Every Premier League club's most important player heading into 2024


Every Premier League club's most important player heading into 2024

Rodri is central to Man City's success
Rodri is central to Man City's successAFP
With the end of 2023 rapidly approaching, it's time to assess the position of every Premier League club and look at who is each side's most important player heading into the new year.

The importance of a player comes down to a variety of factors - what they bring to the side, how badly the team is affected in their absence and the difference they can make to their clubs' respective campaigns.

Arsenal - William Saliba

Starting off with a relatively straightforward choice, William Saliba has been central to Arsenal's superb form since breaking into the side at the start of the 2022/23 season.

You only need to look at the dramatic downturn in results in Saliba's absence last season that ultimately cost the Gunners the Premier League title to show how crucial he is to the team.

The Frenchman is absolutely key to any title push Arsenal mount during 2024 and they will be desperate to avoid losing him for a prolonged period this time around.

Aston Villa - Ollie Watkins

A number of players have stood out during Aston Villa's incredible run into the top four this season and in truth losing any of them could do some serious damage to their form - notably Emi Martinez, Douglas Luiz, Pau Torres or John McGinn.

But their main man, Ollie Watkins, brings both goals and assists and would be very hard to replace should he get injured.

The lack of depth in their striking department is clear and the Englishman bring so much to a very good Villa side - highlighted through his nine goals and six assists in 18 league appearances.

Watkins PL stats
Watkins PL statsFlashscore

Bournemouth - Dominic Solanke

Bournemouth have a similar situation - albeit on a smaller scale - to Villa.

Their key player is striker Dominic Solanke who has netted 11 goals already in the league, at least eight more than anyone else in the squad.

Those goals are absolutely key for a side battling against relegation and Solanke will be imperative to the Cherries maintaining their rise up the table.

Brentford - Bryan Mbeumo

Bryan Mbeumo has stepped up magnificently in the absence of Ivan Toney, finding the net seven times and setting up a further four to help see Brentford to 12th in the table.

The forward has established himself as the Bees' main man this season - as well as their biggest source of goals.

They will be hoping he can return for injury as soon as possible in order to lead their charge towards a top half finish.

Without the Cameroonian, they could be looking over their shoulder at those chasing behind them.

Mbeumo stats this season
Mbeumo stats this seasonFlashscore

Brighton - Pascal Gross

It's tough to select just one player as the most important considering how often Roberto De Zerbi rotates his side - using no fewer than 27 players already in the league this campaign.

One who features regularly and across a variety of positions is Pascal Gross, who continues to be one of the most underrated performers in the division.

The German is one of the best creators in Brighton's squad and continues to be an important member of the team even aged 32.

Burnley - James Trafford

Burnley had a complete overhaul of their squad during the summer after promotion from the Championship and unfortunately it so far hasn't worked out for the Clarets.

A terrible start to the season sees them now staring relegation in the face and the form of the teams above them only makes the situation worse.

One thing a side battling relegation really needs is a solid goalkeeper, and James Trafford has proven he can be just that at times during the campaign - for example in his player of the match showing against Brighton.

He will need to be at his best during 2024 if Burnley are to avoid the drop, particularly with the lack of any star threat outfield following Luca Koleosho's injury.

Chelsea - Raheem Sterling

Chelsea have struggled again this season and one of their only shining lights has been Raheem Sterling, who finally appears to be recapturing the form of his earlier career.

The winger often provides the Blue's greatest attacking threat alongside fellow ex-Manchester City forward Cole Palmer.

Sterling just edges it ahead of his teammate though, due to his experience in the game and the potential return of Christopher Nkunku who will be a direct threat to Palmer's position.

Crystal Palace - Marc Guehi

Things don't seem to be going quite right at Crystal Palace currently and that will only get worse if Marc Guehi were to leave or pick up a serious injury.

The Englishman's partnership with Joachim Andersen is one of the most underrated in the division and if it were to break apart then Palace could be in serious trouble.

Guehi has established himself in the England squad and with reports of a potential transfer up the league not going away, it remains to be seen what the Eagles will do to keep their most important player.

Fulham - Joao Palhinha

Joao Palhinha was one of the signings of the season last year and has continued his superb form during the 2023/24 campaign - resulting in interest from both Bayern Munich and Arsenal.

His defensive work in the middle of the pitch is invaluable to any team and very difficult to replace, making him a serious asset for the Cottagers.

While Palhinha will likely be linked away in January, he signed a new contract in London back in September which gives Fulham a bit of a safety net regarding his departure.

