Every Big European Club's Biggest Disappointment so Far This Season

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterSeptember 29, 2017

MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 17:  Leonardo Bonucci of AC Milan looks on during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Udinese Calcio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

It can never be all flowers and roses in football. Things go wrong, players disappoint, and the people you think you can bank on to pull through for you can easily go missing. It's the nature of a high-pressure, unpredictable sport.

It's early days, but we've perused 15 top European clubs' performances and picked out their biggest disappointment, in the form of a player. It's the complete opposite of last week, where we selected revelations over who has shocked and wowed us.

There's still plenty of time for all of these players to turn things around, so hold the nails and put away the coffins, but at the very least, expect these 15 players to improve in the months to come.


AC Milan: Leonardo Bonucci

MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 20:  Leonardo Bonucci of AC Milan reacts during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Spal at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 20, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

"I'm not satisfied because I've made several mistakes and I have not been accurate enough. I want to respond on the pitch to everything that has been said."

Leonardo Bonucci's assessment of his own performances so far in an AC Milan shirt, via Sempre Milan, have been brutally honest. He was one of the highest-profile transfers in the summer and arrived at the San Siro with great expectation but is yet to live up to it.

Milan bought a lot of players this summer and it was always going to take time for them to settle and jell, but one thing that was perhaps taken as guaranteed was that Bonucci would be an immediate force in defence. That hasn't quite happened yet.


Arsenal: Shkodran Mustafi

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on September 17, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

It's been an up-and-down start to the season for Arsenal who, as ever, have flitted between terrible and pretty good on a weekly basis. Many of their players have fluctuated in form as a result, but only a few of those can be termed disappointing.

Granit Xhaka's slow start belies his strong end to last season, while Hector Bellerin's been a bit offalthough he started the season on the wrong flank to accommodate the now-departed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

But one player who is still doing the same, reckless things is Shkodran Mustafi, and it's really starting to irritate fans. He makes so many risky tackles high up and walks the disciplinary line so closely every game. Sometimes he nails the challenges but quite often he doesn't, and opponents are becoming aware of it.

He did it last season and the hope was he would cut it out over the summer but that hasn't happened. He still plays too similarly to Nicolas Otamendia player who, perhaps tellingly, was his team-mate at Valencia before both moved to the Premier League.


Atletico Madrid: Kevin Gameiro

Atletico Madrid's forward from France Kevin Gameiro (C) vies with Sevilla's defender from France Clement Lenglet (R) and Sevilla's midfielder from Portugal Daniel Carrico during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs Sevilla FC at th

According to John Cross of the Daily Mirror, Kevin Gameiro is being sounded out by goal-shy Everton ahead of a potential January transfer. That's great news for Toffees fans, but not good news for Gameiro.

He's hardly featured so far this season for Atletico Madrid, once again failing to imprint on the team and impress Diego Simeone. He cost a lot, but that doesn't mean he's an automatic selection.

With Angel Correa taking clear steps forward this term with regard to consistency and ability to play well when starting, and Luciano Vietto scooping up minutes too, things do not look good for Gameiro.


Barcelona: Luis Suarez

LISBON, PORTUGAL - SEPTEMBER 27: Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona in action during the UEFA Champions League group D match between Sporting CP and FC Barcelona at Estadio Jose Alvalade on September 27, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty I
Octavio Passos/Getty Images

What's going on with Luis Suarez at the moment?

His iffy run towards the end of last season has extended into this one; he's missing a lot of chances, and while it's not costing Barcelona right now, it could well do so soon.

Midweek brought a case in point: A narrow win over Sporting CP could have been much more comfortable had he buried one great chance, and he might have scored had he not scuffed a free-kick into Sebastian Coates, eventually resulting in an own goal, rather than one of his own.

There's no doubt Suarez will turn this aroundhe's one of the world's few elite strikersbut when? Barcelona are eagerly awaiting the point of change.


