Werner, Thiago and Van de Beek among star players to flop this season
Timo Werner only scores every 409 MINUTES, Thiago Alcantara can’t find his Bayern Munich form at Liverpool and Donny van de Beek wants out of Manchester United already… Premier League flops of the season
- There are a number of expensive players that have fallen short of expectations
- Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech have all struggled while at Chelsea
- Donny van de Beek ‘wants to quit Manchester United’ after being left in the cold
- Sportsmail picks out eight players who have disappointed in the 2020-21 season
Despite being ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, Premier League clubs spent big last summer and many players arrived under great expectations.
Chelsea spent more than £200million to hand Frank Lampard a side capable of winning the league, Liverpool poached a Champions League winner from Bayern Munich, while Manchester United parted with £40m to get what has since transpired to be a very expensive back-up midfielder.
Donny van de Beek is reportedly set to hold talks with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward before the end of the season but wants to leave Old Trafford in order to kick-start his career.
Timo Werner (Chelsea)
Signed for £52m from RB Leipzig
Where to start?
Werner has gone from scaring opposition defenders as one of Europe’s most feared strikers to scaring his own fans with his horror shows in front of goal.
Nobody has played more games for Chelsea this season and so Werner cannot point to a lack of opportunities to find his groove in England.
In 2,763 minutes of action the German has mustered a paltry return of 10 goals. In the league he is providing the Blues with a goal every 409 minutes.
Delving deeper into the stats, Werner has provided just one league goal since November.
Timo Werner has fallen well short of expectations since he joined Chelsea last summer
The German has been in and out of the line-up but has played more games than anyone else
New boss Thomas Tuchel has looked to play down fears over his misfiring attack amid talk that he will plot an all-out assault to land in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland this summer.
Werner is far from the only Chelsea summer signing to struggle but the badge looks to be weighing particularly heavily on the striker, who has found himself in and out of the side.
‘We have guys we’re happy with, who have the potential to be more decisive,’ Tuchel insisted after a 0-0 draw at Leeds. ‘There is no need now to reflect for the summer or for other solutions.’
For £52m, much more is expected.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
Joined on loan from Real Madrid
An emotional homecoming for a player that was waved off to the Spanish capital as a world beater.
He returned battle-hardened, weary from scrutiny by the Madrid-based media but definitely with a point to prove.
What has transpired has been a loan spell that has appeared to confirm that maybe Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane was not as foolish as many said he was when he cast Bale aside.
His second coming has started to take off in recent games but it has proven a largely underwhelming return to life in north London.
Gareth Bale (right) was hooked early in the north London derby in what has been a tricky loan
Braces against Burnley and Crystal Palace showed signs of life and then he was hooked early by Jose Mourinho in north London derby defeat by Arsenal.
While not naming Bale directly after defeat at the Emirates, Mourinho was scathing in assessment.
‘Some important players hiding,’ the Portuguese said.
‘I’m not even going in direction of individuals. I’m as guilty for that first-half as the players.
‘People hiding themselves, no intensity, no passing and moving. We were poor. As simple as that.’
Injuries and a lack of form have halted the 31-year-old’s progress but if the future holds more games like Burnley and Fulham than the Arsenal defeat, he will be able to rewrite the story around his Premier League homecoming.
Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool)
Joined from Bayern Munich for £25m
On the face of it, this appeared to be one of the deals of the summer.
Jurgen Klopp, fresh from guiding Liverpool to their first league title in 30 years, had snared the former Barcelona midfielder out of Bayern Munich just weeks after he lifted the Champions League.
Winning 16 trophies in seven seasons was enticing; he was expected to solidify a winning mentality in Klopp’s dressing room while also adding another dimension to the Reds’ midfield.
Thiago looked set to thrive but instead he has failed to score or produce a single assist in 15 Premier League games so far this season. Nothing.
Thiago Alcantara (top) has found life tough on Merseyside and is yet to provide a league assist
There have been mitigating factors, with Liverpool’s dismal title defence down more to injuries than the form of summer arrival Thiago.
He missed pre-season, tested positive for Covid-19 and had been ruled out injured for several months following a poor tackle by Richarlison in October’s Merseyside derby.
But nonetheless, he has proven to be a defensive liability on too many occasions and his poor performances have not escaped the attentions of critics.
Reports say he has felt ‘exposed’ in big games but a source close to the squad looked to play down his struggles, telling the Athletic: ‘It is just adaptation. With this guy, it is not a problem of attitude, professionalism or confidence.
‘And tell me someone who has performed well for Liverpool in recent months? It is not easy to just walk in and blitz it.’
It is not easy, no, but Thiago is not a young player at 29 and far more was expected.
Donny van de Beek (Man United)
Joined from Ajax for £40m
A real head-scratcher this one.
He arrived to a degree of fanfare but with just two Premier League starts to his name so far, Van de Beek is reportedly ready to cut his time at Old Trafford short.
According to the Daily Star, the frustrated Dutchman is set to hold talks with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward before the end of the season but wants to leave in order to kick-start his career.
Van de Beek has started 11 games in all competitions with the rest of his 15 appearances coming from the bench, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferring his alternative midfield options.
Donny van de Beek is reportedly ready to quit Manchester United at the end of the season
He has found himself behind Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Fred, with Bruno Fernandes holding down the regular spot in front of the two central players.
While Werner, Bale and Thiago have had ample opportunities to right their wrongs, Van de Beek has gathered dust in the Old Trafford stands for most of his first season.
