The late-career Cahill seems to have spent his time proving managers wrong. Dropped by Antonio Conte, he fought his way back into the Chelsea team to captain them to FA Cup glory in May. Omitted by Gareth Southgate, he won his place back in the England squad that finished fourth in the World Cup, even if he did rank fifth among their centre-backs.
Now Maurizio Sarri has arrived at Stamford Bridge, bringing a fondness for a high defensive line that may not suit a man who turns 33 in December, as well as a controversial faith in David Luiz. It hasn't been good news for Cahill – or, indeed, Andreas Christensen, who had been tipped to be a future Chelsea captain. However, it’s the Englishman who’s yet to even appear in the matchday 18 this season.
Phil Jagielka is the anomaly in this imperfect 10, in that he at least started this season in the Everton team. Yet there were indications his days as a first choice were numbered even before his uncharacteristic red card at Wolves in the Toffees' season opener. The transfer window ended with manager Marco Silva signing two centre-backs – the borrowed Kurt Zouma and the hugely expensive Yerry Mina – to join the younger pair of Michael Keane and Mason Holgate in a quartet for the future.
Silva has spoken of his side playing much further up the field than Sam Allardyce’s Everton; scarcely ideal for Jagielka who, while quick for much of his career, turned 36 in August. There was a sense he was merely filling Mina’s position even before his lunge at Molineux prompted an expulsion which seemed to herald the end for one of Everton’s finest servants of the 21st century.
There was an easy assumption that Manuel Pellegrini’s appointment at West Ham would benefit his former Manchester City stalwart Pablo Zabaleta. The Argentine would have the best understanding of the Chilean manager’s style of play. Instead, however, Zabaleta can testify that Pellegrini is not afraid to demote a firm favourite.
The right-back finished third in the Hammer of the Year vote last year. Yet when Pellegrini took over at the Etihad Stadium in 2013, Zabaleta was City’s reigning player of the year and vice-captain. Instead, Yaya Toure became Vincent Kompany’s deputy. There has been a sequel of sorts in the capital this season, as the 33-year-old Zabaleta has lost his place to Ryan Fredericks for three of West Ham’s first four games.
A victim of systemic change. Moses was reinvented as a wing-back by Conte and then cast into a world without wing-backs. With Sarri a devotee of 4-3-3 and Cesar Azpilicueta perhaps the best right-back in the league, it leaves Moses needing to revisit his past as a winger.
Yet with Eden Hazard a shoo-in for the spot on one of the flanks, plus Pedro and Willian beginning Sarri’s reign with goals and fine performances respectively, Moses seems to be competing with the precocious Callum Hudson-Odoi for the place as the fourth-choice winger. Moses got 11 minutes against Manchester City and nine at Huddersfield, but he wasn't even a substitute against Newcastle and Bournemouth. The Nigerian has retired from international football, seemingly to spend more time trying to get a berth on the Chelsea bench.
In Unai Emery’s defence, Arsenal’s new manager has encountered the same problem as his predecessor and begun by making the same decision. Arsene Wenger seemed to conclude that four into three would not go, after the January arrivals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (plus Mesut Ozil’s new contract) gave Arsenal a quartet of premier attackers. Alexandre Lacazette was initially the odd man out when all four were available.
This season, the French forward started Emery’s first three games on the bench, with Aubameyang preferred as the lone striker, before Lacazette was belatedly unleashed at Cardiff and responded with an unstoppable winner. Wenger, too, ended up with the uneasy compromise of using Aubameyang on the left because Lacazette was so potent.
Sarri likes a passing midfielder signed from one of Spain’s superpowers. Sadly for Cesc Fabregas, it isn’t him, but Mateo Kovacic. Sarri also wants a constructive player to dictate play from the base of the midfield. Unfortunately for Fabregas, it isn’t him, but Jorginho. The Spaniard may be the right type of player for Chelsea’s new manager, but the evidence of pre-season and Sarri’s forays into the transfer market was that he was not the right man; not with an alternative regista and a need for hard-running No.8s.
Even Fabregas’s timing has been wrong: a doubt for the Community Shield, he has missed the Premier League games with a knee injury that, Sarri said, has made it “impossible to run on the pitch”. That may prompt some easy jokes about the 31-year-old’s mobility but, in his absence, a new pecking order has emerged with not just Kovacic, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante ahead of him, but Ross Barkley too.
The former Arsenal captain eventually won Conte over. Now Fabregas faces a task to persuade another sceptic of his merits.
Anyone feeling nostalgic for Ronald Koeman’s Everton – a category that almost certainly does not number millions – need only head along the M62 and down the M6 to see half of his defence. Ashley Williams and Cuco Martina can comprise half of the Stoke back four after the two loanees were exiled from Goodison Park.
It’s hard to fault Marco Silva for this one: Williams effected a swift and unwanted transformation from admirable overachiever to liability last season. His final Everton appearance brought a senseless red card at Burnley. His second Stoke start brought a stupid sending off against Wigan. Some players are signed because of their experience. This probably was not the part of Williams’ past Stoke wanted him to re-enact.
It has come to something when football has forgotten £40m men. Yet Bakayoko’s departure from Chelsea on loan attracted little attention. He has barely been mentioned amid the Blues' start to the season. Which, after some of the unflattering comments he attracted in his debut campaign, may be a relief.
Yet if there was a logic to Chelsea buying Bakayoko when Conte was manager, albeit one who objected to the sale of Nemanja Matic, the notion of a side built on the solid platform of two defensive midfielders is redundant in the days of ‘Sarri-ball’. Exit Bakayoko, on loan to Milan, where he had a difficult debut in a 3-2 defeat to Napoli and was benched for a victory over Roma.
Pity the comparatively low-profile player at a club obsessed with big names or alternatively, the essentially destructive midfielder faced with a manager who prefers more attack-minded players. Pedro Obiang’s belated first league appearance for West Ham this season came as a substitute in the weekend’s 1-0 loss to Wolves.
By then, four other central midfielders had already started this campaign for Pellegrini even though, with Cheikhou Kouyate leaving and Carlos Sanchez arriving, Obiang seemed the best defensive midfielder at West Ham. Where their midfield comprised of Mark Noble and Jack Wilshere, there was a crying need for the 26-year-old Spaniard – yet he is very clearly not first choice in a struggling side.
Everton’s start to the season has revolved around one winger. Not Yannick Bolasie but the signed, scoring and sent-off Richarlison. The Brazilian has appeared an immediate and considerable upgrade on the exiled Bolasie.
With Marco Silva also bringing in Bernard, a second newcomer who can operate on the left flank, Bolasie – a £25m signing in 2016 – appeared unwanted. At least at Premier League level, anyway, with the scramble for his services coming between Aston Villa and Middlesbrough.
Villa manager Steve Bruce won, securing the 29-year-old on a season-long loan. It may mean his injury-ravaged Everton career is in effect over after just two league goals and four assists. If so, he may go down as former director of football Steve Walsh’s great folly.