Jeremy Menez – What has changed?

Around this time last season, the fledgling career of Jeremy Menez hit rock bottom. In a late cameo against Cagliari the winger put in one of the worst displays of the season prompting criticism from his teammates as well as Claudio Ranieri. His apparent disinterest sparked rumours of a transfer request from the player, but these were quickly dismissed as Menez issued a statement apologising to his Coach, saying: “I touched the lowest point in my career. My teammates were right to criticise me.”
Since then, though, he has slowly managed to reinvent himself, growing from a player synonymous with frustrating inconsistency to one of the key figures in the Roma attack. Having impressed towards the back end of last season, Menez has continued his improvement and is now one of the first names on Ranieri’s team sheet. All but two of his 15 league games this season have been from the start while almost half of his appearances in the two previous seasons had been from the bench.
This increased involvement can be attributed to a greater focus from the Frenchman since the Cagliari debacle. While he used to find himself isolated on the wing all too often, he has began to work harder to gain possession, a move which has resulted in his becoming a less peripheral figure and more of a constructive influence on games. He has also began to provide more game changing moments, such as his assists for Marco Borriello against Bayern Munich and AC Milan.
A tally of two assists this season has nearly matched last season’s record of three while he has already equalled his single goal from last campaign with a stunning solo effort against Udinese. Menez’s improved attitude has also had a positive effect on his disciplinary record. Last season, the winger racked up ten bookings in just 18 starts and was all too often guilty of fouling opposition players in a lackadaisical effort to regain possession. This campaign, on the other hand, he has only been booked twice and is much more reserved and effective in the tackle.
The winger has also taken on more responsibility this season and is shouldering more of the creative burden for his side. Menez has in fact clocked up more playing time so far this campaign than most of his fellow forwards, only Francesco Totti and Marco Borriello have spent more time more time on the pitch than the Frenchman. He has recently been playing a more central role behind a front two of Totti and Borriello, keeping the likes of Mirko Vucinic and David Pizarro out of the side. This move is a clear indicator of the extent of his recent improvement as well as faith Ranieri has in his ability to change games.
Naturally, Menez will continue to have bad games. He is still only 23 and has a great deal of progress to make if he is to truly realise his immense potential and live up to his billing as the next Zinedine Zidane. However, having recently won his first cap for France, Menez shows no signs of slowing down and could well prove to be one of the players of the season in Serie A.

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