Liverpool's Most Frustrating XI of the Premier League Era

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2013

Liverpool's Most Frustrating XI of the Premier League Era

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    Football is a great spectacle which makes for entertaining and interesting viewing when your team is doing well, but there are always those players who can frustrate to the point where they ruin an entire flowing move or even a team's ability to attack for a large portion of the game.

    Whether because some players were so out of tune with the rest of the side, or because they were capable of producing so much more, far more often, some players just leave fans gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands with total exasperation.

    Here's Liverpool's version of the most frustrating XI since the inception of the Premier League.

Goalkeeper: Chris Kirkland

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    Hon. Mention: Jerzy Dudek. Started as one of the best keepers in the Premiership, descended into an error-prone shadow of his former self.

     

    Chris Kirkland was actually signed at the same time as Dudek as Gerard Houllier looked to secure Liverpool's goalkeeping spot in the short and long term. Kirkland was viewed as the Pole's successor and initially showed a lot of promise, with his large frame and enthusiastic demeanour helping him impress in the early appearances he was handed.

    However, when Dudek lost his form and Kirkland was handed the opportunity to become first-team keeper, his limitations were exposed time and time again.

    Most frustratingly of all, he failed to learn from them. A poor starting position, not being aggressive enough and looking too cumbersome to really be an athletic goalkeeper all contributed to Kirkland losing his place at times, but the real killer was his never-ending stream of injuries.

    Hand, back, head, ribs, wrists; you name it, Kirkland injured it.

Right-Back: Rigobert Song

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    Hon. Mention: Philipp Degen. Arrived on a "free transfer," left having cost the club upward of £8 million after playing seven league games.

     

    Rigobert Song takes the first spot though in defence.

    The Cameroonian defender was an experienced figure who was intended to bring leadership and direction to a relatively young squad as well as defensive awareness and ability of course. Instead, he brought unpredictable form, a suspect attitude and was too erratic for the safety-first mentality of Gerard Houllier.

    Song never really secured a permanent place in the side, which given what he achieved elsewhere was a major disappointment.

Centre-Backs: Igor Biscan and Djimi Traore

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    Hon. Mention: Phil Babb. Came with a big reputation after performing on the biggest stage, made a terrifying number of mistakes and left on a free.

     

    Liverpool have had an unfortunately large number of central defenders who have never lived up to the hype generated upon their arrival, and a similarly big crowd who have just simply not been good enough.

    Somewhere in the middle come these two; neither natural centre-backs but who were asked to play the position on many occasions.

    Igor Biscan is something of a cult hero on Merseyside; the slightly gormless looking Croat was a sought-after central midfielder when he joined the club and stumbled his way through several seasons at Anfield.

    Occasionally, he would set the place alight with raking passes and sublime dribbles, but for the most part it was a case of looking entirely lost, making horrendous mistakes and generally making the watching public extremely nervous whenever he got hold of the ball.

    The frustration came from watching him look the part in the Champions League—remember the Depor match?—then watching him fall over his own bootlaces the very next weekend against lower-league opposition in the cup.

    Alongside Biscan in a defence made of the stuff of fans' nightmares in Djimi Traore.

    The former Laval defender is often included in lists of Liverpool's "worst ever" players, an unfair and very short-sighted label for him.

    Traore was far from the worst; he was perfectly capable of going on a run of good games at centre- or left-back. The trouble was, you knew a match-costing mistake was always just around the corner. Confidence and a bit of a lack of cohesion with his own body was part of the issue for Traore, which made his errors in big games all the more frustrating as they were eminently avoidable.

    Lest we forget, both of these players were huge parts of Liverpool's 2005 Champions League success.

    Oh, and Traore scored a hilarious own goal in the same season.

Left-Back: Christian Ziege

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    Hon. Mentions: Jose Enrique, Andrea Dossena. Both one-dimensional, both dreadfully slow in possession, both with more than questionable decision-making skills.

     

    You might have lost count of the number of times by now that Liverpool have signed the "missing piece of the jigsaw."

    Back in 2000, the latest player to be identified as such was Middlesbrough full-back Christian Ziege. The Reds had a strong defence but needed an attack-minded presence down that side, or so it was thought, to really challenge at the top end.

    Ziege had a wonderful track record having played for Bayern Munich and AC Milan before 'Boro, as well as winning over 40 caps for Germany between the mid- to late-90's, when the national team was very strong indeed.

    There was no doubting that Ziege had the talent but the Reds saw scant evidence of it after his £7 million arrival, and his erratic performances in the final third and almost complete inability to defend saw him sold after a single season.

Central Midfield: Christian Poulsen and Bruno Cheyrou

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    Hon. Mention: Charlie Adam. Gave away countless unnecessary free kicks and was too cheap in possession.

     

    Christian Poulsen was a far more recent arrival to Liverpool than most others on the list, but it was plain from the beginning that he was ill-suited to the needs of the Reds.

    Clearly, the Danish defensive midfielder had ability which was recognised elsewhere as he featured for the likes of Sevilla and Juventus, and now plays at Ajax, but at Anfield he was nothing short of a liability.

