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.
These players are what you might call overrated and you can read all about the Premier League’s top five below…
1. Eden Hazard
HAZARDOUS: Eden Hazard (ABOVE) in action for the Belgium national side
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.
CROCKED: Jack Wilshere (ABOVE) has struggled with injuries during his time at Arsenal
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.
WILL HE, WON'T HE: Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj has failed to impress fans with his recent performances
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 10 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.
BUTTER FINGERS: The beard is the most impressive thing about Tim Howard these days...
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.
ALL SMILES: Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany (ABOVE) lifting the Premier League title in 2012
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.
Credit to: Football Fancast, EA Sports Player Performance Index, premierleague.com, wearehooligans.com, Bleacher Report, Squawka, The Guardian, BBC Sport, Give Me Sport
AS England manager Roy Hodgson completed the FA Cup quarter final draw minutes prior to Preston’s eagerly anticipated fifth-round tie against visitors Manchester United, 24, 500 fans packed into a full-capacity Deepdale stadium – that was already brimming with excitement - erupted in a chorus of cheers.
Having booked the winner of this evening’s fixture into a mouth-watering quarter-final against Arsenal, Hodgson had provided the League One side - as if facing the mighty Red Devils wasn’t quite enough - with even more incentive to progress to the next round. With the final few fans taking to their seats ahead of kick-off, the atmosphere inside the ground was electric; the stage was set.
ABOVE: Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal, who has come under fire recently for his tactical approach
The opening minutes, as was to be expected, were frantic. Preston, buoyed by the jeers of the home crowd, desperately tried to settle on the ball while United, in the face of such hostility, struggled to exert any form of superiority.
It was North End forward Joe Garner who fired the first shot on target of the game, scuffing an effort at goalkeeper David De Gea from 25-yards who was able to gather the ball rather comfortably. While the shot lacked any real purchase, it served as a clear warning shot to the defensive partnership of Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling who had allowed Garner the space and time to test the Spaniard shot-stopper.
The Reds very nearly opened the scoring minutes later, however. Having conceded a needless foul on the edge of the 18-yard box, United winger Angel Di Maria – who has struggled to replicate the explosive form he so often exhibited at Real Madrid – stepped up and whipped the ball in. Reserve goalkeeper Thorsten Struckmann, who was left rooted to the spot, breathed a huge sigh of relief as the Argentinian’s effort curled inches wide.
UNDER PRESSURE: United winger Angel Di Maria shields the ball from veteran striker Kevin Davies
Despite a number of half-chances throughout the first half, including a couple of blocked shots by skipper Wayne Rooney, a lethargic United side ultimately failed to turn their sustained pressure into goals. Radamel Falcao, for all his efforts, was largely contained by the defensive duo of Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington while Di Maria, who was deployed on the left side of midfield, was often forced back into his own half to retrieve the ball.
As referee Phil Dowd blew his whistle to signify half-time, both sides trudged off the field locked at 0-0 in what had been a rather dull, flat opening 45 minutes. The fans, who were presumably stood up clapping in order to keep warm as opposed to in appreciation of the game, would have certainly been hoping for better after the break. It’s not as if things could have got much worse…
…And, as the second half got underway, Preston North End certainly did not disappoint. With only two minutes played since the break, veteran striker Kevin Davies received the ball and flicked it into the path of winger Scott Laird. The 26-yeard left wing-back took one touch before firing a low-driven shot towards goal which, having taken a slight defection off Antonio Valencia’s boot, beat a sprawling De Gea to send the home fans into absolute delirium.
GOAL: Left wing-back Scott Laird opens the scoring with a deflected strike off of Antonio Valencia's boot
1-0 to Preston North End, would you believe it? Could another famous FA Cup giant-killing be on the cards? The home crowd, and surely any neutrals watching on from around the country, certainly believed so.
If anything, the scoring of a goal actually opened up the contest. Preston desperately searched for a second to double their lead while their Premier League counterparts needed to find a goal in order to level the tie. As Falcao departed the field of play following another miserable night in a red shirt in the 60th minute, to be replaced by wide-man Ashley Young, United finally started to find their feet in the game.
