Biggest falls from grace in Premier League history features Man Utd man and ex-Arsenal trio

Jason Soutar
Premier League players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Andriy Shevchenko, Casemiro and Alexis Sanchez all suffered a fall from grace
Premier League players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Andriy Shevchenko, Casemiro and Alexis Sanchez all suffered a fall from grace

Inexplicably, a world-class player can turn rubbish overnight. It is as baffling as it is concerning. Including one current star, here are the 10 biggest falls from grace in Premier League history.


10) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Former Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined the Gunners as one of the best strikers in the world, taking only 79 Premier League games to reach the 50-goal mark, becoming the quickest player in the club’s history to reach that tally, and the sixth-fastest in top-flight history. Life was good for Auba after carrying the Gunners to FA Cup success in 2020, but everything would soon change for player and club.

The 2020/21 season was an extremely difficult one; fans wanted rookie head coach Mikel Arteta gone despite the FA Cup win. Not helped by the performances of his striker, the Arsenal board #TrustedTheProcess and they are now reaping the rewards…without Aubameyang.

Amidst his average form and multiple misdemeanours which broke Arteta’s non-negotiables, the Gabonese striker was stripped of the captaincy and let go for nothing, joining Barcelona for the second half of 21/22 before returning to London for Chelsea.

His time at Stamford Bridge was miserable at the best of times. After proving he was no longer cut out the the Premier League, a 34-year-old Aubameyang is thriving at Marseille.


9) Lee Sharpe
Sharpe joined Manchester United as a teenager and was given plenty of first-team opportunities following the exit of Jesper Olsen and the inconsistency of Ralph Milne – a man I met several times in my home town in the north east of Scotland. He established himself as the club’s first-choice left-winger but would face competition from Ryan Giggs. He was in the England squad before his 20th birthday and after a few injuries and fitness issues, came back to find Giggs in his position, meaning he would have to fight for a place at left-back or on the right wing.

Injuries didn’t help his cause but Sharpe lost his place in the team and never seemed to bounce back as he suffered a steep decline. The FA Cup he won – despite not playing in the final – in 1996 was his last trophy at the age of 25. Sharpe retired at 33 after stints with Exeter City, Grindavik in Iceland and Garforth Town.


8) Joe Cole
What a player Joe Cole was in his prime. He joined Chelsea from West Ham in 2003 and played under Claudio Ranieri for a season before Jose Mourinho came in and won trophy after trophy. The former England playmaker won three Premier League titles, two FA Cups and a League Cup in his seven years at Stamford Bridge, joining Liverpool as a free agent in 2010.

His time at Anfield was bloody rubbish. His Premier League debut for the Reds lasted 45 minutes after he was sent off for a challenge on Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny before missing a penalty four days later against Turkish club Trabzonspor. Yikes. Start as you mean to go on, mate.

In Cole’s defence, he was signed by Roy Hodgson, who had a torrid time at Anfield. Having said that, he only scored one goal under Kenny Dalglish in the second half of 2010/11.

Cole spent the following season on loan with French champions Lille before ending his Liverpool stint by returning to West Ham in January 2013. The 41-year-old had spells with Aston Villa, Coventry City and Tampa Bay Rowdies before retiring.


7) Andriy Shevchenko
In his prime years, Andriy Shevchenko was one of the most lethal strikers in world football. He spent seven wonderful years with AC Milan, winning one Champions League, one Serie A title, one Italian Cup and the Ballon d’Or in 2004! The six-time Ukrainian footballer of the year decided to give the Premier League a pop in 2006, joining Chelsea three months before his 30th birthday.

Shevchenko scored 28 goals for Milan the season before, joining the Blues with high expectations. It didn’t go to plan as in his debut campaign, the legendary striker managed four goals in 30 Premier League matches, going 15 games without scoring at one point. Five goals in 17 the following season was a bit better, but still bad. Ultimately, game time became hard to come by and after a second woeful campaign, he returned to Milan on loan.

Shevchenko was clearly finished at the top level, failing to score a single goal in 18 league matches for the Serie A giants. That Chelsea spell really did a number on him.


