Picking a Worst XI for the 2010-11 Premier League Season
The Premier League season is over and the Internet is awash with postseason analysis. Season-end awards and best XI’s are almost unavoidable at the moment, and rightly so. It’s only natural that such an open, competitive season would produce so much debate and relatively few players have performed to the best of their ability for the full 38 games.
But this list’s purpose is not to discuss whether or not Scott Parker deserves his FWA Player of the Year award, nor if Charlie Adam and Gareth Bale deserve a place in 2010-11’s best XI after their respective midseason lulls. This list is about the players at the opposite end of the spectrum: the players who’ve made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
For every Javier Hernandez there’s a Carlton Cole, and for every Vincent Kompany there’s a Sol Campbell. While much discussion surrounds the players who’ve had good seasons, there’s little denying the abject performances of some of the season’s biggest flops.
Here, in their respective positions, are 11 of the Premier League’s worst performers from 2010-11.
GK: Chris Kirkland (Wigan Athletic)
It might seem harsh to include a player who’s only played four times for his parent club this season, but Kirkland’s fleeting appearances for Wigan this season have been disastrous. The Latics shipped 10 goals in their first two games against Blackpool and Chelsea, and the former England ‘keeper hardly covered himself in glory after numerous slips and mistakes in both games.
Dropped afterward in favour of Bolton loanee Ali Al-Habsi, Kirkland has never re-established himself as Wigan’s No. 1. Injuries have limited his appearances (and cut his Leicester City loan-spell short), but Kirkland just hasn’t been good enough to dislodge the superb Al-Habsi. His lack of concentration and inability to claim crosses has never been more apparent, and he may need to leave the DW Stadium for first-team football next season.
Heurelho Gomes and Richard Kingson, the other two candidates for this position, have also produced plenty of gaffes this season, but both have produced enough decent performances to justify their absence. Maybe Kirkland could’ve redeemed himself if he’d been given more game time, but he’s been undeniably terrible during his time in the Wigan goal this season.
DEF: James Perch (Newcastle United)
James Perch collected the dubious of honour of becoming the first ever Premier League player to pick up five yellow cards in his first five appearances for Newcastle at the start of the season. He’s picked up another booking in the 61 minutes of Premier League football he’s played since and recently served a three-match ban for being sent off in a reserve game.
Discipline is obviously an issue for the clumsy utility man, but this poor record is the least of his problems. Signed from Nottingham Forest for his versatility, Perch has looked more out of his depth than any other player to make the jump from Championship to Premier League this season. Put simply, Perch is a mediocre Championship player who isn’t even a capable backup at this level.
Forest fans were glad to see the back of Perch last summer, and it’s easy to see why. A sloppy defender who concedes too many fouls in dangerous areas, Perch is a rash tackler and a poor passer. His low wages may keep him at St. James’ Park for another season, but few Geordie tears will be shed if Perch is offloaded this summer.
DEF: Richard Dunne (Aston Villa)
Few players have faded like Richard Dunne this season. A real blood and thunder defender, Dunne was superb at the heart Aston Villa’s defence last season. A series of full-blooded performances alongside James Collins made the Irishman one of the Villains’ standout performers, but it’s all gone wrong for him this season.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. He was solid and reliable in his first few seasons for Manchester City, but his performances declined so much that he was considered a donkey by the end of his City tenure. Dunne is a solid defender one season and a liability the next and has left Villa fans wondering what happened to last season’s lynchpin.
Never the most elegant of defenders, Dunne’s flat-footedness and lack of finesse mean he’s always liable to being exploited by quicker opponents. His brute force and strength in the tackle make him useful in some situations, but Dunne is a very limited defender and has cost Villa numerous goals this season.
DEF: Sebastien Squillaci (Arsenal)
Oh dear. What Arsenal really needed to do last summer was sign a top defender. Someone with enough ability, leadership and experience to hold their incohesive backline together and help nurture the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou into top defenders. What they got was an over-the-hill Frenchman who looks shakier than any other defender on the Emirates payroll.
Having started the season alongside Koscielny, Squillaci was eventually dropped in favour of Djourou after an unconvincing start to his Arsenal career. A MOTM performance against Stoke in February aside, Squillaci has been poor. Weak on and off the ball and with poor positional sense, Squillaci was exactly the kind of player Arsenal didn’t need to add to their books. His presence has only added another leak to an already ramshackle backline.
Squillaci’s Arsenal signing shouldn’t be viewed as a complete disaster. The Gunners signed him on a free transfer and he’s made up the numbers during Thomas Vermaelen’s injury, but Arsene Wenger must aim higher in the transfer market if his side are to catch up on United, City and Chelsea.
DEF: Paul Konchesky (Liverpool)
A mid-table defender signed by a mid-table manager (Roy Hodgson), Paul Konchesky has looked woefully out of his depth whenever he’s played for Liverpool. It speaks volumes that a club with such well-documented full-back problems as Liverpool would send one of their only recognised LBs out on loan before the season’s end, but such was Konchesky’s form.
Not a complete liability going forward, Konchesky’s problems are mostly defensive. Reticent to tackle and frequently skinned, Konchesky was a useful player for Fulham, but he’s nowhere near the standard required to command a place in the Liverpool XI. With Roy Hodgson long gone and Liverpool looking to recruit a new LB this summer, you wouldn’t put money on him being at Anfield next season either.
Konchesky, unfortunately, has become a symbol of Hodgson’s disastrous Liverpool reign, and much like his former manager, he is far better suited to being at a smaller club.
