The 2013-14 Premier League campaign is now over a month old, and whilst the season remains in its infancy, some sides are starting to find their place.
The top six already has a familiar look to it, with six of last year's top seven having taken their place there already, while the odd one out, Roberto Martinez's Everton, are in ninth and remain unbeaten.
On the playing front, some players have already had standout displays of their own: Christian Benteke was magnificent in Aston Villa's 3-1 win against Arsenal on the opening day, while he, Daniel Sturridge and Olivier Giroud all have four goals in as many games already. At the other end, Liverpool's Simon Mignolet, West Ham's Jussi Jaaskelainen and Tottenham's Hugo Lloris have all kept three clean sheets already.
However, not every Barclays Premier League player has enjoyed such a promising start to the new term; indeed some have just been downright disappointing.
With that in mind, here's a look at six of the most disappointing players in the English top-flight so far this season:
During the summer Jose Mourinho spoke about the ludicrously-talented 22-year-old making the next step in his game, as reported by ESPNFC.com:
I think at this talent level he is somebody very above us.
I want to give him that responsibility and ambition for the kid to be better and better and to express himself on the pitch match after match.
Don’t be up and down but to always be at the top of his game because he has the conditions to be a top player.
Nevertheless, despite an excellent display in the UEFA Super Cup against Bayern Munich, Hazard's league form has failed to meet expectations. A bright debut season encompassing 34 matches, nine goals and 14 assists was expected to be built upon, however Hazard's opening four matches of 2013-14 have shone only with inconsistency.
An opening day showing against Hull was full of quality, purpose and some wonderful touches, while his display in the 0-0 draw against Manchester United showed some excellent flashes and marked him as arguably the game's outstanding attacking player—indeed, according to WhoScored.com, Hazard was the best of the game's eight starting attacking players.
However, his performance against Everton following the international break showed Hazard at his most infuriating: misplacing passes needlessly and failing more often than not to get the better of the Irish full-back Seamus Coleman. All-in-all, it was a performance that didn't show the responsibility Mourinho has been craving.
However, as this Chelsea team improves, the expectation is that Hazard will only do likewise. Nonetheless, he needs to heed his manager's words if he's to reach that next level sooner rather than later.
While Aaron Ramsey continues to flourish in an Arsenal shirt and become increasingly important to Arsene Wenger's men, Jack Wilshere finds himself seemingly in the same position as his Welsh colleague 12 months ago: with his performance levels having plateaued.
Thus far this Premier League season, Wilshere has slotted into roles both as a midfield anchor and as a No. 10, whilst also in a position wide left of the nominal 4-2-3-1 formation. And while his performance at Sunderland was arguably his best of the season—playing from the left—all have left onlookers wanting more.
The truth is Wilshere hasn't been poor—bar the opening day defeat against Aston Villa, where he spent too much time arguing with officials at the physicality of the affair, and was somewhat anonymous during the second half—however, nor has he looked like his usual sprightly self. With Ramsey making such great strides, Wilshere's deficiencies are all the more noticeable.
His pass percentage remains high—around 90% according to WhoScored.com—but much of the present campaign has been spent with the 21-year-old picking the wrong option. Capable of opening up games with his driving runs through the centre of the field, too often of late he's doing so and running into trouble, losing possession when the Gunners aren't set defensively and have committed men ahead of the ball.
As such, there are now legitimate questions being asked as to just how Wilshere fits into this Arsenal side when the likes of Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta return to fitness. A player once described by Wenger as having "a Spanish technique and an English heart" (as reported by ESPNFC.com) is now in very real danger of playing second fiddle.
It does need remembering, however, that Wilshere has suffered from considerable injury problems during his young career and may merely be hitting something of a wall in his development because of that; thus, he may need to be treated with kid gloves in the immediate future.
But that doesn't mask the fact that Wilshere is a tremendous young talent of whom more is expected. His touch, vision and ability to beat a man in the often overcrowded central zones are a rare combination of gifts that very few midfielders are blessed with.
Yet, he needs to start making the most of them, so as to flourish in a fashion similar to the early-season excellence of Ramsey.
Anyone who saw the Senegalese striker's performances for the Magpies in the immediate aftermath following his £10.5 million move from Freiburg back in January 2012 will find it difficult to believe that it is the same man still wearing the No. 9 shirt for Alan Pardew's men.
Thirteen goals in his opening 14 matches in 2011-12 helped Newcastle finish in the top six, before he struggled more for goals last season with just eight in 36 matches.
This season, following a summer row over whether or not he would wear the Newcastle shirt with the Wonga logo on, as reported by the Independent's Martin Hardy, Cisse's opening four games have seen the 28-year-old someway below his best.
An instinctive finisher in the penalty area, when confident, Cisse is on hand more often than not in the right place at the right time and willing to shoot no matter the angle.
However, such confidence appears missing, and Cisse is presently snatching at his shots—thus seeing them fire high or wide—while his hold-up play continues to frustrate and cause attacks to break down, something particularly noticeable in the 0-0 draw with West Ham where he was hauled off after 72 minutes.
All-in-all Cisse's season is yet to really get going with no goals in four games and a WhoScored rating of just 6.51, despite Newcastle having found some form with wins in both of their last two matches.
