9 Premier League footballers who peaked during lockdown: Lingard, Mount, Fernandes…
The Premier League was played behind closed doors between June 2020 and May 2021, with stars from Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham among those to produce their best career performances during that strange period.
It was a time when Liverpool won their only league title this century, Jesse Lingard was the best footballer in the country for half a season and Marcelo Bielsa achieved the impossible by making neutrals swoon over Leeds United.
We’ve identified nine footballers who have never quite replicated the form they showed during the Premier League’s lockdown era.
The streets will never forget Lingard rocking up at West Ham, scoring nine times and providing four assists, while making the entire league dance to his tune.
The streets will probably forget the midfielder returning to United to sit on the bench, an undistinguished year at Forest and the indignity of failing to earn a contract in Saudi Arabia.
On this day in 2021 West Ham beat Aston Villa 3-1 at Villa Park in front of 0 fans.
Jessie Lingard made his debut and scored two and Tomas Soucek scored the other for West Ham.
— VINNYWHUFC (@vinnywhufc) February 3, 2023
Bamford scoring 17 Premier League goals in a season is something none of us saw coming; despite his obvious talent, the striker’s career has been dominated by inconsistency and injury.
His goalscoring form helped Leeds finish 9th with 59 points, the highest points tally for a newly promoted side since Ipswich Town got 66 in 2000-01.
But, like Leeds, that was as good as it good for Bamford. He made his one and only England appearance in September 2021 and has been hampered by injuries and inconsistent form once more.
He’s now largely on the bench for Leeds in the Championship.
Hear us out.
For his first 18 months at United, Fernandes ruled the roost. After helping the club qualify for the Champions League in 2020, the Portugal midfielder entered another stratosphere during the following season.
The scorer of 18 goals and provider of 12 assists, Fernandes was widely hailed as United’s best signing of the post-Ferguson era.
However, the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2021 reduced his impact to the detriment of United’s form.
He’s now United captain, despite a plethora of pundits questioning his suitability for the role, but hasn’t come close to replicating those 2020-21 numbers.
Bruno Fernandes vs Everton (2021) pic.twitter.com/CvC8zkVPUD
— What A Goal! Man Utd (@WhatAGoalManUtd) August 16, 2022
A Fantasy Football staple in 2020-21, Soucek scored 10 Premier League goals as West Ham surprised everybody by finishing sixth. He won the club’s Player of the Year Award and made potato salad a staple in east London.
A change in tactics to allow Declan Rice more reign to make box-to-box runs saw Soucek sitting ineffectively in front of the West Ham defence for the next two seasons.
He’s never let West Ham down, and has plundered a few goals in the opening weeks of 2023-24, but the Czech Republic international is increasingly viewed as holding the team back by the Hammers faithful.
Carlo Ancelotti is a witch doctor; not only did he have Everton threatening to qualify for Europe, but he transformed Calvert-Lewin into prime Lewandowski during his reign at Goodison Park.
Dovetailing with James Rodriguez (more evidence that lockdown football was b*tshit mental), the Yorkshireman scored 21 goals in 2020-21 and went to the Euros as back-up to Harry Kane.
His progress in the years since has been hampered by injuries, often rushed back too soon as Everton have scrapped for their Premier League lives.
But he recently scored the winner at West Ham and the 26-year-old is still the perfect player to lead the line for Sean Dyche’s side.
A few errors apart, Meslier’s debut Premier League campaign was otherwise seriously impressive.
Bielsa’s tactics certainly meant Meslier got plenty of practice between the sticks, and Leeds did suffer a few hammerings, but the Frenchman’s performances demonstrated he had everything required to become a top goalkeeper.
But the errors didn’t decrease as Leeds spent the next two seasons battling relegation and Meslier was eventually dropped by Sam Allardyce for the final four matches of 2022-23.
He’s regained his place in the Championship and helped Leeds rise to third after a slow start. The best could be yet to come, but the goalkeeper has yet to match his 2020-21 exploits.
The third and final Leeds player to make our list, Dallas was a revelation for Bielsa’s free-wheeling side.
Scoring eight goals and providing two assists, the Northern Ireland full-back was deservedly named the club’s Player of the Year and his winner at Manchester City will live long in the memory of Leeds supporters.
He suffered a serious knee injury in April 2022 and hasn’t played a single minute since.
Stuart Dallas the hero 🦸
A stunning brace as 10-man Leeds beat Man City 2-1 at the Etihad last season!
Can they spring another surprise this evening? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/Q1VLyoD64b
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) December 14, 2021
As Mount sits on Manchester United’s bench, seeing his chances of returning to the England squad disappear over the horizon, it’s easy to forget just how ascendant his star was during the lockdown season.
The apple of Frank Lampard’s eye, Mount was the fulcrum of Chelsea’s midfield and produced a masterclass in the Champions League semi-final victory over Real Madrid.
Endorsed as one of the ‘best midfielders in Europe’ by Thomas Tuchel, the midfielder won successive Player of the Year awards at Stamford Bridge before a contract dispute saw him leave Chelsea in 2023.
Sadly, he lost his form in 2022-23 and has failed to regain it at United. It feels a trick of the mind to remember Mount started the Euro 2020 final as one of England’s three attackers.
Streakier than your Saturday morning bacon, Iheanacho enjoyed an incredible purple patch during the early months of 2021.
The Nigeria international plundered 12 goals in 10 games in all competitions during March and April as Leicester chased both Champions League qualification and the FA Cup.
The Foxes eventually finished fifth, but they wouldn’t have achieved glory in the Cup final without Iheanacho’s goals getting them there in the first place.
He’s scored six goals in 14 Championship games for Leicester this season, but, surprisingly, no Premier League side picked him up over the summer. Perhaps they’re aware he’ll never match his 2021 form again.