Premier League 2023/24: Players To Watch XI

Ahead of the new Premier League season, we take a look at a team of players who all have the potential for a breakout year.

Goalkeeper: James Trafford (Burnley)

Fresh from winning the Under-21 European Championships (including a last-minute penalty save in the final), Trafford is expected to take over from Arijanet Muric as the starting keeper for Vincent Kompany’s men after a move from Manchester City. Going the whole Euros without conceding a single goal, England U21 manager Lee Carsley has praised his mentality. Along with his quick reflexes and shot-stopping abilities, it’s clear that Trafford has what it takes to have a strong campaign.

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Right Back: Malo Gusto (Chelsea)

The departure of the long-serving Cesar Azpilicueta opens up a spot for a backup to Reece James at Stamford Bridge. And with James’ recent misfortune with injury, Gusto is likely in line for more than a few cameo appearances this coming year. Capable in defence and getting forward, he’s almost a like-for-like replacement that Pochettino will be able to call upon.

Centre Back: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton)

Another member of the Young Lions Euro winners, Everton’s Branthwaite (pictured below, right) returns to Goodison Park after a successful loan spell with PSV Eindhoven. He also has previous Premier League experience, which he will probably add to sooner than expected given James Tarkowski looks set to miss the beginning of the season through injury. And he’s playing under the always pragmatic Sean Dyche. It has the markings of a campaign that could see Branthwaite cement himself in the Toffee’s backline.

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Centre Back: Anel Ahemdhodžić (Sheffield United)

A huge part of the Blades’ second-place finish in the Championship, Ahmedhodžić is a key part of Paul Heckingbottom’s back three. The Bosnian is superb at stepping up the pitch – be that nicking the ball back or progressing it into the final third. The latter also makes him a goal threat, contributing six in the promotion campaign. Another impressive year could lead to other clubs looking closely at him in the future.

Left Back: Ryan Giles (Luton Town)

Twelve assists in all competitions for Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough last season led to Luton snapping up the creative full-back for their debut season in the Premier League. Though Rob Edwards’ team will likely struggle at times, Giles offers the kind of marauding wing-back play to match the excitement surrounding the club for their first season in the top flight.

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Right Winger: Dango Ouattara (AFC Bournemouth)

I have previously written about Bournemouth’s new boss, Andoni Iraola, and how he could revolutionise the South Coast club. Ouattara had glimpses of promise last season, but he is likely to play more of a crucial role this time out given the importance of wide players in the new system. Therefore any of the Cherries’ wingers could be worth keeping an eye on, but the Burkina Faso international’s pace, dribbling and ability to beat defenders makes him the pick of the bunch.

Central Midfield: Pape Mateta Sarr (Tottenham Hotspur)

Though he’s down the pecking order of central midfielders at Spurs, Sarr has been impressive when given the chance with his mobile yet commanding central presence. Ange Postecoglu was full of praise for the Senegalese, picking out his technicality and ability to break the lines. The injury to Rodrigo Bentancur and questions over Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s future opens up more opportunities for Sarr to make that push into starting eleven conversations.

Central Midfield: Billy Gilmour (Brighton & hove Albion)

Gilmour has been a huge prospect for many years. The Scottish international showcased flashes of his talent at Chelsea before moving to Brighton, where he made seventeen appearances in all competitions in 2022/23. A holding midfielder with an eye for a pass, the uncertain future of Moises Caicedo has enabled a slot for Gilmour to have his most consistent season (appearance-wise) yet.

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Left Winger: Lewis Hall (Crystal Palace TBC)

Hall finished 2022/23 with some bright appearances in Frank Lampard’s ill-fated interim term at Chelsea. A dynamic winger/wing-back with quality to deliver into the box, he is set to move on loan to Crystal Palace where first-team minutes will be easier to come by (especially after Wilfried Zaha’s exit).

Attacking Midfield: Facundo Buonanotte (Brighton & Hove Albion)

It’s a testament to Brighton’s talented young players and Roberto De Zerbi’s management that two Brighton players make it into the XI. Buonanotte is a graduate of the famous Rosario Central academy and, with Brighton’s European commitments this season, looks set to add to his fourteen appearances from last year. A clever playmaker who can carry the ball effectively too, he could become a key cog in the Brighton machine.

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Striker: Cameron Archer (Aston Villa)

Along with Ryan Giles, Archer was part of Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough side that reached the Championship playoffs last season, with eleven goals and six assists to his name. He returns to Villa Park as the primary deputy to Ollie Watkins but also has the ability to play out wide if needed. Another member of England’s U21 Euro winning squad, this could finally be the breakthrough season at Villa Park that Archer has been coming.

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Five Substitutes

Matt Turner (Nottingham Forest TBC), Destiny Udogie (Tottenham Hotspur), Anthony Elanga (Nottingham Forest), Divin Mubama (West Ham United), Matheus Cunha (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

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