Gareth Bale, David Luiz, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and more: The 10 players who will be glad to see the back of 2017

These players will be delighted to welcome in the New Year

Joe Clayden
Wednesday 27 December 2017 13:35

2017 saw Chelsea beat their bitter London rivals Tottenham to the Premier League title, Real Madrid prove that they are the best team in world football and the rise of Manchester City – but it wasn’t a good year for every footballer.

In fact, some players will be looking forward to the New Year more than than most after a particularly disappointing 2017.

Some brilliant players – such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Thomas Muller – slowly began to decline while a number of promising youngsters – we’re looking at you, Renato Sanches – appeared to get a little lost along the way.

Here, we round-up ten players who will be happy to see the back of 2017.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

The Armenian has failed to replicate his Dortmund form

The Armenian playmaker moved to Manchester United in a £30 million deal in the summer of 2016, off the back of a stellar season for Borussia Dortmund, scoring 23 goals and assisting 32. Mkhitaryan displayed flashes of brilliance in his first season in Manchester, notably a scorpion kick finish against Sunderland, though all too rarely with a number of indifferent and ineffectual performances.

Things have gone from bad to worse since the start of the 2017/18 season. A promising start with five assists in as many games has been long forgotten, with the player failing to add to that tally in seven games. Manager Jose Mourinho has decided to omit the former-Dortmund man from six of his previous seven matchday squads in the Premier League amidst speculation that the player may be set for a return to Dortmund.

Thomas Muller

Muller has struggled

Bayern Munich forward Muller has had a tough year. The German international has found first team action hard to come by this term due to the form of fellow striker Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 53 goals in the calendar year. Muller, known for his impressive goalscoring record, has seen his figures dwindle since the start of the new season, scoring two goals in 13 appearances in the Bundesliga.

The summer arrival of former Real Madrid star James Rodriguez on a two-year loan has increased competition for Muller’s role in behind Lewandowski. With Carlo Ancelotti at the helm for the majority of the year, Bayern’s attack has, at times, looked rather stale with key attackers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery both on the wrong side of 30, while Muller has looked unsure of his role in the team under the Italian.

The recent appointment of club legend Jupp Heynckes as manager has reinvigorated Bayern and Muller, with the player captaining the club and scoring in three of their last four games. A timely return to form will be key for Muller ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Renato Sanches

The on-loan midfielder has failed to impress at Swansea

The loan signing of the Portuguese star by Swansea from Bayern Munich turned a number of heads in the summer window. After a scintillating breakthrough season for Benfica, a big-money move beckoned with Bayern Munich spending near €35 million on the Golden Boy-winner. Sanches has failed to live up to his billing in Bavaria, making eight appearances in the Bundesliga in 2017, without making a telling contribution.

His time in Swansea has followed a similar path, seeing the midfielder dropped from Paul Clement’s squad for key games and playing 12 minutes in Swansea’s past five fixtures. With the 2018 World Cup fast approaching, a turnaround in form for Sanches will be key in securing himself a spot on the plane to Russia.

Gareth Bale

Injuries have wrecked the Welshman's year

Injuries have restricted the Welsh international to 13 appearances for Los Blancos this season; scoring four and assisting five. Patience at the Bernabeu is wearing thin with the forward’s inability to remain fit for any meaningful length of time. In Bale’s absence manager Zinedine Zidane has switched to a diamond midfield with elegant Spain international Isco, who has been in excellent form, at the tip. Future star Marco Asensio has also taken his chances when presented with opportunities.

With Zidane’s side now seemingly out of the title race after a 3-0 defeat to rivals Barcelona at the weekend; the pressure is on for Bale to adapt to Zidane’s demands in a new role or he may find himself moved on to fund an expensive summer reshuffle, following what is shaping up to be a disappointing season for Madrid.

Dejan Lovren

Liverpool want to sign a new defender

Defensive fragility has become something of a trademark for Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp. This term Liverpool and Arsenal can boast the worst defensive records of the top six having conceded 23 goals.

