Average Rating - 6.22
Whilst there are many reasons behind Leicester’s return to the lower reaches of the Premier League, injury to Kasper Schmeichel has certainly been one of them.
In his place, former Manchester United man, Ron-Robert Zieler has come in and shipped a fair few. Whilst plenty will point out that a goalkeeper is only as good as the defence in front of him, it does certainly help if he’s saving more than approximately half the shots on goal that come his way.
Zieler’s shipped 16 goals in his 9 Premier League appearances from just 34 shots on target, giving him a 53% save success rate. For reference, the best in the business operate at around the 76% mark. Rotten stuff.
Strange But True – Zieler’s mantle piece consists of three winner’s medals. These are the Manchester Seniors Cup, Lancashire Seniors Cup (both with Man United’s reserves) and the World Cup, having been third choice glovesman behind Manuel Neuer and Marc-André Ter Stegen in 2014.
Zieler and Drinkwater in happier days. Image via.
Nadir Thus Far – Whilst hardly a catastrophic appearance, the 2-1 loss to chronically goal shy Boro neatly summed up all that’s wrong with Zieler’s Leicester career thus far – two goals conceded from just three shots on target, combined with a miserable 29% pass accuracy. Conclusive proof, if any were needed, that footballers with double barrelled first names are shifty wrong un’s (see also Jonjo Shelvey, Leroy Lita etc. etc.)
DR – Javier Manquillo
Average Rating – 6.35
Ah, Javier. Remember when you came to England and, born of the non-existent evidence regarding your talents (he’d played just 16 senior games before Liverpool swooped), fans assumed some level of greatness because your Wikipedia page said you’d ‘won’ the Europa League and La Liga* by your 20th birthday?
*0 and 3 appearances in the respective campaigns suggested otherwise.
Anyway, his brief Liverpool career went tits up and he’s now firmly stuck on the loan merry-go-round that’s seen him end up at Marseille and now Sunderland.
This season the lad averages 14.7 accurate passes per game (!), has managed exactly as many successful tackles as he has fouls (8 of each) and is yet to start a match that Sunderland have won as the Black Cats linger resolutely in the bottom three.
Having watched Old School yesterday, it’s also just dawned on me how much Manquillo looks like Cheese (Jeremy Piven). Don't question why that's relevant.
Nadir Thus Far – Had his pants pulled down by Yannick Bolasie and then Andros Townsend as Sunderland shipped three goals at home to Everton and Crystal Palace in the space of a fortnight.
DC – John O’Shea
Average Rating – 6.47
Whilst a popular man around town, there’s no denying that O’Shea’s in real trouble when tasked with marking anyone who has to pay for their own bus travel these days. Enjoying his 18th year as a pro and never blessed with great pace, O’Shea’s now at the stage where it’s impossible to tell whether he’s sprinting or moonwalking after opposition strikers as they bear down on goal.
Want to know the worst thing? The stats tell a lie of sorts. Sunderland are actually even more catastrophically buggered than usual without him. On the five occasions that Sunderland have conceded three or more goals in the PL this term, O’Shea was crocked for four of those games and limped off before half-time in the fifth.
Strange But True – He looks like his hair is painted on and whilst playing at one of the biggest clubs in the world, had the temerity to sign the world’s lamest boot deal with some no-marks called ‘Concave’. Not for me Clive.
Nadir Thus Far – Didn't have a great day in the Tees-Wear derby. Lost 1-2 at home to their cursed rivals whilst picking up a nasty little groin knack that saw him miss a month of action.
DC – Westley Morgan
Average Rating – 6.65
Decreed as the joint finest centre-half in all of the land less than just 9 ago, Morgan’s reverted back to the sort of form that saw him spend the first 13 years of his career muddling around the football league.
The only Jamaican with a Premier League winner’s medal, Morgan’s not been alone in the Foxes back four in struggling this term but the numbers don’t make for great reading.
Whereas the Foxes shipped just 36 goals in their quest to become champions, they’ve already leaked a worrying 31 this term. If I’m being kind I could call it the N’Golo Kanté factor. If I’m being a dick I could call it a bunch of average defenders finding their level again following one unhinged cheese dream of a season.
