As we charge headfirst into the summer, it’s probably time for the annual barrage of hugely selective stats and libel claims waiting to happen that is our Worst Team Of The Season.
Unlike most ‘articles’ on here there’s some vague method to this one - it’s decided on the ratings doled by the footy stat wizards at WhoScored. We pick an XI made up of players who’ve featured regularly this year (minimum 19 Premier League appearances/500 mins of action), those with the worst accumulative season rating make the cut. Don't like what your reading? Tell it to the stats cry-baby.
In homage to Saint Antonio of Conte we've conjured up an XI playing in the most depressing 3-4-3 fathomable.
GK – Fraser Forster
Average Rating – 6.37
The big man started this term with a very real chance of usurping Joe Hart as England’s No.1. Forster had logged another impressive season domestically, whilst the City stopper reeled from a tournament that’s up there with Phil Neville’s Euro 2000 in terms of irreversible reputational damage.
Despite Hart’s lukewarm year in Italy, Forster’s failed to press his case thanks to a pretty much holistic crisis of confidence and only has long-term injury to Saints No.2, Alex McCarthy, to thank for retaining his place.
FF boasts the 30th best distribution (out of 39 keepers) in the league with a distinctly whiffy 52% accuracy and the second fewest claims (60) of any stopper to appear more than 25 times. The cherry on this disgusting stat pie, however, is his saves per goal ratio of 1.28 – comfortably the worst of any regularly featuring glovesman in the division. This is despite Southampton’s defence being one of the better sides around when it comes to shots conceded, leaking just 11.4 per game (7th best in PL).
The long and short of it – a 2m tall keeper who’s a scaredy-cat under the high ball, can’t kick for toffee and is beaten my most shots on targets that come his way. Things of comparable utility = chocolate teapot, inflatable dartboard, the Pope’s plums etc.
Nadir Thus Far - Handed Alan Pardew his final win as Crystal Palace manager with this absolute honker in December.
CB – Jason Denayer
Average Rating – 6.54
A promising talent, there’s no doubting Denayer’s found his third loan spell away from parent club Man City a little on the taxing side. Unfortunately for the jack of all trades defender, car crash club Sunderland took him on after successful spells at Celtic and Galatasaray.
The 21-year old’s been a regular in a defence that’s shipped more goals at home than anyone in the league, though he’s hardly been helped by his manager. The Belgian’s played in five positions for a team that have experimented with 10 (!) different formations over the course of the season – all to absolutely sod all avail.
Nadir Thus Far – Releasing 'J'. It’s a glossy magazine about Jason’s life that absolutely no-one asked for. Utterly inexplicably, it contains a gushing testimony from a former coach about saving a fellow teammate who fell out of a boat in a section entitled ‘The Truth About J.’.
Crucially, there’s absolutely nothing in there about changing his name to ‘Jason The Denayer’ by deed poll. What's wrong with him?
CB – Damien Delaney
Average Rating – 6.55
A veritable veteran of these things, having turned up our 2014/15 XI of shame, the Irish pensioner’s seen considerably less action since Sam Allardyce and Mamadou Sakho parachuted in to save the Eagle’s season. In fact, Glen Quagmire’s only three starts since February have all led to defeats - Sunderland at home (!), Stoke away and Burnley at home (!!).
Growing older but seemingly no wiser, he’s recently become a worthy contender for the worst bit of ink in the entire league, a fiercely contested crown.
Nadir Thus Far – Hooked at half-time, already 0-4 down, at home to Sunderland with a stat sheet that read 0 tackles, 0 blocks, 0 headers won and the worst pass accuracy of anyone in red and blue. Nice.
CB – Martin Kelly
Average Rating – 6.50
Another Palace man who, like Denayer, has been forced to pitch up all over the backline with wildly varying degrees of success – let’s just call it getting ‘Pardewed’. Since being installed at centre-half, alongside Sakho, Kelly’s performances have improved somewhat, but he still makes the cut here thanks to some wretched showings at full-back earlier in the season and a frightful afternoon at Man City recently.
One of the most nondescript footballers alive, he looks set to live on in pub quiz question obscurity – for that he owes Gary Cahill’s glass jaw a number of pints.
Nadir Thus Far – Kick-started City’s blitzkrieg the other week with this piss-poor slice of nonsense in the second minute.
