The Premier League has for years been venerated for being able to attract the best and the brightest talent in the business. Premier League clubs are continually relying on imports from top clubs across Europe in order to compete in arguably the most competitive league worldwide.
Examples off the top of my head include Xherdan Shaqiri, Jese Rodriguez and Bojan, all of whom signed for Stoke from Inter Milan, PSG and Barcelona respectively – making for some jaw dropping headlines. Other imports into the league include Swansea City signing Andre Ayew, Fulham signing Jean-Micheal Seri and Wolves signing Portuguese pair Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho. The list really is endless.
This season has been no exception, with talent flooding through the Premier League gates and a lot of it towards the relatively smaller and newly promoted clubs of the league. However, amidst the great expectation and hype surrounding these players, there are a few who haven’t quite lived up to the expectation generated and haven’t had the impact which was quite expected. Three players who spring to mind are those of Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton and Hove Albion), Max Meyer (Crystal Palace) and Bernard (Everton) who 90MAAT will have a look at in closer detail.
25-year-old Alireza Jahanbakhsh arrived at the Amex Stadium this summer as their club record signing after setting the Eredevise alight for AZ Alkmaar last season. The Iranian international turned the Eredevise into his own mini training ground becoming top scorer in the league with 21 goals in addition to being joint third in the assist charts with 12. To put it into perspective, Pascal Gross, who made all the headlines for being the creative maestro of a soaring Seagulls side last campaign, managed 8 from a central position.
Jahanbakhsh’s versatility, mixed with his ability to shoot from either foot, is another huge asset that he brings to the side. The two footed winger is capable of playing on both flanks and is quite direct in his approach, not unlike team mates Anthony Knockeart and Jose Izquierdo. He is also capable of thriving in a 4-2-3-1 formation which Hughton often adopts for his Brighton side.
The Iranian received an average rating of 8.35 and 7.86 per game when starting as a right and left forward respectively for AZ. To put that into perspective, the average ratings of Leroy Sane at left forward and Raheem Sterling at right forward last season in City’s ground shattering season were respectively 7.66 and 7.75 [As per WhoScored]. His other noticeable characteristics include cutting inside from the flanks, shooting from distance, tracking back, and possessing an ability to shoot from distance, which caught out multiple goalkeepers last season.
The £17m record signing is yet to have an impact on his new side however given how much he has to offer it would be no surprise to see him lining up in the starting XI on the south-coast extremely soon.
Max Meyer’s transfer was a rather dragged out affair due to a plethora of clubs interested in his services and his staggering wage demands which stifled interests of a fair few suitors. In the end, it was Crystal Palace who offered an acquaintance to terms and aboard jumped Meyer, tantalisingly close to the summer deadline.
Since signing for the Eagles in one of their biggest ever transfer coups, Meyer has been left extremely frustrated by manager Roy Hodgson, who continues to stick with the same formation and by and large the same XI. Hodgson’s preferred 4-4-2, with Jeffrey Schlupp and Andros Townsend on the flanks, and McArthur and Milivoijevic anchoring the centre, is an extremely defensive set up; which is causing an ever more worrying draught in front of goal. Staggeringly, the Eagles are yet to score on their own turf this season – perhaps a fortress no more.
However, in this inherently defensive set up is surely Meyer’s chance to thrive. The 23-year-old German is not the best at tracking back and making tackles, but what he is good at is drifting into spaces, picking the ball up and distributing it for others to have a crack at goal. Despite his impressive close control, Meyer rarely gets forward too much and instead takes the vast majority of his shots from distance. This allows the full backs, especially Patrick van Aanholt, to get forward more – knowing that a good delivery or layoff is imminent from his team mate.
With the two CMs offering defensive solidity, Meyer can be allowed a free roam. His skill set would allow Palace to become a lot more fluent in possession, and Wan Bissaka, Van Aanholt and Wilfrid Zaha would be set to gain the most from his inclusion in the side. His aforementioned skill set includes a good passing range, ability to dribble the ball out of tight corners, an excellent crossing ability and impressive agility and speed on the turn of play. Without doubt, the German is a skilful and talented outfit and is likely to burst into the starting XI in no time at all.
Bernard signed for Everton in the summer sending shockwaves through a huge subset of football fans; who knew him as an insanely overpowered player from their time gaming on FIFA.
With this in mind, it’s not to say he isn’t or can’t be every bit as good as his virtual self. The Brazilian arrived on Merseyside with huge expectations riding on him and although his involvement had been restricted initially due to a small injury, he made a full recovery but is yet to surpass 200 minutes on the pitch for the Toffee’s.
Bernard is a lot like Manchester City’s Portuguese star Bernardo Silva in terms of style of play. Extremely nimble and able to evade defenders very easily due to his agility. He likes to cut inside from the left flank a lot and either feed runners down the opposite channel in a side overload tactic, or simply curl one in from outside the box into the goalkeeper’s far corner.
His ball retention ability will be a huge asset to Everton, especially considering how high Lucas Digne pushes in attack. However, with an extremely attacking left flank it also makes it easier for the opposition to ask serious questions of an already vulnerable and seeming perpetually stretched Everton defence.
That being said, Bernard fits right into Marco Silva’s latest 4-2-3-1 system. With Cenk Tosun misfiring, Richarlison was asked to lead the line recently against Leicester, with Bernard slotting into left midfield and Sigurdsson left in his preferred position in the #10 role.
It is becoming quite clear that Marco Silva wants his team to be very quick in transition, and also play a fast paced game. Bernard (and Walcott on the right) allows them to do just that and it would be no surprise to see Bernard becoming a regular feature in Silva’s XI.