The Premier League's Christmas turkeys
As the season approaches the halfway point, there are players at every club who can only hope that the second part of the campaign goes rather better than the first. Some have lost their place or their way, others have merely mislaid their fine form while fitness eludes them. But all, for varying reasons, must do better.
Arsenal: Eduardo da Silva
One incident stands out in the season of Arsenal's Croatian: the tumble against Celtic that initially earned him a ban and has made him a target for opposing fans. But it also proved a rarity - a moment involving Eduardo that resulted in a goal. A pair of Premier League strikes is a paltry return for such an accomplished finisher and it is significant that Arsene Wenger has preferred to deploy Andrey Arshavin out of position as the lone striker rather than select Eduardo. Sadly, he has yet to prove he can recapture the potency he displayed before his left leg was broken and his ankle dislocated in such horrific fashion in February 2008.
Aston Villa: Habib Beye
Perhaps it is a consequence of spending his playing career taking them on, but Martin O'Neill appears to harbour a distrust of full-backs. It is far from uncommon to see midfielders or centre-backs filling in for them while the supposed specialists sit on the bench. Summer signing Habib Beye is the latest to fail to impress O'Neill: five games have brought one red card while he now appears to rank behind both Luke Young and Carlos Cuellar in the pecking order.
Birmingham City: Franck Queudrue
It is harsh to single out anyone at the Premier League's great overachievers for criticism, but Birmingham's unforeseen exploits have had little to do with Franck Queudrue. The French defender featured in their underwhelming start to the season, but injuries cost him a place before their five-match winning run began. While Liam Ridgewell may be a makeshift left-back, Queudrue faces a battle to recapture his place.
Blackburn Rovers: Nikola Kalinic
The future of Croatian football, according to Slaven Bilic, Nikola Kalinic may have a similarly sizeable role in the next few years at Blackburn. The present, however, has been rather less stirring. The misses on his debut at Sunderland proved unfortunately auspicious and the £6 million striker is still awaiting his first Premier League goal, though he was incorrectly denied it at Old Trafford.
Bolton Wanderers: Johan Elmander
At the Reebok, it may as well be termed "The Johan Elmander Award For Underachievement". But Elmander hasn't simply had a poor start to the season: it has been a continuation of his underwhelming displays from the previous campaign. In all, 2009 has brought just two league goals, both in defeats. It is as well for Bolton that Ivan Klasnic is taking his chances with rather more aplomb.
Burnley: Steven Caldwell
Plenty of plaudits have been directed at Burnley, but too few have come the way of a porous defence, especially after away matches. Steven Caldwell, who was injured for their early-season victories, is a case in point: a committed character and respected for his leadership, he is yet to show he possesses the reliability needed in the Premier League. Too many mistakes have been made; some, most recently by Wolves' Kevin Doyle, have been punished.
Chelsea: Petr Cech
It has become tiresomely familiar in recent years to hear one of his Chelsea colleagues proclaim that Petr Cech is the world's best goalkeeper. This season, however, such assertions have appeared increasingly incorrect. While Chelsea have appeared unstoppable at times, their setbacks have tended to coincide with goalkeeping mishaps. Cech's errors have been a common denominator in Chelsea's three league defeats, at Wigan, Aston Villa and Manchester City, as well as the 3-3 draw with Everton.
Everton: Marouane Fellaini
More than a year into his Everton career, Marouane Fellaini remains an enigma. Is he a support striker, a holding player or a box-to-box midfielder? For much of the campaign, when goals were scarce and his impact was negligible, the answer was simpler: he was an underachiever. A determined display in the Merseyside derby defeat seemed to herald an improvement from the Belgian. Everton must hope it is sustained; if not, when they finally have sufficient players available, the club record signing could be on the bench.
Fulham: Bjorn Helge Riise
A Riise has scored in a Fulham game this season. Sadly for Roy Hodgson's team, it is not the one employed by the Cottagers. While John Arne Riise struck for Roma against them, goals are not the only thing to prove scarce for his younger brother. Appearances in the Premier League have been limited, with the Norwegian seemingly deemed a Europa League specialist, and it was damning that, a matter of weeks after he was recruited, Hodgson bought Damien Duff, another who can operate on either flank.
Hull City: Ibrahima Sonko
Arriving seemingly the product of a desperate search for a centre-back after Michael Turner's sale, Ibrahima Sonko has done little to correct that assumption since his September signing. In his five league games, Hull have shipped 15 goals and the Senegelese's performance at Liverpool in September must rank among the most disastrous defensive displays of the campaign. It is no coincidence that Hull have become harder to beat since Sonko was omitted. The consolation for them is that, as Sonko was only borrowed from Stoke, he can be returned in January.
