Players are constantly having their performances and skills analysed. It is a process that has been occurring since a very young age for professional players. From the age of 13 though the duration of their professional careers, members of the media, coaching staffs, and award voters are constantly evaluating these athletes. They are looking for the technical flaws, lapses in judgement, and physical deficits that can be exploited by by opposition managers and players.
These evaluations are not always a fair process, but they are often an attempt to highlight a player’s shortcomings and hopefully improve upon them for the future. A player can be restricted by the tactical system they are playing within, which may limit their responsibilities in areas which they typically would excel. Injuries must also be taken into account. Despite the incredible advances sports medicine has undergone in the past few decades, athletes still suffer injuries that can permanently affect their long term production.
Regardless of the circumstances that lead to a decline in a player’s overall form, these performances have the potential to hurt a football team. Turnovers, lapses in judgement, and failing to convert chances can cost a team valuable points and ultimately be the deciding factor between winning the league and fighting for Champions League qualification. This can be contagious throughout a squad and as Chelsea are proving this season, not even defending league champions are immune.
25 Wayne Rooney
It is probably fair to say that Wayne Rooney is beyond the peak of his career. Throughout his prime, Rooney’s passion, intensity, and deadly finishing fueled Manchester United teams that won the Champions League and multiple Premier League trophies. This season he has scored nine goals in over 2,100 minutes played in all competitions. He is on pace to finish below his goal and assist totals from last season and Manchester United are currently battling with Tottenham for the last Champions League qualification place. Louis van Gaal may not be entirely to blame for the disappointing start to the Red Devils’ season.
24 Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge cannot stay healthy. It has been a problem of his dating back to his time at Stamford Bridge and it has become increasingly frustrating for Liverpool fans. When healthy, Sturridge is a striker to be feared by opposing defenses, capable of winning matches on his own. However, his fitness and injury issues have lead him to appear in only 19 matches in 2015. If he could manage to play anywhere close to a full slate of Premier League matches, he would be routinely among the league leaders.
23 Mohamed Salah
When Jose Mourinho acquired Mohamed Salah in the last January transfer window, he expected the Egyptian right midfielder to make an immediate impact on his squad. After only a handful of appearances, he found himself on the way to Italy, where he has routinely featured for a squad struggling to secure Europa League qualification. While that may be a position that Chelsea currently envy, Salah has turned in disappointing performances against the elite teams of Serie A and hasn’t scored since early November.
22 Joe Hart
Since joining Manchester City in 2006, Joe Hart has been one of the club’s most consistent performers. Now at the age of 28, he is one of the most experienced goalkeepers in the league and has won four of the last five Golden Glove awards. Last season, he produced a fantastic performance against Barcelona, but was ultimately unable to prevent their exit from the competition. So far in 2015-16, Hart has had a few notable mistakes that have cost City valuable points against Norwich. Those mistakes could end up being the deciding factor in the three-way title race between Arsenal, Leicester, and Manchester City.
21 Alvaro Arbeloa
Once deployed as Rafa Benitez’ specialist to shut down Lionel Messi, Alvaro Arbeloa is now likely following Rafa out of Real Madrid at the end of this season. While a talented defender, he could always be considered a dirty player capable of putting in a hard tackle and winding up his opponents. He may be a positive veteran influence on some of the younger players at Real Madrid, but his appearances have grown more infrequent.
20 Jackson Martinez
When he arrived at Atletico Madrid from Porto for €35 million in July of this past summer, many expected Jackson Martinez to light up La Liga, just as he had for Porto. So far with Atleti, he has managed only three goals and three assists in his 18 appearances in La Liga and Champions League this season. His match ratings have been consistently lower as he adjusts to the new level of competition and manager Diego Simeone has had to urge fans to be patient with the Colombian superstar. Thankfully for Jackson Martinez, Atleti are currently challenging Barcelona and Madrid for the La Liga crown.
19 Diego Lopez
One of the reasons for the emergence of 16-year-old AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has been necessity. It has been necessary for the young goalkeeper to step up because the 34-year-old Diego Lopez has been lackluster in his nine appearances so far this season. Lopez was awful in Milan’s 4-0 defeat to league leaders Napoli, conceding four goals. He also struggled against Palermo and Udinese, which explains why the teenager Donnarumma has seen so much playing time at such a young age.
