The four Premier League players who cannot wait for top-flight football to return as they get set to make a big impact in the remaining fixtures

FootballCritic.com highlights four players who are desperate to get back on the pitch and show what they can do as Premier League football returns.

Published: 4 September 2020 - 3.20pm

West Ham's Sébastien Haller and Arsenal's Nicholas Pepe are two players with points to prove in the matches that remain

With the Premier League returning and a crazy run of matches to come over the next six weeks, Football Critic’s Paul Macdonald looks at four players who can’t wait to get started and turn their seasons around.

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Tammy Abraham 

From a statistical perspective, Abraham’s efforts are more than ample but with Timo Werner likely on the way, the Englishman has nine league games to give Chelsea manager Frank Lampard a big headache up front. 

Werner would be likely to feature through the middle with Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic either side. But the German has played wide at RB Leipzig regularly and if Abraham can make a statement, it might persuade Lampard that he has options. 

Abraham’s non-penalty goal contributions per 90 minutes, 0.74, ranks him among the top 10 in the Premier League, ahead of the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marcus Rashford - numbers which are largely backed up by his expected goals and assists.

Abraham’s problem is that he flew out of the blocks early, scoring seven in three games in August, but his form has been patchy since and prior to lockdown he’d been usurped by Olivier Giroud in matches against Tottenham and Bayern. 

Lampard has said before that he has faith in Abraham’s ability but it’s a big moment in the 22-year-old’s career - he has to make a clear statement ahead of Werner’s arrival. 

Sebastian Haller 

Haller, it’s fair to say, has had a tough time at West Ham following his summer arrival from Frankfurt; the multi-faceted forward that persuaded the Hammers to part with £42.5m for his services has been rarely seen.

Just 0.26 non-penalty goals per-90 is not what was expected, nor is his virtually non-existent assist provision (one all season). The player himself has at times looked disillusioned and he has been given more than enough minutes (2,148 of them) to show what he can do. But there are extenuating circumstances. 

Haller has had to cope with a mid-season manager sacking plus an ever-changing supporting cast offering the Frenchman no consistency in playing style or understanding. 

But it's not worth writing off the 25-year-old yet. Of his seven goals, four of them have been decisive in ensuring victory (i.e. not to pad a big win or a consolation in a loss).

And having played alongside new signing Jarrod Bowen in the last two games before lockdown, he scored against Southampton while recording xA of 1.05 in both matches combined - nearly half of his total for the full season. Could we be about to see Haller turn it around...?

Nicolas Pepe 

Pepe has been on the periphery of Arsenal matches for most of the campaign and given the weight of expectation brought along with his £72million transfer fee, much more is expected of the club's record signing.

Pepe’s numbers aren’t bad, which makes his lack of consistency all the more difficult to work out. 0.51 non-pen goal contributions P90 places him precisely alongside Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling but he has scored just four times, with a conversion rate of 6.9% - this puts him closer to many of the league's full-backs than it does to his peers at the other end of the pitch. 

Pepe collected 33 goals + assists in 2018/19 for Lille, though nine were penalties, but his totals and indeed his all-round play suggested a truly exciting talent and Arsenal just haven’t seen it. With Mikel Arteta now more able to exert his tactical influence upon his team, perhaps we’ll see a different Pepe emerge from the break. 

33
Goals + assists from Nicolas Pepe at Lille last season

Naby Keita 

There was much excitement when Naby Keita arrived from RB Leipzig in the summer of 2018 but he has so far been able to break into Liverpool's outstanding midfield three on a consistent basis.  Injury has played its part in stunting his integration into a team which looks ready-made for him, and as a result Jurgen Klopp has found better options, while others have exceeded expectations. 

Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum have been elevated to indispensable status which doesn’t leave much room for Keita, particularly with Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner also competing for that space. 

But when Keita has had the rare opportunity to put a run together, it has looked promising. Goals in consecutive matches versus Bournemouth, RB Salzburg and Monterrey in December, plus 100 minutes in the final of the Club World Cup against Flamengo suggested he was finally getting started but injury cruelly halted his momentum once again. He’s played just 171 league minutes since January 2 and it feels like crunch time for his Liverpool career - he needs to be fit, hungry and available. Then we might see the best of him.