MID: Pablo Barrera (West Ham United)
West Ham thought they’d snapped up a bargain when they spent £4m to bring Barrera to Upton Park last summer. A member of Mexico’s 2010 World Cup squad, Barrera promised much. An exuberant wide-man with the ability to cut inside, he’d add some much-needed incisive to a team desperate to avoid another scrap with relegation. What they got was an uninspired, unmotivated player who never came close to showing the Hammers what he’s capable of.
Barrera has failed to score in 21 appearances for West Ham and looks almost certain to leave following their relegation. It seems laughable that he was tipped by many to make a bigger impact in the Premier League than Javier Hernandez at the start of the season, and a future away from English football is likely for Barrera.
Maybe Barrera just needed a bit more time. He started just six games for West Ham and was never given a real run in the side, so there’s weight to the argument that he wasn’t given a chance to adapt to English football. Still, he was given several opportunities to impress and took none of them, looking completely inadequate in the process.
MID: Christian Poulsen (Liverpool)
Dropped from the first team as soon as Kenny Dalglish returned to Liverpool, Poulsen is another unpleasant hangover from the Roy Hodgson era. The Danish destroyer hasn’t appeared for the Anfield side since February and his Liverpool stay should come to a merciful end this summer, but that doesn’t excuse his performances.
One of the dirtiest players in the world, Poulsen is better known for his over-the-top aggression than his footballing ability. He’s been involved in numerous high-profile spats over the years (including a punch-up with Swede Markus Rosenborg during a Euro 2008 qualifier) and his knee-high tackles and all-round dirtiness are infamous. If committing fouls and picking up suspensions is an artform then Christian Poulsen is Leonardo da Vinci.
Jay Spearing’s recent performances only make Poulsen even more redundant. This Danish bruiser has been fouling his way through a career for many years now, but his inadequacies have been well and truly exposed. Why do Liverpool need an oaf like Poulsen with Steven Gerrard, Lucas, Raul Meireles, Jonjo Shelvey and Spearing already at the club?
MID: Stephen Ireland (Aston Villa)
Things haven’t quite worked out for Stephen Ireland. Lost amongst the influx of expensive foreign imports at Man City, the controversial midfielder sealed the Aston Villa switch he was looking for but struggled to make an impact. After just 12 appearances he was loaned out to Newcastle in January, but injury restricted him to just two substitute appearances with the Magpies.
Ireland’s biggest problem is that he’s been living off his one outstanding City season (2008-09) for far too long. He hasn’t produced his best form in a long time, and it can’t be a coincidence that he’s fallen-out with the hierarchy at City, Villa and the Republic of Ireland national team over the past few years.
What we have here is a player suffering from the consequences of believing his own hype. Ireland is clearly a talented player, but his outbursts at authority figures suggest a lack of maturity and a gargantuan ego. When he’s played this season he’s looked a shadow of the player everyone knows he can be. Ireland is only 24 and still has plenty of time to turn it around, but it’ll take a huge change in attitude.
MID: Joe Cole (Liverpool)
Joe Cole’s demise has been painful to watch. Once one of England’s most dazzling young prospects, Cole’s ability has eroded to the point where he offers little more than an extra body to make up the numbers. The England international has had a long career and has won his fair share of honours, but he’ll ultimately be remembered as a player who never fulfilled his potential.
Depending on who you believe, Cole is either a victim of believing his own hype or has had his flair and technique slowly ground out of him by the rigours of the English game. Either way, Cole’s Liverpool performances have been rancid. He shambles and creaks his way around the pitch with all the swagger of a castrated Chihuahua. Joe Cole has lost his lustre, plain and simple.
The most staggering thing about Joe Cole’s Liverpool career is the amount of money he’s earned. The Reds pay approximately €105,000 per week for his shambolic services, making him one of the highest-earners in the Premier League. Frankly, Cole should be embarrassed to be fleecing so much money from a team he contributes nothing to.
ATT: Mauro Boselli (Wigan Athletic)
Wigan thought they’d added a lethal goal-getter to their ranks when they sealed Boselli’s signature for a cool £6.5 million last summer. Boselli two international caps to his name and had scored 32 goals in 52 appearances for previous club Estudiantes. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything. Having failed to score in eight Wigan appearances, Boselli was soon loaned out to Serie A side Genoa. The Latics had paid £6.5 million for a striker who was sloppy in possession, weak on the ball and, most importantly, couldn’t finish his breakfast. It’s not fair to pin Wigan’s brush with relegation solely on Boselli, but they could’ve fared a lot better this season if they hadn’t bought a flop of a striker.
Regardless of whether Boselli isn’t suited to the Premier League or just isn’t any good, his time at Wigan was an abject failure. That isn’t a small fee for a club of Wigan’s size, but they’ll surely be glad to cut their losses and allow Boselli to move on this summer.
ATT: Robbie Keane (Tottenham/West Ham)
Robbie Keane is finished as a top Premier League striker. If his disastrous six-month spell at Liverpool wasn’t proof enough then his form since returning to Tottenham certain is. 2010-11 has been the most miserable season yet, and the Irishman has hit just two goals in 16 Premier League appearances.
Having fallen down the pecking order at Spurs, Keane joined West Ham on-loan in January and was immediately tasked with scoring the goals to keep the Hammers in the Premier League. He only ended up playing the full 90 minutes twice for West Ham, but it’s pretty clear that he’s lost his edge. Having fluffed his lines and squandered countless goalscoring opportunities, Keane will trudge back to White Hart Lane with his head hung low.
It’s unclear where Keane goes from here. His reputation and pre-2008 record might make him an attractive proposition for several Premier League clubs, but his £65k-a-week wages certainly won’t. Perhaps big-spending Scottish side Celtic, with whom he enjoyed a productive loan spell in 2009-10, will offer him a home north of the border, but he risks being shutout at Spurs if he doesn’t lower his wage demands.