6) Dele Alli
We will be a lot nicer about Dele than we will be with everyone else, for obvious reasons. What a player he was for Tottenham, peaking as a teenager before unfortunately losing the ability to impact Premier League matches.

Signed by Tottenham at the age of 18 for £5million in 2015, he hit the ground running and won PFA Young Player of the Year after an incredible first full season, before winning the same award again the following year.

While he was at the peak of his powers, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said Dele was the best young player in the world. Spurs fans probably thought he was worth at least £100million, and he was a regular in the England team, with plenty of amazing years at club and international level ahead of him.

Having fallen out of favour at Spurs and for England, Dele moved to Everton to try and get his career back on track, which did not go to plan. A dismal loan spell at Besiktas did not help proceedings.

It doesn’t look like Dele will ever get back to the level we saw at Spurs under Pochettino but we are all rooting for him. He wants to represent England at the 2026 World Cup, which is very ambitious. If it happens, it will be the remontada of the century. You’ve got this, fella.


5) Fernando Torres
What a terrific player Fernando Torres was. His decline is possibly the sharpest and the biggest on this list, but he did contribute to a Chelsea Champions League win in 2012 before performing pretty well for AC Milan and Atletico Madrid, saving him from a more embarrassing placement.

Liverpool Torres was silly good. He scored all sorts of goals and made Nemanja Vidic look like a fool on multiple occasions. You could kind of see he was not himself with Spain at the 2010 World Cup and performed in fits and starts for the Reds in the first half of 10/11 before Chelsea decided to buy him for £50million on deadline day in January 2011.

At Stamford Bridge, Torres went through a horrendous run of form in front of goal. His first Chelsea game was fittingly at home to Liverpool and he was abused by the visiting fans, obviously. Roughed up by his old teammates, the Spanish striker was probably a bit rattled, and while the Blues were winning games with their new man leading the line, he couldn’t score to save himself, even if his new teammates were doing everything they could and were visibly going out of their way to present chances.

His only goal for Chelsea in his first season came in the 84th minute of a 3-0 win against West Ham. What a weight lifted from his shoulders, but one goal in 18 matches was an embarrassing return.

Torres’ first full season was equally as poor in front of goal, though he was becoming more of a playmaking striker, notching an impressive 16 assists in 49 matches across all competitions. He only had 11 goals, mind.

Torres scored that goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals and instantly became a club hero. He played less than 40 minutes in the final win against Bayern Munich before becoming a Europa League winner the following campaign. Twenty-two goals in 12/13 was good, but he played over 60 games and went 18 without scoring in the league that campaign.

Torres was no longer the same player and it was obvious to see. Everyone knew he would not return after 18 months at Chelsea. Unfortunately for him, that version will go down as one of the biggest flops in Premier League history.


4) Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil’s downfall was clear to see after his Arsenal days, but the German’s career began to spiral out of control during his time in London.

There were no specific injuries that contributed to Ozil’s decline, although he did suffer serious knee knack in 14/15. It was a combination of many things. He signed a new big-money contract rumoured to be in the region of £350,000 per week, and it was due to last until 2021. He left six months before as the Gunners allowed his exit to Fenerbahce.

Unai Emery didn’t fancy Ozil, though the player showed glimpses of class when given the chance to play. Then Arteta quickly decided he wanted rid of the former Real Madrid star after watching his performances sharply decline. While the Spanish manager was in dire need of a creative midfielder, he opted against bringing Ozil back into the fray, instead introducing Emile Smith Rowe to the first team after months without a playmaker.

The contract, a lack of minutes, Fortnite and perhaps age all came into effect with Ozil. Thirty-two should not be when a footballer looks completely, undoubtedly, finished at the top level, especially when he was once one of the best midfielders in world football and not one particularly reliant on his physical attributes.

Ozil’s prime was joyous. He divided opinions like no other but retired as an Arsenal legend and a hugely important part of Germany’s World Cup-winning squad in 2014.


3) David Bentley
This guy was a character but more importantly, he was an extremely talented footballer. David Bentley came through the Arsenal youth academy but enjoyed his best years with Blackburn Rovers between 2006 and 2008. Amazingly, he retired in 2013 at the age of 28 despite having a year left on his Spurs contract. So, what happened? Well…Spurs happened.

