5 world class players over 30 who had a disappointing 2014/15 season
It is like a universal law that irrespective of how good a player you are, you will eventually fail the test of time and make way for new people to fill your place. One can't just put blind faith in the 'class is permanent' philosophy and expect them to work wonders for the club. Inevitably, players fade. 28-29 years is generally considered to be the peak age of a footballer.
As he enters into his thirties, he is expected to slowly decline (unless he is a certain Andrea Pirlo who, like wine, gets better and better with age or a certain Cristiano Ronaldo who keeps banging goals at a rate that can put the young Ronaldo to shame). Then there is that category of players who are into their thirties and had a disappointing season. But for these players the current season might just not be the reflection of the true picture.
1) Yaya Toure
It was not so long ago that Yaya Toure was considered the standard for the box-to-box midfield position. In the 2013/14 season, Toure was scoring goals for fun despite playing as a midfielder, bagging an impressive 20 goals in 35 matches for the Citizens. Fast forward to 2014/15 and the Ivorian is a shade of his former self. He is no longer that lung bursting, energetic presence. He practically stays in no man's land, failing to connect with the defence or attack.
The Manchester derby was the nadir of Toure's City career as he was bullied by the presence of an energetic Maraoune Fellaini; a player he made look like a clown in the same fixture last year. Toure failed in every aspect as a box-to-box midfielder. He failed to burst into the attack, intimidate opposition defenders with his strength or unleash those powerful shots. He neglected the defensive duties completely and City's defenders were isolated from the midfield.
But it would be unfair to say Toure was the sole reason for the failure of Manchester City. In the 4-4-2 system that is favoured by Pellegrini, Toure is a misfit.
|% Successful take-ons||75%||83.64%|
The stats show that there is gradual drop in Toure's defensive contribution. This is obvious from the player's languid style of play this season. Maybe Toure can no longer serve as the midfield general for City and needs to move further up the pitch. Maybe he craves for that free role.
Yaya Toure is definitely a player who still has got it in him and it isn't so surprising when we see rumours linking him with a big money move to Roberto Mancini's Inter Milan. His old boss surely knows better.
2) Andres Iniesta
If there is a player on earth who can write poetry on the football pitch, it is Iniesta. Hailing from the famous La Masia, Iniesta was the lynchpin of one of the best football teams of all time. A player who established one of the greatest midfield partnerships with his compatriot Xavi, the Spaniard is one of the unluckiest players to have lived in the era of Messi and Ronaldo.
When other players make nutmegs and dribbles look flashy and a big deal, Andres Iniesta makes it look so ordinary and easy. His delicate touches and graceful turns make him a treat to watch. However, there is a general consensus that Iniesta is past his prime. With the excellent form of the Barcelona B player Denis Suarez, currently on loan at Sevilla and the frequently transfer rumours linking Paul Pogba to Barcelona, it won't be long before we see a new heir to the throne of Andres Iniesta.
Though he had a disappointing season, his pass completion rate stands at an impressive 90%. However, the assists, chances created and key passes have come down. This is the result of a direct playing style introduced by Luis Enrique at Barcelona. The team which used to rely on many short passes to gradually penetrate the opposition penalty area now uses a direct playing style involving long balls and less touches.
Iniesta is more accustomed to playing short passes and intelligently creating spaces. However, the new style has limited the role of the midfielder as pacy wingers and full backs take front seat. The midfield supremacy that symbolised the recent years of Barcelona is now appreciated for the pace, wing play and a star-studded forward line. Even though the new strategy extracts the best out of the team as a whole, Iniesta has struggled to adapt.
3) Bastian Schweinsteiger
When Bayern Munich suffered a shock defeat against Porto in the Champions League quarter-final, it was a must-win situation in the second leg at Allianz Arena. It was an awful performance by Xabi Alonso in midfield that was the highlight of the defeat. However, in the crucial second leg, Guardiola picked Alonso again and Schweinsteiger was an unused substitute who watched from the bench as his teammates cruised to an easy victory without his help.
Schweinsteiger, by all aspects, is a club legend. Seven Bundesliga titles, seven German Cups, two League Cups and a Champions League trophy. Ever since Louis van Gaal converted him from a winger to a central midfielder, he has never had to look back. His energetic presence is highly rated by national coach Joachin Loew who went on to describe him as the brain of the national team.
Though influential in Pep's double winning side, Schweinsteiger eventually lost the position to Xabi Alonso who has since his arrival been the heart of Pep's system. Constant injuries have also made things difficult for Schweinsteiger.
|Interceptions per game||1.25||1.42|
|Clearances per game||0.64||0.63|
|Blocks per game||0.21||0.16|
|Aerial Duels won||46%||52%|
A consistent pass completion rate, an all round development in defensive departments and a better combined goals+assists ratio. To top it all, an envious work rate. Schweinsteiger is still that dynamic and energetic midfielder. Given the chance, he has fared really well for Guardiola's side this season by adding mobility and physicality to the Bayern midfield.
However, he simply isn't Pep's favourite. The manager prefers artists over good players. Alonso is doing for Pep what Xavi did for him in his Barca side. Pep highly rates such intelligent deep-lying playmakers and the signing of Alonso had a purpose which was rightly served.