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Blanc: PSG not in best shape

PSG 2 days ago
Read
Dec 24, 2012

Premier League - must do better

As the season reaches its half-way point, ESPN takes a look at which players have failed to live up to expectations at each club.

Arsenal: Thomas Vermaelen

There is a case for Gervinho while Arsenal fans can lament the continuing presence of Marouane Chamakh, Andre Santos and Sebastien Squillaci at the club but the gravest disappointment of the season may be a man of whom rather more was expected. On his day, Thomas Vermaelen ranks among the best defenders in the division. Too often, however, it has not been his day. A harrowing afternoon at Old Trafford was the nadir in an uncomfortable spell at left-back while the Arsenal captain was run ragged by a League Two striker, Nahki Wells, in a Capital One Cup exit to Bradford that was sealed by Vermaelen's poor penalty.

Aston Villa: Darren Bent

Darren Bent started the season as Aston Villa captain. He reaches the half-way point having lost the armband, his place in the team and then his place on the bench to Jordan Bowery, until recently a Chesterfield player. It has been a swift and ignominious fall from grace. Along the way, there have been just two league goals and a cameo of spectacular anonymity against Norwich, where Bent played a quarter of the game and failed to find a team-mate with his pace.

Chelsea: Marko Marin

This has been the season of the flair player at Stamford Bridge. Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar have changed the ethos of the team. Victor Moses has come in and started to make his mark. And then there is Marko Marin, Stamford Bridge's forgotten man. Roberto Di Matteo ignored him. Rafa Benitez gave him a belated full debut at Leeds but, even against Championship opposition, Marin struggled. Chelsea's surplus of wingers may mean it is quite some time until he starts again.

Everton: Tim Howard

After Brad Friedel's eight-year run without missing a Premier League game came to an end, the most consistent presence in the division's goalmouths is Tim Howard. Yet while the American is ever present, he is less dependable than he once was. Mistakes have pockmarked his campaign and David Moyes felt Howard could have done better with goals that Fulham, Norwich and Stoke scored. Tellingly, the manager has mentioned the lack of competition for places in goal. It may be rectified in January.

Fulham: Philippe Senderos

There are ways of measuring Brede Hangeland's importance to Fulham. One is that in his absence for almost four games, after his dismissal against Sunderland and with Philippe Senderos standing in for him, the Cottagers claimed a single point and twice conceded three goals in home defeats. The start of Martin Jol's reign, when Senderos displaced Aaron Hughes, seems a long time ago.

Liverpool: Pepe Reina

Where once it would have seemed disastrous for Liverpool to lose Pepe Reina, recent rumours he could leave should be of rather less concern. After an awful season last year, the Spaniard began the current campaign in similar form, three mistakes in as many games gifting goals to Manchester City, Hearts and Arsenal. While he could be faulted for Christian Benteke's opener for Aston Villa, he has been more reliable since then but Reina still has a reputation to rebuild.

Manchester City: Joleon Lescott

If the key moment of Joleon Lescott's season came in Amsterdam, when he neglected to jump as Ajax's Niklas Moisander headed in a corner, prompting a scornful reaction from Roberto Mancini, perhaps the pivotal point in his Manchester City career came on the final day of last campaign, when his misplaced header allowed Djibril Cisse to score a goal that almost cost them the title. Since then, Mancini's lack of trust in Lescott has become ever more apparent: after City struggled at set-pieces, first Matija Nastasic and then Kolo Toure moved ahead of him in the pecking order.

Manchester United: Nani

A choice that Sir Alex Ferguson may agree with. The Manchester United manager publicly blamed Nani for the Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea, when the winger's failure to keep the ball at one end of the pitch was followed by the concession of a penalty at the other. Include two fairly disastrous displays on Merseyside - he was dropped after the defeat to Everton and hauled off at half-time at Anfield - and it is shaping up to be both the worst and the last of Nani's six seasons at Old Trafford. Usually a guarantee of goals and assists, he has hardly supplied either in an injury-hit campaign.

Newcastle: Papiss Cisse

Normally out of form players are also out of luck. Not for Papiss Cisse, whose most significant goal of the season came off his back and gave Newcastle victory against West Bromwich Albion. Otherwise, however, one of the signings of last season has failed to recapture the same sharpness, failing to score in the first seven league games and being exiled to the wing because Demba Ba was in the better form.

Norwich: Leon Barnett

Truth be told, it is harsh to fault anyone. Norwich have gone on their longest unbeaten run in the top flight since the 1980s and some of those who struggled earlier in the campaign, such as Michael Turner, have improved dramatically. So this vote goes to Leon Barnett, who played in the back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Chelsea, where nine goals were conceded, and the 4-1 Capital One Cup defeat to Aston Villa. Sebastien Bassong sets the standard for Norwich defenders at the moment and Barnett pales by comparison with the former Spurs man.