While Lovren cannot be held entirely accountable for a porous backline, the former Southampton man has made a series of high profile errors, costing his side valuable points. The most memorable perhaps; misjudging two uncontested headers against Tottenham gifting Harry Kane and Son Heung-min tap-ins, leading to his withdrawal from the game after 31 minutes. After the summer’s failed pursuit of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton, Jurgen Klopp is certain to enter the market for a centre-back potentially signalling the end for Lovren’s time on Merseyside.

David Luiz

David Luiz arrives with the rest of the Chelsea team at Bournemouth's Vitality Stadium

The Brazilian’s return to Chelsea, criticised by some, got off to an excellent start. Fitting into a back three under Antonio Conte, Luiz was named in the PFA team of the season for his consistency at the back in a dominant Chelsea side that conceded only 33 goals all season and won the league by a seven point margin.

The Blues haven’t managed to carry their title-winning form into the new season however and the centre-half, due to suspension and a knee injury, has found himself in and out of Conte’s first eleven. Reports of a falling out between Luiz and Conte emerged after the former was left out of a matchday squad against Manchester United in November. Luiz’s displacement from the first team, albeit through injury at present, has led to suggestions that he could be allowed to leave, with London rivals Arsenal rumoured to be interested.

Grzegorz Krychowiak

Things did not work out for Krychowiak in Paris

Starring in a Sevilla side under Spaniard Unai Emery, the Polish holding-midfielder followed his manager to Ligue 1 side PSG in what appeared a dream move. The midfielder’s time in Paris however was closer to a nightmare, making only 11 starts in all competitions and accusing his manager of deceiving him numerous times. Krychowiak failed to feature in a single pre-season friendly for the French club and was allowed to leave on loan for Premier League side West Brom in the summer.

Initially settling well at the Hawthorns, Krychowiak has been unable to find his best form and was recently dropped by manager Alan Pardew. Finding his role in such a defensive side after playing for teams that dominate possession in games will continue to be a struggle for the midfielder, though with ambitions of returning to the Polish national team, he will need to do adapt to a new style of play under Alan Pardew.

Jese Rodriguez

Jese also failed to make the grade at PSG

Unable to secure a starting berth at PSG, in a star studded attacking line-up, Jese moved to boyhood La Liga side Las Palmas in January 2017. A series of inadequate performances saw Jese return to PSG, with the Gran Canaria based club electing not to sign the forward permanently due to high wage demands and off-field issues.

The summer of 2017 saw the ex-Real Madrid player loaned to Stoke. A goal in his first appearance gave Stoke fans a glimpse of his elusive talents. However, leaving the stadium early in a victory against Swansea in December and having personal off-field issues, has seen the forward excluded from the previous five matchday squads under Mark Hughes, and will hope to rediscover his best form in 2018.

Ross Barkley

Will Barkley move away from the club? 

The talented Evertonian has failed to live up to his potential since breaking through into the Everton first team in 2013. Then Everton manager Ronald Koeman questioned the work ethic and desire of Barkley, who despite his prodigious talents had frustrated the Goodison Park faithful with inconsistency. A summer move to Spurs looked likely after refusing to sign a new contract on Merseyside, though failed to materialise, leaving Barkley stuck under a manager who was clearly reluctant to give game-time to a plyer with intentions of plying his trade elsewhere.

A hamstring injury has kept the midfielder unavailable since August. Barkley’s career needs a fresh start, whether that be under new Everton manager Sam Allardyce or elsewhere, ahead of a World Cup where his creative talents could be a potent weapon in a limited England midfield.

Luke Shaw

Shaw has endured a difficult time at United since joining in 2014

Blighted by injuries since his arrival at Manchester United from Southampton in 2014, the left-back has made a mere 53 appearances. Upon his return to fitness, first team minutes have eluded the former Saint due to the form of converted winger Ashley Young. When given a rare opportunity by manager Jose Mourinho, the 22-year-old has been heavily criticised by pundits for showing a lack of desire, while Mourinho in April stated that Shaw was ‘a long way behind’ his teammates in terms of ability and his focus in training.

A move away from Old Trafford would surely benefit all parties.

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