David Moyes did not do much right at Manchester United. He overcame the odds to beat Championship Wigan in the Community Shield final. He made Marouane Fellaini a £27.5million footballer. He actually qualified from his Champions League group. He said some silly things.
Adnan Januzaj was once regarded as one of the few successes of Moyes’ troubled reign. The Old Trafford academy product was handed his first Premier League start in October 2013, scoring twice in a 2-1 win against Sunderland. With his manager under increasing pressure, Januzaj emerged from the ashes of a troubled season to provide a semblance of hope. The then-teenager was linked with £40million moves to Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, was at the centre of an international tug of war involving England, Belgium, Albania, Turkey and Kosovo, and was discussed alongside Raheem Sterling as Europe’s best young talent. The former Liverpool winger has hardly developed at the rate he would have wished himself since joining Manchester City, but only one of the two is valued at £50million.
Januzaj started two of United’s first three Premier League games of the season, scoring in a 1-0 win over Aston Villa. He then left for Borussia Dortmund in a loan which many predicted would benefit all parties. He played 161 minutes of league football in Germany before being sent back to Manchester in January. Since his return, Louis van Gaal has handed him just ten minutes of competitive action. No wonder Anthony Martial finds it all so hilarious.
— Manchester United (@ManUtds_News) May 7, 2016
‘Arsenal’s Calum Chambers ready to play key role as they chase glory in three competitions,’ read the headline from a Daily Mirror article from John Cross in January. Four months later, we can all surely agree that hindsight is a wonderful thing.
After playing more Premier League games than Francis Coquelin, Mesut Ozil and Hector Bellerin last season, Chambers would have hoped to follow his debut campaign at the Emirates in similarly convincing fashion. Instead, he has started just two league games, and would be fortunate to find himself on England’s standby list for this summer’s European Championship; he would have harboured realistic hopes of making the full squad not too long ago.
Tipped as one of ten players who desperately needed a loan move in January, the 21-year-old’s development has stalled horribly. Hands up who foresaw Nathan Dyer, not Chambers, not Luke Shaw, not Theo Walcott, not Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, not Gareth Bale and not Jack Sinclair, as the first recent Southampton academy product to win the Premier League?
Of the 36 Premier League games Everton have played this season, Leighton Baines has started at left-back in 14. The Toffees have won just two of those games – against Bournemouth and Newcastle – drawing six and losing six. Bryan Oviedo has started at left-back in seven. The Toffees have won three of those games, drawing two and losing two.
Brendan Galloway has started at left-back in the other 15. The Toffees’ record in that sequence is far more impressive, with five wins, six draws and four defeats. One of the top ten surprise performers of the season in December and a Young Player of the Year alternative candidate, so why have we heard little of him this year?
“Brendan arrived at the football club with a very clear development path in front of him, but the reality is that he has surpassed that,” said manager Roberto Martinez in December. The 20-year-old’s reward for “surpassing” expectations? Not a single Premier League minute in 2016. Oh, you shouldn’t have.
Kenedy, Joe Gomez, Galloway, Jordon Ibe, Andreas Pereira, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Dele Alli, Anthony Martial. Daniel Storey’s September list of the top ten Premier League teenagers looks something of a mixed bag eight months later. The aforementioned eight players were the only ones selected ahead of Newcastle winger Rolando Aarons.
A subject of reported interest from Arsenal and Manchester City, a regular in the England youth system and a powerful 20-year-old winger with electric pace and skill, yet Aarons is still waiting to enjoy his breakthrough moment. Injury curtailed much of his mid-season, but he has played just one minute of football since Rafael Benitez was appointed in March. Aarons has been keen to play down predictable comparisons with Raheem Sterling, but the Manchester City winger is on a completely different level. Aarons is out of contract in the summer at a club almost doomed to relegation to the Championship.
This has undoubtedly been the longest of years for Tim Sherwood’s adopted son. Last season, Nabil Bentaleb started 23 Premier League games, impeccably and incessantly sideways passing in each. He was considered as important to Tottenham’s future as Harry Kane and Ryan Mason. The White Hart Lane academy product signed a five-year deal with the club last summer amid reported interest from Arsenal, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. He was quite literally central to Mauricio Pochettino’s plans as the club looked to build on a fifth-placed finish.
The Algerian international featured in each of Tottenham’s first four Premier League games this season; he has one solitary league minute to his name since August. Separate ankle and knee injuries have blighted Bentaleb’s season but, in truth, the emergence of Eric Dier as a midfield force, the renaissance of Mousa Dembele and the excellence of Dele Alli have all dealt far bigger blows to the 21-year-old’s development. When Bentaleb does recover from injury, he will return to a Tottenham side with far grander aspirations and far bigger talents than before.