QPR: Jose Bosingwa

Park Ji-sung's legs have gone. Stephane Mbia was responsible for one of the season's stupidest red cards. Rob Green endured one of the worst debuts in QPR history and found himself a reserve within a month. Julio Cesar lost his place to the self-same Green. Djibril Cisse contrived to get dropped by a team without a fit specialist striker. And yet Jose Bosingwa still stands out. Fined for refusing to be a substitute for Rangers' solitary league win and utterly unimpressive before then, it is startling to think that a matter of months ago he excelled as an ersatz centre-back against Barcelona in the Camp Nou. Now a Champions League winner has looked more like a Championship player.

Reading: Shaun Cummings

There is a cruelty in criticising certain Reading players. Some are simply Championship players who, because of their exploits last season, were promoted beyond that level. That certainly seems to apply to Cummings, the right-back subjected to many a harrowing afternoon this season. He was belatedly dropped after being tormented by Lukas Podolski in Arsenal's 5-2 win, but Manchester United had similar joy on the Reading right and when the otherwise out-of-form James McClean scored his only league goal, his immediate opponent was the unfortunate Cummings. In total, his 10 games saw Reading concede 25 times.

Southampton: Jos Hooiveld

During Southampton's promotion-winning campaign, Jos Hooiveld's ability to deliver goals was an unexpected bonus. The centre-back contributed seven as the Saints went marching out of the Championship. In the Premier League, however, his involvement with goals has been rather less welcome. Twice he has been debited with them, in between conceding penalties and allowing umpteen opponents to elude him. It was a merciful release when Nigel Adkins dropped the dodgy Dutchman.

Stoke: Michael Owen

The bare facts are that Michael Owen has spent more time on punditry duty in television studios than playing first-team football this season and that he hasn't scored a league goal since May 2011. Perhaps it is another tale of misfortune but Stoke first expressed an interest in signing him in June and he did not join until September, denying himself a pre-season and the momentum August goals could have given him. Even when - if - he is fully fit, it is hard to see where he fits into the Stoke side.

Swansea: Danny Graham

As Michael Laudrup has expertly allied the old with the new, most of Brendan Rodgers' regulars have continued to play an important part for Swansea. The exception is Danny Graham, whose sole league goal came in August and has found himself displaced by loan signing Itay Shechter and Michu, the attacking midfielder whose prolific touch has allowed him to play as the sole striker.

Sunderland: James McClean

As Sunderland's creative contingent endured a collective slump in form for much of the campaign, there were reasons to find fault with both Adam Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon. Arguably the most disappointing of all, however, was James McClean, suffering an individual version of second-season syndrome. A series of barren performances on the left wing led to a spell on the bench. Sunderland must hope a belated first league goal, against Reading, was a sign of a better second half of the season.

Tottenham: Emmanuel Adebayor

There was the delay over completing his move from Manchester City, followed by minor injuries but Emmanuel Adebayor cannot escape blame for his stop-start season. A ridiculous lunge at Santi Cazorla, which was both high and late, drew a deserved red card and, after the Togolese had given Spurs the lead, cost them the North London derby. Coming as early as it did, it meant Adebayor was basically banned for four games and gave the excellent Jermain Defoe another chance to cement his status as the first-choice forward at White Hart Lane.

West Brom: Markus Rosenberg

West Bromwich Albion have been receiving plenty of praise for one signing they made on a free transfer this summer. Rightly so, too: Claudio Yacob has been outstanding. But Markus Rosenberg, another similarly cheap recruit, has been rather more ineffectual. The Swede has been limited to a solitary start, plus a series of often forgettable cameos as a substitute, and among Albion's assortment of other wingers, attacking midfielders and support strikers, players like James Morrison, Zoltan Gera and Peter Odemwingie have a rather stronger case for selection.

West Ham: Guy Demel

Sam Allardyce's sides are often excellent defensively and so West Ham, in the shape of Winston Reid and James Collins, have been. Yet there have been more problems on the sides of the back four and right-back Guy Demel has been a particular culprit. There are times when Allardyce has felt the need to replace the Ivorian when opponents have got the upper hand of him, as West Brom's Peter Odemwingie did, while the converted midfielder Joey O'Brien looks a more reliable alternative.

Wigan: Ali Al Habsi

Normally the definition of consistency, Ali Al Habsi retains his ability to make eye-catching saves but has been guilty of several uncharacteristic errors. The most embarrassing, which is destined to end up on DVDs of footballing bloopers, came against Reading. But while it was not decisive, other errors have been. Al Habsi has saved Wigan plenty of points in the past; he may have cost them some this season.

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