Every club has at least one player who just doesn’t look the part. He is often the character that the fans lose patience with, or the youngster who has never quite made it.
In this article, I profile the "deadwood" in the 20 Premier League clubs—proposing possible escape routes for these erstwhile stars who appear to have either lost their usefulness, or perhaps never had it in the first place.
Agree or disagree with my picks, or suggest your own selections in the comments section…who is the player that you would be keen to see depart from your club?
Where to begin? Despite all of his previous successes, and the many revolutionary concepts he has brought to the English game, Arsene Wenger too often gives the impression of a man incapable of constructing a coherent, competent Premier League squad.
Few outfits are as flabby as Arsenal, with numerous "stars" merely picking up their wage until their contracts draw to a close. However, despite having numerous options across the park, as well as being afforded more time than almost anyone to construct his squad, recent disappointments against Blackburn and Bayern Munich demonstrate that the Gunners are a world away from the success that their fans crave.
In terms of selecting one player to epitomise the oft-misguided nature of Wenger’s squad construction, I am torn between three veterans who have lost their way since arriving in North London. Andrei Arshavin hasn’t looked interested since 2010, Sebastien Squillaci hasn’t looked comfortable since 2010, and Tomas Rosicky—now 32—seems to have lost Wenger’s confidence altogether.
The question no longer seems to be whether the trio will be departing North London in the summer, but whether Wenger will still be there to bid them farewell.
I think it’s evident to anyone who has popped up to Villa Park over the last two years that Alan Hutton isn’t quite Premier League standard, some at Villa have even suggested whether he’s a defender at all. However, with the former Spurs man packed off to Real Mallorca until the summer, I have looked elsewhere for my deadwood.
One of the narratives to have absorbed Aston Villa’s season has been Paul Lambert’s preference for youth over experience. The likes of Shay Given, Darren Bent and Richard Dunne have watched on impotently as the fledgling Villains have floundered.
Stephen Ireland may be the major white elephant in the room however. A Player of the Year at Manchester City in 2009, and Villa’s Fans Player of the Year last year, Ireland has failed to inspire the youngsters around him, and without a goal and only one assist, he too has found himself overlooked by Lambert.
The site of a over-paid international rotting in the reserves isn’t new to the West Londoners, and it has long felt inevitable that Florent Malouda would be the man to take up Winston Bogarde’s place in the U21 team.
It’s tough on a player who has, on occasion, brought such splashes of beauty to Stamford Bridge, but after being rumoured to be on the brink of departure for the last couple of transfer windows, it became apparent that Malouda couldn’t hope to be kept on as an after-thought of regimes gone by.
Recent rumours have indicated that Malouda’s plight is drawing fractions within Chelsea’s squad, with few impressed by his enforced ostracism. The future looks brighter, however, for the Premier League and Champions League-winning midfielder, with clubs in Russia and the USA eyeing him up longingly.
There is still time for Magaye Gueye to come good, but in a squad short on numbers, he may be one saleable asset that the Toffees might think about cashing in on.
Having watched him extensively as a youngster at Strasbourg, I was never wowed by his ability and awareness, and he was often choked out of games by sturdy Ligue 2 defences.
Despite looking bright on occasion in the Premier League, his scoring record of one in 24 for Everton suggests, however, that he is yet to make his presence felt in England.
A loan move to Brest may well see the young man imbued with the confidence and nous required in the Premier League, but the Toffees may also be interested in cutting their losses on the Senegalese frontman. David Moyes clearly didn’t feel that he was worth keeping on board for the run-in, and this may be a telling portent as to the forward’s future.
A great servant for Spurs, Everton, and latterly, Fulham, it feels harsh to label the Welsh winger ‘Deadwood’. Realistically, however, Davies is 33 and with his contract coming to an end this summer, it’s hard to see him being thoroughly reintegrated into the Fulham fold by Martin Jol after his recent injury woes.
With the manager employing his continental approach, and with a number of exciting young European players on the fringes of the squad, I struggle to see Davies being key part of the Cottagers team again, despite Jol’s optimism.
Perhaps one final move in a lower league may be in the future of the EPL stalwart, a return to Peterborough, the club where he initially broke through, could be the answer.
A couple of months ago, many at Anfield would have gladly seen Stewart Downing depart from their club, but the England winger has improved markedly in recent times and has worked his way back into the fold under Brendan Rogers.
