With the dust more or less settled following a hectic transfer deadline day, here are four players who are facing what could be the defining season of their careers.
Only players under the age of 30 have been considered here.
4. Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool)
This time last year Sakho was signing a new five-year contract and being lauded for his Europa League displays against Manchester United and Dortmund. Fast forward to 2016 and the France international is behind Lucas and Joe Gomez in the centre-back pecking order.
Mama’s issue doesn’t appear to be a footballing one, instead it is his attitude and behaviour within the club. After his aforementioned display against United, Sahko failed a drug test, which – although he was later acquitted of any wrongdoing – seems to have been the catalyst for his demise.
He was then sent home from a pre-season tour for bad time keeping. On one of the few days he spent with the squad, Sakho interrupted an interview that Klopp was doing, by recording him for the club’s Youtube channel. The exchange between the two seems light-hearted, but with all that has happened one may notice a rift between the two.
Following this he was told he was no longer in the German’s plans and he should go out on loan, which the former PSG captain refused to do. Following a transfer window in which Klopp has signed two centre-backs, Sakho is now sixth choice.
It seemed West Brom and Stoke were vying for his signature; two clubs where Sakho would flourish, but instead he has decided to stay and fight an uphill battle. Let’s just hope Klopp doesn’t use James Milner ahead of him, which would be a huge insult, wouldn’t it, Alberto Moreno?
3. James McCarthy (Everton)
Staying in Merseyside, James McCarthy is another player who has to up his game. McCarthy has failed to reach the high standards that have been expected of him thus far on both international and club stages, but he is still a good player.
McCarthy was key to Everton’s best Premier League season in recent years as they amassed a record 72 points during the 2013/14 campaign. But under Ronald Koeman things seem to be stacked against the Glaswegian. Being substituted after 38 minutes against West Brom recently, it appeared that the writing was on the wall.
Interest around McCarthy was intense, with Crystal Palace and Watford said to be the frontrunners, along with some Championship suitors. But these moves seemed like a step backwards for him, so one could understand McCarthy’s reluctance to move.
The £30 million offer for Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko would have done little to assure the midfielder, but luckily that move fell away. Now McCarthy has the benefit of no new competition as he tries to impress his manager and get back into what could be a very exciting team.
2. Joe Hart (Manchester City – on loan to Torino)
This was a rather strange one, wasn’t it? When both Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho arrived, the culling of unwanted players was ruthless. Mourinho cast the Germany captain to the reserves while Guardiola dropped England’s No. 1, and hair model, to the bench. The arrival of Claudio Bravo was a move only a coach like Guardiola could carry out.
In truth, Hart’s form has been waning. The Euros showed the Englishman what head and shoulders are actually for; containing and supporting a brain, which he clearly forgot as he was at fault for two crucial goals in what was one of England’s most embarrassing tournament defeats ever to Iceland.
That being said, Hart on form and focused is still a quality goalkeeper for any top side in the Premier League and Europe. That’s what makes it strange – why Torino? A lower to mid-table side was the best offer for Hart as the club seemingly tries to move up the table.
The question is what is the long-term plan here for Hart? After a season in Italy he returns to City where Bravo is the clear number one? Hart must get rid of his flakiness (it’s the last one, I promise) and use this season to put himself in the shop window for next year and secure a move to a team matching his standards.
1. Jack Wilshere (Arsenal – on loan to Bournemouth)
Jack Wilshere should not be playing for Bournemouth. He is a player with the dynamism to change a game with a single pass. He has the tenacity, control and spirit that typifies what English football thinks it is. And like this false ideology, Wilshere is broken. His ankles and knees have seriously deterred a highly promising career, but that still does not mean he belongs at the Vitality Stadium.
While Eddie Howe must be commended for pulling this off, I have to worry about this move. Many are saying that what matters for Wilshere now is getting games under his belt, something he won’t get at Arsenal. But the quality of play will determine a lot.
While Bournemouth try to play good football, they will be a team fighting at the bottom end of the Premier League no matter what. Is that the scenario needed for a player who can boast that Xavi is a fanboy? I think not.
With Sam Allardyce now in charge of England, Wilshere’s future has never been more in doubt. For football’s sake, I hope this is the season the 24-year-old can overcome injury and, importantly, play good football.
Jason Dundon, Pundit Arena
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