The Barclays Premier League is home to some of the biggest, brightest and most promising young stars in world football.
From Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, the top flight of English football provides global audiences with a dazzling, albeit expensively assembled, spectacle that boasts some of the game’s most sought-after footballing talents.
Of course, this isn’t necessarily the case for every player in the Premier League. There are those that are just starting out, like Liverpool’s 19-year-old Jordan Ibe; there are those who were once considered among the world’s elite but are now entering the dreaded ‘twilight’ years, like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard; those who were tipped for greatness but never truly hit such lofty expectations, like Nicklas Bendtner.
There are those that you can’t help but wonder how on earth they are playing professionally, like John O’Shea; and then, finally, there are those that deluded fans believe to be worthy of the Ballon d’Or but, realistically, they are light-years away from winning FIFA’s most prestigious individual accolade.
1. Eden Hazard
Chelsea fans, look away now; Eden Hazard is, without a doubt, one of the most overrated players currently playing in the Premier League. Now, before anyone assumes I am suggesting Hazard is not talented, let me make this perfectly clear – I am not.
I will admit, Hazard is a fantastic player; he’s quick, agile, strong on the ball, has a great first touch, can pick out a pass, plays with both feet and scores goals.
He is the very definition of a defender’s nightmare and, in truth, a player that any of the world’s best sides would want in their team. There is no doubt that the Belgian has bags of talent, but his goals tally and assists are certainly a cause for concern.
Since arriving at Chelsea in 2012, Hazard has averaged one goal every four games. That is not a bad record, particularly for a midfielder. But when you compare this statistic with Cristiano Ronaldo – who made 292 appearances for Manchester United in the Premier League between 2003 and 2009, averaging a goal every 2.4 games – Hazard’s efforts on goal are dwarfed somewhat.
Both players operate in a similar position and their styles of play have often been compared. The difference, however, is that by 22, Ronaldo had received both Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations while Hazard is yet to draw such acclaim.
Perhaps it is wrong to compare the two players in such fashion. After all, even Hazard himself has referred to Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as “extra-terrestrials”. Blues boss Jose Mourinho believes Hazard can, one day, become the world’s best player and I do too, in fact. But to any fan that thinks Hazard can already be considered as such, well, you’re wrong.
2. Jack Wilshere
Having assumed the coveted Number 10 shirt following Robin Van Persie’s move to Old Trafford in 2012, Jack Wilshere was all-too-quickly branded as Arsenal’s latest midfield prodigy.
Following an incredibly successful loan spell with Premier League side Bolton Wanderers back in 2010, Wilshere returned to the Emirates and established himself within the heart of the Gunners midfield, enjoying great success.
He had earned his first England call-up ahead of the 2010-11 season – becoming the Three Lions’ 10th youngest ever player in the process – and, despite his young age and relative inexperience, was praised by both fans and pundits for his composure on the ball, physical strength and partnership with Alex Song.
But has the 23-year-old ever truly lived up the hype that continues to surround him? Has he ever replicated the explosive, combative form he exhibited when he first burst onto the scene? Has he justified former England manager Fabio Capello’s description of him as “the future”? I would have to say no, he has not.
In much the same vein as the Hazard argument above, referring to Wilshere as ‘overrated’ does not imply he doesn’t have the talent, or the potential, to be a fantastic player. Wilshere is a far cry from the Premier League’s best midfielder, in fact, he isn’t even Arsenal’s best midfielder but that’s not to say he won’t be one day.
Injuries have certainly played a part in what has been a turbulent few years for the youngster, but a poor goal return of just five goals in 94 club appearances – which the midfielder himself admitted last year in The Daily Mail was “embarrassing” – hardly lives up to the stature of a player Steven Gerrard once claimed could “become one of the best in the world”.
