Rodgers, Hazard, Oxlade-Chamberlain & those who face a pivotal Premier League campaign takes a look at those who are in store for a significant season and the challenges they face ahead of the new term
By Chris Davie

Every year in the Premier League there are managers and players who surprise us with their talents, breaking out from relative unknown or mediocrity to deliver a season that will be remembered.

Equally, there are those who disappoint and fail to live up to the hype and get buried under the weight of expectation. We remember those managers and players too, and for them, a new season is a chance to put right the wrongs and prove their ability in one of the most demanding leagues in the world.

Looking ahead to the new campaign, examines those who are in store for a pivotal season for one reason or another.


After inspiring Swansea City to an 11th-placed finish in their debut Premier League season, Brendan Rodgers has now been tasked with rejuvenating Liverpool after a stuttering campaign under Kenny Dalglish.

Liverpool fans will be hoping Rodgers can implement the attractive style of football which received plaudits aplenty last term, while the club's owners will be looking for the 39-year-old to provide evidence that their £120 million outlay on players last summer, along with the acquisitions of Fabio Borini and Joe Allen this year, can bring tangible rewards and a drastic improvement on eighth place in the Premier League.

"I’ve got so much to prove here," said Rodgers. "I have got to fight for my life to prove I am good enough to be here. I feel comfortable in relation to my position and work on the field. My promise was to fight for the club every single day."

Roberto Di Matteo is also under pressure to deliver following his success at Chelsea last season. Triumph in the Champions League and the FA Cup was rewarded with a two-year deal but the Italian will be looking to convince Roman Abramovich that he needn't look elsewhere for a long-term manager at Stamford Bridge.

Following the exit of Harry Redknapp at White Hart Lane in June, Andre Villas-Boas now has the task of continuing Tottenham's hunt for a regular place in the Champions League. Without the political dressing room he experienced at Chelsea, the Portuguese has a second chance in the Premier League to implement the style of football which made him such a success at Porto.

Paul Lambert will looking to hit the ground running at Aston Villa following their uninspriring performances under Alex McLeish. The arrivals of Brett Holman and Ron Vlaar look promising, while Darren Bent's pre-season form following his return from injury has been encouraging, so Lambert has plenty to work with as he attempts to revive a club who flirted with relegation last term.


Eden Hazard arrived at Chelsea with an enormous reputation, fuelled partly by his own ego, following a barnstorming campaign with Lille last season.

The Belgium international netted 20 times and provided 16 assists in Ligue 1, while Chelsea were lagging behind both Manchester clubs in the title race amid a conflict between Andre Villas-Boas and the club's senior players, which resulted in the Portuguese's dismissal in March.

Hazard is likely to command an instant starting berth in Roberto Di Matteo's side and with that a swift adaptation to the Premier League is required if Chelsea are to stand any chance of competing for Manchester City's domestic crown.

“I have just arrived and the main thing for me is just to play – in any position,” said Hazard. “I would play left-back if the coach told me to do so. I’m in a big club and there are a lot of talented players.

“I’m the new one in the team, so it’s my job to adapt. I had more of the ball with Lille, in a free role, but now I have to do better playing with less of the ball.”

Arsene Wenger has strengthened his side in anticipation of Robin van Persie's departure with the signings of Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, and all three will be looking for a fast start at the Emirates.

Carzola enjoyed an impressive season with Malaga last term but will need to slot into Arsenal's midfield in order to boost the club's title prospects, while Podolski and Giroud will be relied upon for goals with Van Persie defecting to Manchester United.

Shinji Kagawa is another player who has entered the Premier League with the baggage of a hefty price tag and the Japan international will hope to add energy to a Manchester United midfield which relied heavily on the veteran duo of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes last season.

At Liverpool, the club's headline signings under Kenny Dalglish need to flourish after an uninspiring debut term at Anfield, but the onus will also be on Joe Allen and Fabio Borini to quickly adapt to life on Merseyside and ease the implementation of Rodgers' style of football on the rest of the dressing room.


With one year remaining on Theo Walcott's contract, Arsene Wenger could be faced with yet another player looking to jump ship. Fortunately for Arsenal, they appear to have a ready-made replacement, should Walcott move on, in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The 19-year-old made just six Premier League starts last season but impressive performances in the Champions League provided optimism around the Emirates and the winger is in line to further his claim for a regular first-team spot.

"I know it won’t be easy. The new signings are really good, while we have good talent here coming through. So if I do manage to get into the team, I need to try and stay in there," said Oxlade-Chamberlain.

