The Premier League's Worst XI

Tony MabertContributor ISeptember 9, 2011

The Premier League's Worst XI

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    The Premier League is arguably the most star-studded domestic competition in world football.

    World class players are imported or exchanged for tens of millions of pounds every season and its top four teams reach the latter stages of the Champions League as a matter of course.

    But, just as there is no light without dark or no good without evil, the best players shine all the brighter when placed among the very worst the division has to offer. All hail the donkeys, cloggers and carthorses who help make the stars look good and make matches more exciting. 

    Here is a look at 11 players who, it could be claimed, are the very worst in their respective positions in the English top flight.

    First off, though, a few caveats. Football is all about opinions. The team selected here will almost certainly not tally with the one you have in mind. If that is the case, get over it. Or, even better, share your own XI in the comments box below.

    The team is comprised of players who can reasonably expect to turn out for their respective clubs a fair amount this season. It would be rather unfair, and not very interesting, to merely pick a group of teenagers and reserves.

    In an effort to prove that the cream does not always rise to the top, the standard of the clubs they play for and the size of their medal collection is also taken into account

    And finally, it is important to remember that I am not a professional footballer. Neither are you. So keep in mind as you read this that each and every one of those guys are better at football than any of us ever were or will ever be.

Goalkeeper: Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)

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    It would be all too easy to plump for Tottenham's Heurelho Gomes here. The Brazilian already has a litany of gaffes, shanks, ricks and howlers to his name since arriving from PSV Eindhoven three years ago.

    However, for every occasion he spills a tame shot into his net, flatters a teammate as he charges off his line to punch away a cross or clumsily hauls a player down for a penalty, there are countless times when he has stretched his 6-foot-4 frame and palmed away a Stoke seemingly destined for the top corner or made a save from said penalty.

    No, this vote goes to Ben Foster. Unlike Gomes, Foster is too shy about organising his defence, either at set pieces or in open play, does not possess anything like his Spurs counterpart's shot-stopping ability and has made more than his fair share of costly blunders too, including once getting beaten by a Paul Robinson drop-kick.

    He may have come through the youth ranks at Manchester United, but Alex Ferguson has often had a real blind spot for goalkeepers. Taken in by Foster's good progress as a youngster at Watford, he was installed in the first-team squad. However, he failed to develop any further and left United with a grand total of 12 Premier League appearances.

    Foster suffered relegation with Birmingham City last season, and has already given West Brom fans a few hair-raising moments this term.

    Honourable mentions: Heurelho Gomes, Tim Krul hair-raising moments this term.

Right-Back: Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea)

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    When Jose Mourinho made Paulo Ferreira his first signing upon joining Chelsea in 2004, the joke doing the rounds was that he had not even spent that vast sum on the best right-back in Portugal. Ferreira, who had been with Mourinho at Porto, was shunted out of the Seleccao side by Miguel during the European Championships of that year.

    Now 32, Ferreira has racked up more than 200 appearances for the Blues, and won more titles and FA Cups than a player than any player could reasonably expect.

    Chelsea has tried to offload him on several occasions, but he has always chosen to hang around Stamford Bridge and bathe in reflected glory instead. 

    Despite being well and truly third choice behind Jose Bosingwa and Branislav Ivanovic, he still gets the odd game.  He even came on for the final 10 minutes of Chelsea's Champions League defeat to Manchester United last season as Carlo Ancelotti's last throw of the dice.

    Honourable mentions: Tony Hibbert, Andy Wilkinson

Centre-Backs: Sebastien Squillaci (Arsenal) and Anton Ferdinand (QPR)

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    No one sums up the defensive woes of the current crop at Arsenal than Sebastien Squillaci. The Corsican defender arrived at Arsenal with the objective of adding some much-needed experience to the Gunners' back line, being as he was 30 years old and the holder of various medals won at Monaco, Lyon and Sevilla.

    Instead, what Arsene Wenger got for a reported £4 million fee was a jittery, bumbling shell of a player who all too often is sidelined with injury, and when he gets back into the side will inevitably make fans wish he was back on the treatment table. 

    The signing of Per Mertesacker should all but signal the end of the former France international's career at Arsenal as far as significant matches go. 

    The most withering critique of Anton Ferdinand overheard in the press room once was that if his name was Anton Smith he would struggle to get a game at Plymouth Argyle.

    While his brother has gone on to win the Premier League and the Champions League at Manchester United since leaving West Ham, Anton moved on to Sunderland where the club quickly realised the £8 million they shelled out for him was a tad excessive.

    Ferdinand moved back to London in the summer transfer window with Queen Park Rangers. A defence with him featuring regularly automatically has the look of relegation material. Fingers crossed that Neil Warnock finds that out before it's too late.

    Honurable mentions: Jonny Evans, Danny Gabbidon, Richard Stearman, Danny Shittu

Left-Back: Gonzalo Jara (West Bromwich Albion)

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    The Chile international defender is little more than an exotically-monikered liability at The Hawthorns. 

    It is a minor miracle that he only picked up six yellow cards and one red from his 29 league appearances last term. That lone sending off came for a reckless lunge on Blackpool's Luke Varney last November, but in truth he is often a red card waiting to happen.

