Five who f***ed their Prem prospects in the Champions League…

Date published: Thursday 9th December 2021 1:40 - Ian Watson

John Stones, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jesse Lingard struggled in the Champions League this week.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka fluffed his audition for Ralf Rangnick, while Jesse Lingard’s head may already be elsewhere. It was a bad night elsewhere for two other England internationals.

Here are five stars who wasted their chance to stake a claim for a Premier League place, in contrast to this quintet who did their cause no harm whatsoever

 

Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Mason Greenwood was perhaps the only Manchester United player in Rangnick’s second XI to state a compelling case for inclusion at Norwich on Saturday.

Wan-Bissaka, along with Luke Shaw as United’s established full-backs, were the other two expected to lay claim to their places, and Shaw at least offered an assist as he made his way back from injury, even if it was Greenwood’s improvisation that turned a hopeful delivery into a telling contribution.

For Wan-Bissaka, though, it was a bad night. Another one.

We have to assume that he’s been made aware of what Rangnick expects from his full-backs but the way he shuffled forward tentatively while defending in a similar manner suggests the penny hasn’t dropped. Either that or he simply isn’t capable. It could be either. Or both.

To top off a cosmic night for the right-back, Wan-Bissaka was hurt while taking the last kick of the game when he slid down the Old Trafford bank into the advertising boards. He might not be fit for Norwich, but all he will be missing is a seat on the bench.

 

Jesse Lingard
Has Lingard already checked out? Probably.

The United winger looked all set to walk out of Old Trafford next summer (at the latest) before Rangnick replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the change in manager was expected to be an opportunity for Lingard to rescue his United career.

For Rangnick’s first game in charge, Lingard felt a tweak and as part of an entirely different XI against Young Boys, the England international was anonymous.

“Everyone has the chance to perform and present themselves,” said Rangnick before the game, which is true. The new boss has already used 27 players in two matches; Lingard will be lingering way down the pecking order based on the evidence Rangnick has seen.

 


Five who furthered their Prem prospects in the Champions League


 

Callum Hudson-Odoi
Almost a year into the job and Thomas Tuchel is still trying to work out what to do with Hudson-Odoi…

The Chelsea boss is trying his very best to make a wing-back of the one-time England winger forward but it isn’t working. Hudson-Odoi struggled when he was moved there at West Ham on Saturday and at Zenit, when he had a chance to prove himself from the start, the 21-year-old was anonymous before being hooked.

Hudson-Odoi went off with the best passing accuracy of any starter but he did very little with the ball. No shots, no key passes, no dribbles and just one cross.

Come Saturday when Leeds arrive at Stamford Bridge, Reece James will almost certainly be shuffled back out wide from his midfield spot in Russia.

Saul Niguez in action for Chelsea against Zenit.

Saul Niguez
Tuchel hinted last week that he might use Saul as a left wing-back. “Even if we play a dominant game, because he’s very strong at arriving in the opponents’ box, very strong at finishing and has good timing to arrive at the far post with his head.”

Some of those attributes were evident, but Tuchel lost more than he gained by using the midfielder in an unfamiliar role. Malcom darted into the open spaces behind Saul in the first half, and while playing higher enabled the Atletico Madrid loanee to get four shots off, none really threatened to add to Chelsea’s tally.

Given the shortage of midfielders currently available to Tuchel, Saul should be the obvious candidate to fill the holes left by N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic. Instead, after his wretched previous performances in the the engine room, Saul was overlooked, with James dragged inside. That didn’t work either.

John Stones
Pep Guardiola resisted the temptation to make the kind of drastic changes Klopp, Tuchel and Rangnick did this week, but for the likes of Stones, the trip to Leipzig was a chance to reclaim his place in a City defence marshalled more often than not now by Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte.

Unfortunately for Stones, he was caught up in the general malaise of City’s overall performance.

He wasn’t helped by Kyle Walker having of those nights and Leipzig specifically targeted the England pair as a weakness. “I noticed early on that there was space for me to exploit between Stones and Walker,” said Dominik Szoboszlai after waltzing through it to score the opener.

Stones has started three matches in a Champions League group stage during which City have failed to keep a clean sheet. He has started the same number in the Premier League and seems almost certain to return to the sidelines, where he has been for the leaders’ last three domestic wins.

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