The Premier League can be the cruelest of mistresses.
There have been countless examples of world-class players failing to translate their success to England’s top-flight from Andriy Shevchenko to Radamel Falcao to Angel Di Maria.
The 2020/21 season has been no different with signings like Donny van de Beek, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner falling short of expectations since moving their careers to English shores.
Premier League: A cruel mistress
That’s because ‘disappointment’ is the order of the day and we’ve set about building a starting XI of players who we think have fallen short of expectations the most across the 2020/21 campaign.
Now, it’s worth saying that the reason that they’ve disappointed might have been out of their hands and the entire concept of expectation here is gauged by what fans were anticipating from them.
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Most disappointing Premier League XI
Or to put things another way, this is not some whopping indictment of the 11 players selected who – by the way – have only gathered these high expectations because of their top-class talent and ability.
However, disclaimers aside, here is the Premier League XI that we think has disappointed the most this season:
GK – Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United)
On the back of a solid season with Bournemouth, Blades fans were anticipating a lot more from their Dean Henderson replacement than over 50 goals shipped and a number of high-profile errors.
DF – Nelson Semedo (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
The defensive positions were undoubtedly the hardest and it’s worth saying that Semedo is really starting to find his feet in English football, but Wolves fans would be forgiven for expecting more.
Nuno Espírito Santo’s men have been one of the biggest disappointments overall in the Premier League this season and Semedo’s slow start off the plane from Barcelona didn’t help their cause.
DF – Ethan Ampadu (Sheffield United)
Is this cruel? Perhaps, but Chelsea fans must be feeling underwhelmed by Ampadu’s displays at the basement club given the recent breakthroughs of Mason Mount, Billy Gilmour and Fikayo Tomori.
DF – Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
Again, ‘disappointing’ is the key word here because although Laporte’s topsy-turvy 2020/21 season can largely be blamed on injuries, there’s no denying that he’s tumbled down City’s pecking order.
One can’t help feeling underwhelmed when a centre-back once considered second only to Virgil van Dijk has played second fiddle to Nathan Ake, Ruben Duas and John Stones at times this season.
RM – Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
We could easily have picked Willian or Adama Traore and there’s no denying that Bale has produced moments of brilliance this season but let’s be honest here, you expected more, didn’t you?
Considering spotrac report that Bale has been pocketing £600,000-per-week this season, it’s easy to lament the big-earner starting just seven Premier League games and bagging only six goals.
CM – Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool)
Has Thiago really been terrible? Absolutely not, but underwhelming for the Premier League champions on the back of a treble-winning season with Bayern Munich is the definition of disappointing.
CM – Dani Ceballos (Arsenal)
Gooners regularly face-palm when Mikel Arteta selects him in the starting XI, particularly when partnered with Mohamed Elneny, with just five Premier League goal contributions to his name.
LM – Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
A victim of his own success at the backend of last season, it’s been infuriating for Chelsea fans to watch Pulisic take almost eight months to start scoring again, struggling with injuries along the way.
CAM: Ferran Torres (Manchester City)
Considering the Citizens are a runaway train of success in 2020/21, barreling towards the Premier League title, you’d be forgiven for expecting much more from one of their marquee summer buys.
There have been flashes of brilliance in the Champions League, sure, but just 11 starts and three goals in the league show that Torres’ struggles under Pep Guardiola have flown under the radar.
ST: Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United)
On the back of a sensational loan spell with Swansea City, Brewster is still awaiting his first goal for Sheffield United, failing to justify his £23.5 million price tag by drawing a blank in 23 league games.
ST: Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
There were factions of the Old Trafford faithful passionately arguing that Martial could become United‘s number nine for years to come after smashing home 23 strikes in the 2019/20 campaign.
And it’s those dizzying, though justified, expectations that makes a season in which Martial has scored just four Premier League goals in 22 appearances so disappointing.
Time to turn things around
It really has been tough seeing some of these world-class players not being the best versions of themselves this season and we can’t wait to see them producing their finest football again.
Besides, it’s not a coincidence that the vast majority of the players represent ‘big six’ clubs where the expectation and stress are enough to leave world-class footballers flattering to deceive.
However, you know what they say: ‘pressure makes diamonds,’ so hopefully we’ll get to see everyone from Pulisic to Martial and Ampadu to Thiago shining in the 2021/22 season.