    Few players in the division charge around as haphazardly as the 26-year-old, who seems adamant that he will never grasp the concept of positioning. 

    Little wonder, then, that manager Roy Hodgson has stuck by Nicky Shorey at left-back since the start of this campaign.

    Honourable mentions: Armand Traore, Paul Robinson

Right Midifeld: Kieron Dyer (Queens Park Rangers)

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    Under normal circumstances it would be unfair to include a player in this list because he is constantly injured. After all, no one goes out of their way to get injured, and every fresh lengthy lay-off must be more spirit-crushing than the last.

    However, in the case of Dyer, we can make an exception. Once one of the bright young hopes for the England national team, Dyer has spent as much time on the treatment table over the course of the last decade as he has on the pitch. 

    Following an injury-plagued eight years at Newcastle, Dyer made the move to West Ham in 2007 at a time when the club was supposedly rich from their Icelandic owners. It was only when that particular bubble burst, plunging the club into the red, that it emerged Dyer was picking up a cool £83,000 a week as the club's highest earner.

    The Hammers were understandably relieved to get him off their books at the end of that contract this summer, and Dyer moved across London to QPR.

    Starting at right-back at Loftus Road for their first games of the new season, Dyer lasted all of four minutes before being stretchered off with a suspected broken foot.

Central Midfield: Jon Obi Mikel (Chelsea) and Lee Cattermole (Sunderland)

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    It would be wrong to go too hard on Mikel, who after all has recently gone through a very traumatic time in his personal life.

    Still, the Nigerian's consistent presence in one of the country's top teams is a mystery. Even considering the ongoing injury troubles of Michael Essien, it hard difficult to know exactly what Mikel brings to the Chelsea team. 

    Those defending him will cite his recording of some of the best pass completion statistics in the league as the reason he is in the Blues side, emphasizing how every team needs a player who can win the ball and give it simple to those more talented than themselves. 

    But his tackling stats leave a lot to be desired and all too often he is caught flat-footed when he should be screening his defence more effectively. During Chelsea's terrible winter last year, which ultimately cost them the chance to retain the title, Mikel was the club's worst performer on an all-too regular basis.

    While in charge at Wigan, manager Steve Bruce once said that he would love to have a team of 11 Lee Cattermoles. He backed up that claim by signing the midfield agitator when he moved to Sunderland in 2009. 

    Since then, Cattermole has picked up 20 bookings and three red cards - two of those bookings coming in his first three league games of the season - but he should have got his marching orders on several other occasions.

    The former England U21 international likes nothing more than to put in a solid 'reducer' on the opposition's danger man, but in truth he is often little more than a danger to others. Less a midfield terrier, more an attack dog.

    Honourable mentions: Salif Diao, Karl Henry, Hendry Thomas, Nigel Reo-Coker

Left Midfield: Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (Everton)

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    When Everton manager David Moyes was compensated for the loss of star defender Joleon Lescott to Manchester City to the tune of £22 million, he had a rare windfall with which to spend on new players.

    The Scotsman recruited shrewdly by signing Sylvain Distin and Johnny Heitinga for a combined £11 million, but the £8.9 million handed to Lokomotiv Moscow in exchange for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was more than a little foolhardy.

    The Russia international made a bit of an impact in his first season, scoring six goals including a couple of long-range corkers, but any regular watcher of Everton would say that he was very much a 'Match of the Day player'. That is, he looks good when he pops up with a goal in the highlights, but otherwise you would hardly know he was on the pitch. 

    When 'Billy' played three more league games last season for a return of just two goals, it was clear he was not contributing much else to proceedings. He is a constant reminder to all who rightly admire the job Moyes has done at Goodison Park that he doesn't always get it right.

Forwards: Leroy Lita (Swansea City) and Cameron Jerome (Stoke City)

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    Following a great season for Bristol Rovers in 2004-05 in which he scored 24 league goals, Reading snapped up Leroy Lita for £1 million. Over the next four years, the England U21 international scored just 20 goals,and the Royals were relegated in his last season at the club.

    A move to Middlesbrough hardly set the world alight, but the combustible striker somehow wangled a return to the top flight this summer with Swansea.

    A return that the newly-promoted club saw fit to invest £1.75 million of their meagre transfer budget on him does not bode well for their chances of survival.

    However, Lita's lacklustre strike rate is eclipsed by that of Cameron Jerome, who scored just three goals in 34 league appearances last season as Birmingham's late-season slump saw them relegated after two years n the top flight.

    It is no surprise to see Tony Pulis sign a big, muscular forward—the man certainly has a type—but that he spent £4 million on the lead striker for last season's lowest-scoring side certainly raised a few eyebrows.

    Still, no other striker has perfected the art of chasing down long balls and shielding them at the corner flag quite like Jerome. Seeing as he has moved to the Britannia Stadium, a ground where the fans take perverse pleasure in spoiling a game for the opposition and hitting them hard on the back foot, perhaps he has found his perfect home. 

    Honourable mentions: Victor Anichebe, Nile Ranger, Marouane Chamakh, Jason Roberts