Friday 20 July 2018

10 Premier League players we're slightly worried about already this season

We're only two games into the Premier League season. It is most certainly not the time for over-reactions, but there are already a troupe of players who have cause for concern. It's only mild concern for now, but the following 10 need to buck their ideas up.

1. Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea

Traditionally creaky in the winter months, Fabregas's downturn has begun early this year. Has started the season looking jaded, and his lack of defensive effectiveness was palpable in Chelsea's 3-0 defeat to Manchester City. Tiredness would have been understandable at the beginning of last season, given Fabregas's involvement in three consecutive summer tournaments with Spain, but his uneven start to this campaign is thrown into sharp relief by what a breath of fresh air he was this time last year.

Cesc Fabregas battles with Arsenal's Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey

2. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

Shouldering the responsibility of being Manchester United's main striker, but failed to touch the ball in Aston Villa's box on Friday night until the closing minutes and was guilty of a number of eyebrow-raising mishit passes. Theoretically should be thriving after restoration to the centre forward role he's only occasionally occupied in the last few years. Instead looks a worryingly spent force, notably less explosive and far easier to defend against then he once was.

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates his 1-0 win in the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on August 8, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

3. Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea

Such a reliably excellent performer over the years for Chelsea that it feels borderline wrong to draw attention to his decline, but Ivanovic has been on the wane all calendar year. Increasingly vulnerable against raw pace on the wings, and failing to provide the attacking threat down the flanks or in the box for corners that he has done. With the arrival of left back Baba Rahman at Stamford Bridge, and Cesar Azpilicueta a candidate for the right back starting spot, this could be the beginning of the end for Ivanovic.

Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in action with Manchester City's Raheem Sterling Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine

4. Petr Cech, Arsenal

Was marginally slow down to Joel Ward's excellent equaliser for Crystal Palace on Sunday but it's debatable how much he could have done about it, and it came in the context of an otherwise solid game. But there were enough moments of horror in Arsenal's shocking opening day defeat to West Ham to suggest that Cech, as the stats indicate, could be on the wane. The next few games are crucial. If Cech's understanding with his defence develops and Arsenal can stay solid against Liverpool, Newcastle, Stoke and Chelsea Cech will look every inch the calming presence he was billed as. If he exhibits further goal-causing frailties it's no exagerration to say that Arsenal's title aspirations will be erased.

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Arsenal's Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech warms up before the start of the English Premier League football match

5. John Terry, Chelsea

Average on opening day against Swansea, then substituted for the first time in his career by Jose Mourinho against City on Sunday in a move read as at least partly political. But taking Mourinho's reasoning at face value, that he needed the pace of Kurt Zouma to cope with a higher-pressing approach in the second half, it's not a big jump to say that Terry's imperial phase may be coming to an end. With John Stones potentially on the way, and Zouma rated highly enough to be thrown in against Chelsea's most likely title challengers Terry could find his first-name-on-the-teamsheet status disrupted this season.

Chelsea's John Terry sat on the bench after being substituted at half time Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine

6. Francis Coquelin, Arsenal

So good last year that the transfer rumour mills employed to pump out stories about Arsenal being interested in defensive midfielders were temporarilly shut down. The opening two games have been a reality check for the Frenchman who, we should not forget, was allowed to join Charlton on loan this time last year with a view to a permanent move. Shown up by Reece Oxford's defensive midfield masterclass on opening day against West Ham and so rash at Selhurst Park on Sunday that he could have been sent off twice. Arsene Wenger stepped in and brought him off for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. If Aaron Ramsey is pushed back into the midfield two, Coquelin's place is under threat.

Referee Lee Mason was widely criticised for failing to send off the Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin

7. Lee Cattermole, Sunderland

A player dependent on legs and endeavour who has lacked for both in Sunderland's dispiriting opening two games of the season. Failed to impose himself in either the defeat at Leicester, or the 3-1 reverse at home to Norwich on Saturday, Cattermole has earned a three out of 10 from Telegraph Sport for both of his two games so far this season. Looks a prime candidate for an upgrade if Sunderland lurch into panic-buy mode in the next few weeks.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 15: Lee Cattermole of Sunderland in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Norwich City at the Stadium of Light on August 15, 2015 in Sunderland, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

8. Harry Kane, Tottenham

Clearly two games without a Premier League goal is less of a drought, more a mild thrist, but Kane could do with getting back in the scoring habit sooner rather than later. Ran tirelessly in the opening day defeat at Manchester United but was less impressive at home to Stoke on Saturday, missing a chance to put his side 3-0 up before being substituted in a game his side went on to draw. It's Leicester, Everton, Sunderland and Palace up next for Spurs. Kane needs at least a couple of goals if he is to avoid the widely-feared pitfall of a disappointing follow-up to his outstanding breakthrough season.

Harry Kane was the only striker in Tottenham's squad for the draw against Stoke on Saturday

9. Mile Jedinak, Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace's standout player during their first season back in the Premier League two years ago is now strugling to get a game. Alan Pardew seems to want his side to attack with abandon this year, and has preferred Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur as his deep two in midfield. The impression is that Pardew sees Jedinak as a relic from a more prosaic past for his side. If such an all-action industrious player is reduced to a bit-part role this season he's unlikely to be anywhere near as effective.

Mile Jedinak of Crystal Palace signals to the crowd as he celebrates his team's 3-1 victory over Norwich City

10. Younes Kaboul, Sunderland

Ostensibly a sensible signing for an ageing Sunderland defence, the 29-year-old looked a classy and dependable presence not so long ago for Spurs. Unfortunately in more recent history Kaboul has been error-prone and done more harm than good at centre back. So it's proved so far on Wearside, where Kaboul has offered little resistance in a team that's conceded seven goals in only two games. A severe and immediate improvement is required.

Sunderland's French defender Younes Kaboul reacts after losing 3-1 in the English Premier League football match between Sunderland and Norwich at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, north east England on August 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LINDSEY PARNABY RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images

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