18 Keisuke Honda
Last year in his first full season with AC Milan, Keisuke Honda was a consistent performer, scoring six goals and managing four assists from his midfield position. During his 2015-16 performances, he hasn’t performed at that level and been increasingly deployed as a substitute. He is still searching for his first Serie A goal of the season and his defensive shortcomings remain apparent. His technical skills are still extraordinary, but it may be necessary for a change of scenery to put them to best use once again.
17 Rodrigo Palacio
The three years that Rodrigo Palacio has spent at Inter Milan have been filled with frequent injuries, while the goals have become less frequent. Two seasons ago he netted 17 goals despite suffering several injuries, but this year he has only found the net one time in a Coppa Italia match. His chance creation has decreased and Inter Milan have struggled as a team to score. While collecting the fourth-highest salary on the team, Palacio has underperformed his contract as of late. It may be the perfect time for the Boca Juniors legend to return home.
16 Radamel Falcao
When Chelsea were looking to add a striker during the summer transfer window, many were expecting somebody other than the aging, often injured, Colombian striker. Since Falcao suffered a devastating knee injury, he has been unable to find routine football during his frustrating loan spells at Manchester United and now Chelsea. He hasn’t played for Chelsea since October and recently was rumored to be on his way back to AS Monaco. Falcao still has two and a half years remaining on his contract with the French club, but it is unknown whether he will find regular football any time soon.
15 Cesc Fabregas
Throughout the second half of Chelsea’s title winning campaign and during the first half of the current Premier League season, Cesc Fabregas was almost invisible on the pitch. Aside from providing two assists in the EPL, he has gone missing in the stats column, while being featured in headlines for vocally defending beleaguered manager Jose Mourinho. Fabregas’ expansive passing game has looked limited, while opposing midfielders routinely dash past the multiple time World Cup champion. He will need to greatly improve in 2016 if he hopes to continue featuring in the starting XI.
14 Fredy Guarin
Fredy Guarin has played in 15 Serie A matches this season and spent over 900 minutes on the pitch during those appearances. In that time, Guarin has managed only a single goal and one assist, while racking up six yellow cards. He was substituted after a disappointing performance against Napoli, which Inter lost and followed it with an equally anonymous performance against Genoa. Guarin will need to improve if he wants playing time among the wealth of younger talent at Inter’s disposal.
13 Adnan Januzaj
In 2013-14, Adnan Januzaj emerged as an extraordinarily talented 18-year-old potential world beater. Since his transfer to Borussia Dortmund, the midfield talent has almost dropped off the map. Struggling to perform his defensive responsibilities and lacking discipline, Januzaj has only featured in the starting XI three times, all Europa League fixtures. His time has mostly been restricted to mop up duty after Dortmund dispatch their Bundesliga opposition. The good news is that there is plenty of time for the 20-year-old to turn things around, as he's been sent back to Manchester.
12 Franco Di Santo
Franco Di Santo must be an enormously frustrating player to manager. During his time at Blackburn and Wigan, the forward scored inconsistently. But in his second season at Werder Bremen, he emerged as a star, scoring 13 goals in 26 Bundesliga performances. Scoring a goal in every other match led Schalke 04 to spend €6 million to secure his signature. While he has scored five in Europa League competition, he has scored only one goal in 17 Bundesliga matches for Schalke this season. He will need to improve in order to keep Schalke in European competition.
11 Sven Bender
Few defenders are going to compare favorably when compared to Mats Hummels and playing alongside a defender of that caliber is going to force opposing teams to attack his counterpart. Sven Bender has benefitted greatly from playing alongside a defender like Hummels and it has hidden some of the shortcomings in his own game. Many regard Sven’s twin brother, Lars, to be the superior player. Bender attracted the attention of Premier League clubs during the summer transfer window and it would be very interesting to see how he performs without Hummels by his side.
10 Ezequiel Lavezzi
Fans of Paris Saint Germain have not had much to complain about this season. They are currently 20 points clear at the top of the table and have already scored 50 goals. However, if they were going to complain, it would probably be about Ezequiel Lavezzi, who has scored only twice this season. At 30 years old it is likely that the best years of Lavezzi are likely behind him. Thankfully, PSG has the depth and the foresight to realize this and are adjusting to these champagne problems accordingly.
