Picking a Scapegoat Premier League XI
Every team has a scapegoat. A player who, rightly or wrongly, is the first name turned upon when the going gets tough.
Their worth is often hotly debated among their own supporters. Being a scapegoat isn't necessarily a sign of a poor player; sometimes it's a case of fans wanting to see more, or simply that his overall input is misunderstood.
He may lack the technique to fit in with others around him, or just be prone to the odd glaring error.
Judging by last season's candidates—such as Jordan Henderson, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Hart—being considered a scapegoat isn't necessarily a permanent deal.
Here's a look at a current Premier League Scapegoat XI, including just one player per club and only those to have featured in at least 10 games this season.
GK: Artur Boruc
Artur Boruc has performed well since signing for Southampton.
The Saints' defence has, at times, been among the most uncompromising in the Premier League and he's pulled off some impressive individual performances.
However, two traits qualify him for this team. His often comically poor kicking and his tendency to commit the odd eye-catching blunder.
Some of his more painful moments this season include conceding a goal from an opponent's goal kick, an embarrassing slip against Arsenal and several badly sliced kicks.
RB: Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker is a defender that polarises opinion.
For some, he's a devastating athlete, capable of bursting past opponents and adding another dimension in attack. For others, he's an average footballer whose searing pace masks many deficiencies.
His direct, head-down style of running will often infuriate and aspects of these frustrations may come from his early breakthrough and much-hyped potential.
Walker's worth is especially contested on the international scene, but even Spurs fans get exasperated by his inconsistent play.
CB: Kolo Toure
Were Liverpool not enjoying such an impressive season, Kolo Toure's susceptibility to the odd comedic gaffe may not be such an amusing topic.
The former Manchester City defender has started 14 games this season, filling in for Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho.
While he brings useful experience, he's also provided several ugly moments, causing his own fans to despair—most notably against West Brom and Fulham.
CB: Martin Demichelis
Martin Demichelis has been hounded by media and supporters alike during his short time at Manchester City.
Branded a flop, his input is instantly chastised whenever City concede a goal, while any positive play is quickly glossed over.
Some high profile, decisive errors—against Barcelona and Wigan—haven't helped his cause, and blaming him has almost become an impulse reaction for many.
LB: John Arne Riise
Fulham fans have had several players to vent their frustration at this season. Left-back has been a recurring issue for the side, with all the potential selections struggling for consistency.
Of the main options, John Arne Riise attracts particular exasperation.
A shadow of his former Liverpool self, the Norwegian seems to be earning a living on reputation over his current level of production.
RM: Sebastian Larsson
As with Fulham, Sunderland supporters have also witnessed their fair share of mediocrity this season.
One player getting by on endeavour over end product is Sebastian Larsson, who's received increasing groans from his own fans.
The Swede often lines up in central midfield, where he doesn't possess the physical tools or passing nous to make an impact.
His versatility regularly finds him a place in the side, but also contributes to fans' frustrations.
CM: Tom Cleverley
Tom Cleverley seems the biggest scapegoat in England at the moment.
The midfielder's suffered more than most for Manchester United's current slump, berated by his home fans and a constant topic of amusement for everyone else.
He hasn't fared any better at international level. England fans have been so against his inclusion that a petition's been drawn up against it, fetching 17,000 signatures.
A minor positive for Cleverley is the way similar scapegoats, such as Aaron Ramsey and Jordan Henderson, have bounced back from such criticism.
CM: Leon Osman
Leon Osman has been the name Evertonians curse first for over a decade.
The England international can mix it with the Premier League's best, but those performances are often separated by several games where he simple drifts by without making much impact.
His current plight isn't helped by the fact that any start often comes at the expense of Ross Barkley, which isn't a popular decision.
The youngster's pace, strength and power—the exact opposite traits of Osman—are far more pleasing to the paying public, regardless of end product. He's also another player hurt by his own versatility.
LM: Mesut Ozil
Everything started so well for Mesut Ozil.
Arsenal began the season on fire, with the German championed for transforming his new side into genuine title challengers.
A few losses later and it's suddenly become trendy for supporters, journalists and even Arsenal players to vilify him.
He's another player especially attacked in the media, with his performance against Bayern Munich prompting several scathing headlines.
ST: Shola Ameobi
Striker was a surprisingly difficult position to fill.
Roberto Soldado and Ricky van Wolfswinkel have suffered atrocious seasons after big-money moves, yet large sections of their own support still pull for their success.
Along with Osman, Shola Ameobi is a more long-standing scapegoat, polarising the opinions of Geordies throughout his career.
A few Newcastle fans idolise him, mainly for his scoring exploits against Sunderland, but most remain baffled he remains a Premier League player.
ST: Fernando Torres
Ever since an outrageously lucrative move to Chelsea, Fernando Torres' declining production has grabbed constant headlines.
Media and opposition fans seem to enjoy his barren spells, while his own supporters are often at pains with his patchy form.
He's rarely found any consistency in a Chelsea shirt, appearing a shadow of his former self. His scoring return of 19 goals in his first 102 games for the Blues, compared to 65 in 102 games for Liverpool, emphasises this further.
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