The Premier League 2022/23 opening weekend is less than three weeks away and players are being put through their paces in pre-season friendlies.
Chelsea opted for a stateside sojourn while Manchester United are currently on a victory lap of Australia after their 4-0 win over Liverpool in Bangkok.
Danger lies in reading too far into pre-season results and performances. But the period still represents a chance for managers and fans to see their new stars in action, while fringe players and promising youngsters will be given an opportunity to catch the eye of the man in charge.
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The games are easy to miss, though, due to the lower level of coverage and fact they take place in different time zones. So, here are several standout stars from the Premier League’s pre-season so far, ranging from academy hopefuls, to new stars, forgotten outcasts and familiar performers.
Darwin Nunez (Liverpool v RB Leipzig)
Darwin Nunez has been hailed as everything from the next Luis Suarez to the ‘Uruguyan Andy Carroll’ – which was trending on Twitter after his misses against Man United. Now after grabbing four goals in a pre-season friendly he is ‘special’ again. What is the truth? As usual the answer lies in between. Jurgen Klopp summed up best: “That’s the best way to stop all these discussions (scoring four goals)” he told reporters.
“We always think that if you pay a lot of money then these players feel no pressure or whatever. They are completely normal human beings and the first touch is not perfect for them all of sudden.
“This generation of players read social media, which is really not smart, but they do. All of a sudden you get in a rush and these kind of things.
“He’s a different striker to what we have or what we had, but he’s a really good one..
“That’s of course a perfect night for him.”
RB Leipzig are in full agreement, tweeting out:
When's the rematch without @Darwinn99?
That guy is a beast 🥵
— RB Leipzig (@RBLeipzig) July 21, 2022
Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal v Nurnberg)
Talk about an instant impact. It took Gabriel Jesus just two minutes to open his account for Arsenal, coming on at half-time as his new club trailed Nurnberg 2-0, before firing home to mark the start of a terrific comeback for Mikel Arteta’s side. The Gunners ended up winning 5-3 in an entertaining pre-season contest, with Arsenal’s £45m summer signing also netting the club’s fifth and final goal. The Brazilian recently followed up by netting against Everton, but it was in the Nurnberg friendly where he really announced himself to Arsenal fans.
Son Heung-min (Tottenham v K-League XI)
Tottenham have so far been involved in, arguably, pre-season’s most entertaining game so far. Antonio Conte’s men are currently touring South Korea and Son, eager to put on a show back in his homeland, nabbed a second-half brace to help beat K-League XI 6-3 in Seoul.
The event clearly meant a lot to Son, who was fielded by Conte in the 47th minute as opposed to during half-time to ensure he would get his own special welcome. Speaking post-match, Conte said: “We are very lucky he stays with us and I am very lucky to have him in my team. It’s a pleasure to have a player like him.
“He is top class, with fantastic quality with right foot and left foot, and he runs a lot. It’s very difficult to ask for more from your player. We are talking about a world-class player, one of the best in the world.”
Upcoming Premier League pre-season friendlies to look out for:
- Man Utd v Aston Villa (10:45, Saturday 23rd)
- Rangers v Tottenham (15:00, Saturday 23rd)
- Luton v West Ham (15:00, Saturday 23rd)
- Arsenal v Chelsea (01:00, Sunday 24th)
Tottenham will look to fare better than London rivals West Ham at Ibrox this weekend, with David Moyes’ side losing 3-1 to Rangers in midweek. Antonio Conte’s men take on the Glaswegians this Saturday following their tour of South Korea.
Elsewhere, Manchester United take on Premier League opponents Aston Villa at the Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia.
West Ham will look to bounce back from their capitulation in Scotland when they face Championship club Luton Town on Saturday, and then attention turns to an all-London affair in Orlando as Arsenal face Chelsea in the Florida Cup on Sunday.
Indeed, despite the off-season, there is plenty of footballing action taking place across the globe, making this the perfect opportunity to place an accumulator — especially with Bet UK, who offer users the chance to boost their acca profits by up to 50%.
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Fred (Man United v Liverpool)
Cristiano Ronaldo may wear the No.7 but it was Fred who channelled his inner Eric Cantona during Manchester United’s 4-0 win over Liverpool earlier this month.
The Brazilian looked composed in the middle of the pitch and scored an outrageous chip against international teammate Alisson with his weaker foot from outside the box.
Fred hit Alisson with the chip from outside the box 🥶 pic.twitter.com/snilMQCWui
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 12, 2022
One United fan with an encyclopaedic memory of long-range Fred’s goals pointed out this was not the first time he has beaten Alisson from outside the box, posting a clip from a 2018 Champions League meeting between Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Today wasn't the only day Fred bodied Alisson
he did this to him in 2018 😭pic.twitter.com/chif77LrfS
— smartie (@SmartUnitedFan) July 12, 2022
His most recent effort was certainly one for the highlights reel and perhaps even overshadows the overall quality of his midfield masterclass in Thailand.
Anthony Martial (v Liverpool, Melbourne Victory & Crystal Palace)
Anthony Martial’s Manchester United redemption arc is well and truly underway, with last season’s outcast discovering fine form this pre-season under Ten Hag. The Frenchman was sent to Sevilla on loan back in January, but he has returned to Man Utd with the bit between his teeth, scoring in all three of their pre-season friendlies so far. If he keeps this up, he could find his name on the starting teamsheet for the club’s first Premier League match against Brighton early next month, a scenario few would have predicted at the start of the summer.
Harrison Ashby (West Ham v Ipswich)
This is perhaps the least familiar name on our list, albeit one who has already made his Premier League bow. West Ham academy graduate Harrison Ashby has been immense for the club so far this summer and there are even suggestions he may be involved heavily with the first-team next season.
A buccaneering right-back, the youth product was solid against Servette in the club’s opening pre-season match, a 2-0 win, before stealing the show in last week’s 2-1 victory over Ipswich. He operated like a seasoned full-back as he continuously played balls over the top to Michail Antonio, while it was his rocket effort off the woodwork that fell into Daniel Chesters’ path for the club’s second goal. This will certainly not be the last time we hear his name.
Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolves v Burnley)
There has been major clamour for Morgan Gibbs-White to get more consistent playing time at the Molineux. If Everton don’t sign him, that is only going to intensify after his flying start to pre-season, where he opened the scoring in a 3-0 win over Burnley.
Winner of Sheffield United’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards last term during his loan spell at Bramall Lane, the 10-capped England U21 international has returned to Wolves with a mission to make it into Bruno Lage’s first team in 2022/23.
Dan James (Leeds United v Brisbane Roar)
One minute after opening the scoring for Leeds against Australian A-League opponents Brisbane roar, Dan James dinked in one of the more artful assists you’re likely to see in pre-season.
— Leeds United (@LUFC) July 14, 2022
Under Jesse Marsch — and potentially in a more favourable position — are we about to see a new James in 2022/23?
“Dan James playing in his preferred position on the right wing will be a vastly-improved player for Leeds this season, than the one we saw who toiled in a central striking role last,” wrote @marshyleeds on Twitter.
Raphinha (Inter Miami v Barcelona)
The new man at the Camp Nou made an instant first impressive for Barcelona against Inter Miami. Xavi’s side won 6-0 in Fort Lauderdale and Raphinha had a hand in all three of the club’s opening goals; first teeing up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after an excellent one-two with Pedri, before scoring a volley to double the lead, and then sending Ansu Fati through on goal, with the academy graduate thumping home for three.