Di Maria hit a swerving shot from 30-yards that was easily smothered by Struckmann before Belgian big-man Marouane Fellaini tried his luck with a half-hearted shot that was blocked by Huntington, who was proving a rock at the core of Preston’s defence.
United’s pressure, however, paid off in the 65th minute. Young’s arrival seemed to instil a sense of urgency within the side and it was the substitute, in fact, who was able to find the feet of Ander Herrera on the edge of the box. The Spaniard shimmied the ball onto his left before pulling the trigger, expertly angling his shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal past the outstretched hands of Struckmann.
No more than five minutes later, the Reds scored again to take a 2-1 lead. Valencia burst down the right flank and crossed an inviting ball into the area that Fellaini met with a powerful header, forcing Struckmann to make a save. The goalkeeper parried the ball back towards the Belgian who was able to toe-poke the rebound into the roof of the net to extinguish any Preston dreams of a quarter-final against the Gunners.
EQUALISER: Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera levels the tie at 1-1 in the 65th minute
HEARTBREAKER: Any Preston hopes of an FA Cup quarter-final with Arsenal were dashed after Marouane Fellaini (ABOVE) struck in the 72nd minute to take the lead
While Fellaini went close to scoring again for United moments later, it was the captain, Rooney, who claimed the Reds’ third. Having peeled away from Huntington’s advances to go through on goal, the England striker was hauled down in the box by an over-committed Struckmann and was awarded a penalty.
Despite failing to find the back of the net in 2015, Rooney thumped the ball high into the top right-hand corner of the goal with all the confidence of an in-form striker, giving the ‘keeper no chance of making a save.
Preston very nearly set up an interesting finale by snatching a second goal in the game’s dying minutes. A corner went in from the right and Laird flicked it on at the near post but De Gea was on hand to make a save and Young managed to clear the ball before it crossed the line as referee Phil Dowd blew the final whistle.
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fluid and it certainly wasn’t a performance to fill United fans with confidence but that’s one defeat in 19 games for Louis van Gaal's side now. While tonight marks another game where the Reds haven’t necessarily impressed with their overall play, they are nevertheless into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and can now look forward to hosting Arsenal at Old Trafford on 7th March.
Preston North End (3-5-2): 21 Thorsten Stuckmann; 5 Tom Clarke (c), 23 Paul Huntington, 6 Bailey Wright (75’ 17 Kyel Reid); 8 Neil Kilkenny (75’ 27 Callum Robinson), 7 Chris Humphrey, 19 John Welsh, 12 Paul Gallagher, 3 Scott Laird; 9 Kevin Davies (75’ 4 Scott Wiseman), 14 Joe Garner
Substitutes (unused): 35 Matthew Hudson (GK), 22 Jack King, 30 Josh Brownhill, 40 Sylvan Ebanks-Blake
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): 1 David De Gea; 3 Luke Shaw, 5 Marcos Rojo, 12 Chris Smalling, 25 Antonio Valencia; 17 Daley Blind, 21 Ander Herrera; 7 Angel Di Maria, 31 Marouane Fellaini, 10 Wayne Rooney (c); 9 Radamel Falcao (60’ 18 Ashley Young)
Substitutes (unused): 32 Victor Valdes (GK), 6 Jonny Evans, 8 Juan Mata, 11 Adnan Januzaj, 33 Patrick McNair, 49 James Wilson
Okay, I’ll admit it; this story has nothing to do with sport. Not even remotely. And when you consider the very nature of this blog, you might be left scratching your head in sheer bemusement as to why on earth you are reading a concise round-up of the best, worst and downright bizarre tweets that featured during today’s trending topic on Twitter: #AdviceForYoungJournalists. But if you’re reading this as an aspiring journalist (like myself) who could maybe do with a few pointers, hints and tips from those in the profession, read on…
Of course, Piers had something to say...
This is actually pretty deep:
Interesting point, this one. Employers require employees with experience, but experience is typically voluntary. Can you afford to say no to the offer of unpaid work?
Not sure this next one is necessarily exclusive to the journalism profession...
What's that old cliche again? "There are no dumb questions, only dumb answers." Never has this seemed more relevant.
Feeling appropriately advised? I certainly hope so. For more of the best tweets from today’s trending topic, head over to #AdviceForYoungJournalists on Twitter.