Matt Doherty (Spurs)
Doherty was brought in to improve Tottenham’s defence but he has struggled to adapt to a back four, having played at wing-back for previous club Wolves. Still, I’ve been surprised at how jittery and awkward he’s looked, especially when he’s on the same side of the pitch as his manager. He’s played better in recent weeks, perhaps settled by the presence of an in-form Gareth Bale (the pair are good mates), so I’m not writing him off yet.
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Chelsea have so many good attacking players, it’s inevitable that team selection is like a revolving door. At times in his Chelsea career Pulisic has looked quite brilliant, but he is having a fallow year and I’m not sure Thomas Tuchel sees him as anything more than an impact sub, at least not for big games; Tuchel knows the American well from their time together in Dortmund, so he knows what he’s capable of. This has been a worrying season for Pulisic, though – his stock has fallen far.
Aymeric Laporte (Man City)
Laporte is clearly a very good defender – it wasn’t so long ago that he was seen as City’s best defender in fact – but he has been squeezed out by the emergence of Ruben Dias & John Stones as one of the Premier League’s best centre-back pairings.
Michy Batshuayi (Palace)
There is enough evidence to support the claim that Batshuayi isn’t good enough to be a Premier League striker. He may have many of the physical tools required to be a top-level player, but overall he always seems to fall short. He’d do well in a less demanding league, such as the Eredivisie or even Serie A, and the Belgian should look at the transformation in compatriot Romelu Lukaku as an example of what can happen when you move to a new country.
Three league goals in more than 1,000 minutes of football is a poor return for a £30m forward, even one who has struggled to recover from Covid-19 and a long-term groin injury, and who has been playing deeper than he might like. If the Spaniard stays at Elland Road, Leeds fans will demand much more from him next season.
Alexander Mitrovic (Fulham)
Mitrovic has scored just two Premier League goals this season, a stat that should point to Fulham struggling. And whilst Scott Parker’s team is in the relegation zone, they are definitely not struggling without the big Serbian leading their line. They have learned to play without him as the focal point of their attack, and so he has been reduced to regular spells on the bench. Even if Fulham do stay up, I would expect Mitrovic to seek a new employer for next season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
It’s been a difficult season for Liverpool’s boy wonder, and partly through no fault of his own; it can’t be underestimated how much the absence of defensive leader Virgil van Dijk has affected the team. Still, TAA has been all over the place at times, and not in a good way. He’s too talented not to bounce back after this testing period, though, and is only on this list because he set such a very high bar in the last couple of seasons.
Donny van de Beek (Man Utd)
It was a coup for Man Utd to sign one of Ajax’s brightest young players, but for a bunch of reasons, Van de Beek has failed to establish himself in United’s starting XI. The main reason for that is the brilliant form of Bruno Fernandes, but Van de Beek is versatile enough that he should be able to make a better case for starting more games. Perhaps there is no avoiding the fact that the gap in quality between the Eredivisie and the Premier League is bigger than ever. The likes of Spurs’ Davinson Sanchez (who almost made the cut here), Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Van de Beek all looked superb in Ajax colours but they are finding that English football is a much tougher proposition.
Rhian Brewster (Sheffield Utd)
Brewster has played 90 minutes just twice for the Blades this season, although he has made 20 appearances in total, with 860 minutes of playing time (the equivalent of almost ten full games). In that time he has failed to score a single goal. Okay, he’s only 20 years old, but that is obviously not good enough, and I don’t think you can blame manager Chris Wilder for not playing him more. Brewster has to be better.
Adama Traore (Wolves)
After an excellent 2019/20 season, Traore has full-on ghosted this campaign. In the Premier League, he’s got one assist and no goals to his name, and that’s it – and he’s made 27 appearances. Of course a player’s struggles are often a reflection of how the team at large is doing, but Wolves haven’t been so bad that Traore should be excused for apparently losing all of his powers.