Maintaining standards of excellence season upon season is perhaps what separates the good players from the truly great ones, performing with consistency at the very highest level.
Whilst several Premier League stars have reached greater heights during the 2020/21 season to date, there are many struggling to find their form with a number of notable names having seen their performance levels drop.
We’ve picked out some top-class Premier League players yet to reach their usual standards, here are five leading stars whose form has dropped off this season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s career has been one of almost continued upward trajectory since establishing himself at Liverpool, coming through the club’s academy ranks and starring during their successes in recent seasons.
The 22-year-old has won Champions League and Premier League winners’ medals over the past two seasons and set unprecedented numbers for creativity from full-back, breaking the Premier League record for assists by a defender in 2018/19 before eclipsing his own landmark last season to be named as the PFA Young Player of the Year.
However, the pinpoint precision that has been a hallmark of the youngster’s game has all but disappeared this season, with Alexander-Arnold having registered just two assists for the campaign to date – a paltry return for a player who shares the majority of Liverpool’s set-pieces.
Alexander-Arnold is not the only one amongst Liverpool’s current contingent struggling but his drop off has perhaps been the most prominent, his lack of the productivity that defined him having only served to enhance the flaws in his game.
The England international’s strengths are going forward and his defensive game is no doubt in need of improvement, his slack defending proving costly against Southampton earlier this month during a game in which he lost possession 38 times before being substituted.
Alexander-Arnold losing possession is not a new thing given his ambitious range of passing, but when he’s failing to produce the deliveries of past seasons he must now show there are more facets to his game.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s struggles this season have been well-documented with the Arsenal captain having looked a shadow of his former self for much of the campaign, a player recently recognised as one of the Premier League’s finest having toiled in front of goal.
Aubameyang scored 22 goals in each of his first two full seasons at the Emirates, winning a share of the Premier League’s Golden Boot in 2018/19 before finishing as joint runner-up for the accolade last season.
The Gabon international starred as the Gunners won the FA Cup under Mikel Arteta last season, netting match-winning doubles in the semi-final and final as optimism surrounded the north London side.
That optimism soon disappeared following Arsenal’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season, with the poor performances of their talismanic captain having contributed to a disastrous period of form.
Aubemeyang netted on the opening weekend of the season at Fulham, though it was the forward’s only goal from open play in Arsenal’s first 12 league fixtures of the 2020/21 campaign.
It has not been the return expected following the handing of a new and improved three-year contract to the 31-year-old, who ended speculation over his future by penning a new deal in September.
Arsenal will hope that deal does not come to be looked on as an expensive mistake, though Aubameyang’s brace in the 3-0 victory over Newcastle last time out has offered encouragement that the star can get back to his brilliant best.
Christian Pulisic arrived in the Premier League amid much fanfare last season and enjoyed a promising debut campaign at Chelsea, scoring 11 goals in all competitions and impressing with his direct and dynamic style.
The 22-year-old was scintillating following the Premier League’s restart in June and looked primed to establish himself as one of the division’s best wide players, his electric pace and ability to ghost past opposition players marking him out as a special talent.
Pulisic was struck down by a hamstring injury in the FA Cup final and is yet to recapture that form this season since returning from injury, with Chelsea supporters still awaiting the sparkling performances of the US international from the back end of last season.
The winger has looked bright in fixtures but there has been a notable lack of end product, registering just one goal in 12 league appearances and failing to provide a single assist.
Chelsea will be expecting much more from the star and will hope Pulisic can find his form over the second half of the season, the west Londoners preparing to embark on a new era after the sacking of Frank Lampard this week.
It’s now been almost five-and-a-half years since Anthony Martial burst onto the scene at Manchester United, the exciting teenager making himself an instant hero with a stunning solo goal on debut against Liverpool.
Since then there have been many more moments of magic, though the forward’s purple patches have been mixed with periods of inconsistency and continued questions over his best role and position.
Last season the France international appeared to have ended the debate during a career-best campaign that saw him score 23 goals in all competitions, flourishing after returning to his favoured central role and the number nine shirt.
Martial, however, has failed to build on that encouraging campaign and familiar criticism of the player has reared its head once more this season, his shooting having been erratic and there has been a notable downturn in his defensive work from the front.
The 25-year-old’s season is yet to spark and Martial yet to complete three consecutive fixtures since an early season red card against Tottenham, whilst the arrival of Edinson Cavani has offered a real threat to his position with the summer signing having netted four times in four starts.
Martial has scored just two league goals in 15 appearances this season so far and United will need more from last season’s Player of the Year if they are to maintain their position as Premier League leaders.
Raheem Sterling’s progress under the guidance of Pep Guardiola has been spectacular in recent seasons with the Manchester City winger becoming one of Europe’s most productive wide talents, improving his goal return in each of the past three seasons.
Sterling netted a career-best 31 goals in 52 appearances last season in another superb showing, but has failed to find that form during the current campaign despite City’s improved performances in recent weeks.
The England international has scored six goals and provided four assists in 18 league appearances, and whilst though figures are respectable there has no doubt been a big drop off from the standards set by Sterling over the past few years.
Guardiola’s side will be without Kevin De Bruyne for the next four to six weeks after the Belgium international suffered a hamstring injury in the win over Aston Villa last week, and City will be looking to Sterling – who scored and assisted in yesterday’s 5-0 rout of WBA – to step up in his absence ahead of huge clashes with Liverpool and Tottenham and the return of the Champions League.
Sterling has been one of the club’s most reliable performers over the past few seasons and their success this season may depend on him getting back to his very best.