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Premier League review: the underwhelmers

Posted: Oct 2, 2021

The Premier League has begun, and it's in full swing. The usual suspects are at the top, with Liverpool a point ahead of the gaggle on 13 points. That group includes Brighton, who have done well this season, losing just once in six games.

Some players have been fantastic. Others, however, have flattered to deceive. Let's take a look at the Premier League's most underwhelming players so far!

Arsenal: Pablo Mari

Pablo Mari joined Arsenal in January 2020. It's about to be two years in London for Mari, but the Spaniard has hardly produced moments of real quality. The highlights of his season so far was getting bullied by Romelu Lukaku on his Chelsea return. A week before that, his jittery performance contributed to a 2-0 loss to Brentford, who were promoted through the Championship play-offs.

Mari was dropped for the next game, with Arteta preferring a back three of Holding, Calum Chambers and Sead Kolasinac - who was sent out to Bundesliga bottom club Schalke on loan in January - to the former Manchester City youngster. Ben White and Gabriel, meanwhile, are a strong centre-back partnership that has conceded just two goals in three games since the 5-0 loss to City.

Aston Villa: Ollie Watkins

Ollie Watkins hasn't been as good as last season. The England forward was injured at the start of the season, but he returned against Chelsea after the first international break. He had a couple of big chances, but he wasn't as effective as he was expected to be. He hasn't scored yet in the Premier League, while Villa have blown hot and cold this season.

To be fair, it is a little difficult to pick an underwhelming performer for Villa. They have done fine, even if the results haven't matched it. Watkins' lack of goals is understandable considering his injury. Emiliano Buendia has also not produced the kind of impact he was expected to have, despite scoring against Brentford.

Brentford: Bryan Mbuemo

It's difficult to pick someone who has underwhelmed for Brentford. The London side have impressed everyone with their performances. The opening day victory over Arsenal announced their intentions. They've lost just once, and held Liverpool to an entertaining 3-3 draw. However, Bryan Mbuemo is the pick for Brentford's underwhelmer.

Mbuemo is electric, and his dribbling skills are immense. He regularly glides past defenders and creates glorious chances, but he doesn't convert them. His end product is nearly non-existent in the Premier League, and with better finishing, Brentford may have been in an even better position than they are in right now.

Brighton and Hove Albion: Adam Lallana

Adam Lallana was a curious signing for Brentford. The former Liverpool man left Merseyside as a Champions League and Premier League winner. A number of clubs, including former side Southampton were linked, but it was Brighton who won that race. The hope was that Lallana would be able to inspire them to do better than the 15th place finish they had managed the season before.

Unfortunately for Brighton, Lallana has been what many expected him to be: an injury-prone 33-year old. So far, he's been in the starting line-up five times, but the former England international hasn't dictated games or produced the kind of quality he is capable of. Brighton are doing well right now, but Lallana's effect on that is minimal.

Burnley: Ashley Barnes

Burnley are second from bottom in the Premier League table, without a single victory. Draws against Leeds and Leicester are the only thing keeping them above Norwich, who are yet to pick up a point. Sean Dyche's side finished 17th last season, and have begun 2021/22 in similarly poor fashion. Maxwel Cornet's goal on his first start against Leicester is a glimmer of hope, but improvements are required from the Clarets.

Ashley Barnes, in particular, has not done enough. The forward has started four times, coming on as a substitute twice, but has no goals or assists yet. He's taken less than one shot per game, and has looked nowhere near scoring. Barnes, once linked with Chelsea, is one of Burnley's reliable players, but he is performing far below his capabilities and they are suffering for that.

Chelsea: Hakim Ziyech

Hakim Ziyech was the first of Chelsea's big attacking arrivals in 2020. The Moroccan wowed audiences with his performances for Ajax, particularly in the Champions League. His performance against Chelsea in the group stages of the 2019/20 Champions League may, in fact, have swayed the Londoners toward signing him. Unfortunately for the Blues, Ziyech seems to have left his magic behind when he came to London.

Ziyech has produced some fantastic moments for Chelsea. The goal on his first league start, the imperious performance against Sheffield United, important goals against Atletico in the Champions League and against Manchester City in both the FA Cup and the league. Those have been too few and far between, and so far this season, he looks like a shadow of the player he was at Ajax. Chelsea need him to come good soon, or he might be on his way out.

