Premier League Benchwarmers XI: Best of the Top-Flight Substitutes
Have you ever wondered what a Premier League XI made from fringe players and bench warmers would look like?
We've done it for you, so browse our selection, based on a 4-2-3-1 formation, and see if you agree with our choices. If not, add your selections in the comments below!
We've defined a "benchwarmer" as a player who is fit but cannot find regular playing time in their side's starting XI. Players such as Erik Lamela were not considered, as they are evidently adapting to life at a new club, and Martin Skrtel doesn't feature due to his recent expanded role.
GK: Brad Friedel, Tottenham Hotspur
Who better to install in goal than the experienced, veteran presence of Brad Friedel?
At 42 years old he's still putting in the work in training, providing a valuable backup option to Hugo Lloris and getting limited run-outs in cup games.
He's accepted his role as No. 2 to France's No. 1 and focuses solely on prolonging his career—the ideal presence to have in your squad.
RB: Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea
Cesar Azpilicueta enjoyed a wonderful season in Chelsea blue last year despite a midseason change of manager and has now strangely found himself frozen out under Jose Mourinho.
He's a hard worker, commits to his defensive responsibilities well and offers plenty going forward—in short, he's the perfect, well-round full-back, but Mou likes Branislav Ivanovic more.
If he becomes disillusioned and leaves Stamford Bridge, one lucky club somewhere will be set to land a prime right-back on the cheap.
CB: Jonny Evans, Manchester United
Jonny Evans is looking on as his defensive colleagues are shoe-horned into David Moyes' XI...and he's left on the sidelines.
He made his first league start of the season in the 2-1 home loss to West Bromwich Albion in place of Nemanja Vidic, who but for injury looks set to partner Rio Ferdinand all season long.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have each entered the side at right-back in the wake of Rafael's injury, but Evans is unable to cameo in that position.
CB: Younes Kaboul, Tottenham Hotspur
Younes Kaboul is making a steady return from a horrific long-term injury, and it was warming to see him complete 90 minutes in the UEFA Europa League earlier this season.
He's made just one substitute appearance in the league though, as Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson have truly nailed down a regular partnership at the heart of Andre Villas-Boas' defence.
With Vlad Chiriches in the picture and Etienne Capoue capable (but not comfortable) filling in at centre-back, are Kaboul's days at White Hart Lane numbered?
LB: Nacho Monreal, Arsenal
Nacho Monreal is battling injuries and tiredness due to the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, and for once Kieran Gibbs is staying fit.
That makes for just five substitute appearances for the Spaniard, who is being brought on to close out games either in defence or as a defensive winger.
That he played in the Capital One Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion says a lot about his current status, given Arsene Wenger's tradition of playing fringe players and youngsters in the competition.
DM: Jack Rodwell, Manchester City
If only he could stay fit.
Manchester City fans know how good Jack Rodwell can be—B/R's Rob Pollard outlines it here superbly—but injuries are threatening to destroy his young career.
He's the all-action, box-to-box midfielder every manager wants, combining finesse and technical talent with traditional British bulk, size and tenacity.
DM: Jack Cork, Southampton
Jack Cork is rightly aggrieved about the fact that Mauricio Pochettino has benched him, opting to start £12 million man Victor Wanyama from the first day of the season.
The Kenyan is bigger, stronger and more forceful, but neither he or Morgan Schneiderlin can command a game from deep with their passing like Cork can.
He's the ideal complement to Rodwell in our midfield, capable of controlling the tempo and dictating the game.
AMC: Shinji Kagawa, Manchester United
We're going to play one of the world's best No. 10s, Shinji Kagawa, in his correct position and watch him blossom. If only Manchester United would follow suit.
Kagawa has been badly misused since arriving in England, so much so that Juergen Klopp told ESPN he has "tears in his eyes" when he sees him stuck out on the left wing.
David Moyes could win instant favour with his fanbase if he played him the same way Borussia Dortmund used to.
RW: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out with a long-term injury, and when he returns he'll find it rather tough to find a place in the Arsenal XI.
Mesut Ozil has been a superb acquisition, Tomas Rosicky has hit form and has the chance to rest as needed, and Serge Gnabry is emerging fast. Add Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey in there, and this side is stacked.
The new-found depth in midfield could see "The Ox" miss out on a spot in England's 2014 World Cup squad.
LW: Gaston Ramirez, Southampton
Gaston Ramirez is Southampton's record signing, acquired for circa £15 million, but he's a relic from the Nigel Adkins era and Mauricio Pochettino isn't impressed with him.
He's a silky playmaker, but he doesn't relish the physical side of the game. He's not tactically astute either, and it seems Pochettino would prefer to play 18-year-old James Ward-Prowse instead.
In all honesty, Ramirez's best hopes for playing time lay back on the Continent.
ST: Javier Hernandez, Manchester United
Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney are capable of locking almost any striker out of a team, but fans of Manchester United are beginning to wonder why Javier Hernandez hasn't seen at least a little more playing time this season.
He's a born goalscorer, simply put, and can produce a moment of magic out of nothing to settle a game—case in point, Manchester United's 1-0 win over Liverpool last week in the Capital One Cup.
B/R's Greg Johnson recently asked whether it's time for the Mexican to leave Old Trafford, and you'd expect he's considered his options on more than one occasion.
GK: Costel Pantilimon, Manchester City
FB/CB: Micah Richards, Manchester City
CB/FB: Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal
MF: Lewis Holtby, Tottenham Hotspur
MF: Joe Allen, Liverpool
Winger: Wilfried Zaha, Manchester United
ST: Jermain Defoe, Tottenham Hotspur
What would your XI be? Plenty of names—such as Raheem Sterling, Gary Hooper and Jordi Amat—didn't quite find a place in ours, but would they be in yours?