The big concern is that the Dutchman’s confidence looks to be shot.
There have been signs previously that Van de Beek has become frustrated with his situation.
The midfielder was substituted in the 73rd minute of United’s FA Cup game with West Ham, while the score was 0-0. The Dutchman’s face dropped when he realised he was about to be withdrawn for Fernandes.
His reaction led BBC commentator and pundit Jermaine Jenas, who sympathised with his situation, to claim the midfielder was ‘playing with fear’ and without any rhythm.
He’ll never get rhythm if he keeps sitting on the bench. Something has to give.
The midfielder is said to be frustrated over his lack of game time since his £40million move
Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea)
Joined from Ajax for £33.3m
Another Chelsea attacker that has failed to hit the heights expected of him.
While not struggling to the extent Werner has, Ziyech hasn’t performed at the level he did for Ajax, which ultimately secured him his Premier League move.
His final product has had fans drooling in the Champions League in the past but there has been nothing close to that level of salivation at Stamford Bridge.
Ziyech’s elite-level ability from set-pieces has also gone awry as he looks to find his groove under Tuchel because he has had flashes, under Lampard earlier in the season, when he looked dynamite.
The Morocco international has scored just once in 15 Premier League appearances and rather than, like others in the squad, accept responsibility, blame has been shifted to coaches.
Hakim Ziyech (right) has shown flashes of brilliance but looks to be off the boil right now
Ex-Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot feels it is Tuchel’s fault that Ziyech is disappointing.
Melchiot told Stadium Astro: ‘He doesn’t always get the opportunity. I think Frank [Lampard] understood him better, he wanted him and went after him.
‘I think Ziyech is facing now what he had at the beginning at Ajax. It was kind of difficult for him to get a run going. Once he got it, he was among the top-two players in the team.
‘Now in the Premier League you have many stars around you. He has to understand that.
‘I think it comes down to rhythm. If you don’t play that often, when you get your opportunity you have got to grab it.’
Kai Havertz (Chelsea)
Joined from Bayer Leverkusen for £89m
Big money. Even bigger expectations. And yet he is another to have fallen by the wayside.
Injuries and a battle with Covid-19 complicated his adaptation to English football but, ahead of facing Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, he is convinced under new boss Tuchel he can turn a corner.
‘The coronavirus is now over [for me] and I feel good,’ Havertz told Chelsea’s website.
‘I had a little injury in the past few weeks but it’s now time to play good.
‘I have to improve my game. It has not been easy for me but there are no excuses. I just have to keep on working and hopefully there will be a big turnaround soon. I will give it my best.’
Kai Havertz (left) has opened up on his tricky acclimatisation to English football this season
Havertz’s success in Germany stemmed from his ability to find the pockets of space others couldn’t right across the front line.
The issue he is having is that he is finding it much harder to score in England than he did in Germany.
Deployed as a No 9 in the last two games, Havertz has mustered a dreadful one league goal in 21 Premier League appearances and needs to arrest that fast if he is to continue to lead the line under Tuchel, who wiped the slate clean for the 21-year-old on his arrival.
‘I think that Kai feels very comfortable in high positions. I feel he is very comfortable to go to drop in to half-spaces from the high position, to turn and drive with the ball and use his speed,’ Tuchel said.
‘But he also arrives very naturally in the box and the six-yard box, to finish our attacks.’
He certainly hasn’t looked ‘very comfortable’ in his first season of English football. Lots of work to do.
He has offered ‘no excuses’ for his struggles but believes a ‘turnaround’ is on the horizon
Joined from Chelsea on a free transfer
Unlike others on this list there was no gargantuan fee for Willian to justify – but he has still been a huge disappointment.
Brazil international Willian’s move to Arsenal after leaving Chelsea appeared to represent an astute piece of business after two assists on his Premier League debut, but the majority of his Gunners career has been plagued by ineffectiveness.
He became a hit on Fantasy Football but the next 11 top-flight fixtures yielded just one further assist. Disappointment set in fast.
Earning £200,000 a week in north London, people (rightly) expect things and Willian just hasn’t done it, frankly.
Willian has failed to score for Arsenal across 30 appearances and has been a disappointment
No goal in 30 appearances across all competitions has hardly helped satisfy his critics, either.
‘He is a player who we all like,’ Arteta said of Willian two weeks ago.
‘His team-mates like him and we were expecting many more things from him since he joined but for many different reasons he hasn’t found his best performances.’
That’s a diplomatic way to put it, I guess.
He’s got to do a lot more to justify his huge wages – but he’s not the only one guilty of that at the Emirates.
Nathan Ake (Man City)
Joined from Bournemouth for £40m
Blighted by injury, Nathan Ake has had a debut season to forget at Man City.
Ake suffered a muscular injury in December against Newcastle and is yet to return.
He has managed just six games in the league this season – nine in total – and he has had to watch on from the treatment table as fellow summer signing Ruben Dias makes the centre back spot his own.
The one boost for Ake is that he has made more than five appearances, the threshold to get a Premier League winners’ medal, something City’s squad will have around their necks before too long.
He didn’t come cheap from Bournemouth, despite their relegation, but the best repayment is often availability, something Ake has been unable to provide.
The job to solidify in City’s backline is hard enough as it is but even harder if injury keeps sidelining a player. He faces a defining few months for what could be make-or-break next season.
Nathan Ake has not played since December and has struggled badly with injuries this season
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