Crystal Palace: Marc Guehi

Marc Guehi didn't want to sit on the bench at Chelsea or get sent out on another loan, so he chose a permanent move to Crystal Palace. The centre-back was very impressive in his loan spell at Swansea spanning a season and a half, and expectations were high. He is yet to hit the heights he achieved at Swansea, however, as Patrick Vieira's side stuttered through the season's start.

Guehi's debut, incidentally came against Chelsea, and he watched as Trevoh Chalobah hit a screamer on his Premier League debut to seal a 3-0 win for the Blues. He has since underwhelmed, misplacing passes and losing opposition players he is supposed to mark. He will surely come good soon, but as of now, he isn't what Palace originally envisaged. They, and Guehi, improved after the international break, with a 3-0 win over Tottenham the highlight.

Everton: Michael Keane

Michael Keane was once considered one of England's best prospects. The centre-back put in impressive performances and proved many a doubter wrong. All that seems to be a thing of the past now. In the last couple of seasons, he declined a little, and so far this season, his form has been inconsistent. Everton, as a whole, have done well, sitting near the top level on points with Chelsea and Manchester City.

Keane, however, has made a few mistakes. He got his feet tangled up and allowed Adam Armstrong to open the scoring for Southampton. Patrick Bamford evaded him too easily in the build up to Mateusz Klich's goal for Leeds. He did score against Burnley, but much better overall is expected from a senior, experienced centre-back.

Leeds United: Junior Firpo

There was a temptation to pick Patrick Bamford, but the striker has still done reasonably well so far this season. The true underhwelmer, however, is Junior Firpo. The left-back was impressive at Real Betis and his performances for Spain's U-21s earned him a move to Barcelona. He never looked likely to eventually take over the left-back slot from Jordi Alba, and two forgettable years later, he's here in the Premier League now.

He has looked uneasy this season, struggling to come to terms with the league. So far, he has started four games, picking up a yellow card and conceding an own goal. Leeds as a team have struggled, with Firpo contributing to that. Marcelo Bielsa's side look like a shadow of last season's version, and they need players such as Firpo to improve soon. After all, how long can Raphinha carry Leeds alone?

Leicester City: Harvey Barnes

For two seasons in a row, Leicester missed out on a Champions League spot right on the final day. They usually begin well, but this season, they've won two and lost three of their six Premier League games. They haven't clicked yet, with the forward line struggling. Jamie Vardy has scored five already, but beside him, Harvey Barnes hasn't done enough.

Barnes is an exciting winger who would have made the England squad last season if not for an untimely injury. Right now, he's nowhere near the England squad, such is his lack of incision. He is yet to record a goal or an assist as Leicester languish near the relegation zone.

Liverpool: Roberto Firmino

Premier LeagueRoberto Firmino hasn't been his usual self for a while now. His downturn in form affected Liverpool last season, and if not for new signing Diogo Jota's form, the Reds would've fared much worse than they eventually did. It is a similar story this season. Klopp now clearly favours Jota over the Brazilian. He has, of course, scored this season, but overall, there's not much to talk about.

Firmino formed one of the world's best attacks with Salah and Mane. But while the latter two have maintained their form and goalscoring records, Firmino has fallen by the wayside. Jota, and even 18-year old Harvey Elliott seem to have leapfrogged the 29-year old in Liverpool's pecking order.

Manchester City: Raheem Sterling

Premier LeagueBy his standards, Raheem Sterling had a poor 2020/21. His nadir was a passive performance against Chelsea in the Champions League final, where he was shackled by Reece James. Amid calls to drop him, Sterling remarkably turned his form around for England, scoring three times at Euro 2020. The winger, however, seemed to have lost his place to fellow England international Jack Grealish.

The fee paid for Grealish touched the three-figure mark, setting a Premier League record. The former Aston Villa man has fitted in well, and he was impressive in City's win over Chelsea. Sterling hasn't reproduced his international form with City, which has kept him on the sidelines while Grealish and Bernardo Silva thrive on the pitch.

Manchester United: Jadon Sancho

Premier LeagueThere is no doubt Manchester United have had a great transfer window. Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo are three excellent arrivals. Ronaldo and Varane have already hit the ground running, but Sancho is yet to get up to speed. His excellent performances for Dortmund set the bar very high, and that makes his Manchester United showings even more disappointing.

It hasn't helped that United have begun in inconsistent fashion. Their convincing victories are interspersed with dull draws or unexpected losses. Against Young Boys in the Champions League, he was the one sacrificed to overcome Aaron Wan-Bissaka's red card. Sancho has the potential to be much, much better than his tame showings so far, and both, the club and the fans know that.