    Brought in to provide a strong base to midfield and partnering the likes of Steven Gerrard initially, Poulsen was far too slow in possession, far too slow to move around the pitch and far too slow to make his challenges.

    A spate of penalties conceded early on set the tone for his frustrating, but short-lived, spell in Liverpool.

    Bruno Cheyrou had far more technical ability on the ball and was seen as a great option in the final third to add goals for the Reds after a second-place finish in the league in 2002, but, like Poulsen, he was simply not quick enough on the ball to have an impact in England.

    Cheyrou was extremely frustrating to watch because, though he lost possession with ridiculous regularity, he seemed to see himself as above working hard to win back the ball.

    Gifted on the ball, but nothing like the type of player Liverpool really needed. Cheyrou scored a few important goals but by and large he wasted his potential at the club.

Right Wing: Luis Garcia

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    Hon. Mention: Jermaine Pennant. Quick, good at crossing and dribbling—but massively inconsistent, couldn't finish and disappeared in games too often.

     

    Few recent "success stories" have divided fans like Luis Garcia.

    What is undeniable is that he became one of Liverpool's most important players very quickly after arriving and was a massive part of the success the team enjoyed in his first two seasons at the club.

    Garcia could win a match on his own in a heartbeat with a jinking run, a quick reverse-pass or a terrific finish from inside or outside the box, and the supporters saw plenty of evidence to that effect.

    Unfortunately they also witnessed plenty of the other side of the Spaniard; the terrible composure to miss easy chances to score, occasions of giving away possession trying a fancy trick when the easy pass was on and other instances of poor decision making.

    Nevertheless he never shied away from the challenge of doing his best for Liverpool FC, was a real warrior despite his slight frame and was one of the few players worth paying to see at a time when an awful lot needed changing on the field at Anfield.

    Which, of course, made it all the more frustrating when he did unspeakably silly things on the pitch.

Attacking Midfield: Harry Kewell

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    Hon. Mention: Vladi Smicer. All the technical ability in the world and so little consistency.

     

    That line for Vladimir Smicer could simply be repeated for Harry Kewell.

    The Australian was another "missing link" who never quite delivered enough for the Reds. His first six months were a big success and seemed to indicate he would bring to the team exactly what they had missed; goals from the second line of attack, an ability to beat defenders and pace in the final third.

    Six months of great football, end product and promise for the future—then four-and-a-half years of injuries, inconsistencies and failed attempts at comebacks.

    Kewell was part of a very good team and had he had the mental and physical fortitude to push his game to the utmost limits of his ability, Liverpool would have had a world beater on their hands. Instead, he seemed to succumb to the slightest knock without a fight, and took some time after to regain form, fitness and at times even interest.

    The former Leeds winger went off injured in three different cup finals for Liverpool after not having played particularly big roles in the team having reached those games, which just about sums up the levels that were expected of him, and the hindrances which prevented him achieving those heights.

Left Wing: Mark Walters

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    Hon. Mention: Ryan Babel. So much natural talent, never given much of a chance and never did much to earn one.

     

    One from the archives now and 90s winger Mark Walters.

    Walters was a really skilful player with pace and the confidence to try tricks, but he ultimately offered little in the way of regular end product.

    Walters was, for lack of a better term, a greedy player with the ball at his feet, preferring to try and take on another defender rather than look for the pass and work himself into more space.

    Perhaps it was merely a lack of vision which enabled him to see the option to pass, rather than a willful desire to do it all himself—because he was no Messi, let's be honest.

    Skilful and quick, yes, but not terribly adept at achieving his aims. He played for the Reds for five years as he switched from a wide position to the middle of midfield, but the latter years were spent out on loan and he really only had one impressive season at Anfield—the first Premier League season in 1992-93.

Centre Forward: Emile Heskey

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    Hon. Mentions: Fernando Morientes, Robbie Keane. Both players arrived with big expectations, but scored too few goals, gave too few good performances and were quickly sold on.

     

    Has there been a more frustrating striker at Anfield than Emile Heskey?

    Built stronger than Alan Shearer, as quick an acceleration as Michael Owen and with a thunderous shot with both feet, Heskey seemed the prototype for the modern attacker after joining Liverpool.

    This was one beast of a forward though who thrived on confidence and goals—and fell apart when either disappeared.

    One of the Reds' best players during the treble season where he hit over 20 goals, Heskey shortly after lost his goalscoring touch and seemed to spend more time on the ground injured than moving menacingly around the opposition penalty area.

    Eventually, having missed too many good chances to shoot, Heskey was shunted out to the left side for a spell, but never had the technical ability or control to make an impact in that position.

    His defining moment came against Manchester United where, late in the game and needing an equaliser, the ball fell to Heskey inside the six-yard box. In trying to shoot first-time, he succeeded only in tripping himself up and missing the ball, and the chance to take something from the game was gone.

    Heskey had so much promise but ended up delivering very little of it, much to the frustrations of those who watched him line up cannon ball-like shots...only to see them end up in Row Z, or trickling away to the corner flag.