November: that tricky time of year in the Premier League season when nobody seems quite sure if we're still early enough in the campaign that new signings are still settling down, or if being past the quarter point of the year means teams are racing toward the opening of the next transfer window.
In any case, three months, or 11 games or so, is hardly the time to start judging the entire impact of summer signings in the top flight, especially those who have come in from distant lands, who are still young or who have barely featured.
Yet somehow, certain folk seem inescapably drawn to criticising those who do not make an immediate impact, apparently even when it is because of injury or other mitigating circumstances.
Sure, some players might not have hit immediate heights after joining the Premier League—but, for the most part anyway, players aren't signed for three or four months, but three or four years.
The Daily Mail's Craig Hope detailed no less than 16 players who "have failed to match the hype," including the likes of Erik Lamela, Marouane Fellaini and Jesus Navas.
Bizarrely, these types of players are grouped together with the likes of Florian Marange, Antolin Alcaraz and Martin Demichelis, as though all were expected to have the same kind of impact on the league and had the same kind of jobs to do.
The case of Marange is worth looking at.
Notwithstanding exactly what "hype" was surrounding him when he joined Crystal Palace on a free transfer in the summer, Marange was then not named in Palace's 25-man Premier League squad and subsequently released from his contract after one cup appearance.
He didn't make the grade, apparently because he was "too slow for English football," according to the Mail piece. So is it Marange's fault? Are clubs no longer expected to be accountable for any of their signings? Are scout reports, manager assessments and boardroom-level decisions not taken over signings any more?
Surely, if he lacked the pace to compete, this is a fairly important lacking attribute that someone at Palace should have pointed out before signing him.
Chelsea's Marco van Ginkel has been included, despite suffering a cruciate ligament injury which will keep him out for almost the whole season.
Everton defender Alcaraz has been injured as well and faces displacing a member of one of the toughest central defensive duos in the league, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, to win a place. In all likelihood, he was signed as a third choice in case of absenteeism of the other two. So how exactly has he failed so far?
Some players have performed less than spectacularly, sure, such as Lamela. But this is a young talent who was one of the top players in Serie A last season; given time to settle in, he will be a massive addition to Spurs' team. Of that there can be very little doubt.
Marouane Fellaini will likely be the same for Manchester United, once his own role in the team is sorted and David Moyes solves the balance issue which has at times affected his side.
Navas actually started in impressive form, managing two assists from his four starts, before the return to fitness of Samir Nasri ousted him from the starting XI. "City have won just four from his nine top-flight appearances, during which time the Spaniard is yet to score," claims the article (emphasis added). As if City's away woes this season are entirely down to Navas' underperformance.
Anybody with any notion of what the Spaniard's game is about would not in the slightest have expected him to contribute to the scoresheet by now; in his last three seasons with Sevilla, he hit precisely six league goals—and didn't score any at all last term.
So why on earth would a lack of goals be held against him? That's clearly not what he was signed for.
The list goes on.
Players who were designed as back-ups but have been forced into action, players who have yet to be given time to fully adjust to playing in England, players who are or have been injured.
To judge them as failures, to label them flops, at not even a third of the way through their debut season with new clubs is utterly ludicrous.
One thing football constantly teaches us is that talent will come through. Sometimes fleetingly, sometimes spectacularly, but talent will inevitably shine out.
It's at those moments when the initial, hesitant performances will be instantly forgotten—but harsh prejudgements might not necessarily be.
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