Creative Moroccan midfielder Oussama Assaidi, however, has struggled to make an impact in Rogers’s starting XI, and like Nuri Sahin before him, looks to have failed to win the manager’s confidence. Like the Turkish midfielder, Assaidi might also be shown the door at Anfield before being given a fair crack of the whip in the Reds’ midfield.
Still only 24, I’m not writing off his future on Merseyside, but the signing of Philippe Coutinho places a younger player of greater pedigree in direct competition for a place as one of the team’s creative influences, or as an impact substitute.
Gareth Barry’s dismal performance against Southampton recently prompted pundits to envisage a clearing out at Manchester City this summer. Indeed, Barry could be seen as one of several players coming to the final furlong of their careers, as City’s revolution looks to consolidate after what is turning out to be a disappointing season.
But while a case can be made to advocate a stay of execution for Barry, another of City’s veterans, Kolo Toure, looks to have reached the end of the road. Some shaky performances at the African Cup of Nations only served to illustrate how far his stock has fallen in recent years.
Part of City’s initial petro-dollar revolution, the Ivorian has been usurped by the likes of Joleon Lescott, Vincent Kompany, Stefan Savic, and, latterly, Matija Nastasic, to the point where a change of scene and direction is desperately needed. He has lost Mancini’s trust and looks a dead cert to be shown the door in the summer.
He might have impressed against Reading in United’s recent FA Cup triumph, but it’s hard to see a place for Nani in Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans going forward. Having only started four games in three months for the side, the winger failed to even make the squad for the recent crunch match with Real Madrid.
It all smacks of a player who now finds himself very much on the periphery at United, and appears to have lost his productivity (and his consistency) in the manager’s eyes.
Indeed, his recent starring role felt very much like the exception to the rule, and not the norm—as would have been hoped from a player of Nani’s ability.
The offer of a new contract has reportedly failed to convince the Cape Verde-born star of his worth to the team, and the recent acquisition of Wilfried Zaha, at a not-inconsiderable expense, could be seen as the death knell for Nani’s career in Manchester.
I could just as easily made a case for Anderson to be United’s deadwood—another Lusophone flop for Sir Alex to contend with.
With the French Revolution in full swing at Newcastle, the end may be near for two of the club’s performers who have never quite managed to step up to the Premier League level.
It’s hard to see how much use Mike Williamson and James Perch can be to the Magpies going forward, especially with signings like Moussa Sissoko and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa standing in their way.
Whilst injuries have meant that opportunities since the first wave of French signings haven’t totally dried up, I struggle to shine optimistically upon the prospects of Williamson and Perch now that another talented bunch have been added to the squad.
Williamson has rarely looked comfortable in the Prem, but Perch might have cause to feel slightly more hopeful for his future. The player is popular at St. James Park and is reportedly an excellent dressing room influence, so perhaps Pardew will be keen to keep him around to preserve an English spine to this continental squad.
A scoring record of one in four in the lower leagues isn’t exceptional, and Chris Martin has done little since Norwich’s promotion to suggest that he has the capacity to grow into the EPL.
Having been left out of the Canaries’ 25-man Premier League squad, it seems like boss Chris Hughton shares my concerns.
A recent loan move to Swindon Town saw the striker take a while to regain match fitness, but once he did, then-manager Paolo Di Canio was quick to commend the Norwich-born player.
However, Di Canio did qualify his praise by suggesting that Martin’s future lay away from the Premier League. Derby have been identified as possible suitors, but it’s fair to say that Norwich looks unlikely to be in the forward’s future.
Few things epitomise both the distress of QPR’s plight, and their gorged overspending as the frequent sight of Robert Green looking glum behind Harry Redknapp on the Hoops bench. Indeed, the keeper’s own personal turmoil this season almost rivals the club in terms of upheaval and disappointment.
Enlisted at the beginning of the season and awarded the number 1 shirt, Green’s tenure couldn’t have got off to a more ominous start, as his new side shipped 5 against Swansea at Loftus Road. Two games later, Green was usurped, as Brazilian stopper was brought in, at great expense, by Mark Hughes. It’s hard to say whether Cesar would have been purchased had Green’s start not been so incompetent.
Regardless, it has completely undermined the former England man, who, apart for a brief reprieve under Redknapp, has found his opportunities limited once more. With Cesar generally defiant in trying to preserve QPR’s Premier League status, it remains to be seen what the future holds for 33-year old Green.
