Let’s face it, no Premier League club has had a perfect start to the 2016-17 season. No side apart from maybe Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have truly shown their full potential on a consistent basis so far this season and even Klopp’s Liverpool slumped to a stunning defeat to Burnley. Most clubs have been getting by without that one key man in their setup, clubs like Manchester City and Arsenal have managed to continue winning despite missing key members of the squads, but some like West Ham and Swansea have been left completely floundering in the absence of one of their star players. Here is the player that every Premier League club has missed so far in 2016-17.
Alexis Sanchez has given everything Arsene Wenger needs in a centre forward in his team in the UEFA Champions League but the Chilean has been slightly inconsistent with his ability to lead the line in the Premier League. What has been really missing for Wenger’s team when they are struggling to come up with ideas and things aren’t going their way is a focal point up front like Giroud. The most recent example, Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough, saw the Gunners look almost completely lifeless going forward and like a team without an identity again. If the Gunners are going to challenge for the title this season, a natural goal scoring centre forward who can be that focal point up front like Olivier Giroud is what they are going to need.
Jordan Ibe’s Former Self
Bournemouth have had a very positive start to the 2016-17 Premier League season and are proving to be a very tough team to come up against. However, one player that has been really lacking in form despite consistent playing time is Jordan Ibe who hasn’t done anything of note offensively or defensively since his 15 million pound move to the Cherries from Liverpool. Ibe was a fixture under the Brendan Rogers regime at Liverpool and showed promise of potentially being one of England’s brightest future stars but since his move to Bournemouth has failed on every level to live up to that expectation. Jordan Ibe hasn’t been bad since his move to Bournemouth, but with 0 goals and 0 assists in 8 matches he certainly needs to find his feet and start hammering in the goals if the Cherries are to make a push for the top ten.
Burnley have actually performed reasonably well without Andre Gray and have picked up valuable points against Watford, Middlesbrough and Hull but their main problem continues to be their inability to score goals. Burnley have scored just eight goals this season (only Middlesbrough and Sunderland have scored less) and Andre Gray could certainly be one to help the Clarets bring that tally up when he returns from his suspension. Vokes and Gray were the deadliest duo in the English Championship last season and Sean Dyche will be hoping to get the two of them firing on all cylinders again as a partnership in the Premier League as soon as possible so that they can continue to steer away from the relegation zone.
Although Chelsea have looked a whole lot sturdier in defense since moving to a back three, they were one of the worst defensive sides in the league before that, conceding 7 goals in just three matches in September alone. One of the scapegoats of Chelsea’s poor performances against Liverpool and Arsenal was undoubtedly their poor defense led by David Luiz and Gary Cahill. If John Terry had been in the Chelsea side to face those two teams you can almost guarantee that the Blues would not have been blown away to the same extent at the very least. Although Chelsea are flourishing of late without John Terry in their side, the one problem area for them continues to be David Luiz and so perhaps John Terry or Kurt Zouma can fill that void when they return from their respective injuries.
Crystal Palace have started fairly brightly so far in 2016-17 and the addition of Andros Townsend has meant that Alan Pardew’s side haven’t really missed Yannick Bolasie all that much, but one man who has been a big miss has been their former captain and two time player of the year winner, Mile Jedinak. In Palace’s first season back in the big time under Tony Pulis, Jedinak was one of the best and most dominating presences of any team’s midfield and even picked up the Australian Footballer of the Year Award for his efforts. However under Alan Pardew, Jedinak started to lose his place in the team even despite still having the honour of wearing the captain’s armband and now that he’s officially gone to Aston Villa, the Eagles continue to struggle to win midfield battles while players like Cabaye and McArthur haven’t reached their full potential at all this season. Selling Mile Jedinak might have just been one of the biggest mistakes that Crystal Palace have made in recent years.
Ross Barkley’s Former Self
Ross Barkley burst on to the footballing scene in his stellar 2013-14 season that helped him make Roy Hodgson’s World Cup 2014 squad and although not receiving as many plaudits had a season that was three times as good in 2015-16, well statistically anyway, as he scored 8 goals with 8 assists in 38 matches. But now the English midfielder unfortunately looks really short on confidence and hasn’t done anything noteworthy since scoring against Tottenham on opening day. With his game and energy levels in slow motion at times he has even been criticized by his manager and every single attribute to his game is so much worse off this season than last. Although Everton still sit in 6th place, Ross Barkley’s poor form will definitely be a worry for them going forward especially knowing how good he can be on his day.
Hull City’s experimentation with Jake Livermore as a centre back worked out nicely for the first few games of the 2016-17 season but now they look like one of the least capable clubs in the entire league and that is primarily because of their inability to keep clean sheets. Michael Dawson, captain of the club, is an experienced leader at the back who has experience playing for Tottenham Hotspur and was even named their Player of their Year in 2009-10. Dawson knows how to defend and he is exactly what Hull City need if they are going to have any shot at staying up this season. The Tigers’ lack of goals may also be an issue for Mike Phelan’s side this season but if they cannot get Michael Dawson fit soon they will continue to concede goals in numbers and will be relegated.
