Following on from my post last month, regarding the top 10 underrated Premier League players; here is my countdown of those who have been outrageously overhyped in the media and have disappointed on the pitch despite their reputations.
10. David Luiz
Following the initial worshipping upon the Brazilian’s arrival because of his eccentric hair, reputation as a bit of a joker and an extremely well-taken goal against Manchester United, the hype seems to be subsiding around Luiz as people are coming to the conclusion that he’s not really all that. His heroics in the opposition penalty area have masked a series of shaky defensive displays, culminating in the concession of a silly penalty against QPR last weekend. Having only been in England since January, perhaps he still needs time to adapt, and may become a fine player further down the line, but as far as I can see, he’s clumsy and well out of his depth when lining up opposite the elite forwards.
9. Phil Jones
Undoubtedly a talented footballer, I’m of the opinion that Jones is very similar to Luiz in that his attacking exploits have helped masquerade some defensive fragility. His greatest admirer would point to the fact he is strong in the tackle, adept in the air and very comfortable with the ball at his feet; too much so, should that criticism exist in my opinion. It’s admirable to see Jones emerging from deep with confidence, which to his credit, has seen him rack up a couple of assists, but frankly, it’s not his job; leave that to those further up the pitch. Manchester United’s defence has been as unsteady as I’ve ever seen it; a rookie goalkeeper and lack of a real holding midfielder have undoubtedly contributed to that but surely so has Jones’ desperation to drive up field. Typically, the media have sensationalised his impact which as we have seen in the past may be to his detriment. An exciting prospect for sure but he’s still someway off being first choice for Manchester United yet alone England.
8. Samir Nasri
Perhaps I’m a bitter Arsenal fan or perhaps the truth is finally coming to light that Samir Nasri is a good footballer and that’s about it. Until Christmas last season nobody could deny the Frenchman’s supreme impact which saw him notch up more goals than his totals in the previous two campaigns put together. Interestingly however, his form seemed to dry up at the same time as Cesc Fabregas’ niggling injuries began to recur and coincidentally, Arsenal began to implode. The facts explicitly suggest that Nasri was only made to look a world beater alongside Fabregas, who has also helped create this illusion alongside Emmanuel Adebayor, Mathieu Flamini and Alex Hleb who have also since been somewhat found out. An underwhelming start in an otherwise electrifying City side has seen Nasri slip down the pecking order and become a regular on the bench at Etihad Stadium. The £24million Arsenal received in exchange for the Frenchman’s services suddenly looks shrewd business.
7. Jordan Henderson
Barely half a good season that produced a handful of well-taken goals was apparently enough to convince Kenny Dalglish to fork out a rumoured £20million for the young midfielder. Even the most die-hard of Liverpool fans were sceptical about what exactly Henderson could bring to an already jam-packed midfield. A particularly woeful set of displays at the U21 tournament in June provoked more questions than answers. A tidy finish against Bolton has been the only bright spot in a dreary start which has seen him warm the bench more often than not, looking on at Charlie Adam, bought for half the price, turning in consistently impressive performances. Henderson has ability, nobody doubts that, but the headline move has clearly come too soon, and his contribution has been and will continue to be, horrifically disproportionate to the fee he was bought for.
6. Shay Given
The Irish goalkeeper seems to be universally regarded as one of, if not the best, in his position in England; and this judgement never ceases to amaze me. Evidently his acrobatic shot-stopping is easy on the eye, but the cynic in me believes that a lot of it is for the cameras. His short frame goes hand-in-hand with agility which is of course a handy asset for a keeper, but consequently he lacks the presence of the elite Premier League custodians, and cannot come for crosses with the same authority. Therefore he is often seen cowering on his line, putting the defence in front of his under immense pressure. Frankly, if Given genuinely was the real deal, he would have had a far longer stint at a top club than the twelve months he spent playing regularly between the sticks at Manchester City.
5. Luka Modric
After a slow start to life in North London, Modric has since grown in stature and become one of the most highly rated players in the Premier League. A very tidy midfielder who is as comfortable running at defenders as he is keeping the ball, there is no doubt he would be an asset to any side. Whether his performance justify the ‘world class’ tag he’s currently carrying, I’m not so sure. The stats show he is not nearly penetrative enough in the final third to merit a £40million move to a bigger club, with just 13 goals and 18 assists since moving to England in 2008. Whilst his quality on the ball is there for all to see, I fail to recognise what individual attribute he possesses that sets him apart from other highly-rated midfielders.
