Football

Top 5: Premier League disappointments

Valencia has struggled to match last term's performances (©Getty Images)
Valencia has struggled to match last term's performances (©Getty Images).

With Gareth Bale in unstoppable form, Robin Van Persie firing Manchester United to the Premier League title, and Luis Suarez and Juan Mata turning out match-winning displays with nonchalant regularity, the race for the Premier League Player of the Year award is heating up.

But what about the other end of the scale? What about those struggling to lace up their boots, manfully swimming against the tide of poor form - what about those who have failed to live up to the hype?

Now, it's important to make clear from the start - this isn't a list of the worst players in the league.

It's the biggest disappointments. The players, for whatever reason, who haven't lived up to a stellar first season, or their considerable reputation as Champions League calibre players.

We know we've left out some biggies here - Nickia Jelavic has been the shadow of the player he was last term, while Samir Nasri has been publicly rebuked by his own manager. But, if you really feel the need to exercise your demons, feel free to wreak havoc on the comment box below.

So, here it is, five of the biggest disappointments so far this season...

Kyle Walker

Last season's Premier League Young Player of the Year was lauded for his consistency. But in 2012-13 he's been woefully erratic.

An attacking full-back remains susceptible to defensive lapses, but Walker been caught out with alarming regularity - Ashley Young's torching of the full-back at White Hart Lane a recent example. He seems too willing to rely on his pace to bail him out, and when it doesn't, he's left stranded.

This season was an opportunity to build on a break-out year. But Walker needs to go back to the basics that got him the recognition in the first place. A victim of his own high standards.

Eden Hazard

Europe's elite were chasing Hazard last summer, but we are yet to see why. Flashes of brilliance have teased us, but it's not unreasonable to suggest that he hasn't quite lived up to the hype.

Leo Messi comparisons greeted his arrival, but too often Hazard operates on the periphery. Overshadowed no doubt by the consistent excellence of Juan Mata, we need to see more from the Belgian in the big games.

His talent, touch and technique clearly mark him out as a £32m player - not to mention his record in Ligue 1 - but if my club had paid such a fee, I'd be disappointed with the return so far.

The extent to which the troubles at Chelsea have inhibited Hazard is difficult to ascertain. And it wouldn't be a surprise to see him shine next season, assuming Stamford Bridge stabilises.

It's not that he's been poor so far, it's just that we expected more.

Antonio Valencia

Is there a curse over Manchester United Players' Player of the Year winners? Nani, winner in 2010-11, looks set to leave Old Trafford at the end of the season, and Antonio Valencia, last year's winner, has struggled to match the heights of last term.

Power, pace and drilled crosses were his staple, a ready-made recipe for success, and the Ecuadorian was rightly lauded for his performances. It wouldn't be a stretch to say he was in the conversation to be named best winger in the world. That was last season.

According to whoscored.com, only Danny Welbeck has a lower match rating (Valencia - 6.91/10 v Welbeck - 6.8) for players with at least 20 appearances.

But Welbeck has Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez as competition. Valencia, at the very least, should be the best winger in the squad - Ashley Young has spent large periods on the sidelines and Nani is out of favour.

But he's hugely under-performed compared to last season - no goals and four assists so far this term. United know what he's capable of, but shattered confidence has turned him into an ineffective hit-and-hoper.

Thomas Vermaelen

Vermaelen has been an excellent purchase for Arsenal, but he's currently enduring his toughest spell yet as a Gunner.

The fact this has coincided with being made captain is unfortunate on a personal level, but it's been disastrous for the team.

Arsenal lack leadership, but his struggles have meant the squad haven't been able to look to their skipper for inspiration.

Previously good for a couple of goals a season, Vermaelen is yet to find the net. The club is fighting hard to reverse a downward spiral, but it's hard for Vermaelen to dig the team out when he's fighting one of his own.

Joe Hart

Reports suggesting that Hart was becoming complacent first started to surface towards the beginning of the season. A number of high profile errors gave them credence.

His most recent blunder against Chelsea, racing out to bundle over Demba Ba, was only salvaged by his own brilliance. Because there's no doubting that Hart is an outstanding keeper - one of the best young shot-stoppers in the world.

But in a miserable campaign for Manchester City as a collective, Joe Hart has disappointed.

Roberto Mancini said Hart's mistake against Southampton was no surprise, and that's the truth. There have been too many this season. And coming off the back of a campaign during which he was rightly regarded as the best in the league, it's fair to say Hart has struggled. 

Topics:
Joe Hart
Football
Thomas Vermaelen
Premier League
Antonio Valencia
Kyle Walker

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