Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)
Any number of Fulham players could have been named in this list, but Sessegnon arrived in the Premier League with a huge amount of hype. Tottenham were reported suitors last summer (and may well be again this), while an England call-up looked a near certainty.
But Sessegnon has struggled in the top flight. He enjoyed a reasonable start to the season under Slavisa Jokanovic but was often left out of the side under Claudio Ranieri – and was no perfect fit for the Italian’s tactics.
That clearly eroded Sessegnon’s confidence, and there’s also the lingering question of what his true position will be: left-back, left-wing-back or left-winger? Two goals and six assists in this Fulham team is no disgrace, but we yearned for so much more.
Rachid Ghezzal (Leicester)
Leicester’s hunt for their Riyad Mahrez replacement goes on. Demarai Gray hasn’t kicked on as we hoped since moving from Birmingham City, Ahmed Musa was a wide forward failure and now Ghezzal will be lucky to last beyond the summer. Just because you buy an Algerian winger from French football doesn’t mean you’re replacing Mahrez’s majesty, whatever the comparisons.
We expected more. Ghezzal had played in the Champions League for both Monaco and Lyon before arriving in the East Midlands, but from day one he’s been too easy to push off the ball and too wasteful when he’s had the chance to cross and dribble. For £12m, Leicester supporters wanted better than almost total anonymity.
Jordan Pickford (Everton)
In summer 2018, Pickford had the best summer of his life. At the start of 2016/17 he wasn’t even Sunderland’s No.1 goalkeeper, but less than two years later was starting for his country and becoming the first England goalkeeper to make saves in a winning World Cup penalty shootout. Maybe the ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ effect was inevitable.
But it’s still a little worrying for England and Everton to see just how many mistakes Pickford has made this season, having come on leaps and bounds in the previous 18 months. He’s also been punished for them; and therein lies the life of a goalkeeper.
Pickford can clearly reclaim his goodwill and remains England’s firm No.1, but Jack Butland was touted to be the future of England goalkeeping and he’s just coming to the end of a difficult season in the Championship’s bottom half.
Fred (Manchester United)
Manchester United have earned plenty of flak for their pursuit of Alexis Sanchez just to foil the ambitions of Manchester City, but in the case of Fred you could see their point. Paul Pogba had been desperate for a midfield holder, Nemanja Matic wasn’t getting any younger and City had expressed a keen interest in replacing Fernandinho with another Brazilian from Shakhtar Donetsk.
It’s not that Fred has been wretched in Manchester; he’s been entirely ordinary. No spark, no surging runs forward, no spectacular long-range goals, no great passing range and no protection for a wobbly central defence. For £53m, United signed a player who on current evidence looks no better than academy products Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope that a summer off – he’s not currently part of Brazil’s Copa America plans – will produce a rested and rehabilitated midfielder in 2019/20.
NEXT: The pitfalls of social media x 2...
Max Meyer (Crystal Palace)
So far, Meyer’s biggest impact at Selhurst Park was posting the Instagram story that exposed Wayne Hennessey’s complete lack of modern German history. That’s not quite the assist that Roy Hodgson expected or wanted.
For five years Meyer was held up as one of the brightest potential stars of European football, so something had clearly gone awry for him to end up at Palace in the first place. But the former Schalke midfielder has started just 12 Premier League games, scored or assisted three goals and was substituted at half-time against Huddersfield recently.
On a reported £125,000-a-week contract, we’re right to expect more. Meyer’s career is in serious danger of stalling.
Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)
It always feels a little stingy to include injured players in lists like these, but Mendy warrants inclusion because a) he has often been physically fit but left out of Pep Guardiola’s matchday squad, and b) he’s just so damn frustrating. There’s clearly a world-class attacking left-back in Mendy, and his crossing is fantastic, but we just don’t see it enough.
Criticising any footballer for having some personality is unfair, but Mendy has clearly irked his manager with what Guardiola may perceive to be a lack of professionalism. The taste for social media antics has gone down badly with some at City, as did being photographed in a nightclub hours before training.
The end result is a potentially wonderful footballer who is still just 24 – but also in danger of wasting the chance to delight the best manager in the world.
One of the saviours of Newcastle’s 2017/18 campaign has become anonymous in 2018/19. Kenedy arrived on loan from Chelsea in January 2018, and scored or assisted four goals in 13 league games. Just as important were his driving runs and creativity that gave Newcastle an attacking impetus when they needed it most.
“I don’t think Kenedy is low on confidence, although I think he knows that he isn't playing at the level he can,” Rafael Benitez said diplomatically after the victory over Huddersfield in December.
The response has been to give the winger three starts in all competitions since: a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in the league and two FA Cup ties in which Benitez picked a weakened team. When you’re fighting the drop, you can’t afford passengers.
Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea)
Jorginho can breathe a sigh of relief, but at least you can see the general plan with him. Maurizio Sarri was given one element of his successful Napoli team and expected to replicate the system. Opposition teams quickly worked out that if you sat on Jorginho and cut off the supply, Chelsea were borked.
That’s in part due to the underwhelming Kovacic. In signing the midfielder on loan as part of the deal which took Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid, Chelsea gained a central midfielder who’d started in Champions League finals and was part of the Croatia squad that reached the World Cup final. They expected a little more than sluggish play through midfield and some of the worst shooting from long range that the Premier League has witnessed in some time.
The 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth, in which Kovacic started, appears to have been the final straw for Sarri. He has started three league games since, lost his place to Ruben Loftus-Cheek and should not expect to be wooed over a permanent move in the summer.
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