Nadir Thus Far – Everton last week proved to be a stinker for the league’s pre-eminent rum hawker as he badly misjudged two horrible 50-yard heaves downfield from Everton. For the opener, he was outpaced by Kevin Mirallas before being simply outmuscled by Romelu Lukaku for the second.
DL – Neil Taylor
Average Rating – 6.40
After Swansea’s great spring 2016 turnaround, followed by the soaring highs of France this summer, the new season has turned into a rolling nightmare for Taylor.
The club failed to replace captain Ashley Williams in the summer and have won just three games all season, binning two managers in the process. Most alarming is just how bad their defence has got so, so quickly. Whilst the Swans are scoring well enough (they’ve netted more than Stoke and Southampton this term) their defence has been horrendous, shipping 3 or more goals on 9 separate occasions.
Taylor’s dramatic loss of form this term has been pretty holistic. In pretty much all the KPI’s for a full back he’s doing worse with his numbers for the following stats having all dropped (some considerably) compared to seasons gone by: clearances made, times dribbled past, blocks made, chances created, pass accuracy and fouls won.
Not hugely ideal.
Nadir Thus Far – Whilst conceding five at Spurs would normally top anyone’s list of woe, conspiring to get the hook after just 41 minutes against Chelsea was pretty miserable. Visibly livid with the decision, he was promptly left out of the match-day squad entirely for the next fixture against Southampton.
DMC – Paddy NcNair
Average Rating – 6.19
About the 370,000 man to walk the well-trodden path from Manchester United reserves straight to the Sunderland first team, Paddy McNair looks awfully like he might just be a poor man’s John O’Shea – Irish, sluggish, pretty strong in the air, no fixed abode in defence or midfield and makes fans cry when he’s stationed on the left flank ahead of actual wingers (this has happened).
And whilst you criticise McNair for being a bit bobbins, you CANNOT accuse him of being anything other than a seriously gritty bastard. Upon rupturing his cruciate ligament against Hull in late November, just before half time, the P-Unit attempted to ‘run it off’ for a full 46 minutes, finally being substituted two minutes from full time before being whisked off for season-ending surgery. Fair f*cks lad.
Nadir Thus Far – Playing in central midfield against Stoke, managed just 21 touches, 8 of which saw him lose possession in some way or another, before getting tugged off by Moyes just prior to the hour mark.
MC – Craig Gardener
Average Rating – 6.23
Craig Gardner looked like a poor man's Craig Gardner tonight. That's quite an achievement.— Jason Kumar (@JasonKumar1) December 14, 2016
We're 4-0 up and I'm fuming that Craig Gardner is coming on— Lewis Botfield (@lewis_botfield) November 21, 2016
This game does not I repeat does not require Craig Gardner #wba— chezzo (@ArryGill) November 6, 2016
Someone wearing a Craig Gardner shirt in birdcage wtf— Heald (@heald_oliver) November 1, 2016
Being Craig Gardner should be a crime— Lewis Botfield (@lewis_botfield) May 7, 2016
Birmingham’s favourite son, Gardner possesses all the footballing subtlety and nuance of an Adam Sandler film. The lad’s good at nowt but booting things straight to hell – 40-yard pot shots, opposition shins, it doesn’t matter.
Personally, I’m quietly annoyed that no set of fans in England has ever taken to calling the former Sunderland man ‘Julio Cruz’, aka El Jardinero, in ironic homage to the prolific former Inter striker. Sort it out guys.
Nadir Thus Far – Probably his 30-minute cameo against a winless Sunderland side in October. Brought on (as is de rigueur) to see out a 0-1 win, he failed to complete a single defensive action (tackle, block, interception or clearance) as the worst Sunderland side in memory promptly went and snagged a late equaliser. Mission failed fella.
MC – Tom Cleverley
Average Rating – 6.26
Still owner of the single strongest personal brand in the entire Premier League, ‘TC23’ has gone from watching Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs shuffling about the middle of the park from the comfort of the Old Trafford bench to watching 74-year-old Garry Barry do the same from the Goodison dugout. I’ll be honest, it’s not a great look Tom, no matter how pleasant the smell of Werther’s Originals filling the air might be.