Newcastle United: Joe Willock

Premier LeagueAfter all, whatever he does at Newcastle now will probably pale in comparison to his explosive loan spell, isn't it? Willock and Lingard were the two standout loam transfers in January, converting bench stagnation to goal sprees. Lingard has now carved out a role at Manchester United, but Willock chose to leave Arsenal permanently.

The midfielder scored in seven consecutive games, and his return of eight Premier League goals in 14 appearances was very impressive. Naturally, expectations were high when he joined Newcastle permanently, but so far, he looks nothing like the loan version. He is yet to score or assist, and his midfield presence is nominal. Greater things were expected from a player who won over Newcastle fans in a very short time.

Norwich City: Teemu Pukki

Norwich's season has started off terribly. Without a win after six games, it isn't too difficult to find the underachievers. Milot Rashica has hardly shown his best yet, while Lukas Rupp has had no influence in midfield. The answer here, though, is Teemu Pukki. The Finnish striker started firing immediately in Norwich's last Premier League campaign in 2019/20, but his goals dried up very quickly.

This time around, his effect on games has been minimal. He did score in losses against Watford and Leicester, but that's not enough for Norwich. Pukki is the talisman for this side, and he propelled Norwich to the Championship title in both 2018/19 and 2020/21. The Premier League is a different challenge, and so far, Pukki is far from acing it.

Southampton: Romain Perraud

Premier LeagueRyan Bertrand joined Southampton in 2014. Initially, it was a loan from Chelsea, before he made the move permanent in 2015. After seven years at St. Mary's, the veteran full-back moved on this summer, and Southampton replaced him with 24-year old French left-back Romain Perraud.

He hasn't yet shown why Southampton signed him. His performances haven't matched the promise, and recently, he has lost his place to Kyle Walker-Peters. Intriguingly, Walker-Peters himself lost his place at right-back to new signing Valentino Livramento! Southampton are winless as yet, and are probably missing Danny Ings more than Bertrand, but Perraud's poor start hasn't helped.

Tottenham: Harry Kane

Premier LeagueThe Harry Kane Manchester City wanted to sign and the Harry Kane Tottenham currently have in possession are not the same. Last season, Kane scored 23 goals and provided 14 assists, winning both the Golden Boot and Playmaker awards. It is no secret the striker wanted to leave, but a long contract and Levy's refusal to sanction a sale have combined to leave him at Spurs, and his unhappiness is showing.

After returning late to the squad, Kane looks a shadow of his true self. Yet to score, he has seen his side concede nine and score one in the last three Premier League games. Against Arsenal, in one moment he dallied on the ball and lost out to Bukayo Saka, who ran the length of the pitch. Kane ran back and intervened on the edge of the penalty area, but his tackle only set Saka up for Arsenal's third.

Watford: Craig Cathcart

Watford began with a win over Aston Villa, but they had to wait until gameweek five for their next win, over fellow promoted side Norwich. Ismaila Sarr has been very good, but the defence has not followed suit. Craig Cathcart hasn't exuded confidence, and the veteran has been part of a defence which has conceded 11 times already.

Watford can do much better, as they proved in their last top flight stint, but Xisco Munoz's side must be much better to extend their stay this time around.

West Ham: Lukasz Fabianski

Premier LeagueIt's tough to pick an under performer for West Ham, who have done very well this season. After their unexpected sixth-placed finish last season, they have continued their good form, spearheaded by the fantastic Michail Antonio. It's the defence that could do with an upgrade, hence the signing of Kurt Zouma from Chelsea, but Lukasz Fabianski has not convinced in goal.

The Pole has been excellent since he joined West Ham, but he hasn't done quite as well this time around. With much better competition from Alphonse Areola, Fabianski has failed to do enough to justify keeping his place yet.

Wolves: Raul Jimenez

Premier LeagueWolves have not had a great start to the season. Consecutive 1-0 losses to Leicester, Spurs and Manchester United were punctuated by wasteful finishing, with Jimenez not yet up to speed. The win against Watford broke the tension, and provided some hope, but Brentford brought them back down to earth. Jimenez's super strike against Southampton provides hope, however, that the Mexican is slowly getting back to his best.

Wolves' big problem is the lack of end product from the forwards. Adama Traore is an exhilarating player, but his end product has been invisible, and Raul Jimenez's under-performance, while understandable, is still a big problem for them. Hopefully, that goal is a sign of things to come, and he will be soon fit and firing for Wolves.