10 Players with Much to Prove in the 2nd Half of the Season

Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2016

10 Players with Much to Prove in the 2nd Half of the Season

0 of 10

    Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    With the European Championships and Copa America to come in the summer, the second half of the season is going to be crucial for a large number of players who are seeking to play themselves into form.

    In addition to international commitments, there are also new contracts to play for and big-money moves to justify, making personal achievements and form all the more crucial at a time of the year when teams are going for the biggest prizes.

    But which players will be seeking to prove themselves in the latter half of the 2015/16 season, and which will succeed?

    Here are 10.

Christian Benteke

1 of 10

    PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

    It has not been easy for Christian Benteke at Liverpool.

    The Belgian was signed by Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2015, a time when the Northern Irishman was scrambling around to justify still being in the job, with many skeptics' belief that the former Aston Villa forward simply wasn't suited to the Reds now starting to look the correct one.

    The arrival of Jurgen Klopp has seen Liverpool play their best football when they've stationed Roberto Firmino up top and gone with a more mobile attacking unit, meaning that Benteke has found himself limited to cameo appearances, during which he's struggled.

    A loss of confidence also seems to be affecting the forward, who has to improve if he is to have a big say in Klopp's future plans.

Memphis Depay

2 of 10

    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Tipped as one of the star additions to the Premier League in the summer, Memphis Depay's time at Manchester United so far has been underwhelming to say the least.

    Supposedly the attacking spark to jolt Louis van Gaal's often pedestrian team into life, the Dutchman has instead set up camp on the fringes of things, too often losing possession and seeing the defensive side of his game let both himself and his team down. He's scored only two goals in 17 Premier League games this season.

    To be a long-term member of this United side, he's going to have to do better than that, or risk being frozen out entirely. 

Jackson Martinez

3 of 10

    MIGUEL RIOPA/Getty Images

    Following his big-money move from Porto in the summer, it was expected that Jackson Martinez would spearhead the Atletico Madrid attack in the same manner that Diego Costa used to, but it just hasn't happened for the Colombian.

    Injury issues haven't helped him, but he's scored just three goals for the club so far and none in his last nine appearances, as manager Diego Simeone perfers the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Luciano Vietto.

    Perhaps a move away from Madrid beckons in the summer, as Martinez needs something to get him going again.

Edin Dzeko

4 of 10

    FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/Getty Images

    He scored on his home debut against Juventus and enjoyed a brief five-goal burst in November, but for the most part Edin Dzeko's Roma career hasn't quite gone to plan.

    Now given the opportunities he was always craving at Manchester City, Dzeko hasn't quite fitted into a team in which wide men Gervinho and Mohamed Salah always seen to want to go it alone.

    He has scored just three times in Serie A this season and has five in total, although the only impact he's made on the last seven Roma games was a red card against Genoa.

Pedro

5 of 10

    JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images

    Plenty of very good players struggle to adapt to English football, but after being billed as a new star of the Premier League when Chelsea pinched him from under the noses of Manchester United in the summer, Pedro has turned failing to adapt into something of an art form.

    First there was the false hope provided by his goal on his debut appearance away to West Bromwich Albion, but he has scored just once in his last 19 appearances to become a hugely frustrating figure in the Chelsea side.

    It was a lot easier for him on the Barcelona bench. 

Eden Hazard

6 of 10

    Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

    We could have filled this list with Chelsea players, but instead we'll include just one more, and arguably the most disappointing player of the English season so far given his outstanding talent.

    Eden Hazard was by far and away the best player in the Premier League in 2014/15, but it is almost as though the current season has never really started for him.

    Scoreless and often clueless, he has been a pale imitation of the fine player we used to enjoy watching, and if he has any desires to impress at Euro 2016 or indeed to earn a move away from the failing Londoners, then he needs to get back in form quickly.

Edinson Cavani

7 of 10

    Xavier Laine/Getty Images

    He can't go on playing second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic forever, and the latter half of this season could prove crucial to deciding just where Edinson Cavani's future lies.

    Clearly the Uruguayan forward wants to be played as an out-and-out forward, but with Ibrahimovic in excellent form and perhaps set to sign a new one-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain, Cavani must be feeling as though it is time for him to try his luck somewhere else.

    A January move looks unlikely, but if he impresses in the second half of the campaign he could have clubs queuing up for him come the summer.

Isco

8 of 10

    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    No one doubts Isco's quality, but after becoming frustrated with life at Real Madrid under Rafael Benitez (per the Sun), the Spanish international will see the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as a chance to prove himself and prove his worth to club and country.

    The playmaker is one of the best footballers to watch in the world when he is in full flow and, like Benitez before him, it will be a challenge for Zidane to find a place for him in the star-studded Real Madrid lineup.

    He certainly deserves a chance to impress, though, and you'd back him to take it.

Eliaquim Mangala

9 of 10

    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    It has become painfully and unfortunately clear that Manchester City simply cannot rely on the fitness of their captain Vincent Kompany any more, with the sad sight of Belgian frequently limping off during matches becoming a common one. Kompany has started only eight Premier League games this campaign.

    In his absence, City's defence has often crumbled in the face of pressure this season, something they cannot afford to do in the latter half of the campaign if they are to be successful in their quest for Premier League glory.

    Eliaquim Mangala, too often a leaden-footed, ill-at-ease member of that back four in his City career, simply has to step up and become more of a solid presence.

Simon Mignolet

10 of 10

    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Despite seemingly overwhelming opinions to the contrary, Jurgen Klopp has decided to put his faith in Liverpool's Simon Mignolet ever since his arrival at the club, with the Belgian being rewarded with a new five-year contract recently.

    Despite that, though, there remains the belief that the contract was merely awarded to Mignolet to protect his resale value as Liverpool consider a summer sale, but even so the goalkeeper has been given the rest of this season to prove that he still has a future at Klopp's Liverpool.

    This almost feels like a five-month audition, with a place in the manager's long-term plans the ultimate prize.