Two Manchester United stars struggled in their first season at Old Trafford, but they were not the only ones to fall short amid the flurry of Premier League signings last summer
Image: Action Images via Reuters)
The pressure on footballers in the modern era is arguably higher than ever before due to spiraling transfer fees, and some high-profile players, particularly at Manchester United, have struggled to shoulder the burden.
With hundreds of millions of people watching the Premier League around the world, players know their every touch, misplaced pass and howler from two yards out is seen by demanding spectators. And that debilitating expectation of needing to deliver can cripple even the most confident of players.
A first season at a new club can be daunting, particularly for a club-record signing or expensive buy. And usually, patience is afforded to those players who struggle. But in the case of these eight footballers, no more excuses are allowed next season – and Mirror Football looks at the culprits who cannot afford to underwhelm again.
On the topic of pressure, no one has quite suffered like Grealish did last season. Joining a new team after his £ 100million move from Aston Villa, the winger has struggled to adapt.
The playmaker has gone from being the biggest fish in the pond at Villa Park to one of many talented attackers at the Etihad, and he has looked lost without that leading role in the final third. Three Premier League goals and as many assists for an entire season is a paltry return for a player with so much talent in his repertoire.
Now 26, Grealish should be reaching the peak of his powers next season and, if Raheem Sterling leaves for Chelsea, it could guarantee him more game time to impress Pep Guardiola. The Catalan is willing to back his man, but the City boss’ patience is wearing thin after a disappointing debut campaign.
Have Your Say! Will Jadon Sancho prove to be an improved player for Man United next season? Comment below.
The impact of Euro 2020 on Jadon Sancho and his Manchester United team-mate Marcus Rashford has not been understated last season after a strange campaign for the £ 73m signing.
Drained of confidence after his penalty shootout miss against Italy, the lack of resting time seemed to impact Sancho as he suffered from illness before his United debut. And when he returned to full fitness, Sancho could not find any rhythm and went his first 13 games without a goal, finishing with five for the campaign.
Sancho is already on his third manager at the club following the arrival of Erik ten Hag and, while the Dutchman will be licking his lips at the prospect of working with the 21-year-old next season, the England international will be itching to show his new boss that his first season at Old Trafford was a merely anomaly.
Man United spent the best part of 11 years willing for Varane to link up with the squad at Old Trafford after first missing out on the Frenchman when he was 18.
The Red Devils finally sealed a £ 35m deal last summer with Real Madrid to bring in the World Cup winner, only for his first season to be clouded by injury and average displays.
The 28-year-old is a quality defender on his day and assured in possession, and there is every chance playing under Ten Hag will suit him better than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Ralf Rangnick did. But it will be on him to prove his fitness in pre-season and show he deserves to slot in at the heart of the backline.
It has to be said that Villa’s attempts to appease their supporters and strengthen the side with Grealish’s sale were impressive, landing Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen and Emi Buendia from Norwich. But the pair have been a long way off what the club would have expected from them.
Buendia, in particular, should have had little trouble in adapting given his Premier League experience with Norwich. Yet the Argentinian scored only four times and contributed six assists in 37 appearances.
Steven Gerrard is an ambitious manager and will be demanding more from his attacking players after the club lost 19 games in the Premier League last season. Another repeat and the midfielder could be finding himself on the bench.
Newcastle would have been delighted to secure the £ 25m permanent signing of Willock last summer, following his impressive loan from Arsenal. The midfielder went on a superb scoring of run of six consecutive games in finding the net before heading to St James’ Park.
Under Eddie Howe and the Saudi owners, however, the 22-year-old has been somewhat brushed aside. He managed only two goals in the entirety of last season from 29 outings, pointing to his reduced impact, while Bruno Guimaraes flourished in the No.10 role.
There is no doubt he has time on his side, and Howe is a manager who is willing to be patient in helping players develop. But if Newcastle finish the summer with several new signings, the pressure will be on to get back to goalscoring form.
Antonio Conte values the contribution of his wing-backs higher than almost any other position on the pitch, such are their crucial role in his 3-4-3 formation. It is fair to say then that Emerson Royal is yet to fully convince the Italian.
In his 31 appearances last season, the Brazilian managed only two goal contributions with a goal and assist apiece. Granted, moving from La Liga to the Premier League is not an easy transition, but this is a former Barcelona player who costs nearly £ 30m.
Compared to Matt Doherty, who scored twice and set up four goals for his team-mates in just 15 appearances, Royal’s contributions look weak and it appears that the 23-year-old has a real fight on his hands for his place next season.
West Ham went from chasing Jesse Lingard to settling for their second choice Vlasic after a frustrating summer for David Moyes. And once again, after flopping in his first spell at Everton, the Croatian has flattered to deceive at the London Stadium.
Now 24, the playmaker was hardly cheap after costing. 25m to sign from CSKA Moscow. But it speaks volumes that he scored more goals for his country last season than the Hammers, having started only six Premier League games and scored once.
Moyes will be hoping the midfielder comes good this season before he has to consider whether to cut his losses on a player who has greatly disappointed so far.
It would be unfair to suggest that Edouard has been a poor signing for Crystal Palace, while also accepting that the Frenchman needs to do more to impress his manager.
A clinical finisher who is blessed with decent pace, the former Celtic star was supposed to be leading this Palace attack. Instead, his six goals in 24 games shows he is yet to convince Patrick Vieira, who has preferred the hard working Jean-Philippe Mateta to spearhead the attack.
Surely, with the talents of Wilfried Zaha and Michael Olise dancing around defenders behind him, Edouard can boost his goal tally in the forthcoming campaign for the Eagles.