It’s that time of year where we take our dumpster truck around the country in search of our Premier League Worst Team of the Season.
For once a vague bit of research has gone into this waffle, with the generous geeks at WhoScored.com providing the statistical ammunition for these character assassinations.
We’ve given the places to the lads who’ve had the most time to prove their (lack of) worth, so it’s a minimum of 10 starts to get in this particular team of shame. Our captain is the exception to this rule – he’ll play whenever he’s ruddy well arsed.
We’re going 3-4-3 in homage to Claudio Ranieri’s experimental approach to shoring up the Fulham defence by basically not having one.
It turns out a big chunk of the squad is made up of lovely fellas, so feel free to mention their community work in the comments. Or, just point and laugh.
Key note from the author – you’re probably taking this too seriously.
GK - Asmir Begovic
Average rating – 6.25
The Asmir Begovic Foundation encourages kids from deprived areas to get into sport. This season, the keeper has brought his charitable nature onto the pitch, with the Bosnian making more errors that have led to goals (5) than any other player in the Prem.
Eddie Howe had seen enough generosity from Begovic, and made the remarkable call of dropping him for Artur Boruc, a veteran of our 2015/16 WTOTS. For 10 midseason games poor old Asmir had to watch his clownish counterpart from the bench, the man he once did this to while playing for Stoke:
Low point: Any of the seven goals he’s conceded v Burnley, a number which is frankly illegal. This acrobatic fall-forwards-no-look-fumble-sit-down manoeuvre gave Chris Wood the time to hand-write a thankyou letter, post it second class, and tee up Ashley Barnes to put the scoreline out of reach.
CB - Denis Odoi
Average rating – 6.61
Although a sentimental Cottager is shrieking MAXIME LE MARCHAND at me like a deranged sous chef, Denis Odoi gets the nod thanks to cold, hard stats.
While it’s true every member of Fulham’s backline has tried his damnedest to get in our Worst XI, fans’ fave Den has managed to ship 11 more goals than any of his teammates.
Vertically challenged and fond of an aimless dribble, Odoi is exactly what you want in a Premier League centre back.
Only bagged the 3rd clean sheet of his season at the weekend, with Fulham already mathematically relegated, which I guess is what they call “playing for pride.”
It’s like being proud you remembered to feed your goldfish, two weeks after it started floating.
Low point: Nutted a bullet header past his own keeper as Fulham contrived to lose 2-1 to Burnley despite the opposition not having a single shot on target. Exceptional stuff.
LB - Gaetan Bong
Average rating – 6.31
When you’re playing in a side that’s relying on Glen Murray for goals, it’s important to keep it tight at the back. Gaetan makes half as many tackles per game (0.7) as he did last season, fewer interceptions (1.1) and clearances (2), and concedes an average of a goal per game.
Hilariously, some superfan has taken the trouble to make a hugely underwhelming “Skills and Goals” montage of Bong’s entire career. Firstly, do you think they realised that the single only goal he scores in said clip is at the wrong end? You know you’ve made the grade when your own fans don’t know which way you’re kicking. Secondly, the fact that said compilation is not entitled 'Hits From The Bong' is criminal. Staggering negligence.
Low point: Lost the ball more times than anyone on the pitch in a hapless second-half display at Craven Cottage, where Ranieri’s rank Fulham put four chances away for the first and only time.
RB - Erik Durm
Average rating – 6.35
Completing a defence that guarantees more leeks per week than Aaron Ramsey’s Juve contract is the World-Cup winning right back nobody has ever heard of. The one-time Germany international has played his part in conceding 39 goals in 26 games since his loan move from Dortmund in the summer, milling around West Yorkshire like a lost Jonas brother, wondering why he swapped Gotze and Pulisic for Grant and Puncheon.
WhoScored’s algorithm has identified just the five basic weaknesses in the German hunk’s game. I suspect his fondness for long shots has more to do with his inability to pass or cross than any particular knack for a screamer, given the three calendar years since he last hit the net.
He is truly a man destined to become nothing more than a sniggering question at football pub quizzes for years to come. Alas.
Low point: Blooted his one shot on goal into the Peak District, won not a sausage in the air or on the ground, and conceded the foul for that led to the decisive second as the Terriers were cowed 2-0 at home by Bournemouth.
CM - Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
Average rating – 6.62
Arrived on the last day of the transfer window with nae PL experience, nae time to bed in with his teammates, and a WTF-I’d-Better-Google-Him price tag, the 23-year old Cameroonian symbolised everything that went wrong for Fulham this season.
Andy-Frank represents a textbook signing, if the title of that textbook is ‘How To Get Relegated.’
The allegedly defensive midfielder has more names (4) than clean sheets (3), not to mention goals (0) and assists (0) this season.
Low point: Managed to let a freefalling United side score four times before clattering into an early bath on 67 mins at Old Trafford, as Fulham were drubbed in what remains the last time Jose Mourinho won a football match.