The most bizarre header since John Arne-Riise made Phil Thompson roar ‘penguin’ live on TV that time.
LWB – Aaron Cresswell
Averager Rating – 6.48
Ah, Cressy. Where’s it all gone wrong? After two decent seasons, Cresswell final got that international call up West Ham fans have been carping on about forever and it’s all gone tits up, so to speak
What should have been the highlight of his career turned out to be a faintly disastrous 12-minute cameo against Spain in November and he’s never really pulled it together since. Despite his shoddy form, Arthur Masuako’s numerous knacks have kept Cresswell in the side when a spell on the bench might have done him some good.
Without boring you with another slurry of numbers, his statistics for pretty much every facet of play imaginable have plummeted compared to last season’s output. Also worth noting - I'm concerned someone further up his family tree might have done the unspeakable with a bush baby.
Nadir Thus Far – Slipped Kevin De Bruyne in with a lazer guided pass the Belgian himself would have been proud of against City in February. KDB proceeded to waltz the ball home, kick-starting a comprehensive 0-4 spanking, where Raheem Sterling ran riot down Cresswell’s flank.
RWB – Juan Zuniga
Average Rating – 6.38
Shock horror - Watford in fairly pointless loan/free transfer move for middling Serie A player!
Most famous for being the man that clattered Neymar into next week at the 2014 World Cup, Zuniga started with a bang at Watford, tucking home the winner against Man United in just his third PL game. Since then he’s failed to oust either Daryl Janmaat or the Premier League’s pre-eminent hatchet man, Jose Holebas, from the two wing back spots.
Amusingly, his Wikipedia page bangs on about his ‘dangerous offensive threat’ and ability to get forward and score goals. This quite uncanny knack of his has seen him net an almighty 15 times in 393 professional games for club and country – proof, if any were ever needed, that the internet is one big lying crock o’shite. Don't believe anything you read on here, especially not this article.
Nadir This Far – Unashamedly rocks one of those felt-tipped on douchebag beards in a futile attempt to conjure the illusion of a jaw. It’s time you learned to love your thumb-head, Juan.
CM – Ki Seung-yeung
Average Rating– 6.37
Voted Swansea’s player of the season just two years ago, the South Korean has struggled throughout a tumultous term. The Swans completed their unlikely escape last weekend but it’s been bugger all to do with Ki who has contributed just one assist and big bag of now’t on the goals front all season.
For once, however, I’m going to cut the old boy a wee bit of slack here, there are a couple of fairly extraordinary extenuating circumstances. Firstly there’s the tactical confusion having three different permanent managers in one season will cause, whilst Paul Clement’s shift to a more direct approach doesn’t quite suit his game.
Most disruptive, however, is the fact that he had to spend his last summer completing South Korean military service, just in case Kim Jong Un’s goaded into doing something mad anytime soon. Either way, it’s far from the ideal way for an elite sportsman to unwind after a gruelling World Cup season and prepare for the next one.
Nadir Thus Far – Had one of those frightfully anaemic afternoons as Swansea lost 2-0 to Bournemouth in the battle of lovely, lovely clubs with lovely, lovely philosophies. Ended the game with 93% pass accuracy but failed to make a single key pass, had one lonely shot (off target) and was generally overrun despite the Swans boasting a central trio against Bournemouth’s pairing of Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman. The sort of utterly anodyne midfield showing that really gets Louis Van Gaal’s juices flowing.
CM – Moussa Sissoko
Average Rating – 6.42
Transfer deadline days following a major tournament are tricky buggers. Sure, you’re short of a player or two. And those guys who just played really well for their country are milling around the place winking suggestively. Why not wait until 11:50 pm and start throwing vastly inflated sums about for a player you’re not quite sure about?
The key when faced with these situations, I always find, is to ask the immortal question – has the player in question underwhelmed for four years in a team that’s just been relegated?
If the answer is ‘yes’, swerve said chap like you would an invite to spend Christmas at Chris Sutton’s house. Under no circumstances whatsoever should you offer double what that player’s worth and earmark him as a serious component of your quest for domestic and international glory.
Unfortunately, Mauricio Pochettino, normally the shrewdest of shrews, did approximately all these things with Moussa Sissoko following his fairly barnstorming Euro 2016. That he has 50 caps for France despite performing so underwhelmingly at club level for years is the real mystery.