"Being more of an attacking player, I need to score more goals and get more assists. That wins games and people take notice of that. I’ll always put my own style on things, which is taking people on and try and be an exciting player to watch."

Another Arsenal winger looking to impress is Ryo Miyaichi, who secured a season-long loan move to Wigan Athletic earlier this month. The Japan international will be hoping to prosper under Roberto Martinez, should he be given exposure to regular first-team action.

At Fulham, where the focus is currently on the situation of Clint Dempsey, Martin Jol has two encouraging prospects in Kerim Frei and Alexander Kacaniklic. Frei excited Fulham fans in the brief cameos he made last season and is in line to feature on a more regular basis this term, while Kacaniklic has impressed significantly during pre-season and could be handed a starting berth on Jol's left flank.

Barry Bannan will also be knocking on the midfield door at Aston Villa for a regular first-team role after making just 10 league starts last season.

Another central midfielder looking to progress this season is Ross Barkley at Everton. Following the departure of Jack Rodwell to Manchester City earlier this month, the 18-year-old will have moved up the pecking order and could make a breakthrough under David Moyes this term.


Javier Hernandez has struggled to replicate the lethal form he displayed in his debut season at Old Trafford and has subsequently fallen out of favour at Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson prevented the striker from representing Mexico at the Olympics this summer, citing his need for a full summer's recuperation. However, with the arrival of Robin van Persie, Hernandez could be starved of a regular run in the first team for a second consecutive season.

"I think this season we’ll see a better Chicharito," said Sir Alex Ferguson. "For the last four or five years he’s played all through the summer. This year, with the co-operation of Mexico, he’s had a proper rest.

"We wanted to give him as much rest as possible. He had a couple of weeks off and then joined the Mexico side for a couple of qualifying games before getting another few weeks’ rest. That was important for him and I’m sure he’ll reap the benefits. We’ve already seen the fruits of that in the early training sessions and I think he’ll have a top season."

Another striker who will be looking to make the most of a first-team opportunity will be Fernando Torres. Now Didier Drogba has departed Chelsea, the Spaniard is Roberto Di Matteo's main man upfront  and will need to be prolific if the European champions are to replicate their success and improve on last season's poor league campaign.

Jermain Defoe is also flying the striker's flag almost single-handedly at Tottenham this season following the club's long-winded pursuit of Emmanuel Adebayor. Defoe has made just 27 league starts over the last two seasons but will be handed the task of spearheading Andre Villas-Boas' attack in the early stages of the season, and possibly longer should Spurs fail to recruit a new forward by the end of the month.

Mauro Boselli struggled to adapt to Premier League life in his debut season with Wigan Athletic in 2010 and was loaned out to Genoa before the end of the campaign. The Argentine spent the whole of last term on loan with Estudiantes where he finished as the club's top goalscorer but has now returned to Roberto Martinez's side for a second bite of the cherry.


Lucas Leiva started his return to first-team action eight weeks ahead of schedule and is poised to play an influential part in Brendan Rodgers' midfield this season.

Having been sidelined since the beginning of December with an anterior cruciate ligament injury which required surgery and rehabilitation, the Brazilian will be a welcome reintroduction to Liverpool's ranks after an uninspiring league campaign for the club.

"I have to say, I’ve only been in the job a short period of time and when I first arrived everyone told me how special Lucas was as a player and a character, and in reality he’s been even better than that when I’ve met him," said Rodgers.

"He is the ultimate professional and he is going to be a brilliant player for me in my career here at Liverpool and I’m looking forward to seeing him fully fit. I know every day of his life he is fighting hard to get there, and not only is he a top footballer but a great person."

Manchester United are also set to welcome back two midfielders who saw their seasons disrupted by injury last term. Tom Cleverley had been impressive in pre-season for Sir Alex Ferguson's side and the 23-year-old will be hoping to stay fit throughout the year in order to sustain a place in United starting side. Darren Fletcher has also stepped up his recovery from ulcerative colitis which saw him sidelined since December and could make his return to first-team action later this month.

Having already missed a whole season of football, we will not be seeing Jack Wilshere until at least October as the midfielder attempts to fully recover from an ankle problem. Before his injury, Wilshere was one of the most promising talents in English football and it is likely the 20-year-old will be pivotal to any success Arsenal may have following his return.

There are signs of promise at Newcastle United where Sylvain Marveaux appears to have overcome the injuries which have hampered him since his arrival from Rennes last summer. The winger has enjoyed an encouraging preparation for the season under Alan Pardew and the Newcastle boss has tipped the Frenchman to be one of the breakout stars this term.

Follow Chris Davie on