Bayern Munich: Sven Ulreich

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 27: Goalkeeper Sven Ulreich of Bayern Muenchen looks on during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Paris Saint-Germain of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Muenchen (Bayern Munich) at Parc des Princes on September 27, 20
TF-Images/Getty Images

Replacing Manuel Neuer is not an easy gig, but the now-departed Carlo Ancelotti and Bayern Munich would have been right to expect a lot more from Sven Ulreich so far in his stead.

He's been far from assured between the sticks, with the unfortunate phrase "floppy wrists" becoming attributed to him. He's beaten at his near post far too often too.

Bayern haven't hit the levels expected this season and many players have disappointed, but Ulreich is probably the biggest issue of them all.


Borussia Dortmund: Lukasz Piszczek

DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 26: Lukasz Piszczek of Dortmund controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at Signal Iduna Park on September 26, 2017 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/T
TF-Images/Getty Images

Where to turn to with BVB? They've been close to perfect in the Bundesliga, performing well in all three phases, conceding just once and nailing teams by huge margins.

In the Champions League, though, things have been a little different; they've lost both of their games therealbeit against strong oppositionand it has perhaps highlighted a weakness at right-back.

Lukasz Piszczek is most certainly slowing down (he's 32 now), and it was noticeable that Tottenham Hotspur picked on his flank during their meeting at Wembley Stadium early in September. All three goals came from his side.


Chelsea: Gary Cahill

Chelsea's English defender Gary Cahill (C) is shown a red card by English referee Craig Pawson after a foul on Burnley's Belgian midfielder Steven Defour during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge in Lo
IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

Like so many teams on this list, Chelsea have generally started the season well. They're looking good in the Premier League and have just secured the first away victory at Atletico Madrid's new Wanda Metropolitano, so it's all smiles at the moment.

But one of the major reasons the Blues aren't shoulder-to-shoulder with the Manchester clubs at the top of the domestic table is that ridiculous opening home loss to Burnley, in which several parts of the team imploded.

In particular, Gary Cahill's early red card set them on the wrong course, so he features as the biggest disappointment so far. That's not how a newly appointed captain should start the season for the champions. 

If we're being incredibly picky, he didn't impress on his league return against Arsenal either, with errant passing stunting the Blues' buildup play considerably.


Juventus: Gonzalo Higuain

Juventus' forward from Argentina Gonzalo Higuain celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Champion's League Group D football match Juventus vs Olympiacos on September 27, 2017 at the Juventus stadium in Turin.  / AFP PHOTO / Marco BERTORELLO        (Photo

A lack of form is the last thing you need from your €90 million striker, but that's exactly what Juventus are facing with Gonzalo Higuain. 

He's been dropped by both Massimiliano Allegri and Jorge Sampaoli (for Argentina) in the last month and his confidence has taken an understandable hit as a result. His stat lines don't look bad at all, but for the most part he's been far too quietparticularly in comparison to star compatriot Paulo Dybala.

He was benched for Juve's game against Olympiakos in midweek and was forced to answer his critics with a goal after coming on. Could that be the catalyst for an improvement in form?


Liverpool: Georginio Wijnaldum

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Georgina Wijnaldum of Liverpool reacts  during the Carabao Cup third round match between Leicester City and Liverpool at The King Power Stadium on September 19, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AM
Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Many will immediately think "defence" for Liverpool here, but the back line has been just as lacking as expected; just as lacking as last season. Given there were no major recruits in that area, nothing better could be expected.

The attack has looked good (if lacking that final touch still, at times) and with Sadio Mane returning from suspension, it's about to get a whole lot better again.

That just leaves the midfield. All three of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum have peaked and troughed, but it's the latter's fluctuation that has concerned the most. He's not even performing well in the big games, which was his calling card in 2016-17.


Manchester City: Benajmin Mendy (injury)

Manchester City's French defender Benjamin Mendy (C) is helped by medics during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on September 23, 2017. / AFP PHOT
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

That Benjamin Mendy's season is probably over, having played just four Premier League games since arriving for a world-record fee for a full-back, is so gutting.

Regardless of where your allegiances lie, it's sad that such an exciting, effervescent character and player will be sidelined by a cruel injury for months.