9 Stephan El Shaarawy
After an incredible 2012-13 season with AC Milan, Stephan El Shaarawy captured the attention of many major clubs throughout Europe with his dazzling dribbling and finishing touch. This summer he sought a new challenge on a loan spell with AS Monaco. In his fifteen Ligue 1 performances this season, he hasn’t contributed to any goals. In the Europa League, he has scored twice, but was unable to help Monaco advance from the group stage. Once considered an elite European talent, he will have to live up to his price tag.
8 Steve Mandanda
As he approaches the end of his contract with Marseille, Steve Mandanda is probably looking at the end of a very successful term with the club. This season has been frustrating for Marseille, who currently sit in 11th and 28 points behind league leaders, PSG. As a goalkeeper, he cannot entirely be blamed for the team’s shortcomings, but he currently ranks 10th in Ligue 1 in saves, despite playing every minute of their season. As he begins to look for a new contract in a new location, Mandanda may never be the world class keeper that he was just a few seasons ago.
7 Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy is playing the best football of his career right now and his goal production is the main reason that Leicester City is challenging for the Premier League title. His 15 goals in 20 Premier League matches have him tied with Romelu Lukaku for the league lead. There is no way that his current level of performance is sustainable. It is incredible that he has managed to maintain this pace as long as he has, but it is only a matter of time before reality sets in and Jamie Vardy returns to the norm.
6 Ciro Immobile
At the age of 25, Ciro Immobile is now on his eighth different football club. After being highly sought after, he signed with Borussia Dortmund, only to be loaned out to Sevilla following an underperforming season, after he only scored three league goals in Germany. His time at Sevilla hasn’t been much better with limited performances, frequently used as a substitute, and only three goals. Immobile is undeniably talented, but sometimes struggles with his positioning and defensive effort, which can both lead to managers decreasing playing time. If he doesn’t solve these problems in his game, he could continue to search for regular time on the pitch.
5 Jay Rodriguez
Two seasons ago, Jay Rodriguez was a valuable member of the Southampton team that shocked the Premier League by storming to an 8th place finish. Rodriguez led the team in scoring with 15 in the Premier League, but suffered a knee injury, which caused him to miss the end of the season and the World Cup in Brazil. He missed the entire 2014-15 season, and since returning in August, hasn’t looked up to the standard he once showed. The road to recovery after anterior cruciate damage is long and Rodriguez may return to his old form, but that remains to be seen in his limited time on the pitch.
4 Jordon Ibe
After two successful loan spells with Derby County and Birmingham City, last year saw Jordon Ibe earn his first significant playing time with Liverpool. In those appearances, he proved himself to be a capable dribbler, but failed to make a major impact, despite spending a significant time on the pitch. He has failed to score a single league goal after featuring in 28 Premier League matches. His defensive effort leaves much to be desired and he doesn’t contribute nearly as many assists as a player in his position should.
3 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
For all the hype that is heaped upon the talent at Arsenal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a bit of a disappointment. He is constantly battling some sort of nagging injury. From hamstring issues last season to his thigh troubles in the current campaign, he constantly misses time. In 20 matches this season, he has earned one goal and one assist. Arsenal currently sit atop the Premier League table, but it is not thanks to the efforts of the Ox.
2 Samir Nasri
In the summer of 2014, Samir Nasri signed a five-year contract with Manchester City on the heels of an 11 goal campaign. After seeing a reduction in both his playing time and his production with Manchester City last year, Nasri has continued the trend in the present season. From three goals in 2014-15 to a single goal in 2015-16, he is now sidelined for several months after undergoing surgery on his leg tendon. Nasri has already expressed his desire to retire from international football. He will now need to earn his way back into the City lineup at a time when they are fighting for a title.
1 Eden Hazard
One year ago, Eden Hazard was without qualification the best player in the English Premier League. His dribbling was sensational, he created chances regularly, and finished opportunities when they were presented. During the 2015-16 season, he has done none of those things. He has played over 1,700 minutes in Chelsea blue and only managed to find three assists. Last season, he had 14 Premier League goals and nine assists to his tally, but will fall well short of those marks this year. Perhaps Guus Hiddink will be able to inspire the Belgian superstar back to greatness, but some sources are suggesting he could be off to Spain this summer.