Redknapp has suggested we wants to keep both players, but surely Green wouldn’t be content to see out the rest of his career by watching Cesar excel.
I am loathe to seek out deadwood at Reading, where success and stability have been build upon a tight, united bunch, and a dedicated team ethic. Their recent run of late goals, and the points earned, are testament to their desire to fight as a unit and consistently push for results.
Plus, they are short on numbers as it is—so it is a case of ‘all hands to the pump’ to ensure Premier League survival.
If I had to find some areas of criticism, and I mean ‘had to’, like if my life depended on it, I’d maybe suggest a bit of upkeep over the summer. The likes of Jason Roberts and, to a lesser extent, Ian Harte, aren’t going to have many more seasons left in them, and may be cleared to make way for fresher talent with a longer shelf-life.
I also await the progress of Danny Guthrie with relish. The midfielder’s summer move hasn’t yet worked out, and an early fracas with Brian McDermott threatened to undermine his switch. Guthrie hasn’t yet performed as he surely can, and he may need to step up a gear or two to contribute to the run-in.
Oh dear, forgive me for what I am about to do, kicking a man when he’s down isn’t usually my style.
But Kelvin Davis…the writing was on the wall.
Despite keeping their heads just above water in the Premier League, even managing to cultivate some highly promising results under new boss Mauricio Pochettino, Saints squad is riddled with players who are of dubious Premier League quality. Davis is chief among these.
My old friend and Bleacher contributor Sam Tighe commented earlier this month how Davis has recently been showing his age, but concluding that Saints no longer need to fear the goalkeeping blues with Artur Boruc having finally found some form.
I think Sam is being a bit too kind to Saints’ calamity keeper; even in his younger days, between the sticks at Sunderland, his disastrous performances contributed to the side’s relegation. His early season form even prompted Southampton to consider recruiting Tottenham’s blundering Brazilian Heurelho Gomes.
Despite starting the season has his side’s number one, Davis has been usurped by both youngster Paulo Gazzaniga and Artur Boruc, he has currently made fewer starts than either of the pair, and yet has conceded the most goals of the three—19, compared to 14 for Boruc and 12 for Gazzaniga.
I was tempted to identify Wilson Palacios as Stoke’s deadwood, the player’s decline from dynamo at Wigan and Spurs to absent shadow with the Potters is a sad subplot to the last few years. Rumours that he would depart for Aston Villa or QPR in January proved to be ill-founded, and Palacios remains a Stoke player, albeit one yet to make a start so far this season.
Michael Owen finds himself in the same boat, although with two more substitute appearances, and one more goal, things are arguably slightly better for the former-Liverpool man.
But then you consider the scale of Owen’s fall from grace, and it’s hard to stomach the depths he has plunged to.
Younger than Frank Lampard and David Beckham, the closing passages of Owen’s career are neither being played out as a legendary relic, beloved by fans of a top club, nor as a jet-setting icon, profiting from his stature by touring the globe. Owen is frustrated and freezing at a blustery Britannia, languishing in the treatment room or throwing punches at Mikel Arteta.
How the erstwhile England star must be casting envious glances towards his former strike-partner Emile Heskey, seeing out the dying embers of his career in luxury in Australia.
Was that it? Was that the moment you just remembered that Wes Brown, Champions League winning West Brown, England International Wes Brown, was still a Sunderland player, or even a player at all!?
Brown hasn’t featured for over a year, his ‘fresh start’ at the Stadium of Light seemingly curtailed after less than 6 months of action. Few suspected, as the defender injured his knee in a local FA Cup derby with rivals Middlesbrough, that he wouldn’t be seen again for over a year.
It was a cruel blow for a player who has seen many years at Manchester United disrupted through injury; his early progress at Sunderland looked promising, but the route back to football looks to be long for a player who, at 33, can’t have much more in the tank.
Titus Bramble is enjoying a run in the team of late, and the centreback may still forge a future for himself at the Stadium of Life—even though he has tended to feature in the courtrooms of the North East, rather than the penalty areas of the Premier League.
It may seem harsh on two players who have ridden the waves with the Swans as the Welsh side have climbed the leagues and made a home for themselves in the Prem. The reality, however, is that with both players creaking past 30, and with younger, finer players, standing ahead of them in the pecking order, the end may not be far for two of the club’s stalwarts.
