Football is a funny old game. The desire to win and the extremely fine margins mean that good players can very often be overlooked in the blink of an eye. All it takes is a brief injury or a loss of form and that’s them out in the cold for good.
Sounds harsh, but it’s unfortunately true. There’s no time to pander over injuries and those who can’t quite hang at the very top of the game, which can often leave some extremely talented and/or high-profile stars sat twiddling their thumbs throughout a season.
Considering everything from injuries to inconsistencies and the wrong move at the wrong time, here is an XI of the players who have somewhat gone missing throughout the 2022-23 season.
GK: Edouard Mendy
To say it’s been a season to forget for Chelsea would be an understatement.
Mendy’s absence is likely a symptom of that, with three different managers taking charge at Stamford Bridge throughout the season. A shoulder injury kept the Senegalese stopper out for a while, but he doesn’t seem to have had a sniff around that, despite Kepa Arrizabalaga still failing to really impress consistently.
RB: Lucas Vazquez
Now one of the old guard in the Real squad, Vasquez has ticked over the 1000 minutes mark in all competitions, but is seldom trusted as a regular starter anymore.
Gone are the days of him being a winger, too. It’s right-back or nothing for the Spaniard.
When called upon, he puts a shift in. But don’t expect a sudden upturn in his minutes next season.
CB: Phil Jones
One simply cannot create an XI like this and not include Phil Jones.
The Englishman enjoyed a bizarre, mini-revival of sorts for a couple of games under Ralf Rangnick during Manchester United’s horror show 2021-22 campaign, but hasn’t been seen since.
That’s a lie, actually. Jones made an appearance during the Carabao Cup final – he was a pundit for Sky Sports. No, seriously.
Phil Jones on Sky Sports today. pic.twitter.com/WvRRhWGmLF
— Paul, Manc Bald and Bred (@MufcWonItAll) February 26, 2023
CB: Aymeric Laporte
In 2021-22, Laporte featured 44 times in all competitions for Manchester City, missing just five games in the Premier League all season.
A year later, he’s played just nine times in the Premier League in 2022-23 for Pep Guardiola and only made 20 appearances as City fight for a treble of silverware.
Once considered possibly their best central defender, the Spanish international is now firmly out of the plans and appears to not be trusted at all. Life comes at you fast.
LB: Sergio Gomez
We know Guardiola likes to take his time with new players at City, so that they can properly pick up his methods. But Gomez has played even less than Laporte in his first season at the club, which is ridiculous.
Granted time is on his side, the 22-year-old has managed just 797 minutes of action in all competitions at the time of writing.
Clearly has a lot of work to do before he gets in with his new boss.
CM: Kalvin Phillips
Completing a trio of City entries, it’s a testament to Guardiola’s regulars that they’ve been able to keep such quality out of the side, and a further testament to the squad depth City boast, that such talented players can’t get a look-in.
Phillips – who was named England’s Player of the Year after they finished runners-up at Euro 2020 – completed a £42million move to the Etihad last summer after emerging as one of the league’s best midfielders at boyhood club Leeds United, but has since only played 17 times in all competitions, barely getting over 400 minutes played.
For all the praise Guardiola’s City get for their shrewd business and excellent rotation, their Phillips transfer so far looks a bit of a shambles. He clearly hasn’t earned the trust of his manager, and at 27 years old, he doesn’t have all too long to do so considering he’s entering what should be his best years.
CM: N’Golo Kante
Kante has been ravaged with injuries for the bulk of the 2022-23 campaign, keeping him out of the World Cup and ensuring he plays as little a part as possible in a horrific Chelsea season.
For someone who was once so readily available, though, it’s been quite a shock for all to see him barely make it onto the pitch this season, with setback after setback keeping him out. All those years of running the midfield on his own might finally have caught up.
CM: Paul Pogba
There was an online portion of Manchester United’s fanbase who rued the club for letting Paul Pogba leave for free last summer, six years after bringing him back to Manchester for a world record fee.
Among the many issues explaining why his second stint as a Red Devil failed to work out, availability was certainly one of them after the 2018 World Cup.
He returned to Juventus for free in 2022, with many expecting him to light up Serie A once again and leave United looking silly (again). However, at the moment, it’s looked the correct decision, with Pogba not actually making his second debut for the Old Lady until February this year, due to undergoing knee surgery at the beginning of the season.
He suffered a muscle injury not long after that debut, and was ruled out again.
Paul Pogba Vs Lecce cameo pic.twitter.com/gkf6AYqmyQ
— PogbaXtra™ (@PogbaXtra) May 3, 2023
RW: Divock Origi
Having had enough of being a rotation arm and nothing more than a super-sub at Liverpool, Origi left the club upon the expiry of his contract to join Serie A winners Milan, in hope of reinventing himself in Serie A.
He’s flopped. Hard. The Belgian has just barely ticked over the 1000-minute mark for the Rossoneri, starting just nine times in the league and scoring twice all season.
This was his chance to become much more than the backup and he failed to make it stick, leaving Milan desperate for a 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic to rediscover his fitness once again.
ST: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
The former Arsenal captain burnt his bridges with the Gunners to link up with Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, only for the German manager to be sacked a week later.
While Chelsea have badly missed a number nine at times, Aubameyang has often been wasting away on the bench. In the Premier League he’s only racked up 551 minutes and looks likely to leave this summer.
LW: Eden Hazard
Real Madrid have a pretty stellar record when it comes to big money transfers, but this one sticks out like a sore thumb. Across four seasons with the club so far, Hazard has only started in 29 league matches.
Injuries haven’t helped, but the Belgian winger now looks a shadow of his former self. Recent reports have even suggested that the 32-year-old could retire in 2024 when his contract with Real Madrid expires.
The joy on Eden Hazard's face when he's told that he's coming on is unparalleled.
Bless him man 😭💙pic.twitter.com/vov7r9YPl9
— TLV (@TheLampardView) April 3, 2023