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Five top-class Premier League players whose best days are behind them

Time catches up with everyone eventually and elite footballers are no different, the physical demands of the game at the highest level making the career of top sportsmen a relatively short one.

This season we’ve seen several stars struggle to replicate their previous performances, a number of names who appear to be on the decline after seasons of success.

Here are five top-class Premier League players whose best days appear behind them:

Hugo Lloris

Hugo Lloris has been a fine servant to Tottenham since signing in a £12m deal from Lyon in 2012, spending the best years of his career with the north London side and helping establish Spurs as regulars in the Champions League.

The 34-year-old remains a first choice and club captain but has failed to replicate his previous performances of late, speculation mounting that Spurs are seeking reinforcements in the goalkeeping department this summer.

Lloris’ form has become increasingly inconsistent with a number of high-profile mistakes, including a disappointing display as Spurs were thrashed at Manchester City last month, beaten twice easily by Ilkay Gundogan at the Etihad.

The France international will have just a year remaining on his contract this summer and has been linked with a potential reunion with Mauricio Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain, and Spurs may feel now is the time to cash in on a player who has looked a shadow of his former self in recent performances.

Roberto Firmino

There has been an increasing spotlight on Roberto Firmino’s role in the Liverpool side of late, the forward having netted just 15 goals in his past 64 league appearances for the Reds.

Firmino’s importance has never been judged on his goalscoring record, with the Brazil international having played a unique role as the selfless lead of the Liverpool press, his ability to press tirelessly and knit attacks creating opportunities for the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

The 29-year-old was regarded as the best in the world at implementing Liverpool’s counter-pressing style and as the club continued to deliver results his goal record went mostly unquestioned.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have struggled this season in a difficult title defence and a lack of goals from their number nine has been a continued criticism with just six for the season so far.

A greater concern, however, is the drop in output from Firmino in terms of his defensive work with his statistics for pressures, successful pressures and pressures in the final third having dropped significantly this season.

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Firmino is averaging almost 10 less pressures per 90 minutes than he was registering in 2018/19, whilst his numbers for successful pressures – measured by his team’s ability to immediately win possession – have dropped from 7.24 per 90 to just 4.65.

Those statistics, coupled with a notable drop in his shooting accuracy and an underperforming xG point to Firmino’s days as Liverpool’s leading number nine perhaps coming towards an end.

Read also – Roberto Firmino may not be the problem, but he no longer looks like the answer either

Willian

Arsenal‘s free transfer signing of Willian was viewed as shrewd business last summer, capitalising on Chelsea’s reluctance to hand the winger a multi-year deal to bring the 32-year-old across the capital.

The Brazil international had been amongst the west London side’s most impressive performers last season, but has struggled to make an impact since swapping Stamford Bridge for the Emirates.

A starring performance on the season’s opening weekend proved to be a false dawn for a player who has looked lost in the red shirt of the Gunners, the winger without a goal in 27 appearances since his arrival at Arsenal.

His performances have paled in comparison to last season’s exploits at Chelsea, where he netted nine goals and provided seven assists in a hugely productive campaign.

Willian’s struggles have seen the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe move ahead of him in the pecking order under Mikel Arteta, and Chelsea’s decision not to hand the experienced star a significant deal has looked a wise one.

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Performances have improved of late with assists in important wins against both Benfica and Leicester, though there have been few signs of the talented player who twice won Chelsea’s Player of the Season award during a trophy-laden spell with the Blues.

Toby Alderweireld

The second Spurs player to feature on this list, Toby Alderweireld has been one of a number of unconvincing centre-back options for the north London side this season with Jose Mourinho struggling to settle on an established pairing.

Alderweireld was once regarded as one of the Premier League’s leading defenders and formed an excellent partnership with compatriot Jan Vertonghen at Spurs, though mistakes have crept into his game over the past two seasons.

The defensive solidity usually associated with Mourinho sides has rarely been apparent with Spurs, with a notable lack of confidence amongst their centre-back and goalkeeping options this season.

Alderweireld still has plenty of time on his existing deal after penning a new three-and-a-half-year contract only last year, a decision from the club which is yet to be vindicated by his on-pitch performances.

Club Brugge have been linked with a move to sign the centre-back at the end of the season, a sign of how his stock has fallen after previously being courted by the likes of Manchester United and Inter Milan.

Nemanja Matic

Nemanja Matic’s career as a Manchester United player appears to be heading towards its conclusion, with the veteran making just nine league starts this season amid competition for midfield places.

At his peak the Serbia international was a commanding presence in the engine room, screening the back four superbly and winning two Premier League titles with Chelsea before a £40m move to Old Trafford.

The 32-year-old’s poise and tactical intelligence have made him a fine footballer but he lacks the dynamism for the modern game, an inability to cover the ground quickly leading to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferring the energy and industry of Fred and Scott McTominay.

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United’s lack of a top-quality defensive midfielder has led to Solskjaer deploying McTominay and Fred in tandem, an anchor role that Matic would no doubt have been able to cover on his own just a few seasons ago.

Having shown signs of progress this season the Red Devils may feel a new holding player is required if they are to bridge the gap to Manchester City and Matic looks likely to be the player to make way for incomings this summer.

Read – Ranking the five players to score the most Man City goals under Pep Guardiola

See also – The most unfair Premier League results so far this season based on xG

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