Commentary

Expect big things from these players

Updated: August 9, 2010, 2:26 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | Special to ESPN.com

Jack RodwellDavid Rogers/Getty ImagesLandon Donovan said that Everton's Jack Rodwell is a "future world-beater."

Every Premier League season provides breakout performers. Tottenham's Gareth Bale, Fulham's Bobby Zamora, Arsenal's Alex Song and Manchester City's Joe Hart, on loan at Birmingham City, among others, busted out in 2009-2010.

Who will make up the next batch of breakout performers? Here are five candidates.

Nani, Manchester United: Ah, the curse of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Nani succumbed to the pressure as the last Premier League season began. With Ronaldo gone to Real Madrid, United fans turned to the other speedy Portuguese winger for a bit of flash -- and an end product. Nani delivered the tricks, but couldn't find the back of the net.

But shortly after a heart to heart with manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Nani impressed, showing consistency in the second half. He sparkled on the big stage against Arsenal in the Premier League and against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

If Fergie opts for a formation with one striker, Nani will be counted on to not only set up goals, but score them. He might be up for it: Nani missed the World Cup with a shoulder injury, so the 23-year-old won't be suffering from fatigue.

Adam Johnson, Manchester City: Johnson recently professed his fondness for Barcelona's Lionel Messi, and Bayern Munich pair Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Although not as quick as the esteemed trio, Johnson gets past opposing defenders and can dribble with the best of them.

By City standards, landing the 23-year-old winger for 7 million from Middlesbrough in the winter transfer window was a bargain. Johnson settled quickly, earning a spot in England's preliminary World Cup squad (for what that's worth).

Like Nani, Johnson must score more -- 12 of his 13 goals last season came in the Championship. If he produces, he'll have little problem keeping his place among City's offensive riches.

Jack Rodwell, Everton: In Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and the hard luck James Vaughan, Everton has plenty of young talent. Rodwell, 19, leads the way.

Landon Donovan, on loan at Everton last season, said Rodwell has the potential to develop into the same class of player as English icons Wayne Rooney and David Beckham. "I don't give out false praise, but this young guy really is a future world-beater," Donovan was quoted as saying by the "Daily Star" in July.

In his burgeoning career, Rodwell has progressed from defensive midfielder to two-way midfielder. Toffees manager, David Moyes, won't put too much pressure on Rodwell, given Everton's stacked midfield, but the teenager will be one to watch.

Jack Wilshere, Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey was supposed to be Arsenal's breakout central midfielder. Stoke's Ryan Shawcross' horrific tackle put an end to those hopes, at least temporarily, last season.

Now Arsenal fans are placing their hopes for the future on the shoulders of 18-year-old Wilshere. He's got ample skills, as shown in preseason, and is a bulldog. Just what soft Arsenal needs.

A possible scenario this season sees Wilshere riding the bench early, before boss Arsene Wenger gets tired of some of his underachievers and inserts Wilshere into the starting lineup.

Wenger loves Wilshere's versatility. "He can play on the flank and in the middle, behind the striker and deeper as well," the manager told reporters in July.

Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea: When he left Manchester City for Chelsea in July 2009, Sturridge's immediate prospects remained the same. He didn't play much last season, making two league starts.

The good news for Sturridge is that Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, plans to infuse youth into the Blues' veteran squad.

Sturridge, who always looks lively, can operate as a striker or attacking midfielder. The 20-year-old has an opportunity to surpass the unflattering Salomon Kalou and inconsistent, and aging, Nicolas Anelka. In the Community Shield against Manchester United last Sunday, Sturridge gave Chelsea fans a glimpse of his promise. He came on as a substitute and immediately made an impact with his attacking style and sweet left foot.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.

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