Top 5: A Season To Forget For Some Of The Premier League’s Biggest Stars
With so much expected of them every week, Tom Gatehouse highlights those Premier League stars who have not been up to their usual high standard this season
I should begin by saying that this is not a Top 5 of ‘biggest flop’s’ of the season. The word ‘Flop’ can be very misleading in a piece like this; it suggests that the subject has fallen metaphorically flat on his face, and is about as useful to his team as a Lego piece is to the bottom of a foot. This is, therefore, not another Torres-bashing, Malouda-pitying, Carroll-criticising article.
The players in this piece are important players for their respective teams, and are usually considered to be some of the best players around. But, in terms of the 2012/13 season, they have not reached the dizzying heights expected of them, and have flattered to deceive.
There can be many different factors as to why players fail to rise to the occasion; these include untimely and sometimes consistently niggling injuries; change of management; dreams of a transfer; confidence issues; or even plain bad form.
Here is a list of some of the most well-known, well respected players in the top flight – players who are often some of the first on the team-sheet, and who have the utmost confidence from fans – but players who have failed to deliver the goods this season:
5. Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal, Centre-Back
It is clear that Vermaelen has suffered this season, putting in some questionable shifts at the back, and his axing from the Arsenal starting line up in recent weeks was not wholly unexpected.
The Arsenal captain, so usually a stirring influence and example to those playing around him, has been uncharacteristically sluggish this season, especially after the turn of the year. He, himself, admits that he has not been at the top of his game,
“I have made mistakes,” Vermaelen told the Metro.
“If I played flawlessly in all the matches I would be Lionel Messi. As a footballer you know you what may happen when you play badly.”
Dropped for the last two matches against Bayern Munich and Swansea, Arsenal managed to come away with two victories. Although their 0-2 win in Munich was not enough to proceed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, it is the first time the mighty Germans have drawn a blank all season. Quite the achievement, and it was done without Vermaelen.
Wenger maintains that the having the captaincy does not give you an automatic starting berth,
“Who is a captain and a leader shouldn’t guarantee you a place in any team,” Wenger told ‘The Guardian’,
“In England it’s true … the captaincy is of massive importance.”
“But for purely sporting reasons, or tactical reasons in the game, when you don’t think it is the right selection, do you put the player in just as he is captain? That is disrespectful to the guy who doesn’t play. For sporting reasons, it is not completely justifiable.”
4. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City, Striker
‘Kun’ Aguero was City’s hero last year. Netting a scorching 23 goals for the champions, he wrote his name forever into the history books, with the injury time goal that gave City the most dramatic of last-grasp title victories. It also earned him the ‘Player of the Year’ award at the club.
This season, however, has seen Aguero fall out of the limelight. Hampered by little injuries, he has not been able to put together any sort of scoring run similar to his exploits of last. Having only nine goals to his name will be disappointing for the Argentine, and for City, who have sorely missed his brilliance this year. Aguero’s inconsistent form of late has been a defining problem for the Manchester club this season.
Long-standing suitors, Real Madrid, will have been keeping a close eye on Aguero’s mixed form this season, and will certainly be willing to give him a fresh start in La Liga if the chance to snare him arises.
Aguero is not ruling out a return to Spain, and has made sure he kept all options open, having dispelled the idea that he would not play for Madrid because he had played for their fierce rivals, Atletico.
3. Ashley Young, Manchester United, Winger
United’s England winger provokes mixed reaction from all corners, with some criticising his tendency to dive, and some remain unimpressed with his inconsistency; while others praise his direct approach and eye for goal. What can unite all those with opinions about Young is his non-existence this season.
A player who has had injuries get the better of him, Young has seen his playing time limited this season.
“For me, the injuries have been very disappointing and I just wanted to get myself back fit,” Young told ‘The Mirror’,
“Fingers crossed, from now until the end of the season, I can stay injury-free and get a run in the team.”
A well taken goal against San Marino on Friday night will give some confidence to the former Aston Villa man. Still, even with 15 starts this season, his contribution has been small. If Van Persie is the chainsaw obliterating the tree, then Young has been the woodpecker.
2. Clint Dempsey, Tottenham, Midfielder
The former Fulham dynamo moved to White Hart lane in the summer for about £6m. Tottenham cried ‘bargain’, and it looked for all the world like Dempsey’s knack for banging goals in the Premier League would give Spurs that added thrust they needed.
But, with only eight goals plundered in all competitions this season, compared to the 23 he managed last season for Fulham, the American has hardly had the impact many expected. And, having recently turned 30, time is not on the side of the feisty Texan.
His off form has been hidden somewhat by the equally stale Gylfi Sigurdsson, the often quiet contribution from Moussa Dembele, and the slow start made by new signing Lewis Holtby. But Dempsey cannot hide forever, and he will need to make real improvements to his game in order to still be in the plans of Andre-Villas Boas next season.
1. Antonio Valencia, Manchester United, Winger
The former Wigan flyer will not be remembering this season fondly. Even though Man Utd are cantering to their 20th title win, the Ecuadorian has had very little to do with it. Typically a very selfless player, he has only provided 5 assists this season, compared to the 14 he managed last year, in what was a much more productive season personally. His usual swashbuckling antics on the flank have been strangely muted, not full of the lung-bursting confidence Utd fans are so used to.
While injuries have blighted the season of United’s reigning ‘Player of the Year’, Valencia admits his form of late has not been up to standard,
‘It’s not been quite the season I would have hoped for on a personal front,‘ Valencia told the Daily Mail.
‘The injuries I’ve had have held me back a bit and I still get the odd twinge in my leg. That has perhaps affected my progress slightly”
With Nani in and out of the team, and Ashley Young suffering in a similar predicament as Valencia, his poor season may not have any lasting consequences in terms of his future at the club. There will be many who believe that he will come out of the blocks like a thunderbolt next season, eager to make up for lost time. He has the ability, and the drive.
Certainly, all of the players on this list will want to banish their own particular demons come next season. They all have the quality to achieve this, and will be hoping their respective mangers give them the chance to once more perform to the standard we all know and enjoy.
What does everyone think? Are there other players who have disappointed this season, in terms of what they have to give? Let me know in the comments bellow.
Follow me on Twitter: @tragatehouse – Check out my Blog: goodbadribery.blogspot.co.uk
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