Everton - Dwight McNeil

Everton have looked completely unphased despite a 10-point deduction, winning seven of their last 10 games.

Winger Dwight McNeil has been at the heart of everything the Toffees have done well over the last couple of months, providing a direct attacking outlet that few others in the squad possess.

His performances have helped to drag them away from the drop zone and if he can keep them up then it will propel them towards the top half of the division.

Liverpool - Alisson

Alisson is comfortably the best goalkeeper in the league - arguably the world - and Liverpool have already felt his absence in a small dose this season when he missed a 4-3 win against Fulham.

While Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah would present equally huge losses, and it remains to be seen how the Reds will cope when the latter goes to AFCON, Alisson has got them out of trouble numerous times since his arrival in 2018.

His importance to their potential title charge is paramount.

Luton - Ross Barkley

Luton's signing of Ross Barkley on a free transfer appears to have been a big success, with the midfielder particularly shining during narrow defeats against Arsenal and Manchester City.

If the former England international can continue his top performances in the middle of the park, it will give Luton the best possible platform to mount a fight against relegation.

His Premier League experience having played for Everton and Chelsea in the past will also be invaluable.

Manchester City - Rodri

Manchester City have an excellent record whenever Rodri starts for them - winning 10 and drawing three of the 13 games he has started in the Premier League.

They've also lost every league game that the Spaniard hasn't played in this season.

It couldn't be clearer how important Rodri is to the current reigning champions and he will be integral to City's hunt for a fourth straight title.

Rodri (R) challenges Barkley for the ball
Rodri (R) challenges Barkley for the ballAFP

Manchester United - Bruno Fernandes

It doesn't seem like any player at Manchester United is currently doing anything to help their poor performances, but Bruno Fernandes undoubtedly has the potential to help turn things around.

The attacking midfielder is often key to a lot of United's good attacking play and he will be crucial if they are to turn around their bad start to the campaign, particularly with other forwards not quite pulling their weight.

Newcastle - Bruno Guimaraes

Newcastle midfielder Bruno Guimaraes has been central to their charge up the league since his arrival and continues to excel even in a depleted Magpies side.

The Brazilian has held his own in recent weeks despite Newcastle's huge injury issues and other important players' downturn in form - and his performances will help keep them in touching distance of the European places.

Nottingham Forest - Morgan Gibbs-White

Forest have hit a downward spiral recently and need to pick up form again to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle - something new manager Nuno Espirito Santo will be looking to address quickly.

Players like Morgan Gibbs-White and Anthony Elanga offer a serious threat and will be central to Forest getting out of their poor run of form.

Gibbs-White has only provided one goal and two assists so far and will need to improve his output in order to help his side avoid being dragged closer to the bottom three, something which could happen now he has been reunited with Nuno - his former manager at Wolves.

Sheffield United - Gustavo Hamer

Sheffield United look to be hanging their hopes on former boss Chris Wilder dragging them out of their ongoing fight against relegation.

The manager can only do so much, though, and will need players with that bit of extra quality like Gustavo Hamer to have an influence on the team's performances.

Hamer is an impressive midfielder who can impact a game at both ends of the pitch - his form will be vital to the Blades' slim hopes of survival.

Tottenham Hotspur - Heung-min Son

Many supporters though Spurs' goals would dry up following a long-term injury to James Maddison, but Ange Postecoglou's side have continued to find the back of the net in his absence.

In fact, there hasn't been a single league game this season in which they haven't managed to score.

Much of that is down to Heung-min Son who has netted 11 already to surpass his tally from last season in 18 fewer games.

The South Korean has looked unstoppable at times and it's hard to see where many more goals come from if Spurs were to lose him - like during the upcoming Asian Cup.

Son PL stats
Son PL statsFlashscore

West Ham - Lucas Paqueta

West Ham bolstered their team with three quality signings in James Ward-Prowse, Edson Alvarez and Mohammed Kudus over the summer, but Lucas Paqueta remains their standout player.

The Brazilian offers the Hammers' main creative spark and is an important member of their attacking unit - highlighted with his hat-trick of assists in their 3-0 win against Wolves and then another two in their 2-0 victory over Manchester United.

Wolves - Pedro Neto

Pedro Neto was in excellent form before a recent hamstring injury and his welcome return is edging closer.

The winger possesses a unique skill set and can change a game on his own, something other members of Wolves' squad sometimes struggle with.

Neto already has seven assists - the joint most in the league despite missing a handful of games - which highlights his importance to Wolves' side.


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