CM – Nampalys Mendy
Average rating – 6.37
Me neither, my dude. Signed to replace N’Golo Kante in 2016, Mendy decided those boots were far too big to fill and promptly completed a loan move back to his former club, Nice.
One year on, Claude Puel deemed the £13 million flop ready for the Prem, and Leicester fans have been lucky enough to watch him do the absolute bare minimum on 30 separate occasions this season. The 19th most likely Leicester player to provide a key pass, 13th for tackles and interceptions.
He’s short, he’s French, and now he’s on the bench now that Brodge has brought in the far superior Youri Tielemans.
Low point: Hooked at half time, but not before giving away the crucial penno as the Foxes lost at home to the 10 men of Southampton. A truly frightful day at the office.
RM - Jeff Hendrick
Average rating – 6.29
One of the Premier League’s true mavericks. The moon-faced Irishman has the defensive stats of a striker (0.8 tackles, 0.3 interceptions, 0.1 blocks per game), and the attacking attributes of a defender (0.3 key passes, 0.1 crosses, 0.4 dribbles.) As the 412th best-rated passer in the League, the only thing you can rely on him to do is give the ball away, which he manages every game.
His worldie against Chelsea last week might just explain what he’s doing anywhere near the first XI. Though he may be dodgy with his feet, and crap with his head, there is no better player on earth at the lost art of the shin-volley.
Low point: Did literally nothing as United turned Burnley over 0-2. Failed to register a single (deep breath) shot, through ball, dribble, cross, header won, tackle, interception, clearance or block. As much use as skis in Sudan.
LM – Christian Atsu
Average rating – 6.39
The 2015 African Nations Player of the Tournament – yep, you read that right – has been struggling to get in a Newcastle team not exactly bursting with competition. The fun-size winger hasn’t had a decisive hand in one of their 35 goals.
A journey into the Wikipedia wormhole has uncovered this heartwarming story of one of Christian’s more random acts of kindness. Because when your wife cheats on you while you’re in prison, what more could you ask for than five sacks of belts?
Here's genuinely one of the more staggering headlines I've ever read.
Low point: Now clocking up a whole 17 months without a Premier League goal, which isn’t ideal.
RF - Elias Kachunga
Average rating: 6.15
Putting the average in average rating, Kachunga’s versatility has allowed him to suck in 5 different positions across the course of the season. At least his return of 0 goals, 0 assists and 0.3 key passes per game shows he’s consistent wherever he plays. Couldn’t be more anonymous if he was hacking the FBI website wearing a wank-stained Guy Fawkes mask.
Low point: Against a Chelsea side smarting from a 4-0 loss to Bournemouth, EK-47 was given a free role up front as his side’s most potent threat. Spent most of the day giving the ball away to Cesar Azpilicueta, as the Terriers were schooled 5-0. Here’s his “heat” map - positively ethereal stuff.
LF - Alexis Sanchez (c)
Average rating – 6.67
Chile’s all-time record scorer, former amigo of Lionel Messi, one-time 27-goal-a-season man and Manchester’s highest earning dogwalker. Give it up for Alexis Sanchez – it looks like he already has.
Alexis has started a whopping 8 games, completed 90 minutes once, and last scored a PL goal way back in October. The good news for United is that his squillion-dollar contract doesn’t run out until 2022, so there’s no need to worry about that bench reaching room temperature any time soon.
Sanchez has clearly struggled to make friends in Manchester. The only possible explanation for that ‘tache is he doesn’t have a real mate in the dressing room who will tactfully explain to him the concept of a ‘dirty sanchez.’
Why are they laughing at me, Jesse?
Low point – Abysmal against Southampton, where he completed zero dribbles, had zero shots, had a barney with Pogba and lost the ball with 20% of his 31 touches. Nice. Hooked before the hour mark with a knee knack that United fans were gutted to find out wasn’t long term ligament damage.
CF - Charlie Austin
Average rating – 6.3
While old mate Tadic is tearing into the Champions League semis, Southampton now rely on Austin, Shane Long and Danny Ings to provide the, lol, firepower.
In his 23 appearances this term, Sleevie Wonder has yet to manage a full 90 minutes even once, contributing a prolific two goals and two assists.
No wonder his VAR rant rivalled Neil Warnock’s for whininess when officials disallowed his goal against Watford. Austin strikes are enough of an endangered species without refs wiping them out willy-nilly.
Low point: During a routine 3-1 loss to City, Chaz found a teammate with 45% of his passes, butchered a sitter, then got booked, hooked and retrospectively suspended for flicking the V’s at the away fans. Class.
Bench of Shame – Neil Etheridge, Maxime Le Marchand, Christopher Schindler, Theo Walcott, Harry Arter, Laurent Depoitre.
Anyone hammering on the gaffer’s door for inclusion? Let us know in the comments.