Form is temporary but class is permanent. Professional athletes suffering a dip in form or going through a slump is nothing new. In fact, the world is littered with examples of the same. Ability is not the only factor that dictates output. There are a lot of variables involved.
At times, a world-class player might not be playing to the best of his abilities because he is low on confidence. It could also be that he is recovering from an injury or is just not in the right mental space. Footballers could also suffer if they are playing in a system not suited for them.
We saw several world-class players go through a difficult time in the 2021-22 season. But some have bounced back in emphatic fashion this term.
Without further ado, let's take a look at five players who have had a brilliant redemption arc this season.
#5 Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea)
Chelsea made Kepa Arrizabalaga the most expensive goalkeeper in the world when they signed him in the summer of 2018 €80 million. But his initial years at Stamford Bridge were marked by underwhelming performances. The Spaniard was eventually displaced from the first team by Edouard Mendy in the 2020-21 season.
After a good debut season as Chelsea's guardian of the sticks, even Mendy fell out of form. Kepa received a chance to revive his Chelsea career as Mendy was forced out with an injury earlier this season.
Kepa has since been in resurgent form and has been one of Chelsea's best players this season. He kept five consecutive clean sheets in all competitions in October. Speaking about the goalkeeper's revival, Chelsea boss Graham Potter said (via World Soccer Talk):
“I’ve been really impressed with his character and personality, he’s very professional, understands the game really well, takes responsibility. So it’s nice when those type of people get the rewards, which is a reward for their hard work and effort.”
#4 Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
Granit Xhaka's Arsenal stint can be best described as turbulent. Things devolved to the point where he fell out of favor with the Arsenal fans a few years ago. He was even stripped of his captaincy in 2019 for shouting expletives at the crowd as he was substituted in a Premier League game against Crystal Palace in October 2019.
But Xhaka has enjoyed a revival of sorts under Mikel Arteta and it has never been as apparent as it has been this season. Deployed in a more advanced role, he seems to have sprung to life and established himself as a key player in the team.
In 18 appearances across all competitions for Arsenal so far this season, Xhaka has scored four goals and provided three assists.
#3 Miguel Almiron (Newcastle United)
Miguel Almiron has always had the engine and work ethic to become a top player. But his final product was found to be lacking and when he turned 28 in February earlier this year, it looked like he had already hit his ceiling.
He scored just a single goal and provided zero assists in 32 appearances across all competitions for Newcastle United last season. That Almiron is a far cry from the menacing winger we've seen this term. The Paraguay international has been in spectacular form so far this season.
He has scored eight goals in 14 Premier League appearances so far this term. Almiron's exploits have been crucial to Newcastle United burgeoning into a force to be reckoned with this season. He has scored some absolute worldies in recent weeks and is one of the most improved players in the English top flight right now.
#2 Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
Neymar missed a good chunk of the 2021-22 season due to injury. Upon his return, he did produce flashes of brilliance, but he did not exactly hit the heights he was expected to. Following Paris Saint-Germain's elimination from the Champions League, Neymar was booed by the club's fans.
This happened despite the fact that PSG cruised to the league title. But Neymar did manage to finish the 2021-22 season on a high. He scored 13 goals and provided eight assists in 28 appearances across all competitions for PSG last term.
Neymar is 30 now and there seemed to be a consensus that the Brazilian could have perhaps reached greater heights in his career. Just as the world started to believe that Neymar's prime years were behind him, he managed to absolutely decimate such assumptions.
He has been in sublime form for PSG so far this season. Neymar has already bettered his numbers from the 2021-22 campaign and we're not even halfway through the new season. He has scored 15 goals and has provided 12 assists in 19 appearances across all competitions for PSG so far this term.
#1 Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
We have never seen Lionel Messi have a strictly average season in his career. After leaving Barcelona in the summer of 2021, Messi endured a difficult start to life at Paris Saint-Germain. He failed to match expectations and it looked like he was starting to fade as he entered his mid 30s.
Messi scored 11 goals and provided 15 assists in 34 appearances across all competitions for PSG last season. He has returned to his best this term and already has 12 goals and 14 assists to his name in just 18 appearances across all competitions.
His playmaking has been world-class and he has been weaving his way past players regularly courtesy of his silky dribbling skills. Messi has also had no difficulty finding the back of the net on a regular basis either. In his last three appearances for Argentina, Messi has scored a whopping nine goals.