Wayne Rooney – An undroppable by reputation, but not by form or importance such as these 10 gentlemen.
It feels like the tide may finally have turned with regards to Wayne Rooney. The 30-year-old could previously rely on the media to deflect criticism, but even his newspaper chums boarded the ‘#DropRooney’ bandwagon after an insipid performance in the Manchester derby. Louis van Gaal may be “sick” of talking about his striker, but people are rather more ‘sick’ of seeing Rooney labour around the pitch each week.
Rooney has started – and not been substituted in – all but one of Manchester United’s 10 Premier League games so far this season. The only match he has missed (through injury) was the 3-1 victory over Liverpool, the stage where Anthony Martial made his bow. The Frenchman is one of many who have been shifted around to accommodate Rooney this season, often at the expense of the side itself. Surely Van Gaal can justify his continued selection no longer?
Cesc Fabregas – After 10 Premier League games last season, Cesc Fabregas had provided one goal and nine assists to the Chelsea cause in his debut season at the club. After 10 games this season, Fabregas has contributed no goals and a solitary assist. The Spaniard’s regression has been startling.
The comparative statistics paint a sorry picture for the 28-year-old. He is making fewer passes per game (71.40) this season than last season (77.26), while his key passes (1.80 v 2.21), chances created (1.90 v 2.74), rate of assists (0.10 v 0.53), successful take ons (0.50 v 1.06), tackles won (1.80 v 2.15) and tackles lost (3.90 v 3.18) comprise a stack of evidence as to why Fabregas is amongst the main culprits for Chelsea’s terrible start.
Yet only Cesar Azpilicueta has played more minutes in the Premier League for the Blues than Fabregas. Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and John Terry have all felt the wrath of Jose Mourinho and been dropped from the starting line-up at different points of the season, but Fabregas – and injured team-mate Branislav Ivanovic – remain immune despite being even worse.
Fabricio Coloccini – Unfortunately, it isn’t yet a law that if you’re outpaced by Steven Fletcher in a deadlocked derby before shoulder-barging him out of the way, conceding a penalty and reducing your side to 10 men against your most bitter rivals, your licence as a footballer is automatically rescinded. That Coloccini’s ban actually was rescinded will be a bittersweet pill for Newcastle fans to swallow.
Whether or not Coloccini was unfairly dismissed against Sunderland is beside the point; that the Argentinean centre-half gave officials the opportunity to punish him due to a moment of recklessness epitomised the 33-year-old’s ongoing downward spiral. Newcastle’s second-longest-serving player behind Steven Taylor has become a liability in central defence, and was nearly sold to Crystal Palace in the summer. That begs the question – even among the Newcastle faithful – as to why he has started every Premier League game so far this season.
Tim Howard – “No, that’s very clear,” was Roberto Martinez’s response when asked whether Tim Howard would be dropped for Joel Robles after the latter’s penalty shoot-out heroics on Tuesday. Martinez continued: “Nothing changes. Of course we want to be better in terms of keeping clean sheets but it’s very easy and soft to look at the last man standing in front of goal in those situations. Tim’s got incredible standards, he cannot be happy with the goals he conceded at the weekend. But there’s no doubt in terms of Tim Howard’s starting ability.”
What exactly does Joel have to do to be handed a fair chance? In Howard’s injury-enforced absence in January last season the Spaniard started eight games, keeping a clean sheet in the last three before Howard’s return. He has only been trusted in the Capital One Cup since, culminating in an excellent performance against Norwich. Even Everton fans are growing tired of their former American hero.
James Milner – The man signed to replace Steven Gerrard’s experience upon the Liverpool legend’s departure for MLS, Milner had been promised a central role by Brendan Rodgers after years of being Manchester City’s swiss army knife. Jurgen Klopp’s assessment of the England midfielder as “the perfect professional” encapsulates the Milner brand, and it seemed as though the workhorse would slot effortlessly into Klopp’s new style.
Milner, alongside Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne and Martin Skrtel, has played all 900 minutes of Liverpool’s Premier League action so far this season, but after all the promise and build-up from the summer, the 29-year-old has been terribly underwhelming. It’s not that he’s been necessarily bad, but what has he actually done? What tangible difference has his Premier League-winning experience offered?
Predictably, Milner has completed more kilometres (25.49) under Klopp in his first two league games than any Liverpool player, the next closest being Lucas (22.36). Upon Jordan Henderson’s return from injury, Klopp must decide between those three and Emre Can for his two central midfield positions, but the fear is that even if Milner loses that battle, he will be crowbarred into the position he was so keen to escape at City on the wing.