Pochettino’s patience ran thin pretty quickly, with Dickensian chimney sweep Harry Winks soon ousting him from the starting line-up. As a result, Sissoko’s completed a full 90 minutes in the league on just one occasion this term, all the way back in September. In a summer where £11m snaffled you the infinitely superior spaghetti enthusiast, Victor Wanyama, £30m for the Frenchman is truly quite awful business.
Nadir Thus Far – Brought on for the final 20 mins at Bournemouth with Spurs chasing a goal. Achieved little but a three-game ban for mullering Harry Arter with the sharp end of his elbow whilst they tussled over the ball at a throw-in.
To be fair, we should have expected it. Flagrantly duffing people up has long been part of his repertoire, just look at the brazen bastard go!
AML – Ahmed Musa
Average Rating – 6.34
Remember when Musa scored a peachy brace against Argentina at the last World Cup? Turns it actually happened.
Not that you’d know it from this season’s output, mind. Made Leicester’s record signing in July, the Nigerian has failed to find a place in the team either on the wings or as a striker this term.
Back to back goals against Palace and Spurs in October hinted at brighter things but he’s badly fallen off the radar since award winning local butcher, Craig Shakespeare, took over, failing to start a league game since early February.
Informing all this are some pretty stinky stats - his whopping tally of 5 accurate crosses and 6 shots on target for a wide forward are fairly criminal. Perhaps most damming, however, is his 14 successful dribbles logged for the year – a total that’s been bested by the following snake-hipped tricksters: Craig Dawson, Lamine Kone, Steve Cook and Gareth McAuley.
For all his woes on the pitch, it’s not exactly been plain sailing off it as he’s tried to tie down a second wife of late. As is permitted by his faith, he’s allowed more than one, unfortunately, his (now former) spouse wasn’t hugely keen on the idea and kicked up a right old stink over the matter.
This quite remarkable piece of journalism should help clear things up.
Nadir Thus Far – Completed just 7 of 12 attempted passes, whilst being dispossessed more times than anyone else on the pitch (4) in 67 butters minutes on the pitch against Chelsea as the Pensioners burped out an easy 3-0 win.
AMR – Shane Long
Average Rating – 6.40
I’ve long maintained our Shane has almost all the ingredients to be an exceptional Premier League forward - zippy, excellent in the air for his height, blessed with rapid feet and never happier than when pelting after a lost cause for the good of the team.
That’s all well and good but the wee tinker’s record now officially qualifies him for the status of ‘chronic net swerver’. These days I trust Long’s ability to locate the onion bag about as much I trust Dr Oetker’s medical credentials.
The 30-year-old looked to have finally turned a corner last year, hitting double figures in the Premier League for the first time, but that looks to be very much the exception that proves the rule. He’s reverted to a much more familiar tally of 3 goals in 32 appearances, informed by just 15 shots on target all term.
Nadir Thus Far – Whilst Sunday’s rank penalty miss is fresh in the memory, his 22-minute cameo against Man City is worth a chuckle. Losing 0-1 at the time he was brought on, Long managed three touches, saw City bag two more goals before being subbed off in the 81st minute after Claude Puel mistook him for being injured. He wasn’t.
CF – Hal Robson Kanu
Average Rating – 6.25
See points raised re. Moussa Sissoko above then subtract about £30m from the equation. Signed on a free by West Brom after that goal against Belgium, HRK’s spent all year riding the pine at the Hawthorns as Solomon Rondon huffs and puffs all alone up top.
Our Hal has recently massaged his career strike rate to a quite splendid goal every 7.07 games, despite much of it taking place in the Championship. Pretty bad stuff for a winger, utterly dreadful for the top flight centre-forward Tony Pulis kidded himself he was picking up.
Just gonna leave this here.
It’s never good when an algorithm works out that your only redeeming feature as a footballer is ‘gets kicked a fair bit’.
Nadir Thus Far – Given the hook after 70 dreadful minutes against Manchester United last month having lost possession with 10 of his 26 touches. Slick.
The Bench Of Dismay - Claudio Bravo, Whabi Khazri, Vincent Janssen, Jordan Ibe, David Meyler, Javier Manquillo.
What do you think? Is there anyone who missed out undeservingly? Chuck your thoughts in the comments below and we'll promise to ignore them.
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Cover image - PA.
All numbers correct as of time of writing: 16th May 2017.