We are now two months into the 2018/19 season, a time when we can begin to truly confirm the players who look set for a stellar campaign and those who are struggling to shine.
Among the ‘big six’ teams in the Premier League, a number of players appear to be performing above previous levels, while others are failing to replicate their best form.
But who has been the biggest over-performer at each of those sides? And who has been desperately under-performing? Let’s have a look.
Over-performer: Erik Lamela
After yet another injury-ridden season in 2017/18, Erik Lamela showed signs of life on the final day of the campaign, scoring twice for Spurs in a thrilling 5-4 win over Leicester City. Another injury in pre-season threatened to curtail a third or fourth fresh start for the Argentinian, but Lamela has recovered quickly and emerged as a crucial player already this year.
Indeed, the 26-year-old has unexpectedly been Tottenham’s standout performer so far this season. Across all competitions, he has scored six goals and provided four assists against a variety of opponents, from Brighton to Barcelona. As a result, Lamela is on the verge of becoming a guaranteed starter.
Key stat: Lamela has averaged a goal every 65 minutes in all competitions this term.
Under-performer: Ben Davies
When Danny Rose fell out of favour at the beginning of last season, Ben Davies jumped at the chance to become Spurs’ first-choice left-back. Excellent performances against Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid in the Champions League saw Davies’ stock rise considerably and he was suddenly miles above Rose in the pecking order.
But things have taken a bit of a turn already in 2018/19. Rose’s surprise stay saw Pochettino hand the England international a reprieve, and Davies has struggled to match his positional rival’s form. The Welshman has lacked the reliability he usually provides and looks devoid of confidence, although he was slightly better against Barcelona in the Champions League this week.
Over-performer: Joe Gomez
It almost goes without saying that Virgil van Dijk has boosted Liverpool’s defensive credentials since arriving from Southampton in January. At the beginning of the new campaign, Jurgen Klopp still had a decision to make with regards to who should regularly partner Van Dijk; no one expected it be to Joe Gomez, but the 21-year-old is doing an admirable job.
Perhaps it is a result of playing next to Van Dijk, whose authority instils confidence in the rest of the team, but Gomez has been defensively sound in his own right, providing a dominating aerial presence and a sense of calm on the ball.
Under-performer: Mohamed Salah
The “one-season wonder” claims are already beginning to crop up as Mohamed Salah struggles to replicate his outstanding goalscoring form of 2017/18. Last season’s Premier League Golden Boot winner bagged three goals in his first five league appearances of the current campaign but didn’t quite look himself, and those problems have now worryingly extended into the month of October.
In their emergence as title contenders, Liverpool’s standards have risen and expectations have increased in tandem, making things even more difficult for Salah. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Egyptian suddenly burst into life, but concerns will remain while he is failing to find the net prolifically.
Key stat: Salah didn’t manage a single shot on target against Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Over-performer: Luke Shaw
Injuries and form issues have mostly hampered Luke Shaw’s Manchester United career and, consequently, a frosty relationship with Jose Mourinho has prevented him from fulfilling his clearly huge potential. But things appear to be changing for the left-back this season.
Shaw has endeared himself to the United fans with a string of impassioned performances. He even scored the first senior goal of his career against Leicester City on the opening day of the Premier League campaign. A return to the England set-up has also come to fruition, and Shaw has a good chance of displacing Danny Rose on the left for the Three Lions.
Under-performer: Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez’s inability to reproduce his Arsenal form at Manchester United is a mystery to everyone, especially Mourinho, who left the Chilean out of his squad completely for the recent defeat at West Ham United. A few days later, a lacklustre display against Valencia in the Champions League was indicative of Sanchez’s time at Old Trafford so far.
He no longer resembles the creative, goalscoring all-round attacker who graced the Emirates, lacking the conviction and pure ability that saw him surface as a key transfer target for both United and rivals Manchester City back in January.
Key stat: Sanchez has scored just three goals in 24 appearances for Manchester United.
Over-performer: Eden Hazard
After a first-rate showing at the World Cup with Belgium, Eden Hazard was linked with a move to Real Madrid. Some players suffer a dip in performance amid the speculation, but what makes Hazard Chelsea’s undeniable over-performer is that he hasn’t looked a shadow of his usual self; he has looked even better.
So far this season the Belgian has scored seven goals in eight games across all competitions, including two stunning strikes against Liverpool in the EFL Cup and the Premier League respectively. He is arguably the best player in the Premier League on current form and could fire the Blues to silverware in Maurizio Sarri’s first season at the club.
Key stat: Eden Hazard has scored six goals from eight shots on target in the Premier League this season.
Under-performer: Alvaro Morata
A goal against Arsenal aside, Morata has brought his form from the second half of last season into the new campaign. The Spaniard started 2017/18 brilliantly but finished the season with only 11 Premier League goals. Sarri appears to prefer Olivier Giroud through the middle to link the play, leaving Morata with no choice but to settle for a place among the substitutes.
When Sarri chose to replace Giroud with Morata against Liverpool in the league, Chelsea lost control because of their sudden ability to keep the ball in advanced areas. Questions must be asked about what Morata is bringing to the team other than a half-decent alternative from the bench.
Key stat: Morata has scored two goals in his last 22 Premier League appearances.
Over-performer: Bernardo Silva
Kevin De Bruyne’s injury posed an early season problem for Pep Guardiola. With such a key cog in the machine unavailable, who would Manchester City turn to in order to provide a central threat? Bernardo Silva has quietly filled the void, moving centrally in his last three Premier League appearances rather than his more common slot on the right.
Silva’s ability to drift around the attacking midfield positions makes him the ideal alternative to De Bruyne and gives City plenty of composure and creativity through the middle. He has also found the net in meetings with Arsenal, Cardiff City and Lyon.
Under-performer: Gabriel Jesus
Gabriel Jesus has been on the verge of becoming a star player for Manchester City ever since he joined the club but has never quite transpired into a guaranteed starter under Guardiola. Sergio Aguero’s fantastic start to the season hasn’t helped Jesus’ chances this term, but his level of performance has been a concern even without being compared to Aguero.
The Brazilian has found the net just twice in eight appearances, one of which came against Oxford United in the EFL Cup. At just 21 years of age – and at such an early stage of the campaign – Jesus still has plenty of time to come good this season and become an integral part of City’s team. But he has certainly been below par of late.
Over-performer: Matteo Guendouzi
Appearing to come out of nowhere, Matteo Guendouzi – who Arsenal signed from Ligue 2 side Lorient over the summer – has already become something of a staple in the Gunners’ midfield. The Frenchman has started five times in the Premier League, impressing in fits and starts; he had more touches (72) and attempted more passes (47) than any other player against Manchester City on the opening weekend.
More noteworthy is that, at just 19, he is being tipped for a call-up to senior France squad, such is the impact he has made in his first Premier League season.
Key stat: Guendouzi provided his first assist for Arsenal against Brentford in the EFL Cup.
Under-performer: Aaron Ramsey
According to multiple outlets, including BBC Sport, Aaron Ramsey is set to leave Arsenal at the end of the season after talks over a new contract broke down. The Welshman’s current deal expires next summer and it looks like his 10-year association with Arsenal is about to come to an end.
Perhaps that’s why he has struggled to really get going this term, despite featuring in all seven Premier League outings. He also provided two assists against Everton, but some Arsenal fans have been calling for Alex Iwobi to start over Ramsey, and a culmination of his contract situation and questionable displays could lead to that happening.