The Comeback Kings of 2016

We look at the players who've turned it all around this season

BY Jason Brennan 21:31 Sunday 30 October 2016, 21:31 30 Oct 2016

Image: Claude Paris AP/Press Association Images

Football is a fickle old game, especially in the modern era.

With fans more likely to follow a game through Twitter, GIFs, and Vines(maybe not so much that one anymore) than actually watch an entire match, it would appear we've lost a lot of our attention span.

That inability to give our time and attention to the game has led to an age of instant reaction, no time to reflect, and a general lack of "lets wait and see how it all pans out".

We cry for managers to be given more time but we talk about who'll be the first to go after the league's first fixtures, we say it's a long season but we call every clash between a top 10 side a "must win", and worst of all, we talk about players as the next big thing before proceeding to write them off after a few bad games, or in some cases months.

We're guilty of that just as much as anyone, but we're owning up to it arms aloft, so here's a list of the players who've proven us wrong so far this season and have confirmed we know nothing about the game.

Mario Balotelli

There's no point in leaving him last and pulling the "no list would be complete without" waffle, Super Mario comes out front and centre. 

It seemed like there were countless seasons where we wondered what would happen if Mario actually kept his head down and put in the work to match his natural talent and physical prowess. By countless we mean seemingly every season, but it would appear that a move to the south of France was all the 26-year-old needed to rejuvenate his career.

Having signed for Nice in the summer after being released by Liverpool, the Italian international has scored seven goals in as many games, with his six league goals firing Les Aiglons to a six-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.

Grabbing headlines every week while playing in France, especially for a smaller side like Nice, is no mean feat, and the decision to only sign a one-year-deal looks inspired. Having said himself he's only operating at 80% commitment(that's 70% more than previously supposedly), it's a certainty that if he keeps it up, or heaven forbid gives 100%, he'll be back among Europe's top teams next summer.

Balotelli has rediscovered form with the French side after a disappointing spell with Liverpool. Image: Claude Paris AP/Press Association Images

Theo Walcott

For a man who spent large portions of the past two season on the bench at the Emirates, was left out of the England squad for the European Championship this summer, and looked a certainty to leave the club at the beginning of the transfer window, he's been simply sensational for Arsenal so far.

Back playing on the right-wing after a few failed attempts at carving a position out for himself up top, the 27-year-old has recorded eight goals and two assists in his first eleven games this season, and has earned himself a callback to the national squad under both of its recent managers.

People may have expected an improvement from the former Southampton man this year, seeing as he made a point of splashing the training he did in the off-season all over social media, but nobody could have seen this turnaround coming.

Can Walcott help inspire Arsenal to a first Premier League title in over a decade. Image: Dominic Lipinski PA Wire/PA Images

Samir Nasri

A name that dropped into obscurity during his last two incredibly forgettable seasons at the Etihad, the former French international is back to his best thanks to a loan to Sevilla.

Under the guidance of Jorge Sampaoli, the former Arsenal star has rekindled some the form that saw Man City spend £25million on him back in 2011, despite having just 12 months remaining on his deal at the time.

Three goals and one assist in nine games may not be stats that'd set the world alight, but he's been unlucky not to have a few more of each to his name, and his overall performances have been top class. On a side note, if you've slept on them so far, Sevilla are a team to watch out for. With a frontline of Luciano Vietto, Franco Vazquez, and Wissam Ben Yedder, their playing some amazing stuff under the boss that brought Chile their first ever Copa America back in 2015.

Los Rojiblancos will surely be keen to keep him permanently, but with reports in the summer suggesting Pep Guardiola wanted to keep him in his squad this season, there remains the possibility of an unlikely return to the Premier League for Nasri.

Samir Nasri celebrates after scoring against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. Image: AP Photo/Darko Bandic

Joe Allen

The "Allen key" to Stoke's midfield, Allen left Liverpool this summer to what can only be described as a a chorus of meh.

Despite some great performances during the Euros at the heart of the Welsh midfield, which saw his name placed in the team of the tournament, the former Swansea star was granted a move to Mark Hughes' Stoke side for £13million, having started just eight league games in the 2015/16 season.

Allen has since recreated himself as a box-to-box goal-machine, notching four goals in his first nine league games, equaling the tally it took four years in the league with Liverpool the accomplish.

Also, he looks like a Welsh Serpico, laying down the law on Premier League playing fields up and down England, and he does that while still giving us the chance to make incredibly poor Allen key headline puns. Keep it up, Joe.

Joe Allen has enjoyed a fruitful start to the season within a rejuvenated Stoke City side. Image: Mike Egerton EMPICS Sport

Raheem Sterling

The final spot could have gone to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren (until this weekend that is), or Christian Benteke, but Raheem Sterling has simply been too good to ignore.

Granted, he may not be back to the form that saw him ripping the league to shreds with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, but Sterling is starting to show why City spent £50 million to take him off of Liverpool's hands.

After two seasons of criticism from media and fans alike, the young man has found some consistency in his side's new playing system and looks to have found his end product once again. 

His five goals and three assists in thirteen starts this season prove that he's headed in the right direction, and even if there has been the odd poor display peppered throughout his better performances, he's still just 21-years-old and it's important to remember, as Cristiano Ronaldo has reminded us this year, that every player is susceptible to periods of poor form.

Off The Ball


The very best bits of Off The Ball delivered every week