We have reached that time of the year when we look back at the last 12 months to assess who has impressed us and who last left us feeling underwhelmed.
Our ‘overrated and underrated’ review of 2023 will do exactly what it says on the tin – who deserves more praise than they have received and who deserves a rocket?
We kick things off in the Midlands, where a former figure of fun has made one of English football’s golden boys look extremely silly.
Emery is proving his worth at Villa
Aston Villa’s resurgence since Unai Emery replaced Gerrard as manager has been truly remarkable. Their upsurge has also been criminally underrated.
After his managerial reputation took a hit during his ill-fated spell at Arsenal, Emery has subsequently restored it and then some with Villarreal and Villa.
The Midlands outfit were hurtling towards the Championship under Gerrard, but Emery has turned things around in spectacular fashion.
The improvement in Ollie Watkins, John McGinn and numerous other Villa players is testament to Emery’s ability and raises serious questions about Gerrard’s suitability to be a manager.
Raya and Onana are top of the flops
If you were born in the 20th century, you will remember the days when goalkeepers had one primary function – keeping the ball out of the net.
Fast forward to today and sweeper-keepers are all the rage. In theory, it’s a great idea. However, as Arsenal and Manchester United have found out, it may not be all it is cracked up to be.
Mikel Arteta’s ongoing obsession with David Raya is baffling. He’s always been flaky, as evidenced by his howler in the 2019/20 Championship play-off final when he was at Brentford.
Onana is another goalie whose reputation is overstated. Sure, he looks tidy with the ball at his feet. When it comes to the other part of his job, the word ‘sieve’ springs to mind.
Kaminski showing how it should be done
While Raya and Onana have been generating headlines for all the wrong reasons, Thomas Kaminski has been quietly establishing himself as one of the bargain buys of the season.
Kaminski was a reliable performer for Blackburn Rovers in the Championship before securing a well-deserved move to the top flight with newly-promoted Luton Town last summer.
He has been a standout performer for the Hatters, making a string of excellent saves to give them a fighting chance of retaining their place in the top flight.
Kaminski cost just £2.5 million – by contrast, Onana cost £43.8m and Arsenal have an option to buy Raya for £27m. Try to make sense of that if you can.
Rice still has plenty to prove
Plenty of people have been blowing smoke up Rice’s backside following his big-money move from West Ham United to Arsenal last summer.
However, anyone arguing that the former Republic of Ireland youth international has justified his transfer fee this season needs to have a rethink.
Scoring a last-minute winner against Luton Town is all very nice, but a £105 million outlay places greater demands on Rice’s shoulders.
His habit of failing to live up to expectations in big games came to the fore again at Villa on Saturday – as overrated goes, this fella is the poster boy for it.
Lousy right-back, average midfielder
Speaking of backsides and smoke – Trent Alexander-Arnold. According to some folk, he’s the best midfielder the world has ever seen. Please. Make. It. Stop.
Firstly, he’s a right-back. And, let’s not beat about the bush here, he’s a lousy one. He can’t defend and has no positional awareness.
Alexander-Arnold is undoubtedly a decent passer. Against weaker teams, his ability to pick a pass can help to unlock teams who sit deep.
However, please can everyone stop pretending that he is anywhere near the same league as the world’s top midfielders? He isn’t.
Dyche is the right man for Everton
Everton’s board of directors have not got much right in recent years, but appointing Sean Dyche as manager was undoubtedly one of them.
Dyche pragmatic style did not win him too many friends at Burnley and some Everton fans were not overly impressed when he rocked up at Goodison Park.
However, he is more forward-thinking than his critics give him credit for and is undoubtedly the right man to steer Everton through troubled times.
No one could blame Dyche for having one eye on the £100m Burnley spent during the summer and thinking he’d have done a better job with it.
Henderson is a coward
Jordan Henderson has spent a fair chunk of the past few months trying to manipulate the narrative around his move to the Saudi Pro League.
The former Liverpool midfielder was a supposed LGBTQ+ ally, but that position was quickly ignored when the Saudis came calling with their millions.
Having made plenty of noise about supporting the LGBTQ+ community, Henderson was ideally placed to make a major statement by rejecting the move.
His narcissistic interview with The Athletic, where he attempted to justify his decision to move to the Middle East, was vomit-inducing. His supposed morals are vastly overrated.
Iwobi finds a home in Fulham’s midfield
Alex Iwobi flattered to deceive during his time at Arsenal and Everton but appears to have found a good landing spot at Fulham.
Manager Marco Silva has been getting a tune out of Iwobi, giving him the freedom to impact games from the right flank.
He is forging a productive relationship with Andreas Pereira, and their efforts could help Fulham mount an unexpected bid for European qualification this season.
It is worth noting that consistency has previously proved to be an issue for Iwobi – if he can avoid slipping into his old habits, Fulham have an excellent player on their hands.
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