On the pitch he's been great; Mendy has not been selected here for performance-related issues. But where else do you look in an unbeaten City side that has scored 21 and conceded just two in the league? There's no fault to apply, anywhere; goalkeeping and defending have improved hugely, and they're tearing teams apart up top.

Just as City welcome Ilkay Gundogan back from a long-term knee injury, they lose another to a similar fate. Football is savage.


Manchester United: Luke Shaw

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20:  Luke Shaw of Manchester United looks on during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Manchester United and Burton Albion at Old Trafford on September 20, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Ge
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

On the one hand, it feels harsh to label a player a disappointment despite rarely even making the bench for Manchester United this season; on the other, that's exactly the problem when it comes to Luke Shaw.

The fans are desperate for him to find form and fitness and come goodthey've been desperate for that to happen for over a yearbut despite Jose Mourinho's eye-popping rotation at left-back, the Englishman's grabbed just one half of football against Burton Albion, with the score already at 3-0.

Each new season brings a fresh round of hope for Shaw's prospects at United, but so far this term things have turned out to be more of the disappointing same.


AS Monaco: Fabinho

MONACO, MONACO - SEPTEMBER 26: Fabio Henrique Fabinho of Monaco during the UEFA Champions League group G match between AS Monaco and FC Porto at Stade Louis II on September 26, 2017 in Monaco, Monaco. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Those predicting an AS Monaco collapse in 2017-18 have been left disappointed, but it's still obvious they're a weaker group than before. Despite Radamel Falcao's best efforts to cover that up, it's clear.

Surprisingly, one of the main sources of disappointments has been Fabinhoone of the faces who isn't at all new in this team. You can forgive any new recruit for taking a little time to bed in, but the Brazilianthe mastermind of last season's midfieldshould be firing from the start.

Is that missed transfer away playing on his mind so heavily?


Paris Saint-Germain: Layvin Kurzawa

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 27: Layvin Kurzawa of Paris Saint-Germain controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Paris Saint-Germain of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Muenchen (Bayern Munich) at Parc des Princes on September 27
TF-Images/Getty Images

How do you pick a disappointment in what seems to be an all-conquering side? PSG are yet to lose a game, and the 0-0 draw with Montpellier last weekend won't trouble them for long; a big win over Bayern Munich helped them forget.

So, on to the perceived weakest link in this side, and it's Layvin Kurzawa at left-back. He still isn't convincingeven in a side that is battering teams and racking up goalsand that's magnified by the fact Dani Alves is so much better on the opposite flank.

Unai Emery knows the left is an issue post-Maxwell. He recruited Yuri Berchiche in the summer from Real Sociedad to add competition and he's looked OK, but he too is a limited player. Left-back could be an issue for PSG all season. 


Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo

DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 26: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid looks on during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at Signal Iduna Park on September 26, 2017 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Im
TF-Images/Getty Images

There's no doubt about it: Cristiano Ronaldo's five-game suspension, ludicrously earned due to pushing a referee during the Spanish Super Cup, placed Real Madrid in an early hole this season.

With Alvaro Morata sold during the summer, it became clear the Portuguese was to be the only other senior striking option alongside Karim Benzema this season; when the Frenchman was injured, the club were forced to turn to the likes of Borja Mayoral.

You can label that bad planningit isbut it's also an indictment on Ronaldo's mad moment. Those five games he was suspended for felt like 10; his presence is everything to the team, and he wasn't there for them.


Tottenham Hotspur: Kieran Trippier

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 16: Kyle Naughton of Swansea City challenges Kieran Trippier of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City at Wembley Stadium on September 16, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by
Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Dele Alli was a consideration here. Just as in 2016-17, he has struggled to sparkle early on, and fans are left hoping he catches fire later. 

But Kieran Trippier's failure to seize what was a golden chance to become Tottenham's starting right-back has disappointed many.

His early struggles surely played a part in the club's decision to sign Serge Aurier as a competitor/replacement, and what's been infuriating is that Trippier has been timid and scared on the ball. A refusal to drive forward has hurt the team's attacking shape, particularly at home.



All statistics via WhoScored.com 


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