For Everton fans, the bad news is that one of the greatest players in Premier League history is only 18 months into a 5-year (!) contract, so good luck shifting him anytime soon. The better news is the fact that your almighty no.15 still has more Premier League winner’s medals than a certain Mr Steven G from across town.
Nadir Thus Far – Everton’s 0-5 spanking against Chelsea summed his career up rather nicely. From his 77 touches, the second most of anyone in his team, he conjured a whopping zero shots, dribbles, key passes, through balls or crosses – accurate or otherwise. The worst thing? He was playing as part of a central midfield three against Chelsea’s duo of Kanté and Matić. Truly a man who knows how to hide in plain sight.
AMR – Enner Valencia
Average Rating – 6.24
Hmmm, snagging West Ham’s fourth choice centre-forward, having been mugged off on deadline day by Moussa Sissoko, Manolo Gabbiadini and Lucas Perez, never felt like it would reap rich rewards but Everton’s Ecuadorian loanee really hasn't hit the ground running. Ultimately a signing so panicked, he arrived at Finch Farm with a CD copy of ‘A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out’.
Badly lacking the composure in front of goal required to play effectively down the middle nor the quality of delivery to shine on the flanks, Valencia’s struggled to make any sort of impact at Goodison this term. Despite this, he’s still getting more games than Aaron Lennon, which I doubt he’s hugely thrilled about.
Nadir Thus Far – Whilst nothing to do with Everton, being chased – amusing slowly –by an unnecessary amount of police in Ecuador, whilst leaving the field of play on a stretcher, wasn’t particularly ideal. He was wanted for questioning over what turned out to be unfounded accusations of unpaid child support.
AML – Whabi Khazri
Average Rating – 6.25
One of the stars of Sunderland’s great escape last year under Sam Allardyce, Khazri’s fall from grace has been stark. Despite possessing a squad crying out for some attacking quality, the marble-headed winger has been left out of the Black Cats’ starting lineout since October.
Here’s a list of all the players Sunderland have used on the left flank instead of the Tunisian this term: Victor Anichebe, Duncan Watmore, Lynden Gooch, Steven Pienaar, Paddy Van Aanholt, Paddy McNair and Fabio Borini. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that all bar Pienaar are NOT LEFT WINGERS and that the South African is so old he remembers the Orange Free State. As glorious an example of ‘The Moyes Effect’ as you could wish for.
Nadir Thus Far – Got sent off whilst captaining Tunisia in November for belting an opponent in the chops. The resulting ban means he will miss at least the group stage of the Africa Cup Of Nations and possibly may not travel to Gabon at all.
CF – Hal Robson-Kanu
Average Rating – 6.09
El Hadji Diouf, Stephane Guivarc’h, Klebersen, Cobi Jones, Karel Poborsky et al. When will managers learn not to buy players off the back of a vaguely eye-catching showing at a major tournament?
Whilst the majesty of HRK’s wonder goal against Belgium will never been in dispute, the mind-numbing mediocrity of his entire decade long career till that point is just as undeniable. What did Pulis think had changed in one summer about a man let go for nowt, with absolutely zero fuss, by Reading in May?
The man’s never scored more than 5 league goals a season when playing in the Championship despite getting 7 stabs at the pathetic feat. Even Lukas Jutkiewicz, a man with spanners for feet and all the composure of a dog at a bollock-licking convention, has managed 6 this year.
Anyway, the Welsh striker has racked up a whopping 86 minutes of play this season from 12 PL appearances, with zero goals to show for his forays. That’s precisely 4 minutes less than 17-year-old Jonathan Leko has tallied.
Nadir Thus Far - Brought on three minutes from full time with his side trailing 0-3 at home to Man City. Managed to commit 2 fouls and one touch of the ball during his cameo, that coming from the kick off as City rolled home a fourth in the 89th minute. Tough day at the office.
The Bench Of Dismay - Steve Mandanda, Havard Nordtveit, Martin Kelly, Markus Henriksen, Ryan Mason, Borja Bastón, Ashley Fletcher.
MatchPint : Like / Follow
All numbers correct as of time of writing: 30th December 2016.