Having only made 4 appearances this season, Tate dropped down a division to contribute to Leeds United’s promotion push under Neil Warnock. 11 competent displays in the Championship suggests that one last move to the lower level may be what Tate needs to keep the flame burning on the final years of his career.
Monk has been a cornerstone for the Swans for nearly ten years, but his options have been greatly limited by the influx of players astutely signed by both Brendan Rogers and Michael Laudrup. Chico and Ashley Williams are the side’s established centreback pairing these days, but having recently signed a contract extension, it may well be that a place in the Swans staff beckons for the Bedford-born defender. Hopefully he will be able to take a Capital One Cup winners medal with him to the backroom.
Bentley is a bit like a boomerang. No matter how far Spurs throw him, he always seems to come right back. Infamously signed for £15 million in July 2008, the midfielder has rarely looked the part in a Tottenham shirt. There has been the odd occasion of course, not least that glorious 40-yarder against Arsenal to secure a late point in a thrilling derby, but on the whole, Bentley has been a disappointment to rival any of the many to have arrived at White Hart Lane during the Premier League era.
Loan deals to Birmingham, West Ham, Rostov, and currently, Blackburn, have all promised a level of permanence for Bentley, but a combination of funds, form, and injury have consistently meant that he returns to Spurs in much the same state that they cast him off.
He will doubtless be back in the summer, and whilst his joviality and pranks are unlikely to have waned, this stint at Spurs will be remembered as the period where Bentley’s career disappeared before our eyes.
Like Bentley, Thomas is a wideman who learned his trade at Arsenal before embarking on a career that has long promised product, but looks unhappily like ending out of tune. In truth, Thomas has looked perfectly effective, and at times devastating, in the Championship, it is only when his team’s invariably get promoted, and he is faced with Premier League defences, that his resolve crumbles and his performances tail off.
With his contract coming to an end this summer, and with no new deal on the table, it looks like Thomas will be returning from whence he came.
He occasionally featured in January, after a loan spell at Leeds had afforded him some much-needed match fitness, but it looks like Steve Clarke will keep faith with the widemen that he employed to such effect early on in the season. A change of scene might be just what the doctor orders for a winger who turns 30 next month.
I was one of many almost seething with excitement when former France captain Alou Diarra signed for West Ham in the summer. After a decade away from the Premier League, the midfielder, who spent three gameless years with Liverpool early in his career, was finally getting the chance to test his mettle in the midst of the world’s most competitive league. At 6 foot 3, and offering pace, poise, and power, there is something of the Patrick Vieira about the way Diarra can take a grip of a midfield contest and drive his team forward.
Indeed, his signing for West Ham seemed like something of a coup for the East Londoners—the midfielder possessing a French league title and a World Cup runners up medal amongst his honours.
The reality has been an undignified mess, with Diarra claiming that he had been duped into signing for the Hammers, and has barely shared a word with Sam Allardyce in his 6 months in the capital. The fact that he has played only 2 hours in 5 months suggests that there is some substance to these claims, or perhaps it’s just an instance of a player not ‘fitting’ at a club.
A loan deal to Rennes, to replace the void left by Yann M’Vila, has solved the immediate problem of the midfielder, but having signed a 3-year deal in the summer, Big Sam will have to find a way to incorporate Diarra into his plans, or to jettison the deadwood for good.
Despite having their fair share of transfer gems, recruiting players plucked from veritable obscurity and seeing them thrive in the cut-and-thrust of the Premier League, Wigan also have their fair share of duds. For every Antonio Valencia there is an Albert Crusat, and for every Victor Moses there is a Mauro Boselli.
It’s difficult to say which of this incompetent pair represents a worse piece of business for Roberto Martinez; Crusat is a 5 foot 5 winger bought from Almeria, who has rarely looked like Premier League quality and looks a disastrous bit of business, even for a meagre £2 million transfer fee.
Mauro Boselli, however, might even top that. Signed for a whopping £6.5 million in the summer of 2008, the Argentine has never quite managed to hold down a first team spot, having to make do with loan deals to suspiciously warmer climes.
At 27, this was not a young prospect that the Latics took a punt on, and a few goals in the domestic cups have been the sole total of Boselli’s contribution. He was voted Wigan’s worst-ever foreign player by fans of the club in March last year, but I am personally amazed that this calamitous deal hasn’t made even more headlines.