Their dazzling displays lit up the World Cup, but the stars of the summer have failed to arrive on time for the Premier League party, with one of the tournament’s flops stealing the early limelight. Whether it is Arsenal’s World Cup winning heroes, Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker, Chile’s leading light Alexis Sanchez or Manchester United’s Robin van Persie. Those whose performances were the toast of Brazil have been outshone by one of the tournament’s biggest disappointments, Chelsea’s Diego Costa.
Arsenal’s German duo Ozil and Mertesacker were partying long into the night just six weeks ago when Germany lifted the trophy after beating Argentina in Rio, but there was little to celebrate in Saturday’s performance against Everton. Ozil, an ever-present starter in Brazil, showed none of the guile that helped Germany lift football’s most coveted prize and looked ineffective in attack and neglectful in his defensive duties in a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.
Centre back Mertesacker has fared no better on his return to domestic duties and a forgettable performance against Everton was typified when he was brushed aside by Everton’s Romelu Lukaku en route their second goal.
At least he lasted 90 minutes, however, unlike Sanchez, whose performances with Chile had a host of clubs scrapping for his signature. A muted display in Arsenal’s opening league match against Crystal Palace and in their Champions League qualifier against Besiktas, was followed up on Saturday by a stinging early substitution.
Not all the World Cup returnees have suffered poor starts, however. The extended rest that Spain’s early exit afforded Costa seems to have done the power of good to the striker who stumbled his way through the World Cup. He played in Spain’s opening two games, a 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands and a 2-0 reverse against Chile, but has had the look of a sharp-eyed goal-getter in Chelsea’s two opening clashes.
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His goals against Burnley and Leicester City have not been spectacular, but were both from the striker’s handbook of right-place, right-time finishes.