As mentioned, Bentley was a great player for Blackburn. His Rovers debut after completing a permanent move (he spent 05/06 on loan) was a 4-3 win against Manchester United and he bagged a hat-trick, as you do. He helped the Lancashire side finish sixth in the Premier League, back when they were good. After being named the club’s Player of the Year, he had another brilliant season as Blackburn finished seventh.

Bentley had a spell in the England squad as a result of his club form, earning his debut under Steve McClaren in September 2007 before playing a bunch of friendlies in 2008 under Fabio Capello. Had the Three Lions qualified for Euro 2008, he probably would have been in the squad.

Mark Hughes left Blackburn for Manchester City and Bentley wanted out. He joined Spurs for around £17m and scored his first goal for the club in a UEFA Cup qualifier against Wisla Krakow. His only other goal for the north Londoners in his first season came against their neighbours and his former club, Arsenal, smashing home a famous 44-yard volley. His debut campaign was tough, as was the following season. Bentley only managed one league goal again after becoming a benchwarmer. He didn’t even manage a goal the next season.

Bentley spent time on loan with West Ham in the Championship and FC Rostov in Russia before hanging up his boots at a very young age.


2) Casemiro
Manchester United signed three-time La Liga and five-time Champions League-winning midfielder Casemiro from Real Madrid for £70m, handing him an initial four-year contract, which raised eyebrows due to his age. Any doubts were swiftly put to one side after a superb season, showing exactly why the Red Devils paid big money for the Brazilian.

Casemiro celebrated his successful year a little bit too much over the summer. At first, people pointed at Erik ten Hag for leaving him so isolated in midfield, but while this was a contributing factor, it quickly became clear that Casemiro was miles off the pace.

A liability on the ball and unable to cover the necessary ground, it was baffling to see the Real Madrid legend performing at such a low level, with the United hierarchy praying for a Saudi Arabian bid to come in. That could happen this summer and if it does, Sir Jim Ratcliffe will be laughing after getting his mammoth contract off the books.

Casemiro’s end-of-season form was incredible to see. Pushed to centre-back due to an injury crisis, he was all over the shop. Clearly unable to play in that position, he would cost United dear against Crystal Palace and Arsenal. Jamie Carragher said after the 4-0 drubbing at Palace that he was finished at the top level and had to leave the club for Saudi Arabia or MLS. Brutal.

👉 Where does Casemiro rank of all nine over-the-hill Man Utd signings post-Fergie?
👉 Stupid transfer conditions that ended up biting Liverpool, Real Madrid et al in the bum


1) Alexis Sanchez
While Torres and Aubameyang’s ability to bounce back has impacted their placements here, we have slightly contradicted ourselves by putting Alexis Sanchez first given he got his career back on track after leaving Manchester United. He really did go from being world-class at Arsenal to unrecognisable at United.

Sanchez was arguably the best player in the Premier League during the peak of his powers. He joined Arsenal from Barcelona in 2014 for around £32m, in what proved to be an absolute bargain. You immediately saw Alexis’ pure class and he also introduced us to his six-pack pretty early on after a wonderful goal against Manchester City.

The two-time Copa America-winning Chilean was electric on the pitch and helped Arsenal win two FA Cups, but there were some rumours that he was quite difficult to work with. He reportedly had a couple of bust-ups and some of his teammates felt he had the wrong attitude. Reportedly desperate to leave in the summer of 2017, Alexis was close to joining Manchester City for around £60million, but the Gunners couldn’t sort a replacement, so he had to mope around for a few more months before eventually leaving.

Alexis joined Manchester United in one of the worst deals in Premier League history. Henrikh Mkhitaryan went the other way and wasn’t very good at Arsenal, while the Chilean was horrendous for the Red Devils. He had scored seven league goals before moving to Old Trafford, so Alexis wasn’t having a bad season, but he looked like he forgot how to play football the second he put on a United shirt.

It was a bizarre, and extremely steep, fall from grace and Alexis has never looked like becoming the player he was at Arsenal.

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