Continuing WhoScored.com’s Six of the Best series, we look at the players who impressed in Europe’s top five leagues last season, but have been overlooked for one reason or another this time around…
Yaya Toure – Manchester City
Following his appointment, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola made it clear to Yaya Toure that he had no future at the Etihad Stadium this season. The player’s agent kicked off at Guardiola’s decision to cast his client to one side and while Toure has since apologised, bringing to an end a club imposed ban, the Ivorian has no future at the club having made just one start this season, that coming in Champions League qualifier against Steaua Bucharest.
Toure impressed for City in Manuel Pellegrini’s final campaign at the club’s helm, gaining a respectable WhoScored rating of 7.22 in the Premier League last season, but at 33 years of age, the midfielder’s best years are certainly behind him. It’s not the first time Guardiola has looked to move on from Toure having sold him to Manchester City in 2010 and with a lack of competitive action this season, it’s feasible to suggest the player’s career at City is over.
Grzegorz Krychowiak – PSG
Unai Emery’s second summer signing upon his arrival at PSG, Grzegorz Krychowiak was the club’s costliest arrival in the off-season having excelled for Poland in their Euro 2016 campaign. The 26-year-old was one of Emery’s key men for Sevilla last term, gaining a better WhoScored rating (7.23) than any other player for the Spanish side last season. Furthermore, no player made more interceptions per game than Krychowiak (4.5) in Spain’s top tier last term.
However, the Pole has registered just three league starts under Emery this term, with the former Sevilla manager opting against his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation and has instead stuck with PSG’s familiar 4-3-3 formation, with Thiago Motta preferred to Krychowiak as the club’s midfield anchor. Indeed, the latter has been forced into a bit-part role for the Parisian giants, with this not looking like changing anytime soon.
James Rodriguez – Real Madrid
James Rodriguez was widely expected to depart Real Madrid over the summer, with a host of potential suitors registering an interest in the Colombian. While he stuck with the reigning European Champions, the 25-year-old has made just two league starts under Zinedine Zidane and has struggled for game time despite injuries to Luka Modric and Casemiro, with Mateo Kovacic and Isco ahead of the Colombia international in the pecking order.
Rodriguez churned out a number of notable displays for Real Madrid when called on last term, with seven goals and eight assists helping return a WhoScored rating of 7.32 in La Liga. Meanwhile over those to register five or more assists in Spain’s top tier, only three players created a goal more frequently than Rodriguez (1 assist every 189.5 minutes). With the January transfer window nearing, it would perhaps be in Rodriguez’s best interests to look to resurrect his career elsewhere in the New Year.
Kingsley Coman – Bayern Munich
Kingsley Coman was one of Bayern Munich’s star performers in Pep Guardiola’s final season at the Allianz Arena following his loan arrival from Juventus and many expected the Bavarian powerhouse to buy the Frenchman outright. An average of 3.7 successful dribbles was the best return in the Bundesliga last season as Coman slotted seamlessly into Guardiola’s Bayern side to earn a WhoScored rating of 7.52, the third best of all players for the club.
Under Carlo Ancelotti, though, Coman has struggled for regular game time, registering just four league starts, with his dribbles per game dropping to just 1.2. Reports now suggest that Bayern will opt against exercising the right to make the 20-year-old’s temporary move permanent, with Ancelotti favouring the wide pair of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, where possible, in his favoured 4-3-3 formation. Recent knee and ankle injuries sustained during the international break means Coman won’t feature again for Bayern until the New Year and having already lost his first team spot; his time in Germany could come to an end sooner than many had anticipated.
Hatem Ben Arfa – PSG
Emery’s first signing of the summer as PSG boss came in the form of Hatem Ben Arfa who, after a successful year for Nice, secured a dream move to Paris, joining the Ligue 1 champions on a free. The France international was one of the stars of the season last term, with a WhoScored rating of 7.58 the fifth best in France’s top tier. Furthermore, an average of 4.5 dribbles per game was the best in Europe’s top five leagues as Ben Arfa dazzled defences across the country.
Yet, Ben Arfa has failed to match the heights of his campaign in Nice, making only two league starts under Emery, with the wide pairing of Angel Di Maria and Lucas Moura the PSG boss’ preferred duo. Having previously been forced to train alone, the 29-year-old’s PSG career is at a crossroads as he struggles to force his way into the starting XI, despite his noteworthy return to France last term.
Henrik Mkhitaryan – Manchester United
As Manchester United spent heavily to re-establish themselves as the Premier League’s best team, supporters were perhaps most excited over the arrival of Henrikh Mkhitaryan more than any other player. The Armenian thrived for Borussia Dortmund last season, with a WhoScored rating of 7.90 better than any other Bundesliga player. Mkhitaryan ranked top for assists (15) and fourth for key passes per game (2.7), to further excite United fans.
Mkhitaryan, however, has registered just 107 league minutes of Premier League action, with a thigh injury sustained in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City playing part to that. Yet, when fit, Jose Mourinho has overlooked the 27-year-old in favour of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford out wide, with his omission from the 18-man squad that defeated Swansea 3-1 prior to the international break speaking volumes, despite a return to fitness. A return to Dortmund in January has been mooted, though he could make just his second league start of the campaign when United face off against Arsenal on Saturday. A strong showing against the Gunners could well kickstart Mkhitaryan’s United career.