Alli, Ozil, Aubameyang all feature: The top ten biggest declines in Premier League history

Jason Soutar
Premier League declines: Dele Alli, Danny Rose, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil

Quite a few Premier League players have bizarrely fallen off a cliff at some point in their career. It is really difficult to put your finger on where it has gone wrong for these players.

Of course, some might have naturally declined. It is what happens to footballers at some point; just look at Cristiano Ronaldo for example. Perhaps others have gone through some tough periods off the pitch, or are suffering mentally. Other examples could be players who perhaps got a little too comfortable after signing a new contract, or simply suffered an injury or two and were never the same again.

Here are the top ten Premier League players who went from brilliant to rubbish pretty quickly. Eden Hazard and those of his ilk do not qualify as he became rubbish after leaving Chelsea, and his one horrendous season was a blip – he randomly became amazing again after. Enjoy.


10) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Former Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined the Gunners as one of the best strikers in the world. His debut was superb, scoring in a 5-1 win against Everton as he linked up superbly with his ex-Borussia Dortmund teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Ten goals in 13 league appearances was a pretty great way to get going, and if he wasn’t cup-tied for the Europa League, Arsenal might have won the whole thing.

In his 79th Premier League match for the Gunners, Aubameyang scored his 50th goal, becoming the quickest player in the club’s history to reach that tally, and the sixth-fastest in top-flight history. His 50th league goal came a month before lifting the FA Cup as captain after scoring a brace against Chelsea in the final. After that amazing day at Wembley, it all went Pete Tong.

The 2020-21 season was difficult for everyone at Arsenal. Fans were calling for Mikel Arteta to be sacked even though he had just won a trophy eight months into the job. Ten goals in 29 Premier League matches was not a woeful return, but Aubameyang failed to score enough in the Europa League – barring a crucial brace against Benfica – and had several costly droughts domestically.

Aubameyang changed how he played the following season, becoming more of a team player than the excellent goalscorer he once was. While on a poor run of form, the Gabonese striker was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy and was ultimately allowed to leave for nothing. After a decent spell with Barcelona, Aubameyang returned to the Premier League with Chelsea last summer. It has not worked out well at Stamford Bridge. The 33-year-old has one league goal in 11 matches and was recently ditched from the Blues’ Champions League squad.


9) Mesut Ozil
Eden Hazard’s downfall came after leaving Chelsea, and Mesut Ozil’s downfall was clear to see after his Arsenal days, but the German’s career definitely 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 the 2014-15 campaign. 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 prior to its expiry after 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 will retire as an Arsenal legend and a hugely important part of Germany’s World Cup-winning squad in 2014.

Monreal speaks on ex-Arsenal star Ozil


8) 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 bloody Ballon d’Or in 2004! The six-time Ukrainian footballer of the year decided to give the Premier League a go in 2006, joining Chelsea three months before his 30th birthday.

Shevchenko had just scored 28 goals for Milan the prior season and joined the Blues with high expectations. However, the legendary striker ended up being rubbish in England. In his debut campaign, he managed four goals in 30 Premier League matches, going 15 games without scoring at one point. Five goals in 17 the following season was obviously better, but still bad. Ultimately, game time became hard to come by when he was fit, and after a second woeful campaign he returned to Milan on loan.

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

He did actually return to Dynamo Kyiv to retire and did quite well with them.


7) Danny Rose
From starting in the 2019 Champions League final to struggling at Newcastle United less than a year later, Danny Rose’s downfall has been pretty brutal. At the age of 32, the left-back is without a club having left Watford last September when a mutual termination of his contract was agreed.

The season following Tottenham’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool in Madrid, Rose was Mauricio Pochettino’s first-choice left-back, but the Argentine lost his job and replacement coach Jose Mourinho did not fancy him. The Portuguese preferred Ben Davies and was obviously correct in doing so looking at where both players are today and the journey they have had to get here. Rose was loaned out to Newcastle as he looked for game time, and it was a forgettable spell.

Entering the final year of his contract, Rose was not included in Spurs’ Premier League or Europa League squads and missed out on being included again in January. His career in north London was over and he went out sad. The 32-year-old joined Watford on a free transfer in June 2021 and it was pretty obvious to see why Mourinho did not want him. His final top-flight appearance for the Hornets came against Manchester City on December 4, 2021.

While Rose was not exactly a world-class player in his day, he was a great left-back at his best. He played 29 times for England, including five matches at the 2018 World Cup. Rose remained a regular in the squad under Gareth Southgate when fit until he lost his place at club level.


6) 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 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, unfortunately for him and the club. After leaving in 2013, Cole admitted that he struggled to connect. His Premier League debut 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 the 2010-11 campaign. 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.


5) David Bentley
This guy was a character. But he was also 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 prior, Bentley was a great player for Blackburn. His Rovers debut after completing a permanent move (he spent 2005-06 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, being handed a debut by Steve McClaren in September 2007 before playing a bunch of friendlies in 2008 under Fabio Capello. If 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 £17million 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, netting that 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 season after.

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


4) Lee Sharpe
Admittedly, Lee Sharpe’s period as a Premier League star was before my time, but a little bit of research and advice made it clear that he deserves a place in this top ten.

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. 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 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.


3) Fernando Torres
Now then, 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 side that won the Champions League in 2012 before performing pretty well for AC Milan and Atletico Madrid, helping him avoid being number one.

Torres at Liverpool was ridiculously good. He scored all sorts of goals and made Nemanja Vidic look like a plumber on multiple occasions. However, 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 at the beginning of 2010-11 before joining Chelsea for £50million on deadline day of the 2011 winter window.

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.

2011-12 was another poor season in front of goal for Torres, 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, though. Torres scored that goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals and instantly became a hero. He played less than 40 minutes in the penalty shootout win against Bayern Munich in the final before becoming a Europa League winner the following campaign. Twenty-two goals in 2012-13 is 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.

Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring for Chelsea in the Community Shield. Villa Park, 12th August 2012.


2) Dele Alli
This is one of the most baffling downfalls in football history. Imagine peaking as a teenager…

Signed by Tottenham at the age of 18 for £5million in 2015, Dele Alli hit the ground running in the Premier League, being named PFA Young Player of the Year after his 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 Alli 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.

However, Alli is now struggling with Besiktas in Turkey after warming the bench for Everton during the second half of 2021-22. After a few tricky years with Spurs, the opportunity to have a fresh start at Goodison Park looked promising, but it wasn’t to be. Then the chance to play abroad looked like it would be the fresh start he needed, but once again, it hasn’t happened for him.

It doesn’t look like Alli will ever get back to where he was as a player, and his demise will forever be baffling to those not in his inner circle. . Maybe Alli is not as motivated as he once was. Perhaps there are other issues at play. Who knows? It would be very interesting to hear the player’s point of view some time in the future.


1) Alexis Sanchez
Alexis 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 £32million, 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 forward was electric on the pitch and helped Arsenal win two FA Cups, but there were some rumours that he was quite difficult to be around. He reportedly had a couple of bust-ups and some of his teammates felt he had a bad 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. Now 33 years of age, those days are long gone.