What's happened to the 'old' Antonio Valencia?

Antonio Valencia

Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia has not produced the form of last season, but how far is he from his best?

Antonio Valencia has arguably been the best winger in the Premier League over the last couple of seasons but he’s struggled this season with Sir Alex Ferguson using him for a smaller ratio of games.

He’s made 17 starts in the league all season and has come off the bench on four occasions and there are worries among sections of United supporters over what may happen as he’s not playing anywhere near his best.

The main weakness in his play this season, which is vital for any winger, is his crossing ability. He doesn’t seem to have it in him at the moment to put the ball on a ten pence coin for someone like Robin Van Persie or Wayne Rooney.

Whether he’s played at right back or down the right wing, this has been a clear deficiency in his game which was much stronger last season and the season before that.

It could just be a simple case that opposition sides have started to focus on him a lot more and are working on his weaknesses such as showing him inside and onto his left foot.

If that’s the case then Valencia has to find a way of re-inventing himself because Ferguson seems more likely to switch someone like Rooney out to the right at the moment as opposed to using Valencia down that side from the off.

There are some signs for optimism because his performance against Norwich City over the weekend was one of the better performances he’s put in this year.

However, he was still nowhere near as effective as he was throughout last season, which creates a grey area over whether he is actually improving or whether any small signs for optimism are being blown up.

He’s also improved his defensive play which allows Ferguson the luxury of pushing him back to right back when he needs to. However, any forward thinking winger at United needs to do a lot more than just having a solid defensive game.

His movement and zip is getting better which was one of the reasons he was so popular with the fans last time round but he still has a long way to go.

The signs are encouraging but there is still a little cause for scepticism at the moment. If he can have a much larger effect over the rest of the season then he should be safe when the summer sales start.

United fans, we’d love to hear your opinions.

image: © Magnus D

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