have unearthed their Mitrovic replacement from their own ranks. Few would have had Rodrigo Muniz emerging as a cult figure this season, with the Brazilian having returned from an underwhelming loan spell at Middlesbrough.

The 22-year-old started only three league games before the turn of the new year but has ignited his Fulham career with a purple patch in 2024. Muniz has scored seven goals in his last seven appearances, form which has propelled Marco Silva’s side within reach of the European places.

The leading scorer in the Premier League since February, Muniz is mobile, physically imposing and a focal point to build around. If he continues his current form, he will save Fulham millions in the transfer market this summer.

Cole Palmer

That a £42.5m signing can be considered a surprise package says more about the current transfer market than anything else. Eyebrows were raised when Chelsea spent that sum to sign Cole Palmer last summer, with many feeling Manchester City got good value for a talent who had been afforded just three league starts at the Etihad.

After requesting a loan move, City delivered Palmer an ultimatum: Stay or leave permanently. Palmer opted for the latter and it has been a decision vindicated, following a superb season at Stamford Bridge. The 21-year-old has scored 14 goals in all competitions and created a further 12, a return which has earned him a place in the senior England squad.

Arguably the Premier League’s Young Player of the Season so far, Manchester City might just have some regret at their premature sale of the technically gifted forward. The manner in which Palmer has imposed himself on an inconsistent Chelsea team has been outstanding, a beacon of positivity in an otherwise disappointing campaign.

Kobbie Mainoo

Kobbie Mainoo has wasted no time in becoming a household name, with calls for the 18-year-old to be included in England’s Euro 2024 squad despite only a handful of senior appearances at club level.

Since making his first start for Manchester United in November’s win at Everton, Mainoo has cemented a place in Erik ten Hag’s team, offering calm amid chaos and keeping more established players out of the side.

Mainoo boasts a sublime first touch and the agility to evade midfield traffic, showcasing comfort when receiving the ball in difficult areas of the pitch. An old head on young shoulders, Gareth Southgate has chosen to run the rule over the Stockport-born starlet during March’s internationals.

A senior England debut against Brazil could arrive on Saturday, capping Mainoo’s meteoric rise.

Conor Bradley

Jurgen Klopp has trusted the talent of the Liverpool academy to manage the club’s injury problems this season and Conor Bradley has seized his chance in the senior set-up.

Bradley spent last season on loan at Bolton Wanderers in the third tier, where he completed a clean sweep of the club’s end-of-season Player of the Year awards. The presence of Trent Alexander-Arnold had provided an obstacle to his breakthrough at Liverpool, but an injury to the Reds right-back offered an opportunity.

Bradley impressed on debut and has since provided six assists and a goal in 18 games, while starting the Carabao Cup final win over Chelsea at Wembley. As recently as January, Liverpool were linked with signing a right-back but Bradley’s emergence might just have cancelled those plans.

“It was so special to make my Premier League debut – I don’t think I can actually put it into words,” Bradley told BBC Northern Ireland.

“It’s what I had been waiting for for such a long time and I’ve been dreaming about for a long time, so to get that and to also assist in that game was brilliant, I was just buzzing.

“It’s pretty mental all the trophies I’ve collected in the last couple of months but it’s been brilliant and I don’t think I could have dreamt of it going quite so well. But I want to keep it going, I want to keep working hard. I want to keep improving myself because I know there’s still a lot of improvement to be made.”

Dominic Solanke

Dominic Solanke’s early struggles as a Premier League player are becoming a distant memory, with the forward beginning to fulfil the potential he has long had.

Solanke had scored just 10 goals in 96 top-flight appearances before this season, netting six on the Cherries’ return to the Premier League in 2022/23. After two excellent campaigns in the Championship, there were suggestions that Solanke was not quite cut out for the top level.

He has emphatically answered those question marks this season with 15 goals in 28 league appearances for Andoni Iraola’s side. The goals have flowed freely, adding to the poise and presence that defined Solanke’s game, with the 26-year-old emerging as one of the most impressive all-round number nines in the division.

An unfortunate omission from March’s England squad, he will be on Gareth Southgate’s radar for the summer if his form continues over the coming months.

Read – Ranking the five best managers in world football right now

See more – The problem positions England must solve before Euro 2024

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