November’s international break has allowed for a brief pause to a pulsating start to the Premier League season, with several players welcoming the break for differing reasons.
For some, it represents a chance to recover from any niggles and knocks, whilst for others it offers a chance of additional minutes after struggling for opportunities over the opening weeks of the campaign.
We’ve decided to profile five Premier League players who will be hoping their fortunes improve following the international break, here are five stars who we hope get more game time upon the division’s return.
Less than two years ago and Bernardo Silva was on the verge of joining the world’s very finest footballers, with Pep Guardiola memorably quipping that his Manchester City team was simply ‘Bernardo plus 10’.
The Portuguese playmaker was named as the club’s Player of the Season after starring during City’s unprecedented domestic treble-winning season in 2018/19, before being named as the Player of the Tournament after winning the inaugural Nations League with the national side.
Since then, however, Silva has endured a significant malaise and has seen his fortunes falter, his status dropping from irreplaceable starter to inconsistent member of the Manchester City first-team.
The likes of Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden appear to have moved ahead of the 26-year-old in Guardiola’s pecking order with Silva having made just four starts in all competitions so far this season.
The player long-heralded as David Silva’s successor has failed to fill the creative void left by his namesake’s departure, his underwhelming form from last season continuing into the current campaign.
Silva undoubtedly has the talent to bounce back and his invention would be welcomed in a City midfield that has lacked imagination amid a double-pivot of Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan, their 10 goals scored so far just half of the total managed by leading scorers Chelsea.
Liverpool’s summer acquisition of Thiago was widely lauded as the signing of the summer following the midfielder’s arrival from Bayern Munich, though it has been a frustrating start for the Spaniard on Merseyside.
Thiago made an impressive debut as a second-half substitute against Chelsea in September, though was then ruled out amid a two-week period of self-isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.
After making his return in the Merseyside Derby clash with Everton last month he then picked up a knee injury as a result of a dangerous challenge from Richarlison, the forward sent off after clattering the midfielder in an incident that has seen Thiago sidelined since.
Liverpool were delighted with the news that the problem was not as bad as first feared and the 29-year-old has since returned to full training, where he will be hoping to get back up to speed over the international break ahead of a crunch clash with league leaders Leicester next weekend.
Having seen the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez ruled out to add to a defensive injury crisis over the past week, the presence of a player of Thiago’s class, experience and influence in midfield will be a welcome boost to the Reds as they bid to come through a difficult period unscathed.
It’s fair to say that Nicolas Pepe’s record-breaking move to Arsenal has not quite worked out as hoped, the winger having often proven a frustrating figure since his £72m arrival from Lille last summer.
The Ivorian’s inconsistency has seen him fall out-of-favour under Mikel Arteta and he has made just one Premier League start so far this season, with the 25-year-old having spoken of his frustrations at his peripheral role this season.
Pepe may struggle for consistency but he has the talent to be a match-winner for the Gunners, and has impressed during the north London side’s Europa League campaign with two goals and two assists in three group stage fixtures.
Nicolas Pepe just wants to play 😠 pic.twitter.com/Bwgqo5Xrax
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 11, 2020
Arsenal’s forward options have struggled so far this season and Pepe could be the solution to their clear lack of creativity, summer signing Willian having performed poorly since his free transfer arrival from Chelsea.
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out-of-sorts and neither Alexandre Lacazette or Eddie Nketiah truly convincing of late, Pepe could provide the spark and goal-threat Arsenal are sorely lacking.
Donny van de Beek
Manchester United‘s usage, or more lack of, Donny van de Beek has been one of the sub-plots of a disappointing start to the season for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, the summer signing having only been afforded limited opportunities since arriving from Ajax.
His failure to secure regular minutes has caused confusion amongst the club’s supporters and has once again raised questions over the Red Devils’ recruitment, spending £35m on a midfielder that, at present, appears to have no clear role in the side.
Van de Beek is a hugely talented player and arrived in English football as one of Ajax’s best academy graduates in recent years, the 23-year-old providing a reminder of his qualities by scoring in a second successive game for the Netherlands earlier this week.
Solskjaer has often opted for the security of a Scott McTominay and Fred double-pivot this season, with Bruno Fernandes’ advanced position ahead of that duo unquestionable given his performances since moving to Old Trafford.
Donny van de Beek equalises for Netherlands against Spain 💪
He's scored in back-to-back games for his country 🇳🇱
— Goal (@goal) November 11, 2020
It’s time, however, for the Norwegian to find a position in his midfield for the summer signing and give Van de Beek the opportunity his ability deserves, his failure to start a single Premier League fixture so far this season bizarre given United’s poor performances.
Gareth Bale made his return to the Premier League this summer amid much fanfare, though we’re still waiting for the Welshman to burst back into life at Tottenham.
Jose Mourinho has so far opted for a patient approach with the four-time Champions League winner, Bale having started just one Premier League fixture in addition to two further appearances off the bench, heading home his first goal with a late winner against Brighton last month.
In his absence, we have seen the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min star for the north London side, though the possibility of a triumvirate – which started for the first time together last weekend – is a hugely exciting one.
The version of Bale who twice won the PFA Player of the Year during his first spell at Spurs was amongst the most exhilarating players of the Premier League era, and fans are desperate to see a glimpse of the old magic.
The lung-bursting runs full of power and acceleration may just be a thing of the past, but there is plenty of Bale’s game still to be admired as he awaits that anticipated first glorious goal from distance.
We’ve been patient enough over these opening weeks, but we want a 30-yard screamer from Gareth Bale – and we want it now.