Now with on-loan QPR forward Loic Remy having arrived on Tyneside to challenge for a forward place, Cisse's starting role isn't as secure as it has been previously. Thus, he needs to find his form, or risk finding himself out of Alan Pardew's first choice XI.
On paper, Martin Jol's Fulham are potentially one of the most aesthetically pleasing sides in the Premier League. Realistically, they aren't going to challenge for the domestic title or in Europe, so Jol has put together an easy-on-the-eye side packed with attacking talent to entertain supporters.
In Costa Rican international creator Bryan Ruiz, the on-loan Adel Taarabt and the languid Dimitar Berbatov—as well as poacher Darren Bent—the Cottagers have one of the most mercurially talented attacking quartets in the English top-flight this season.
However, things haven't exactly gone to plan for Jol: A scarcely-deserved win at Sunderland on the opening day has been followed with defeats by Arsenal and Newcastle and a 1-1 draw with West Brom where some sections of the Fulham support started calling for the Dutchman's head.
Four points from four games is by no means disastrous, but there appears to be something of a malaise setting in typified by the early season wonderings of their oft-brilliant Bulgarian forward Berbatov.
Possessing a luxurious touch, wonderful vision and technique on the highest order, the 32-year-old is a real Rolls Royce of a player. However, when he's not on his game (for whatever reason), he's a luxury that offers little, a label you could use for any of Jol's front four. And thus far this season, apart from glimpses, Berbatov has been nowhere near his best.
Without a goal or an assist in any of Fulham's first four outings and a WhoScored rating of just 6.46, Berbatov's forward play has accounted for very little so far this season. Moreover, his body language throughout has spoken of a player frustrated by teammates who simply don't operate on a plain similar to himself.
In itself, it's a problem, but the longer it continues, the greater said problem will become, particularly given the erratic nature of this Fulham squad—let us not forget they lost five of their last six league games last season.
Berbatov is the player with the ability to make or break the Cottagers season. If he's at it, Jol's men could well look for a top-10 finish. If not, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that they are sucked into a relegation battle.
As mercurial a footballer as they come, Nicolas Anelka has enjoyed a career where he has pretty much seen and done it all, from league titles and European crowns, to being sent home by his country at a World Cup to a stint in the Far East.
And while the searing pace of his younger days may have gone, the touch, technique, vision and tremendous body swerve to artfully get away from players still remain.
Those qualities are certainly what West Bromwich Albion boss Steve Clarke was hoping to see on a regular basis when he lured the Frenchman to the Hawthorns this summer.
With the Baggies looking to replace last season's top scorer Romelu Lukaku, it was hoped Anelka's intelligence would help, both in the art of scoring and creating. Certainly preseason appeared promising, with Anelka scoring seven goals in as many matches.
However, with the real action underway, the 34-year-old has been found wanting, leaving Albion fans to question whether he can still perform at the highest level.
A docile opening day against Southampton was frustrating and was followed by the death of Anelka's friend and agent, Eric Manasse, which saw him miss the trip to Everton. He would return for the visit of Swansea, but once more Albion's ability to eke out chances was lacking as they once more remained scoreless with Anelka again disappointing. The recent 1-1 draw at Fulham saw a late Gareth McAuley header equalise in injury time, but from open play, again, they offered little as an attacking threat, with Anelka well off the pace once more.
In short, his return to the Premier League with the Baggies has been disappointing to say the least, with WhoScored offering him a rating of just 6.31 from his first three matches. The deadline-day signings of Victor Anichebe and Stephane Sessegnon offer Albion greater firepower, but their most talented and experienced forward remains an enigma struggling for his best.
Anelka, Clarke and West Brom need to find a way to bring out his best sooner rather than later, or last season's eighth-place finishers will continue to find goals hard to come by.
Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio completely overhauled his squad during the transfer window with a cosmopolitan collection of summer signings, as he looks to make his own mark on Wearside.
However, with just one point from their opening four matches, the Di Canio revolution is yet to fully kick into gear, much like one of their big-money purchases this summer: Emanuele Giaccherini.
The 28-year-old Italian international is something of a curious case. Over the last couple of seasons, he's been no more than a bit-part player with Italian champions Juventus—he made just 10 Serie A starts in 2012-13 and only nine the previous year—but has become increasingly important to Cesare Prandelli's national side with his energy and ability to fulfill a number of different roles.
Di Canio spent £6.6 million to prise the player away from Turin with the offer of regular first-team football, and despite having been impressive with his country during the Confederations Cup, Giaccherini has found the transition to the Premier League somewhat difficult.
Expected to be one of the Mackems' key men this season, Giaccherini's three starts in wide midfield roles have so far failed to bring the best out of him. A reasonable debut against Fulham was followed with a performance at Southampton where, despite scoring, he was unnoticeable for large periods.
He followed that up with a very disappointing display in the 3-1 loss at Crystal Palace and altogether has acquired a WhoScored rating of 6.93—heavily bolstered by his goal at Southampton.
A player who offers dynamism with his off-ball movement and is capable of picking both a telling pass or cross in the final third, the Stadium of Light is simply yet to see the best of Giaccherini.
With Sunderland at the foot of the table, the experienced, hardworking Italian needs to start taking responsibility in Di Canio's new-look side and to make good on his price tag.
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