N’Golo Kante was the most important player in Leicester City’s title win last season and now after his 33 million pound departure to Chelsea, could be Conte’s most important player in their hunt for the title. The French midfielder made more tackles (174) and interceptions (155) than any other player in any position in the whole of Europe last season and was absolutely instrumental to everything the Foxes managed to accomplish. Now without Kante in their side, Leicester City struggle to win the ball back, can’t win midfield battles and are losing far too many matches (more already than they did in the whole of last season). It doesn’t help that his replacement, Nampalys Mendy picked up a bad injury shortly after arriving but even he would have likely been nowhere near Kante’s class and as long as Ranieri’s side continue to not address this issue, they will not finish within the top eight.
Liverpool are probably the one side in the league who haven’t missed any player in particular this season but their one main issue still continues to be in defense where they struggle to keep clean sheets and concede goals in numbers. Although Skrtel is not the king of defending either and is the sole reason behind Mike Dean’s refereeing style this season, you have to think that in the one slip up that Liverpool have had this season in their 2-0 loss to Burnley, that with someone as experienced as Skrtel in their side, they would not have been beaten so easily. Lovren and Matip are slowly developing a solid partnership at the back yet despite both players being relative giants, they continue to concede most of their goals from set-pieces, something that they actually almost rarely ever did when Martin Skrtel was in their side. This is in large-part because Skrtel is the type of player that will do everything to help his side not concede a goal. Whether it be wrestling his opponent to the ground when the referee isn’t looking or picking up a concussion from putting his head in a place that it should have never been, Skrtel will do anything and everything to help his side not concede. Lovren, Klavan and Matip as good as they are are not that type of player and so perhaps to solve their issues at the back, Martin Skrtel is exactly the type of player that Jurgen Klopp needs in his side.
It’s been well documented over the years that Manchester City’s form is far better when Vincent Kompany is fit and playing than when he is out injured and not in the team and even though Guardiola has started brightly to his Manchester City career it cannot be underlined enough how much Manchester City have missed Vincent Kompany to start this season. Aleksandr Kolarov and Gael Clichy are not centre backs despite Guardiola’s attempts to play them there and this has been proven in every single UEFA Champions League match that they have played so far. In recent matches, Kolarov has looked utterly confused of his defensive duties as a central defender and was completely rocked by Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli in City’s 2-0 defeat to the Spurs. Clichy meanwhile struggled against Everton having to come up against players like Bolasie and Lukaku. So Vincent Kompany’s return to the side is certainly a welcomed one and one that is very much needed to get Manchester City going again. When Kompany is fully fit he is the best defender in the league, no question, and if Manchester City are going to hold their place at the top of the table they are going to need him to stay fit for the rest of the season.
Manchester United have been criticized this season for their lack of balance and lack of goal threat in midfield and someone who can certainly help to provide both of those things is Henrikh Mkhitaryan. No player was better than Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the German Bundesliga last season. In fact few players around the world were better than the Armenian last season as he scored 11 goals with 15 assists in just 31 Bundesliga matches for Dortmund. For his impressive performances he deservedly earned a move to the Premier League with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United but since arriving has been Juan Mata styled humiliated by his manager and is currently online looking for the next train back to Dortmund. Mkhitaryan is one of a very few select players in Manchester United’s side who can change a game in an instance and probably has the overall ability to be one of the ten best players in the league. Although injuries and his manager’s faith in other players has meant that Mkhitaryan has had a torrid time in Old Trafford so far, there is no reason why he can’t turn things around for himself at the club as long as Mourinho starts to give him his chance to shine.
I have never seen Grant Leadbitter play but I know from following the Championship closely that few players have been better in England’s second tier over the past five years than the 30-year old. The captain of any promoted side is always going to have tremendous intrinsic value to their team and so Grant Leadbitter has undoubtedly been a massive miss for Aitor Karanka’s side so far this season. Boro have struggled to score goals this season and Leadbitter is certainly someone who Karanka could have benefited from having in his team during the past few months as the midfielder has scored 21 goals over the past three Championship campaigns. He is also a tremendous provider of goals, notching a further 21 assists over the past three seasons in the Championship as well. Without him in the midfield, Middlesbrough have struggled to score goals, create chances and dominate possession and if the side want a lift in form then Grant Leadbitter is going to be an absolutely essential prerequisite.
Southampton lost a host of players over the Summer as they always do, but have managed to replace every single one of those players (as they always do) except for one man, Sadio Mane. Mane has been one of the Premier League’s supreme members so far this season and is on course to be a shoe-in for the Team of the Year while Southampton continue to lack ideas at times with their only creative player being Dusan Tadic. Romeu has filled the boots of Victor Wanyama while Charlie Austin may even be an upgrade on Graziano Pelle, but the Saints have not managed to find a way to replace the Senegalese midfielder and it continues to hinder their development as a football club.
