B/R's Worst Premier League Team of the Season
Now that the 2013-14 Premier League season has come to a close, we reach that time of the reflection once again where the stars of the campaign are heralded for their efforts, celebrated in varying capacities.
But what of those who did the opposite in failing to live up to expectations?
We've compiled a line-up of those least impressive performers, players who somehow played their role amongst the elite of English football and may have left a few heads scratching as to why.
With a minimum of 10 Premier League appearances required, privilege in the squad has been reserved for those with especially glorified transfer fees to have arrived over the past year, going from position to position in order to root out its most disappointing incumbent.
In order not to fill our line-up with reserve members, too, an effort has also been made to include those players with more appearances to their name when deciding between closely called selections.
It's far from easy at the top, and after this season, the following 11 players could tell you why.
Goalkeeper: Maarten Stekelenburg
Picking up Maarten Stekelenburg from Roma last summer initially looked like an astute bit of business on Fulham's part, but a year on and the club may be regretting their investment slightly.
The Dutchman's campaign was interrupted by a niggling shoulder injury, but in truth, putting their faith in the development of David Stockdale may be a better decision in the long run based on what we've seen of the Cottagers' No. 1.
In 19 Premier League appearances, Stekelenburg managed just two clean sheets as Fulham conceded a fatal league-high of 85 goals which, granted, wasn't helped by some poor defenders poised in front of whomever was between the sticks.
However, Squawka awarded the Netherlands international a worrying 29 gongs for performances he'd rather forget, including 11 "Worst Keeper of the Week" recognitions.
Conceding an average of 2.26 goals per game but averaging just 1.59 saves per goal, Stekelenburg proved himself to be a dominant presence in the air, but when it comes to shot-stopping, the sometimes-impressive guardian was awfully inconsistent.
Right-Back: Russell Martin
Russell Martin isn't quite the epitome of the modern full-back, possessing neither the kind of lightning pace of a wing-back nor the defensive security of a more old-fashioned utility in the role.
The Scot often found himself filling at centre-back and even defensive midfield on occasion, but a Jack-of-all-trades he is not, playing his part in the Canaries side that scored just 28 goals all season, the lowest tally of any outfit this term.
In 31 appearances, Martin created 11 scoring chances for Norwich but was often left exposed as a result of his tackling frailties, winning just 49 percent of his duels, per Squawka, equal to 29 of his attempted 63 tackles.
Martin's average of six defensive actions per game was the joint-lowest of any Canaries defender and a pass completion rate of just 78 percent is far from endearing.
Left-Back: Liam Ridgewell
And like the aforementioned Martin, Liam Ridgewell is a defender who may not have always plied his trade on the flank but has nonetheless found himself shifted into a full-back spot at the Hawthorns.
No player in the West Brom squad managed to amass a lower Squawka Performance Score than Ridgewell's tally of minus-145, and while the statistics aren't everything, they speak volumes in this instance.
The Baggies left-back succeeded with just 57 of his 117 tackling attempts and maintained a passing percentage of just 74, putting him among the least accurate defenders of the English top flight.
Ridgewell does make up for his efforts slightly in the fact that he grabbed two assists in 33 outings and kept a strong aerial presence considering his experience in central defence, but he's far from the full-back mould West Brom require.
Centre-Back: Philippe Senderos
Philippe Senderos was something of an oddity during his Premier League tenure, sometimes contributing a rare bit of magic only to swiftly follow that up with some form of defensive howler just to balance the scales.
Now at Valencia, the Swiss's final six months in the Premier League were rife with such moments at Craven Cottage, and his average of just 0.8 tackles per game was the worst of any Fulham defender to make 10 appearances or more.
And that's partly because Senderos seldom found himself involved enough to do that which many would consider the greatest responsibility in a centre-back's game, winning just eight tackles in 12 Premier League appearances this season, per Squawka.
The record also shows that despite playing just half the term, Senderos made two defensive errors, both of which led to attempts on his goal, so it's perhaps just as well that the West Londoners cut ties midway through the campaign.
Centre-Back: Nathan Baker
Injury to summer acquisition Jores Okore at the beginning of the season meant that Paul Lambert had to once again put faith in Nathan Baker as one of his regular starters, with defensive lapses myriad on the way to seeing his side concede a season total of 61 goals.
The 23-year-old didn't do any favours for his hopes of becoming the next big ball-playing centre-half, completing just 69 percent of all passes, per Squawka, and making a substantial four defensive errors, twice as many as any other Villa player this season.
But Baker was found wanting in the more physical aspects, too, winning just 21 of an attempted 64 tackles and 95 of the 181 aerial duels to took part in, leaving Ron Vlaar to clear up his mistakes a little too regularly for some.
Centre Midfield: Wilson Palacios
Wilson Palacios' attempt at reviving his Stoke City career under Mark Hughes hasn't gone quite according to plan, and in 16 league appearances this season, the Honduran had a forgettable campaign to say the least.
