10 EPL Players Who Must Step Up in 2012

Ned HarwoodContributor IIIJanuary 5, 2012

10 EPL Players Who Must Step Up in 2012

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    The first half of the 2011-2012 season featured many standout performances. We saw plenty of talented players shine and make a name for themselves in the ever-changing world of football.

    The second half of the season looks to be just as bright. Players have just two choices: Stand up and rise to the occasion, or sit down and fade into the background.

    Here are 10 players who are confronted with these two options and must do the former. Enjoy!

Tim Cahill

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    What happened to the days when Tim Cahill ran the show at Goodison Park? The Australian legend has a streak of four straight years of 7+ goals in the EPL.

    He has yet to find the net for struggling Everton this season. In fact, his last recorded club goal dates all the way back to 2010, when he scored the opener in Everton’s upset over City on the road.

    It's been over 12 months without a goal in the EPL for the veteran finisher! It’s time to step up, Tim.

Charles N'Zogbia

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    After losing star wingers Stewart Downing and Ashley Young in the same transfer window, Charles N’Zogbia was supposed to be the updated mastermind of the Aston Villa offense.

    This prediction has come true, but only if "mastermind" has a definition identical to the word “liability.”

    N’Zogbia simply did not show up in his first half season for the Villans. To make matters worse, he continued to be supplied as if he was in top form. Villa seemed to try and force the poor form out of their new signing by simply overusing him, a strategy used many times before, often unsuccessfully.

    N’Zogbia has started to play more like his class the last couple of matches. He seems to finally feel comfortable at Villa Park,

    In order to win over the Villa faithful, though, he will need to fulfill some of the enormous expectations laid on him after the departure of his predecessors. 

Anders Lindegaard

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    Welcome to your new starting job Mr. Lindegaard!

    After David De Gea suffered another woeful day at the office against Blackburn, it was assumed that Sir Alex would officially count on the Danish keeper in net.

    Before Wednesday night, Lindegaard posted a clean sheet in each of his five starts this season. He looked far more confident and comfortable in goal than his Spanish teammate.

    Lindegaard has been close to perfect, and that ridiculously consistent form is now evidently expected of him as United faces possibly their biggest title struggle in recent memory.

    From Third String to First XI, Lindegaard has to get ready for the big lights shining down on him.

Adel Taarabt

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    So much for Adel Taarabt taking the league by storm.

    The 2010-11 Championship Player of the Year has not dazzled the EPL with his fancy foot skills and moves—as he did just last year to earn him widespread recognition.

    In fact, Taarabt has done little more than take the air out of the ball in his first season of top-flight English football (zero goals, zero assists, 39 shots).

    After a hot start to the year, QPR is currently four points away from the bottom of the BPL and in desperate need of an offensive savior. Cue: Adel Taarabt.

Hugo Rodallega

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    The Wigan war hero has had a disappointing first couple months to the EPL season. He failed to hit the back of the net once since August.

    His poor form has even caused Wigan owners to contemplate selling their star forward this transfer window. We all know what Rodallega is capable of and that is why his recent play is just not acceptable.

    Whether it is with Wigan or somewhere else, Hugo needs to get back on his front foot in 2012. 

Per Mertesacker

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    Mertesacker was supposed to be the anchor of a shaky Arsenal defense this season, but he has instead taken the role of the “weakest link” on the back line. His slow pace allows faster forwards to attack him with ease. His mental lapses have given Gooners across the world heart attacks nearly every weekend.

    Now, with injuries to Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos, Mertesacker can no longer afford to be a liability on the defensive end.

    Simply put, he must step up if Arsenal want Champions League football next season.

Andy Carroll

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    Oh, Andy Carroll. The world’s left eyebrow perked up when it heard of the 35 million pound transfer fee paid for a player with less than a year of Premier League experience under his belt.

    His performance the last 12 months has been just as alarming as his ridiculous price tag. Carroll has just four goals since joining Liverpool and has not been able to find a rhythm with his Anfield teammates.

    However, with Luis Suarez out until mid-February, the Reds are going to need to find a new forward to take over and assert himself. Could there be a better redemption opportunity than this one?

Kevin Davies

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    While Kevin Davies’ glory years are far behind him, the Bolton captain was still expected to play at a high level this season—a level that in reality he has not been close to since May.

    In the absence of Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-Yong, Davies has simply not stepped up and picked up the offensive slack to keep Bolton competitive. Davies has scored just once since August and isn’t currently playing in the form that earned him National Team buzz just a year ago.

    Relegation is nothing to play around with. If Bolton has any chance at surviving the drop, Davies is going to have to lead by example in the attacking third and push the Wanderers up the table. 

Paul Robinson

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    Paul Robinson may have more on his shoulders than any other footballer in the world this year. With Christopher Samba likely leaving this transfer window, desperate Blackburn is going to count on Robinson to make some even bigger saves to salvage valuable points.

    If Robinson can’t get the job done, then Steve Kean is inevitably out, Blackburn heads to lower division football for the first time since 2001, and he—at 32 and past his prime—may never see First XI Premier League football again.

    But seriously, Paul, no pressure. 

Fernando Torres

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    Do I even need to explain this one?

    At 50 million pounds, a player has to produce more than three league goals in a calendar year. If there was ever a time that Chelsea needed him to live up to even half his price tag, it would be in the next five months. Chelsea’s Champions League qualifying streak is in doubt.

    Torres’ 2011 form was poor, to say the least. Instead of falling victim to the painfully easy concept of bombarding him with insults, I will start 2012 with this statement: Fernando, If you lead Chelsea to glory, the last 12 months will all of sudden fade from our memories.

    Cheers!