Here is my list of ten players who great things were expected of this season but they’ve failed to deliver.
1) Yaya Toure – Manchester City
Last season the Ivorian powerhouse was a key factor in City winning their second Premier League title. He scored 20 goals in the league campaign, only the second midfielder ever to do so, and was shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year award. He was also included in the PFA Team of the Year as he helped guide City to the league crown, having his highest scoring season in the process with 24 goals in all competitions.
This season, Toure has disappointed City fans with his lackadaisical approach to matches, he has only scored nine goals all season but his impact in games has faded away from the dominance he has had in previous seasons. In the Manchester derby he registered just over 11 kilometres travelled in the game which was the fourth highest of everyone on the pitch, the problem for City and Toure was the slow, lumbering pace at which he travelled.
2) Adnan Januzaj – Manchester United
Last season Januzaj was one of United’s best players but in all honesty I think he was such a phenomenon because of the Red Devils, quite frankly, awful season. Januzaj scored four goals in his first full season in the first team but it was his exciting play which made the fans buzz about their new teenage sensation. A brace in a 2-1 win away to Sunderland in his first start gave Januzaj the confidence to express himself in what was a new era without Sir Alex Ferguson and he certainly gave the United fans hope.
Summer signings of Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera and the emergence of fellow Belgian Marouane Fellaini in the United squad have limited 20-year-old Januzaj’s chances and his appearances to just 18 so far this season, mostly from the bench, and he has notched no goals. His off-the-boil performances have been questionable, just like his ability to stay on his feet as his tendency to dive has given him a reputation among opposition teams, fans and match officials. He has picked up four yellow cards for diving in his short career so far, the same amount of first-team goals he has scored.
3) Tim Howard – Everton
The American international had a good season in 2013/14 which is what he has become renowned for since his move to Everton, steady if unspectacular. He has kept over 100 clean sheets for Everton and was just two games short of Neville Southall’s record of 212 consecutive Premier League in 2013; he accumulated 210 consecutive appearances which dated back to 2007 and he was behind the third-best Premier League defence last term. Howard’s real excellence came in the World Cup where he broke the record for most saves made in a World Cup match with 15, in a 2-1 loss to Belgium.
Evertonians would have hoped that Howard would have come back from the World Cup in fine form continuing from his quarter-final heroics and last season’s consistency. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case as several high-profile mistakes, injury problems and only keeping four clean sheets mean that Howard has failed to deliver for the Toffees. At 36 years old, Everton may start thinking about a replacement for their stalwart.
4) Per Mertesacker – Arsenal
The BFG (you know what it stands for) was in good form last season, forming an excellent partnership with Laurent Koscielny. His influence was cited as a factor behind Arsenal’s excellent start to the season and he was club captain in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta. Mertesacker was an essential part of Arsenal’s defence as they kept the joint most clean sheets in the league, conceding the fourth least amount of goals. Mertesacker also went to the World Cup with Germany and returned a world champion.
Mertesacker’s form this season has been less than convincing, his early season form saw people question his ability and assume a World Cup hangover. His poor form lately has seen him briefly replaced by January signing Gabriel Paulista to ease the pressure on the 30-year-old German’s shoulders. Some Arsenal fans have called for Mertesacker to be sold at the end of the season as his shortcomings this season have often led to Arsenal conceding goals and invaluable points.
5) Dejan Lovren – Liverpool
The Croatian centre back had an outstanding season last year with Southampton after signing from Lyon, even scoring the winning goal at Anfield against Liverpool in a 2-1 win. His partnership with Jose Fonte was one of the most impressive in the league and he was the fifth highest ranked player from the Premier League in 31st position in Bloomberg Sports’ Power 50 list.
Lovren moved to Liverpool after much speculation about his future, becoming the third player to move from Southampton and Liverpool in the summer transfer window. He cost Liverpool £20million and Liverpool must have wished they bought Fonte instead after some questionable performances from Lovren who instead of being the commanding, no-nonsense centre back to replace Daniel Agger has made some high-profile errors which have compounded Liverpool’s struggles at the back this season.
6) Rio Ferdinand – QPR
After leaving Manchester United last summer following a 12-year stint at Old Trafford where he forged a name as one of the best centre backs of the Premier League era, not to mention becoming one of the most decorated centre backs too winning honours including six Premier League titles, one FA Cup and a Champions League. His contract expired with the Red Devils and he moved to QPR where he was expected to give some high-level experience at the heart of a defence that was expected to be shaky.
Ferdinand’s season has been awful and he has looked every bit of his 36 years of age. He has had a couple of spells out injured and his partnership with Steven Caulker was meant to be a successful one but it had been anything but with QPR languishing in an around the relegation zone for most of the season. Ferdinand also announced in October 2014 that he expects to retire at the end of the season.
7) Mario Balotelli – Liverpool
The Ghanian-born Italian has always been able to show his talent at past teams and there’s no doubting his ability but there have always been question marks over his attitude and discipline. In his time at AC Milan, Balotelli went through a streak of scoring 12 goals in 13 games, he also started off his time with AC by scoring four goals in three appearances equaling Oliver Bierhoff’s record. Balotelli’s form with Italy was also good in this time giving him many suitors across Europe.
Balotelli signed for Liverpool for £16million and was expected to help fill the boots of the departing Luis Suarez but the 24-year-olds past problems have caught up with him again with his attitude and work-ethic being called into question many times. He has only scored four goals in 21 appearances, with just one of those coming in the league; even that took him 13 appearances.
8) Elaquim Mangala – Manchester City
24-year-old French centre-back Mangala was bought for £31.8million, making him the second most expensive defender in Premier League history and a lot was expected of the Frenchman after he shone at FC Porto, winning consecutive Primeira Liga titles. Reported interest stemmed from Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City before the blue half of Manchester pipped any would be rivals to the signature of the promising defender.
Mangala’s City career started well with a performance described by BBC Sport as “colossal” against title rivals Chelsea on his debut. However, six days later against Hull he conceded a penalty and scored an own goal and his performances have disappointed the City faithful ever since. The physically imposing central defender has failed to make much of a positive impact in the first team, failing to permanently hold down a starting spot alongside captain Vincent Kompany.
9) Falcao – Manchester United
When United signed Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco the Premier League stood up and took note of the sleeping giants. For years, the Colombian has been one of European footballs hottest properties; from his time with Porto to his stint in Monaco, the lethal frontman has always scored goals having a scoring record of 155 goals in games in Portugal, Spain and France combined.
Falcao has endured a torrid time in Manchester having only played 23 games all season and only finding the net four times. His injury troubles have given him lengthy spells on the sidelines and he found himself playing for the under 21s which is a step down from the player who fans thought was going to fire them back to greatness. For £350,000-a-week and a substantial loan fee the fans and the club would have expected more, I can’t see United making his loan move permanent at all, let alone for the fee reported.
10) Vincent Kompany – Manchester City
Another City player to make it onto my countdown, not very surprising considering their extremely disappointing season so far. Kompany was back to his dominant best last season as he captained City to his, and their, second Premier League crown in three years. He was included in the 2014 Premier League Team of the Year which was a reward for his fine form during the season.
The Belgian has had a season to forget at the heart of the City defence as he has failed to consistently produce the dominant displays which became so synonymous with his style of play. Injuries and inconsistent form from the captain have been replicated across the City squad who have been in and out of form in their attempted defence of their Premier League title and I think Kompany’s form has personified City’s failings this season; back to their dominant best on occasion, but not often enough.