Without speculating on the efforts he was making on the training pitch in order to earn back some prominence in the starting line-up, to say Palacios' average of just under 15 passes per game this season is a disappointment would be understating things.
In that time, the man who once held a decent reputation at White Hart Lane for being a tough-tackling sort managed not one shot at goal, but even his supposed strong suit didn't rise to the fore, with only 21 of 52 tackle attempts working in his favour, per Squawka.
One might argue that Palacios' numbers are slightly conflicted given that he didn't play more regularly for the Potters, but football is all about taking your chances at this level, and the 29-year-old would appear to be lacking in initiative.
Centre Midfield: Lee Cattermole
His lack of technical nuances may make him something of an easy target in these instances, but Lee Cattermole is nevertheless deserving of recognition in being a poor Premier League footballer—this season if we're being specific.
The Sunderland general may well have been a key motivational figure in seeing the Black Cats avoid relegation, but for whatever advantages he may hold mentally, there's something lacking in the physical side.
Cattermole managed to keep his red-card count down to just one this season, coming up just shy of the 50 percent success rate in tackles by winning 51 of his attempted 110 efforts, per Squawka figures.
Only Vito Mannone managed to make more defensive errors than the midfielder's tally of three among Sunderland players, and four defensive actions per game on average seems strangely low for a player whose contributions in attack aren't substantial, to say the least.
In 24 league matches, the Englishman did uphold a respectable pass accuracy of 82 percent, but it's nice to see the old ways are maintained to an extent, with Cattermole committing an average of 1.4 fouls per outing, according to WhoScored.
Right Attacking Midfield: Craig Noone
Shifting onto his less natural right flank for our line-up, Craig Noone failed to have the Premier League impact he may have hoped for at Cardiff City this season.
The 26-year-old's Squawka Performance Score of minus-69 is the lowest of any Bluebird playing outside of defence or in goal, and it's unsurprising when one considers how limited his game was shown to be.
Noone featured on 17 occasions for Cardiff this term and was fine, to an extent, with the ball at his feet, beating his defender with 40 dribbles out of 76 and drawing the foul more so than committing it himself.
However, a more rounded approach was what was needed for the Welsh outfit to survive in the first tier and with the trickster winning just 35 percent of his tackles and less than a third of his headed duels, there were serious flaws exposed in his skill set.
WhoScored show that the opposition took advantage of these weaknesses, too, as Noone was dribbled past an average of 1.2 times per game and found a team-mate with just 71.3 percent of his passes.
Left Attacking Midfield: Nani
The hot-and-cold ways of one Luis Nani were once again prevalent under David Moyes, who put the Portuguese winger through his latest stage of Old Trafford exile this season.
However, Nani did manage to make 11 appearances this term, and how indicative of his talents that the one positive which stands out is his 25 successful dribbles against the opposition, per Squawka, an average of more than two beaten defenders per game.
But as ever, the drawbacks of his style were just as glaring, with a passing accuracy of 78 percent the third-worst among Manchester United outfielders, striker Robin van Persie and youngster James Wilson being the other, more forgivable culprits.
Just three of the speedster's 13 shots at goal found the target—with four more blocked—and Nani was dispossessed 1.5 times per game on average, according to WhoScored.
Supporting Striker: Iago Aspas
Brendan Rodgers went about revolutionising Liverpool's disappointing recent record when it came to the transfer market with some impressive purchases last summer—Iago Aspas was not one of those.
The Spaniard featured sporadically at best, starting in just five of his 14 total league appearances for the Reds, during which time he amassed the lowest Squawka Performance Score of any Liverpool player at minus-85.
Physically, the former Celta Vigo star was found wanting, winning just 32 percent of all duels, which included four tackles, one successful dribble and three aerial victories out of 12.
For a forward, his presence on the opposition goal was minimal, too, as Aspas managed to fire off just two shots during his maiden Premier League campaign, one of which tested the goalkeeper, unsurprisingly resulting in a goal-less season.
Striker: Ricky Van Wolfswinkel
His big-money move from Sporting Lisbon last summer was tipped as being part of the new era at Carrow Road, but Ricky van Wolfswinkel may well go down as the biggest transfer disappointment this Premier League season.
The Dutch international scored just one goal in his 25 outings for the Norfolk outfit, with the likes of Gary Hooper and Johan Elmander instead contributing more to the club's cause in front of goal.
WhoScored.com give Van Wolfswinkel a rating of just 6.19 for his campaign, the lowest of any Norwich City player to have started a game this term.
The 25-year-old struggled with the tactics that Chris Hughton looked to employ while in charge of the club, whether it was holding the line single-handedly or playing as part of a striking tandem.
Lacking in ingenuity, the frontman saw 64.9 percent of his passes go backward as he was all too often found with his back to goal, struggling to engineer much for those around him either considering he served up just 11 scoring chances, according to Squawka.