However, as we approach the unofficial midway point of the 2020-21 campaign, there are more than half a dozen teams that will feel like they have legitimate title hopes. We could be about to experience a multi-team title race for the ages.
With small margins, every team in contention will need their star players to be at their best. That got us thinking about each team’s most important player heading into the second half of the EPL season and the player from each team that could hold the key to their championship hopes.
Manchester United: Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba is easily the most enigmatic player in the Premier League. His time at Old Trafford has been anything but smooth sailing.
Nevertheless, he played a critical role in United’s recent move to the top part of the table and holds the key to the Red Devils winning the Premier League title.
When Pogba is focused, inspired, and at the top of his game, it’s difficult to find a more impactful midfielder anywhere in the world. There’s no question that Manchester United has the attacking talent to make a run at the title.
But Pogba is the type of player who can put them over the top if he can perform up to his potential consistently during the second half of the campaign.
Manchester City: Phil Foden
Manchester City has won the Premier League title with the current core of the team in place. However, the 20-year-old Phil Foden wasn’t a prominent part of the squad the last time Pep Guardiola’s team hoisted the Premier League trophy.
Of course, that’s no longer the case with Foden enjoying a breakout campaign. The youngster has already proven his worth this season and is at the age where substantial improvement can be noticeable from one game to the next.
If Foden can continue to develop in the months to come, he gives City another match-winner and an element they didn’t have two seasons ago. In a much tighter race, Foden’s presence can be what makes the difference in the end. For more insight on EPL check out Wunderdog.com
Leicester City: James Maddison
Obviously, Jamie Vardy will have to keep doing his thing, and Harvey Barnes will have to keep helping Vardy with Leicester’s goal-scoring. But James Maddison is the player who stirs the drink for the Foxes.
He’s the creative force in the midfield who helps put Vardy and Barnes in a position to score goals. Maddison has also been on a goal-scoring tear since the start of January.
He’s almost reached the level of importance that N’Golo Kante did when Leicester made its Cinderella run to the title, making Maddison critical to the Foxes being a serious contender in this year’s race.
The fact that Liverpool is hanging around in the title race, given all of the club’s injuries, is impressive. Of course, they know that Virgil van Dijk won’t be back this season, making Fabinho a critical part of the Liverpool defense.
Even when the Reds are going through a rough patch, there is always a reason to believe that they’ll snap out of it, thanks to the trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino.
But if Liverpool is going to repeat as champs, they need to be better defensively during the second half of the schedule. That means Fabinho stepping up and doing his best to make up for van Dijk’s absence.
Tottenham: Tanguy Ndombele
Of course, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are irreplaceable in the Tottenham lineup. Kane, in fact, has a serious chance to lead the EPL in both goals and assists, while Son has been nothing short of spectacular this season.
However, that duo has been good for several years without delivering Spurs a title. Tottenham needs another difference-maker, and Tanguy Ndombele could be that player.
He’s shown to be incredibly skilled and crafty, and now he has a chance to settle in as an impact player in the Premier League over the second half of the season.
Defensively, Spurs are solid, conceding the second-fewest goals in the EPL thus far. If they can get Ndombele playing consistently at a high level alongside Kane and Son, Tottenham will have the horses to mount a legitimate title push.
Everton: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
James Rodriguez is the kind of world-class player who gives Everton the credibility to be a genuine title contender. But it’s all going to come down to Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring goals.
His fast start to the season helped elevate the Toffees to the top of the table early in the season. But he’s gone cold since mid-December, taking Everton out of the top four.
No team can compete for the title without an elite striker scoring goals consistently, and Calvert-Lewin needs to be that player for Everton.
Chelsea: Timo Werner
Things have not worked out as expected for Timo Werner since his move from Germany over the summer. The Blues were certainly expecting more than four goals and four assists from him by the midway point of the season.
With a managerial change, Werner will get something of a clean slate and a second chance to prove himself. While Oliver Giroud and Tammy Abraham are also attacking options for Chelsea, Werner has the highest ceiling of those three players.
Perhaps more than any other player in the squad, Werner is in a position to most improve his performance from the first half of the season, meaning he can make the biggest difference and lead the Blues back into the title race.
West Ham United: Tomas Soucek
Given Leicester’s miracle title run a few years ago, the Hammers need to be taken seriously based on what they’ve done during the first half of the season. While it’s been a team effort, Tomas Soucek has been a revelation for West Ham.
As long as he continues to play at such a high level, not to mention score goals, the Hammers will believe that they have a chance to pull off the unthinkable in a race that remains wide open.
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