Even though they’ve been a lot more positive in their play lately, Stoke sucked at the start of the season. With a month gone, they were rooted bottom of the table even below Sunderland, and with two months gone they still had not won a game. So what is the main difference between Mark Hughes’ side that finished 9th place last season and this current crop who forgot how to defend until October? Jack Butland. At times last season, Butland was the best goalkeeper in the league and you could argue almost single-handedly won them several matches last season. But ever since he picked up a knee injury at the tail-end of last season, Stoke City have been on the decline. So why Hughes did not think to loan in a goalkeeper until January is beyond me because even though they may have found the answer with 33-year old Lee Grant who nobody even knew until he put an end to Mourinho’s title hopes at Old Trafford, the fact that they did not win a game until October tells you exactly how bad they were defensively at one point this season. Jack Butland has been a massive miss for the Potters this season and they will need to get him fit as soon as possible if they are going to extend their 9th place finish streak under Hughes to four seasons.
Obviously the one main figure that Sunderland have been missing this season is Sam Allardyce who probably could have managed to keep Aston Villa afloat last season, but in terms of players that they are missing one man springs to mind in the form of Fabio Borini. Borini has never been a clinical goalscorer or play-maker but he does give it his all in every single match and offers quite a bit going forward that other players in the league just don’t have in their locker. He’s quick, dynamic, good with the ball at his feet and can finish off a chance and it’s a pretty safe bet to say they that Sunderland would have scored more than just six goals so far if they had Borini in their side. The winger will continue to sit on the sidelines for another month and with the way the Black Cats are going by then Sunderland might already be relegated.
For years, Ashley Williams epitomized what it meant to be a Swansea City player. But ever since he departed for Everton the Swans have forgotten how to defend and are now in second last place in the table, looking dangerously like relegation contenders. A beast at the back, Williams is so vocal, so talented and so strong and powerful that Swansea were at times one of the toughest sides to play against in the league. But without him in their team, they don’t have a leader at the back and haven’t been able to cope with the big boys, slumping to second-last in the table. Ashley Williams not being in the team was arguably the biggest factor in Guidollin losing his job and if Swansea get relegated he will unquestionably be the biggest factor in that as well.
Tottenham still remain the only unbeaten side in the Barclays Premier League but ever since their incredible win over Manchester City, Pocchettino’s side haven’t exactly looked great. Perhaps one very significant reason why is because of the lack of goal scoring centre forward Harry Kane who continues to sit out with injury. In their last three matches in all competitions, Spurs have scored just 1 goal and have looked completely out of ideas at times going forward. Harry Kane as we all know is Tottenham’s key man and if they can get him fit soon they will be genuine contenders for the Premier League title again.
Odion Ighalo’s Form of Last Season
Sides around the world were making desperate attempts to sign Odion Ighalo in the summer and that is in large part because of his great form in front of goal in 2015-16, when he scored 15 goals in 37 matches. This season, he has looked a shadow of his former self and can’t buy a goal, scoring just 1 time in 8 matches this season. This lack of goals hasn’t necessarily hindered Watford’s performances as they currently sit in 9th place with as many goals as Mourinho’s Manchester United (13), but think of how much better they could be if Ighalo was in full flow like the rest of his teammates. They’ve one just one game in their last four matches and without the Nigerian in top form it’s easy to see why. Deeney and Success may be able to pick up the slack if Ighalo’s poor run of form continues but the Hornets could seriously be ahead of some big teams right now if he was in the type of form that he exhibited last season.
West Bromwich Albion
Saido Berahino’s Former Self
West Bromwich Albion will never be relegated from the Premier League as long as Tony Pulis is in charge. But certain players don’t always perform to their best with him in charge as manager and one man that certainly has not been able to ever find his feet with Pulis in charge has been Saido Berahino. The 22-year old broke on to the scene a couple of seasons ago, banging in 20 goals in 45 matches in all competitions for the Baggies. Yet ever since Tony Pulis has taken over, Berahino has become the biggest disappointment in football while the Baggies meanwhile have struggled to score goals and continue to adjust their system week by week looking for a way to play without him in their side. Nacer Chadli has done well to pick up the slack ever since he arrived from Spurs but you still can’t help but wonder where West Brom could be right now if Berahino was banging in the goals at the same rate that he was a couple of seasons ago.
West Ham United
There might not be a better player at being a focal point up front in world football. Andy Carroll as robust, aggressive and un-stylish as he is, is one of the hardest players to defend against in the Premier League and can change any game of football with a simple leap in the air.
West Ham United have picked up their form in the past few weeks but for a while at the start of the season really struggled to find a way to score goals without Andy Carroll in the side. Even despite their recent wins against Crystal Palace and Sunderland, it is evident that the Hammers still lack a focal point up front, especially when the alternative to him has been Simone Zaza. Carroll can score all types of goals and could be their most important player (beyond Payet) when he makes a return to the side.
So who do you think has been a big miss for their side this season? Comment below to join in on the discussion! Also don’t be shy, subscribe for more posts like this week in and week out by clicking the follow button to the right of your screen. See you next time!