The latest edition of The Long Ball’s list series “Magnificent Seven” focuses on the players who need to have a good 2013-14 season…
7. Suso (Almeria)
On loan at Almeria from Liverpool, Suso needs a good season of football under his belt. Despite making a number of first team appearances last season for the Reds, Suso was never able to really get into games as much as he, the fans or the coaching staff at Liverpool would have liked. While he is clearly a talented player, Suso needs to take that next step and establish himself in a senior side. A good 2013-14 will help his chances of a regular first team berth upon his return to Anfield and with new competition in the form of fellow Spaniard Luis Alberto, this is a chance he has to take.
6. Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United)
Japanese star Kagawa was hailed as the greatest thing ever upon his arrival at Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund last summer but it’s fair to say that he never really set the Premier League on fire. Sure, there were glimpses of the Kagawa magic everyone had fallen in love with at Dortmund but he was anonymous in too many games last year. Now, with a new manager to impress in David Moyes, Kagawa has to try and recapture at least some of the form he showed in Germany. Otherwise, his future in Manchester might look like the weather there – bleak.
5. Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
Big things were expected from Real Madrid’s big money signing last year yet Croatian international Modric provided very little. He struggled for regular game time in a midfield that included Ozil, Kaka, Khedira, Alonso and Essien and when he did play, he did not show anything near his best form. Like Kagawa, Modric has a new manager to impress at Madrid and new competition to fight off in the shape of Asier Illaramendi. A good season for the Croat could see become a regular in the Real side and perhaps show the fans why the club payed all that money for him.
4. Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
Frenchman Giroud’s debut season in England was not a hopeless failure by any means as Giroud netted 17 goals in all competitions. However, Arsenal paid big money for him and the fans were probably expecting more than 17 goals in return. And with all this talk of a potential move for Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and the arrival of youngster Yaya Sanogo this summer, Giroud may be living on borrowed time. He needs a big season this year otherwise Giroud may not in north London for much longer.
3. Joe Allen (Liverpool)
Joe Allen does not need a big season to ensure his future at Anfield but rather he needs a good season to win over many of the Liverpool fans who doubted him last season. He was the most expensive Liverpool signing last season and, despite a good start, he was not the “Welsh Xavi” that the Reds fans were expecting. Allen’s game time during the season was lessened by the presence of Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and an ever improving Jordan Henderson in his role as well as a shoulder injury that kept him out of the last few games of the season. Allen is showing good form this pre season and if he continues that then he could win over the Anfield crowd.
2. Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona)
Alexis was one of the most coveted talents in the world when Barcelona signed him from Udinese in 2011. He had lit up Serie A with his direct running, skills and impressive goal record for someone who played out wide. Unfortunately, he has not really lit up the Nou Camp in the same way. With a goal record which is less than 1 every 3 games and has been derided by Barcelona fans for missing chances and not really contributing in games. And now, with the signing of Neymar and the rise of young talents like Cristian Tello, Sanchez’s position is under serious threat and he needs a good season to prove to the fans and new boss Gerardo Martino that he can be the player they want.
1. Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg)
Zenit’s giant splurge last summer saw much coveted Brazilian winger Hulk head to Russia. Much was expected but not much was delivered. First, his arrival caused unrest amongst some of the Russian contingent and then he proceeded to fall out with the manager and asked for a move away. This was all in a matter of months and, while these issues were cleared up eventually, Hulk has not really produced on the pitch. He only made 20 league appearances last season and was almost redundant for most of them. He needs a good season to salvage his reputation and to prove to Zenit and their fans that he was not a giant waste of money.
There is the latest edition of Magnificent Seven. Let me know if you agree with this list and if there is anyone that you think should be on there either in the comments or over on Twitter.