4. Peter Crouch
The lanky striker is one player who has never sufficiently impressed me, at any point during his topsy-turvy career. His six foot seven inch frame has brought an abundance of clichés; that he is “a physical presence and target man up front,” and that he has “a good touch for a big man.” Neither of these are particularly true: he’s so skinny that he’s not able to hold the ball up or knock defenders off the ball like say Didier Drogba can. In addition, he’s actually remarkably poor in the air considering his supreme height; he should score far more headers than he currently does. On the deck, I don’t think he’s anything special either, save for a couple of acrobatic efforts for Liverpool. Lest we forget that Crouch has played in the colours of nine different English clubs, suggesting that he’s not really that good and is moved along pretty quickly as a result of an underwhelming goal record. He has scored plenty for England, however, with an impressive 22 goals in 42 appearances, but I still remain critical because the vast majority have come against footballing minnows like Jamaica and Andorra; when called upon on the big stage, when it really matters, he’s never really cut the mustard.
3. Theo Walcott
The new Thierry Henry, England’s boy wonder, our answer to Lionel Messi. Poor old Theo has continually failed to live up to the hype thrust upon him and probably will never reach the level so many of us expect. I do think there’s a combination of trademark media hyperbole and lack of significant progress on Walcott’s part that has drawn today’s conclusion that he’s been a bit of a flop. The harshest of cynics will say that he’s got electrifying pace and that’s about it. At times, it’s hard to disagree. His final ball has always been erratic, he struggles to beat his man with any real authority and, more worryingly, has a tendency to go missing altogether. Chris Waddle infamously claimed he didn’t have a “football brain” and the fact that Walcott’s strongest contributions are instinctive ones perhaps establish an element of truth. I do feel the need to stress that deep down there is a brilliant footballer is waiting to emerge; we have seen glimpses of it with some mesmeric runs and well-taken goals. Messi himself was puzzled at Walcott’s emission from the 2010 World Cup squad describing him as “one of the most dangerous players” he had faced. At his best, he is pretty much unplayable, as his hattrick in Zagreb demonstrated. But that night in 2008 seems to have done him more harm than good, as expectations have since risen sky high. Walcott has often expressed a desire to play down the middle but the quality of his movement and intelligence needed for a top-class striker have not yet been found. Whether it ever will be is another question.
2. Gareth Barry
Increasingly maligned by the average football fan, Barry is an example of a player who is perhaps best not suited to the limelight. A cult hero at Aston Villa, a big fish in a small pond, where he consistently turned in satisfactory performances, he moved to Manchester City in 2009 after protracted negotiations with Liverpool broke down. In terms of winning trophies and other inevitable future successes it has been a good move for the midfielder, but many would claim that his individual performances seem to be getting worse and worse. The critics often question what exactly he does; is he a box-to-box midfielder? He seems too slow and unimaginative for that. So is he simply a holding player? Perhaps but you seldom see him tackle with the same tenacity as teammates Nigel De Jong or Yaya Toure. His ineptitude was notoriously highlighted at the World Cup as Germany, and Mesut Ozil in particular, ripped him a proverbial new one. Barry, even with a five yard headstart, was annihilated in a foot race with the German playmaker and England fans have failed to forgive him. Many question why he is selected so regularly for the national side when he seems to bring so little in terms of quality; well I’m quickly running out of answers for that one.
1. Gareth Bale
An electrifying pair of performances against Inter in last season’s Champions League, in which he netted a hattrick at the San Siro before giving the highly-rated Maicon a roasting in the return fixture at White Hart Lane, thrust the Welsh fullback-turned-winger into the limelight. They were undoubtedly exciting displays, and there are few better sights than seeing a winger blessed with blistering pace in full flow. However, the PFA decided that these performances alone were enough to merit the Player of the Year award. Domestically, Bale had flattered to deceive, particularly against Manchester United, in the immediate aftermath of his Italian Job, as young Rafael tamed him with relative ease. He managed an unspectacular seven goals and one solitary assist in the league last season; proving that for all his obvious ability, he is some distance from the finished article yet. Whilst he has shown glimpses of promise since, he has never returned to the echelons on which he lay for a matter of weeks, where he was mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. His shattering fall back to Earth in the last twelve months has proved what a foolish comparison that was.
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