Footballers, sadly, are not robots, and various factors including injury, temperament, and opposition tactics affect their form throughout the season. For those who can keep consistency, the plaudits arrive, but those who cannot invite criticism when it is not going so well.
We have put together a list of the Premier League's top 10 most unpredictable players, in reverse order, likely to go from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of a week, or even the same game.
The Brazilian has had plenty of false dawns at Manchester United since being bought in 2007, and still he remains an enigma. Injury has blighted his progress, but his form remains patchy. The midfielder showed what he can do by scoring a stunning 25-yarder against Newcastle last week, but when have you ever seen him do anything like that? Until he can start playing consistently well, fans will remain unconvinced.
9) Andrei Arshavin
Arshavin has generally been a disappointed since signing for Arsenal in 2009, but a couple of notable highlights include his phenomenal four goals against Liverpool and a winner against Barcelona. He again showed his talent against, erm, Coventry, in the Legaue Cup last week to serve a reminder of his ability. However there have been too many lethargic showing from the Russian, who showed at Euro 2012 how unpredictable he can be, playing well in two matches, and going missing in their final must-win group game which led to their elimination.
8) Gabby Agbonlahor
When Gabby Agbonlahor is on form, so are Aston Villa, as he showed by inspiring them to a League Cup third round win with a brace against Manchester City last week. But when he is not, the club invariably struggle. Last season he had scored five goals by time November came around, and then he proceeded to not score for the rest of the whole season.
7) David de Gea
The only goalkeeper to feature in our top 10, David de Gea is capable of pulling off world class saves one week and looking like a buffoon the next. To be fair to him mostly in 2012 he has been excellent, but a clanger against Fulham which led to him being dropped highlighted how he still has a lot of work to do to master coming for crosses and cutting out the basic errors.
6) Theo Walcott
Despite a very good ratio of goals and assists, Walcott is the type of player who frustrates even his own fans. He has it in him to turn and win a match, but his decision making still attracts criticism. Earlier this year he went from his worst performance in at Arsenal shirt away to AC Milan, to his best, at home to Tottenham, in the space of 10 days.
The third Manchester United player in our list, Nani's main problem this season is he has been consistently bad. It wasn't so long ago he was voted Manchester United's Player of the Season, and it was considered an outrage by the club's supporters he wasn't on the official shortlist. While he is out of form, he remains a talented player, and one that is capable of being a matchwinner when he gets it right.
4) Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez is so frustrating to watch, but he has a lot of skill in his locker. His problem is that he will miss three easy chances, and then score a more difficult fourth attempt. Look at his first goal of the season, a free-kick against City, in contrast to the easier openings he missed away at West Brom on the opening day. A goal from near the halfway line against Norwich last season serves as a reminder of what he is able of producing, but missed sitters at home to the Canaries earlier in the campaign. Last week he fluffed his lines against United, but again showed his form at Carrow Road a week later. His greatest challenge is to hit the back of the net consistently.
3) Fernando Torres
Fernando Torres was once one of the most predictable players in the league. For Liverpool he was predictably excellent, while last season for Chelsea it was pretty easy to predict he would be bad. The fact this season he has scored five in 10, shows that he is a bit hit and miss. An improvement yes on last season, but not the sterling form he once showed against Liverpool. He was very good against Arsenal at the weekend, and had displayed impressive early season form, but sandwiched in between were woeful displays against QPR and Stoke. He is improving thanks to the attacking players around him, but you still don't quite know which Torres will turn up from one game to the next.
Ivory Coast international Gervinho started last season well, before running out of steam thanks to his African Nations Cup involvement. This season he has been largely excellent in a variety of positions across the Arsenal attack, but showed against Manchester City how frustrating he can be. A first touch described as one of the worst in Premier League history saw him blow a one on one, before missing another gilt-edged chance. What did he do next? Follow it up with an excellent gal against Chelsea. Bouncing back shows signs of character, but it also illuminates his unpredictability.
1) Mario Balotelli
Was there any doubt? Mario Balotelli is the ultimate unpredictable footballer. He is either going to win you the game or lose it. He is just as likely to hit the winner as he is to get a red card. His incomprehensible performance at the Emirates last season where he went round hacking down Arsenal players and missing sitters showed the very worst side of his game, but the next time he appeared, he provided the assist for Aguero's title winning goal. Will he ever change? Probably not, this is what makes Super Mario the most talked about character in football today.
Do you agree with our list, who else should be on it?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald