Half Term Report – Worst XI

With half the current season done, let us take a look at those players who have been disappointing, unreliable or just plain hopeless..

GK – David de Gea

de Gea having an epiphany

As a Manchester United fan, it pains me dearly to say this, but after all that’s been said and done, de Gea hasn’t been the best of our purchases in a while. Ever since he let in a clanger against City in the FA Community Shield way back at the start of the season, the young Spaniard has been heckled, scrutinized and generally made a mockery of. Crap at crosses and lousy against long balls, de Gea has been culpable for many of the goals the champions have conceded so far. That said though, he has had some outstanding games as well, especially against Liverpool and Chelsea in the PL.

RB – Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal)

Making the switch from Charlton Athletic to one of the best teams in the country was always going to be difficult, as Jenkinson found out relatively early in the season. That performance (and subsequent sending off) against United in the massacre at Old Trafford pretty much summed it up for the Englishman. His displays following that match weren’t very convincing either, spent mostly being injured or being crap. Kinda like the Andy Carroll of Ashburton Grove. Maybe buying him wasn’t one of Wenger’s better ideas…

CB – Roger Johnson (Wolves)

Roger Johnson looking particularly stupid

Following some plausibly good performances for erstwhile Birmingham City last season, Mick McCarthy made the mistake of purchasing Johnson for about 6 million quid. And what a spectacularly stunning failure that has been. Handed the captaincy on his arrival, Johnson has gone from bad to plain f****** terrible in a period of 6 months, putting in some horrendous displays against well…everyone. His positioning and tactical awareness make Per Mertersacker look like Fernando Hierro. For a man who was once tipped for national team status, Johnson would now probably struggle to get into Southampton’s reserve squad.

CB – Gary Caldwell (Wigan Athletic)

There are bad defenders, and then there’s Wigan’s very own Gary Caldwell. Snapped up in 2010 from Celtic, where he was terrifying the Park Lane faithful, Caldwell has strived to continue the trend at the DW, where he terrifies Latics on a weekly basis. In fact, his defending is so poor that he looks more like the opposition’s main striker than any sort of defender. People might say his partner-in-crime Antolin Alcaraz is worse, but for me, Caldwell is undoubtedly the most pathetic Scotsman in the Premier League right now (although Alex McLeish might disagree).

LB – Patrice Evra (Manchester United)

Evra’s form has fallen off a cliff ever since the French national team shot themselves in the foot in South Africa. Since then, his positioning has disappeared, his pace has gone and his reading of the game appears to be in tatters. In games this season he has been beaten by everyone from Sturridge and Walcott to Mackie and Koscielny. And although his attacking prowess seems unaffected, his defending (or lack of it, rather) has contributed directly to over 60% of the goals United have conceded this season. Unless Evra rediscovers himself, he might well find himself following the not-so-illustrious footsteps of Darron Gibson.

RM – Samir Nasri (Manchester City) / Theo Walcott (Arsenal) 

If I were to pay £24 million pounds for an attacking midfielder, I would expect him to create assist after assist and score goal after goal. So far, Nasri has a mind-boggling 3 goals and 7 assists. Wow. The defining characteristic of Nasri’s season has seemingly been to quietly disappear from matches as the game wears on. And the man himself has admitted that his debut season for the club “has not been as good as hoped for.” Talk about understatements.

Theo Walcott on the other hand, knows a lot about being understated. And overrated. After 6 years of being lauded as “The next best thing since Wayne Rooney/Gazza/God”, Gooners have come to the realization that the former Southampton winger just might be crap. Everyone else had realized the same years ago. The fact that Wenger still prefers to start Walcott ahead of the much more talented/much less one-trick-pony-ish Oxlade-Chamberlain is a source of bemusement to Gooners and amusement to everyone else.

CM – John Obi Mikel (Chelsea)

There are many many things that John Obi Mikel lacks – ball control, dribbling, good passing, positioning, awareness, reactions…you get the drift. But one thing the towering Nigerian does have, is consistency – he consistently manages to waltz into most of the ‘Worst Player’ lists at the end of each and every year. Michael Essien being out for months provided Mikel with the perfect platform to show everyone why he had been wrongly maligned. Instead, he illustrated perfectly as to why he is hated by even Chelsea fans. People say Michael Carrick is crap on his bad days. The very same people will agree that Mikel is s***e every single day.

CM – Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

Hendo, Hendo, Hendo. You weren’t exceptional at Sunderland, yet Liverpool paid £20 million for you. You were crap at the U-21 tourney in Denmark, yet John Henry bid £20 million on you. Now, you have 1 assist in almost 30 appearances and yet Kenny Dalglish refuses to bench you. You must be glad you aren’t playing for Lord Purple-conk at Old Trafford huh?

Henderson has been undeniably poor this season. Like Nasri at Eastlands (or the Etihad or whatever), Hendo’s most distinct quality is vanish from matches. Unlike Nasri however, he prefers to remain anonymous since the very beginning of games. Talking about anonymity..

LM – Stewart Downing (Liverpool)

Clearly, something’s wrong with Dalglish’s transfer policy, because save a certain Uruguayan, most of his purchases have been gobs***e. And ol’ Downing illustrates this perfectly. Apart from some brilliant performances at the start of the season, Downing has been utterly utterly poor – 28 appearances, 1 goal, 2 assists. All for a mere £20 million. As the season has worn on, Downing’s form has gone from great to barely bearable. As the season has worn on, Downing has become increasingly anonymous down the left wing, with that performance against Man United possibly being the nadir of his form. Somewhere in Cleveland, Randy Lerner is laughing his head off.

RF – Andy Carroll (Liverpool)

Selecting the forward pair for this Worst XI list was easier than many would have thought.

The cold, hard truth

To start off, we have Liverpool’s ham-fisted Geordie, Andy Carroll. Amazingly, Carroll still divides opinion in Mersyside, because some Scousers still think that he is a good buy at £35 million quid. Hardly. Take the match against Tottenham for instance – the Anfield Cat spent more time in Brad Friedel’s penalty area than the lumbering former Newcastle United man. Carroll has ostensibly been battling form and fitness issues ever since he joined Liverpool.

During his 1-year tenure at Anfield, Carroll has scored 14 goals in total, with a chance conversion rate of just 20%. Liverpool’s quick passing game seems to be the polar opposite of what Carroll was used to – and thrived on – at Newcastle. He is slow, a bad passer and apparently, a bad finisher as well, because even Luis Suarez – who has been blamed for his lack of finishing ability – has more goals and a better chance conversion ratio (37%). However, even a year on, Scousers still deny that he has been a bad purchase. Note that these are the same people who called for David de Gea to be beheaded after a couple of poor games for United.

LF – Fernando Torres (Chelsea)

Well, who else did you expect apart from El Nino?

The Spaniard’s fall from grace has been startling. “50 Million Flop”, “Flopando Torres” et al are all being bandied about every time Torres so much as touches the ball. Torres has gone from being one of the most feared strikers in Europe to being one of the most laughable, in a period of 6 months. It is his sheer inability to find the net with any sort of consistency that rankles the Blues’ faithful, who admirably still chant the man’s name at Stamford Bridge.

However, unlike Carroll, Torres’s goal drought seems to have improved his all-round play. He is now a better passer, better at tracking back and is among the top assisters with 9 assists – only one short of Juan Mata. Regardless, it is hard to argue that Torres hasn’t been disappointing. He was bought for one and only reason – to score goals, and at that he has been a stunning failure.

Manager – Steve Bruce 

The fact that Sunderland are doing so well under Martin O’Neill just serves to strengthen the question – what the hell was Bruce doing at the stadium of light? He let Gyan, Bent and Henderson go, and never managed to replace them sufficiently. Played properly pathetic football, and still managed to look stunned when they ended up losing. Which was very often.

(Dis) Honourable Mentions –

GK – Shay Given (Aston Villa), Petr Cech (Chelsea), Paddy Kenny (QPR)

Defenders – Per Mertersacker (Arsenal), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Michel Salgado (Blackburn Rovers), David Luiz (Chelsea), Titus Bramble (Sunderland), Antolin Alcaraz (Wigan Athletic), Emerson Boyce (Wigan Athletic)

Midfielders – Raul Mereiles (Chelsea), Darron Gibson (Manchester United/Everton) Charlie Adam (Liverpool), Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham) Morten-Gamst Pedersen (Blackburn Rovers) Adel Taraabt (QPR), Owen Hargreaves (Manchester City)

Forwards – Carlos Tevez (Manchester City) Jay Bothroyd (QPR), Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal), Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Hugo Rodallega and Franco di Santo (Wigan Athletic)

Managers – Mick McCarthy (Wolves), Alex McLeish (Aston Villa), Owen Coyle (Bolton Wanderers), Neil Warnock (QPR).

Special Mention – Bolton Wanderers Football Club.