We were expecting more
The contenders for the PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards were released last week, giving supporters an opportunity to debate the Premier League’s standout performers this season.
But which have been the biggest disappointments? In this slideshow, we pick out 15 stars who've underwhelmed this term…
Fred (Manchester United)
It’s not that Fred has been wretched in Manchester; he’s just 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.
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 flop and now Ghezzal will be lucky to last beyond the summer.
The Algerian 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 or dribble. For £12m, Leicester supporters wanted more than almost total anonymity.
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.
The winger has looked like a different player this term, though, and the fact he hasn’t started a single Premier League game this calendar year is telling. Don’t expect him to be back at St James’ Park next term.
Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea)
Jorginho has been the principal target of the Chelsea boo boys in this latest season of turbulence at Stamford Bridge. The Italy international hasn’t been entirely convincing, but he certainly hasn’t underwhelmed to the extent of Kovacic.
Unable to force his way into the Real Madrid midfield ahead of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, the former Inter schemer arrived in west London with a point to prove. He started reasonably well but quickly faded, and a return of no league goals and two assists simply isn’t enough for a player of his talent.
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 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 a footballer for having some personality is unfair, but Mendy has clearly irritated 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.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal)
When Manchester United agreed to swap Mkhitaryan for Alexis Sanchez in January 2018, many Arsenal fans felt they had got the better end of the deal. That is probably still the case given Sanchez’s considerable struggles at Old Trafford, but Mkhitaryan can’t be called a success either.
A glance at the Armenian’s numbers – six goals and four assists in the Premier League – would suggest he’s had a good season, but in this case the statistics do lie. Mkhitaryan has been poor for much of 2019, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him depart the Emirates Stadium this season.
Mohamed Elyounoussi (Southampton)
A £16m signing from Basel last summer, Elyounoussi was expected to be a regular fixture in Southampton’s starting line-up this season. The Norway international has failed to settle on the south coast, though, beginning only seven Premier League games and doing very little in each of them.
The forward has even fallen out of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s matchday squad in recent weeks, which doesn’t bode well for his future at the club.
Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Pickford had the best summer of his life in 2018. 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 shoot-out. Maybe the ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ effect was inevitable.
But it’s still a little concerning 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.
Alexis Sanchez (Manchester United)
It isn’t hyperbolic to call Sanchez one of the worst signings in Premier League history. Not only has the Chile international failed to deliver on the pitch, his reported £400,000-a-week wages have caused the club problems at the negotiating table as they try to tie down some of their key players to new contracts.
Sanchez seems to have lost the dynamism which characterised his performances for Arsenal, and at 30 it’s doubtful whether he’ll be able to get it back. One Premier League goal just isn’t good enough for someone of his calibre.
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester)
Iheanacho scored 14 goals in all competitions for Manchester City in 2015/16, which is even more impressive when you consider he only started 11 games. The Nigerian averaged a goal every 100 minutes in his two seasons at the Etihad Stadium, and hopes were high when he traded the City bench for a probable starting spot at Leicester in 2017.
Iheanacho started only seven games last season, though, while his 29 league appearances this year have brought just a single goal. The 22-year-old doesn’t offer much in the way of link play either, and it’s instructive that Brendan Rodgers is yet to include him in a starting XI.
Jean Seri (Fulham)
Having come close to joining Barcelona in 2017, Fulham fans were understandably excited by Seri’s arrival last summer. The former Nice midfielder scored a stunning goal against Burnley in August, but that was a rare bright spot for a player whose reputation has taken a hit this term.
Seri hasn’t been disastrous at Craven Cottage, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations either. Fulham’s haphazard recruitment has proven their downfall this term, and the Ivorian is an example of a gifted individual who hasn’t shone as part of the collective.
Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)
Fulham have had far bigger problems than Sessegnon this season, and the 18-year-old’s stock remains high given his prior performances. But after starting the campaign brightly under Slavisa Jokanovic, the winger seemed to lose his confidence under Claudio Ranieri and has been unable to recapture the spark that terrified Championship full-backs in 2017/18.
Sessegnon has been linked with Tottenham and Juventus in recent weeks, but his development might be better served with another season of regular football at Craven Cottage.
Kieran Trippier (Tottenham)
Trippier was arguably England’s standout performer at the 2018 World Cup, but things haven’t gone well for the right-back this term. The Tottenham man has looked suspect defensively all season long, with recent reports suggesting that Mauricio Pochettino is willing to listen to offers for the former Burnley defender.
Trippier has struggled to regain his confidence since giving away two penalties against Wolves in November. He’s not been as effective going forward either, and even missed a penalty in the FA Cup defeat by Crystal Palace in January.
Jack Wilshere (West Ham)
It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Wilshere, who’s suffered yet another frustrating season on the treatment table. Signed on a free transfer from Arsenal last summer, the West Ham midfielder has been restricted to only four Premier League starts, and none since September.
The ex-England international turned 27 in January and is running out of time to fulfil his potential. It also doesn’t help his cause that West Ham lost all four of those matches he featured in from the first whistle, with a midfield duo of Wilshere and Mark Noble continually picked off by opponents.
Max Meyer (Crystal Palace)
Meyer has been far from a complete flop at Palace, and there have been times when Roy Hodgson’s reluctance to use him has frustrated the Selhurst Park faithful. Yet while the German midfielder has shown flashes of his quality in a red and blue shirt, he certainly hasn’t set south London alight this season.
Meyer may argue that he’s rarely been given an opportunity in his favoured central midfield berth, with Hodgson generally preferring to deploy him out wide. However, it’s fair to say that more was expected of a player who was supposedly a target for Bayern Munich not too long ago.
Premier League, Lists, Kieran Trippier, Alexis Sánchez, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Max Meyer, Mateo Kovacic, Kelechi Iheanacho, Jean Seri, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Jack Wilshere, Ryan Sessegnon, Rachid Ghezzal, Jordan Pickford, Benjamin Mendy, Fred, Kenedy, Newcastle United, Manchester United, Manchester City, Everton, Leicester City, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur