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Sky Sports takes a look at 10 players who will feel they need to impress in the Premier League this season
We are just a few weeks away from the start of the Premier League season and all eyes will be on how the new managers and summer signings get on.
But it is also a fresh start for those who may have struggled to command regular starting places in the past, as well as players keen to show they can perform in the top flight after winning promotion from the Championship.
Others may have been written off as past their best or criticised for some below-par performances last term, and the new campaign represents the perfect opportunity to turn a corner.
Sky Sports here counts down 10 players who will be especially motivated to show what they are capable of.
The Liverpool striker has actually had a decent last few months, finding some good form towards the end of last season to earn a call-up to the England squad and then scoring against Sweden with a powerful header. However, it would appear as though new Reds manager Brendan Rodgers is not entirely convinced that he is the right man to lead the attack at Anfield, after refusing to rule out a loan move. AC Milan were linked with a temporary deal and West Ham are also understood to be interested, leaving Carroll to wonder what his immediate future holds in store. If he does stay at Liverpool he will be keen to prove that he can fit into Rodgers' style and justify the £35million transfer fee that continues to be used as a stick to beat him with, while if he heads out on loan he will have no less motivation to silence his doubters.
Another striker who was included in the England squad for Euro 2012, Defoe is regarded as one of the most natural finishers in the game. The 29-year-old will feel that he has proved his ability consistently in the past, but the problem is that he will have to do it all over again after falling down the pecking order at Tottenham last season. Defoe could be given more opportunities at White Hart Lane by Andre Villas-Boas but otherwise he will have to consider other options after admitting it is frustrating to play a bit-part role. Reading have been connected with a £12million bid and there are sure to be plenty of takers if he has to bring his Spurs stay to an end, allowing Defoe the chance to shine on a more regular basis.
He may be fresh from another European championship medal with Spain and a UEFA Champions League and FA Cup winner last season, but Torres' reputation could still do with a shot in the arm. Nobody has come under as much scrutiny in the Premier League over the past couple of years, and there have been times when the sight of such a gifted player being so affected by a lack of confidence has been painful to watch. There have been some encouraging signs over the past few months, however, and the challenge for Torres now is to show that he can get back to his magnificent best on a consistent basis, to ensure that Chelsea can cope without Didier Drogba, and to banish talk of his £50million price tag forever.
"I want to make an imprint at the club. I've been a success at West Ham, Chelsea and Lille - I don't want people to be able to say that I haven't here." Back at Liverpool after a year spent broadening his horizons in France, Cole has made his ambitions for the season very clear. The midfielder looked off the pace and a shadow of the player he once was during his first season with the Reds, and critics have questioned whether he will ever show his best form again in the Premier League after getting used to the gentler tempo of Ligue 1. He has been welcomed back for pre-season by Brendan Rodgers, though, and believes he has unfinished business at Anfield.
Lambert has developed a reputation for being a supreme marksman in the lower divisions, but will he be able to make the step up and shine on the biggest stage? Grant Holt has shown for Norwich that it is possible to be prolific in League One, the Championship and then the Premier League, even when you are the wrong side of 30. Southampton's Lambert now has the chance to follow in his footsteps and it will be interesting to see whether he can still pose problems for defences with his power and shooting ability.
The giant German centre-back joined Arsenal from Werder Bremen last summer but the jury is still out after a year of ups and downs at Emirates Stadium. On the plus side, Mertesacker adds valuable experience to a youthful squad and provides a calm and commanding influence, while he did steadily improve after what he admitted was a tough start. However, he did make a number of costly mistakes and found it difficult to adjust to the speed of the English game. The 27-year-old still has a lot of work to do if he is to fully convince the Gunners faithful, and risks becoming more of a substitute than a starter if Arsene Wenger can keep all his defenders fit.
When a team of Liverpool's stature finishes eighth in the Premier League it leaves the whole squad with a point to prove for the next season. While some players could still hold their heads high, the likes of Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam were left reflecting on miserable maiden campaigns at Anfield. Downing was another player signed by Kenny Dalglish at the start of last term, and at the time he spoke excitedly about trying to help the club win silverware and 'getting a few goals and a few assists for the lads up front, that's what I'm hoping for'. A year later, having failed to register a single goal or assist in the Premier League, the winger has declared that he is stronger for the criticism he has received and he will be desperately aiming to win the fans round.
When Bentley joined Tottenham in the summer of 2008 he was an England international being touted as the long-term replacement to David Beckham on the right of midfield, but within weeks the manager who signed him, Juande Ramos, had been sacked and replaced by Harry Redknapp. Not much has gone right for Bentley since and he has fallen so far out of favour that it is easy to forget he is still on their books. But perhaps the departure of Redknapp from White Hart Lane will signal a revival in Bentley's career. The 27-year-old has been offered a clean slate by Andre Villas-Boas and will be eager to turn back the clock and show his true form.
Inspirational at times for Wigan but inhibited for Aston Villa last season, N'Zogbia is another player who could benefit from a change of manager after Paul Lambert came in to replace Alex McLeish. Villa signed the winger for £9.5million in the hope that he would bring speed, creativity and a goal threat, but he did not make the desired impact as reports regularly surfaced that he was not seeing eye to eye with McLeish. N'Zogbia did admit that he yearned to be given more freedom and he will be relishing the chance to start afresh under Lambert. At his best the Frenchman is one of the most exciting players in the league and if he is let off the leash it should ensure that no-one ever calls him 'Charles Insomnia' again.
Ricardo Vaz Te
The way Adel Taarabt went from Championship superstar to Premier League struggler last season illustrates why performances in the second tier should not be given too much stock when it comes to predicting a player's success at the highest level. Vaz Te therefore has to reproduce over the coming 12 months what he has already achieved at West Ham if he is to get credit for being a class act rather than a flat-track bully. The Portuguese forward has been around for a long time, having had spells at Bolton, Hibernian and Barnsley, but is still only 25 and will hope to show that he is finally fulfilling his considerable potential.
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