Liverpool: Andriy Voronin
Andriy Voronin is not alone in underperforming at Anfield this season. Nor is he the only convenient scapegoat among Rafa Benitez's poorer signings. But Voronin has been so spectacularly awful that it would appear unfair to select a finer performer, such as Martin Skrtel, Jamie Carragher or Emiliano Insua, who fell below his best when Liverpool's No. 10 shirt has been worn by a player who must belong among the worst in the club's history. Voronin has failed to score in 12 appearances this season: the nadir appeared to be the Champions League draw in Lyon, and he has not been seen since. Thankfully.
Manchester City: Joleon Lescott
Signed as the even richer man's John Terry, Joleon Lescott is looking a poor impression of Everton's dynamic defender. Having dovetailed neatly with Phil Jagielka at Goodison Park, his failure to gel with Kolo Toure at Eastlands would be unfortunate, even without the burden of a £22 million price tag. A lack of conviction has characterised both Lescott and much of the City defending. Even getting injured, ruling him out at a time when Toure is preparing to go to the African Nations Cup, hardly helped Mark Hughes. With a new manager in Roberto Mancini, the third most expensive defender in the world's time as a first-choice may have already ended.
Manchester United: Rio Ferdinand
Manchester United have kept two Premier League clean sheets with Michael Carrick in the defence and one when Rio Ferdinand has played. Following that rather simplistic logic and suggesting it makes the midfielder a more reliable centre-half than the England vice-captain would be facetious, but it is nonetheless a sign of Ferdinand's travails. Hampered by calf and back problems, the casual approach that characterised the younger Rio have crept back into his game. Mistakes in the Manchester derby did not prove costly, but being left in the slipstream of semi-fit Fernando Torres certainly did.
Portsmouth: Aruna Dindane
Pleasing performances have produced too few results for Portsmouth. It doesn't require expert analysis to discover why. Aruna Dindane, borrowed from Lens to replace Peter Crouch in the forward line, has displayed pace and trickery without the clinical touch required in front of goal, with the notable exception of the game against Wigan where he scored a hat-trick. More typical, however, were two sadly incompetent efforts to score against Tottenham: while others have entered the goal of the season contest, Dindane has more chance of winning a miss of the season competition.
Stoke City: Ricardo Fuller
He is among the finest signings in Stoke's recent history, but Ricardo Fuller's contribution to the current campaign has been less distinguished. While two other strikers - the benched Tuncay and the allegedly butted James Beattie - have dominated the headlines, Fuller's goal drought has presented other problems. Just one strike, against Portsmouth, is a meagre return for a forward who proved last year that he can record a double-figure return in the top flight.
Sunderland: Anton Ferdinand
Completing a Ferdinand family double, Anton seems to have gone backwards in the last year. It is 16 months since Roy Keane spent £8 million on him but Steve Bruce has committed much of his time on Wearside to signing other centre-backs, whether Michael Turner, John Mensah or Paulo da Silva. Shunted out to right-back for some of the season, Ferdinand has been on the bench at times. On the field, whether needlessly conceding a penalty against Burnley or unluckily scoring an own goal at Old Trafford, he has done too little to advance his cause.
Tottenham: Robbie Keane
Scoring four times in one match and approaching the New Year with a respectable return of around a goal every other game, Robbie Keane is scarcely a typical candidate for such unwanted awards. But, besides a particularly profitable afternoon against Burnley, Tottenham's captain has been overshadowed by Jermain Defoe and, at times, displaced by Peter Crouch. There is a sense that the team is better balanced by the combination of bigger and smaller strikers and Harry Redknapp's occasional attempts to incorporate the Irishman on the left of midfield have been unconvincing. Organising the controversial Christmas party may not have been a great career move, either.
West Ham: Luis Jimenez
Players recruited from Inter Milan will automatically arrive with a level of expectation but Luis Jimenez, like many of his West Ham team-mates, is yet to deliver. While he brought the promise of flair from the flanks, too many of his performances have been forgettable cameos. His sole goal came from the penalty spot and Alessandro Diamanti, perhaps better suited to the role of a catalyst, appears the preferred choice as impact substitute.
Wigan: Jason Scotland
Perhaps Roberto Martinez underestimated the Premier League; perhaps he overestimated the shining lights of his Swansea side. Whichever, Jason Scotland and Jordi Gomez rank as the least effective of his arrivals at Wigan. The striker's plight is particularly pronounced: though he has struck post and bar, he still has not hit the back of the net.
Wolves: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake
Some strikers are unable to bridge the sizeable gulf between the Championship and the Premier League. For Wolves' chances of retaining their top-flight status, it is to be hoped that Sylvan Ebanks-Blake does not fall into that category. Prolific at lower levels, he has struggled to reproduce that form in the top flight and is yet to strike in open play. It did not help that Ebanks-Blake began the campaign on the sidelines, but Wolves need him to end it on the scoresheet.