3. Adnan Januzaj
Manchester United and Belgium winger Adnan Januzaj is often touted as a ‘special’ talent, one for the future. He performed magnificently throughout his debut season under the guidance of former Reds manager David Moyes – who hailed Januzaj as “one of the best young talents in Europe” – and many have tipped the 20-year old to go on and enjoy a successful career. But, let’s be honest, is he really worth the hype?
His standout performances for United last season drew attention from a host of Europe’s biggest clubs, and Paris Saint-Germain were believed to have bid around £40 million to acquire his services during the summer (which was promptly rejected).
Hang on a minute…United rejected £40 million for a youngster who only played on average for 61 minutes in 27 league appearances last season, found the back of the net on just four occasions and made only four assists? That’s right.
It is true you can find any statistic to back something up. But with regards to Januzaj and his lacklustre performances in a United shirt this season, you would be hard pushed to find anything that suggests he is worthy of a place in the first XI.
In five appearances, he has averaged just ten passes per game: a disappointing statistic for any winger. He has recorded eight attempts on goal but boasts an awful shooting accuracy of just 17%. He has completed merely 56% of all attempted dribbles, with the remaining 44% thwarted by the opposition, and he has created just one chance.
Janzuzaj played so well during last season because United, quite frankly, were so poor. The summer signings of Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera, Radamel Falcao and the emergence of fellow Belgium midfielder Marouane Fellaini within the United squad has limited Januzaj’s chances.
I am not saying he won’t become a great player in the future, but his off-the-boil performances this season have certainly been, at best, questionable.
4. Tim Howard
Finally, a player that is neither a midfielder nor a winger makes the list. Tim Howard, Everton’s bearded shot-stopper, is vastly overrated and his performances this season have paled in comparison to his efforts with the USA national side during the 2014 Brazil World Cup. It’s as simple as that.
On 1st July, during last summer’s World Cup, USA entertained Belgium in what turned out to be a thrilling encounter. Despite a number (16 to be precise) of clear-cut chances on goal throughout the 90 minutes of play, Belgium struggled to beat USA’s a Tim Howard who was proving a brick wall in goal.
The Americans may well have tasted defeat on that humid evening in Salvador, but Howard’s incredible display between the sticks earned him the title of the new ‘USA Secretary of Defense’.
Fast forward seven months, however, and Howard has now retired from international duty and has suffered from a mixture of form concerns and injury issues that have cost him his starting place in the Everton squad.
Last weekend’s 2-2 draw against strugglers Leicester City marked another setback for the American, recalled following a calf injury, who was at fault for both of the Foxes goals.
According to the EA Sports Player Performance Index, Howard is 19th among the Premier League’s top goalkeepers and is some distance behind his closest rivals.
I like Tim Howard, I love his beard and he is – was – a good goalkeeper but he will never be – and nor has he ever been – a great goalkeeper.
5. Vincent Kompany
Before I begin this point, let me make something perfectly clear: Vincent Kompany is an outstanding player. His commanding, vocal presence at the core of Manchester City’s defence has proved hugely significant in recent years and, since signing for the club in 2008, the Belgian has emerged as one of the world’s most prolific defenders.
But there are inconsistencies – errors, if you will – in his game that ought to be addressed if he is truly become the world’s best.
A tendency to commit to challenges high-up the pitch, for example, exposing his team-mates to counter-attacks in the process, has been noted (see Suarez’s second goal during the opening leg of the last 16 Champions League tie between Manchester City and Barcelona) while a failure to strike up a successful partnership with another centre-back since the title-winning season of 2012 – when Kompany was paired with Joleon Lescott – is of concern.
The Belgian powerhouse, admittedly, has suffered from various injuries throughout the 2014-15 season that have limited his first-team appearances and – as is expected – effected his form.
As we begin to enter what managers so often call the ‘business’ end of the season, the question must be asked: will Kompany continue in this inconsistent form, a far-cry from the faultless, world class individual he was two years ago, or will he regain the aura that once made him so good?
For his sake, I hope it’s the latter.
Do you agree with what has been said here? Or do you disagree? Have your say in the comments section below.