Few Wolverhampton Wanderers will disagree that maestro Joao Moutinho has struggled to showcase his vintage best this season.
Of course, there have been a few great performances from the master; like against Arsenal when he scored that peach from distance.
But on the whole, Portugal’s second most-capped player of all-time just hasn’t consistently been at the races in 2020/21.
But it arguably isn’t the classy 34-year-old’s fault.
Despite Moutinho’s advancing years, Nuno Espirito Santo has shown unwavering faith in the maestro and pretty much played him at every available opportunity, overlooking the likes of Owen Otasowie and loan signing Vitinha in the process.
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He’s made 29 appearances so far this season and had 2193 minutes on the pitch, according to Transfermarkt.
For some context, Ruben Neves has played 32 games and 2299 minutes, and Leander Dendoncker is 27 games for 2205.
That Moutinho is pretty much getting the same game time as Neves and Dendoncker is a real surprise given he is 10 years older (give or take) than the pair.
The sheer amount of minutes appear to have affected the £5 million star’s (BBC Sport) creativity, with Moutinho only making one assist in 2020/21 – a disappointing return given he got 13 last term and eight the season before that.
Moutinho doesn’t need to be struggling
Everbody knows that class is permanent, and we’ve seen it in glimpses from Moutinho this season.
But one can’t help but feel he isn’t being helped by being played this much at his age, especially since he’s a central midfielder.
Perhaps Nuno is being a little too stubborn over Moutinho, although it’s easy to understand him being a constant pick given the level he showed in his first two seasons, and how young the current team is.
It doesn’t have to be struggle for Moutinho – look at the way Fernandinho is managed at Manchester City.
The Brazilian, like Moutinho, is ageing but is still able to produce top-class displays consistently in midfield because his workload is perfect.
He is a brilliant player, but right now it just feels like his personal management could be slightly better.
Reducing his minutes going forwards could help Moutinho to thrive again when he comes in for odd games, and allow fresher players like Vitinha to potentially improve the team.