After bringing you seven English players bang in form back in September, we turn the tables to bring you five who are completely out of form…
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
— utdreport (@utdreport) September 18, 2016
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a surprise. I give him a lot of credit for having the courage and the fight to make something like that happen. He felt it was right for him and he went and did it and I have a lot of respect for that.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was discussing Jack Wilshere earlier this month, but he faced a similar dilemma to his former teammate in the summer. Wilshere perused Arsenal’s central-midfield options in the summer to find Santi Cazorla, Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil ahead of him, and decided to swap time on the bench at best for regular first-team football at Bournemouth. It has been a temporary hit to his ambitions for club and country, but the 24-year-old’s risk could be rewarded by the summer.
Oxlade-Chamberlain chose the other path. Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi, Alexis Sanchez, Lucas Perez, Ozil, Ramsey and even a one-legged Danny Welbeck are more likely to be handed first-team opportunities by Arsene Wenger, but the 23-year-old opted to stick, not twist. That he has still played fewer Premier League minutes this season than Rob Holding suggests it was the wrong decision.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Even for a man fuelled by a pre-match diet of Red Bull, Jamie Vardy’s comedown from a memorable and historic season at both an individual and a team level has been stark. The Leicester forward preaches the powers of doubles espressos, cheese-and-ham omelettes and half-Lucozade bottles of port; the only surprise is that we are all surprised.
By this stage last season, Vardy was in the midst of his record-breaking run of scoring in consecutive Premier League games, and was firing the Foxes’ title challenge. Twelve long months later, and everything has changed. In the words of Daniel Storey, a man who swaps the Red Bull for sparkling water and the cheese and ham omelettes for a kale and couscous salad:
‘During last season, Vardy managed a shot every 27.3 minutes, shot on target every 59.2 minutes and created a chance every 65.4 minutes. In Leicester’s first eight league games, the shots have come every 50.1 minutes, shots on target every 162.8 minutes (close to one every other game) and chances created every 108.5 minutes.’
Those Arsenal rumours do seem an awfully long time ago.
Ross Barkley (Everton)
For an insight into the diametrically opposite approaches of Everton’s two most recent managers, analyse their treatment of Ross Barkley. Roberto Martinez was the soft grandparent who was all too happy to let the England international express himself and wear his trousers on his head; Ronald Koeman is the strict headmaster looking to eradicate those bad habits.
After being allowed to visit all the toy stores, gorge himself on sweets and stay up past his bedtime last season, this campaign has seen Barkley spend most of his time on the naughty step. Koeman has made no attempt to pander to Barkley’s talents, explaining that he substituted him at half-time against Sunderland in September because “he did not play well, he lost many balls and players of that quality can’t lose those kinds of balls”.
Contrast that with Martinez’s comments last November – “People will look at what Ross does defensively, but what I always look at is what he can do offensively against these types of teams. We have got to that point where Ross Barkley knows how special he is and what he does” – and it is clear that this is a player caught between two polar opposites. We asked whether he was “special” enough to be excused almost a year ago; the answer is still a resounding ‘No’.
The midfielder is undergoing a crucial transition period at Everton. Sulk, and that talent goes to waste. Listen to one of the most exciting managers in the country, work hard and keep in line, and a bright future could yet lie before him.
It was never supposed to be like this. When Sam Allardyce was appointed England manager in the summer, that was Mark Noble’s official invitation to be beckoned into the international fold. The West Ham midfielder, to whom the biggest compliment is that he is a not-quite-as-good Scott Parker, would finally earn the recognition courtesy of his former club manager.
When Allardyce named his first (and only) England squad, the football world was united in its shock and horror at Noble’s omission. How would the national squad cope without his penalty-taking technique? His consummate professionalism? His delightfully kempt hair?
It was, of course, an understandable choice to leave him out. Per game, the Premier League statistics are unflattering: 2.8 tackles last season has become 2.3; 2.2 interceptions has become 1.1; 1.4 key passes has become one; 0.8 dribbles has become 0.4. And the 29-year-old has some work to do to catch up on his seven goals and four assists.