The Premier League has arguably never been so stuffed full of talent as it is right now.
There have been many great sides down the years but the league on the whole was very top heavy, with the best players concentrated into four or perhaps five teams and that was it. Now, however, pretty much everyone is oozing quality.
Of course, not everyone has actualised their quality into being an explosive performer. Some players are right on the cusp of greatness and just need to marry their ability to some execution to become household names. Think Mason Greenwood in 2019/20.
Who are these players? We’ve come up with a list of five Premier League talents who could explode onto the scene this season….
Position: Attacking midfielder
Despite playing as an attacking midfielder or winger, Harvey Barnes is a potentially explosive talent at Leicester. It’s hard to pin down where Barnes belongs because his skillset is so unusual in that he’s a dribbling shot-machine.
In 2019/20 Barnes played 2,090 minutes and attempted 61 shots, which is a total only six men who played less than 2,100 minutes can better, and only two of those men are under 29 (established stars Gabriel Jesus and Christian Pulisic).
Barnes is not a central feature of Leicester’s play but he always finds ways to get shots off, largely because he can create openings with his dribbling: he attempted 81 take-ons and completed 43. He’s elusive and that’s helping him to be dangerous.
Players like Barnes who can create their own shot through dribbling will always be likely to see dramatic improvements in their game. Barnes just needs to be calm when taking his shots and then the sky will be the limit for him.
Richarlison was signed by Everton for an awful lot of money and it appeared that no one really knew what to do with him. They knew he was talented, that’s for sure, but could they harness that talent? The answer so far has been “sort of?” (he’s scored 13 goals in each of his seasons on Merseyside) but with James Rodriguez now in Everton blue we could see the Brazilian explode.
In 3,081 minutes last season Richarlison had a massive 90 shots. Now this only led to 13 goals, a fairly meagre output, but his entire game is so high intensity that when you couple that with his 111 dribbles (61 completed at 55%) you see a wing-forward who was able to get plenty of shots away off his own skill but maybe not from the best positions.
Well, now with James Rodriguez and Dominic Calvert-Lewin drawing attention away from him (as well as James creating chances for him) we could finally see Richarlison begin to turn those shots into goals. And when you look at the rest of his game you see not only could he explode, but when he does he could be genuinely superhuman.
Last season Richarlison created 13 big chances – the same as Mohamed Salah and a total bettered by just four men. He also made 70 tackles, a total only Emi Buendia could surpass amongst forwards. The Brazilian is high-energy, high-intensity and now he’s backed up one of the best playmakers in the league. Duck and cover, sports fans, Richarlison could be about to hulk out!
Neal Maupay was decent last season, but he showed that he had the talent to do so much more. In 2,786 minutes he took a massive 96 shots and scored 10 goals with it. Maupay’s absurd shooting numbers are good, but his conversion of them isn’t. At 10% shot conversion, Maupay was leaving far too many goals out there but the potential for him to scale his goal output is clear.
His movement allied with Brighton’s quick style of play should result in shots aplenty. Already this season Maupay has converted 20% of his 10 non-penalty shots (he’s scored 2/2 from the spot) which is an improvement that should continue as Brighton continue to impress.
It sometimes seems impossible to reconcile Dwight McNeil playing for Burnley, because the young winger is a simply sensational dribbler. A true artist who carries the ball up the field with style, panache and efficiency. In 2019/20 he attempted 142 take-ons and completed 77 (54% completion rate). He is a highly effective playmaker as a result, creating 55 chances, including 12 ‘big’ chances.
Improbably McNeil as also won possession 35 times in the final third, meaning that he is basically everything you’d want in a modern elite winger – he’s just playing for a Burnley side which doesn’t play to his strengths. However he’s only 20 years old, so he will continue to improve regardless of environment, but the potential for Burnley to adjust to him or for him to get a big move to a better suited side is huge.
Keep your eyes on McNeil, Burnley’s magic man who is just desperate to unleash his full potential.
Club: Aston Villa
Position: Central midfielder
This is kind of a sneaky entry, as injury robbed us of a potentially explosive season from John McGinn last campaign. Still, now he’s fit again and Aston Villa have made some even more impressive signings. Ollie Watkins is obviously someone already exploding, Ross Barkley looks like he’s finally home and Jack Grealish is a magnificent artist.
Lost in all that is just how good McGinn is. The Scot plays as part of a midfield trio with Douglas Luiz behind him but still managed 55 shots last season. His bursts last season were also part of his superb all-around game. McGinn made 53 tackles last season, winning possession 23 times in the attacking third. But most impressively? He completed 53 take-ons at a massive 69% success rate.
Central midfielders that are elusive, who can dribble their way past opponents are like gold dust. And with Villa’s new armaments taking attention away from McGinn he cam become even more elusive because no one will be paying attention to him. He can expand his domination in the middle of the park, make more tackles to cover for his team-mates, drive the ball further up the field – as said team-mates will be drawing markers away from him – and of course he can arrive late on the scene to blast shots into the back of the net.