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Premier League 2020/21: Promoted players that can make the difference in the top flight

Bielsa
Bielsa's Luke Ayling is expected to flourish in the top flight next season

With Leeds, West Brom and Fulham having secured promotion, there will be plenty of unfamiliar names in the Premier League next season. Jack Critchley has picked out six players who could potentially catch the eye...

"Luke Ayling was named the PFA Fan's Player of the Year in the Championship last season with the consistent full-back beating high-profile rivals such as Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and Aleksandar Mitrovic"

Leeds were the first of the three promoted sides to book their place in the Premier League with Marcelo Bielsa successfully guiding the Whites back to the top flight for the first time in almost two decades. The West Yorkshire outfit were joined by Slaven Bilic's West Brom, who despite a late-season wobble, made amends for last season's play-off disappointment. Fulham had to do things the hard way, and needed extra time to see off near-neighbours Brentford in the Championship play-off final at the beginning of August.

Each of these three sides have various strengths and weaknesses and whilst the Baggies have been priced up at 2.111/10 for an instant return to the second tier, Leeds, who are 4.77/2 for the drop, are expected to flourish back in the big time.

There will also be several new faces on display, and although many of these Premier League novices may take a couple of weeks to acclimatise to life in the top tier, there are a handful of players who are expected to make the transition seamlessly.

Leeds United

Luke Ayling was named the PFA Fan's Player of the Year in the Championship last season with the consistent full-back beating high-profile rivals such as Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and Aleksandar Mitrovic. He featured 37 times for Leeds last season and having played a significant role in helping the Whites secure the title with two games left to play, he thoroughly deserves his opportunity to impress at the higher level.

The former Bristol City defender was often seen striding down the right-hand side, and always made himself an option out wide. He clocked up four assists, and ended the campaign with an 80% pass accuracy. Bielsa also got the best out of the 29-year old in the final third, with Ayling notching four goals throughout the course of the campaign. Compared to his previous total of four goals in 80 appearances at Ashton Gate, his increased level of productivity must surely be down to the Argentine coaches' unique set-up.

Although the Lambeth-born star has been plying his trade in the second tier for a number of seasons, he appears to have all of the attributes to succeed at the top level, and his willingness to get forward will give his side a much-needed outlet.

Unlike his underrated team-mate, Kalvin Phillips' performances last season were widely praised, and the combative midfielder has been duly rewarded with his first England call-up this month.

The 24-year old has been steadily improving each season, and his defensive diligence will almost certainly be required in the Premier League. With an average of 2.6 tackles per game and 1.4 interceptions per 90 minutes, Phillips' greatest attribute is his ability to disrupt the opposition's rhythm, however, his attacking play has also improved over the last twelve months. He registered two assists last season, and averages 1.8 key passes per match. He also possesses the ability to shoot from distance, and although he's not a regular goalscorer, his efforts are usually fairly memorable.

The only weakness in the midfielder's game is his penchant for a booking, and having entered the referee's notebook on nine occasions last season, fans will be desperately hoping that the talented tackler doesn't spend too much time on the side-lines due to suspension.


West Brom

Although he was beaten to the PFA Fan's Player of the Year by the aforementioned Luke Ayling, Matheus Pereira was undoubtedly the Baggies' standout star last season. The Brazilian made 38 appearances for Bilic's side, and chalked up an eye-watering 16 assists, 10 more than any of his team-mates. He also chipped in with eight goals, ending the campaign as WBA's joint-second highest goalscorer.

With his standout performances having caused a flurry of interest from clubs around Europe, the Championship runners-up moved quickly to tie the 24-year old down to a four-year contract. With his ability to play on either side of the pitch, he is an incredibly useful asset, and having been given the license to roam by his manager on several occasions last year, he is likely to trouble plenty of Premier League defenders next season.

He also has the ability to deliver deadly set-pieces, and if the club decide against strengthening their forward-line this summer, Pereira's form will be absolutely key to keeping the Baggies in the top flight. Bilic's side are 5.59/2 to finish bottom of the Premier League next season, and they will be leaning heavily on the former Sporting winger throughout the course of the campaign.

Although Kyle Bartley and dynamic midfield duo Romaine Sawyers and Jake Livermore deserve honourable mentions, it's Dara O'Shea's hugely impressive performances during the second half of the campaign which caught the eye, and the young Irishman could be one to watch next season.

The 21-year old returned with rave reviews from his loan spells at both Hereford and Exeter, and he has been largely flawless since making the step up. Although he will have to deal with yet another increase in quality, the versatile defender looks perfectly capable of taking it all in his stride.

In just 1481 minutes on the pitch, he managed to find the net on three occasions, and looked very accomplished and assured at both ends of the field. No other WBA player won more aerial duels per game than the Dubliner (4.9), and with an average of 2.5 clearances per match, he is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in.

Fulham

Although he only arrived at Craven Cottage in January, Michael Hector's influence and composure helped change the course of Fulham's season. Before the former Chelsea defender joined, Scott Parker's side always looked capable of a defensive mix-up, and were conceding their fair share of soft goals.

Scott Parker 1280.jpg

However, the 28-year old helped the West Londoners tighten up, and with 11 of their 18 clean sheets arriving during the second half of the season, he's helped the free-scoring Cottagers to solve their long-standing defensive issues.

His last ditch tackle against Cardiff at the end of July was a standout moment, with the desire and commitment shown to prevent Robert Glatzel from giving his side the lead, attracting praise from fans and pundits alike.

He averages 4.8 clearances per game, and also claimed a couple of assists, despite only playing half a season by the Thames. At 2.166/5 for relegation, Fulham's defence will have its work cut out next year, however, with Hector at the helm, they are unlikely to be overran too often.

Josh Onomah is another player who has spent ample time out on loan, however, the former Spurs man is clearly relishing the chance to finally lay down some roots. The 23-year old scored all three of his goals following the restart, and produced a number of match-winning performances throughout July.

The agile midfielder took plenty of time to find his feet in West London, taking 10 matches to finally claim an assist, with his first Fulham goal arriving four games later. There is a feeling that he may also take a couple of months to acclimatise to the rigours of the top flight, although once he's fully up to speed, he has the potential to change games.

He's now playing with confidence, and the belief he displayed to slalom his way through the Cardiff defence was admirable. If he can recapture his end-of-season form, the England Under-21 star could potentially take the Premier League by storm this year.

English Premier League: English Premier League (Relegation 2020/21)

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