The awards have been handed out and the rave reviews printed – but what about the most disappointing players to trundle out in the Premier League this season? theScore rounds up the the biggest letdowns from each team in 2016-17.
Granit Xhaka: Finally, Arsene Wenger dipped into the market to address the problem defensive midfield area with a £35-million signing. Unfortunately, that player was Xhaka – a lad who cannot fulfill the position’s most important requirement: an ability to tackle. He cost £5 million more than N’Golo Kante.
Jordon Ibe: Eddie Howe’s transfer record is the only blemish on his work in Bournemouth. At £15 million, Ibe was an atrocious buy. No goals and no assists for the Liverpool product once lauded the natural replacement for Raheem Sterling on Merseyside.
Andre Gray: True, the service at Burnley reflects that of a roadside bacon barm trailer on the inner ring road, but Gray hasn’t exactly acclimatised to Premier League life. He’s scored nine, but his natural ability, pace, and club-record fee (in 2015) shouldn’t see him outshone by Ashley Barnes and Sam Vokes.
Michy Batshuayi: His goal at West Bromwich Albion clinched the title, but Batshuayi is yet to win the trust of Antonio Conte. The Italian’s starting XI takes some shifting, but the hype and £33-million price tag are far from justified by the Belgian forward.
Scott Dann: Last season, Dann looked like he was playing his way to a transfer to his native Liverpool. In this campaign, his form took a significant dive. He’s been nipping in with fewer tackles and interceptions, has been losing more aerial duels, and doesn’t block as many shots.
Joel Robles: Joey Wobbles would be a more fitting name for a goalkeeper who can’t catch the 10 o’clock news and couldn’t save a couple of quid. Robles isn’t befitting a team with aspirations of competing in the Champions League in the next two years.
Curtis Davies:Davies began the campaign superbly with uncompromising work in the Hull City defence. His performances were soon trumped by Harry Maguire though, as he wrung out an error-strewn and turgid end to the season.
Riyad Mahrez: From PFA Player of the Year to an apathetic waif disinclined to beat men with the same ferocity as the previous term, Mahrez hasn’t exactly put himself in the shop window during Leicester City‘s title defence. He’s been involved in 19 less goals than last season’s title march.
Loris Karius: Jurgen Klopp had an opportunity to purchase a marked improvement on Simon Mignolet, but instead he drafted in a goalkeeper that flaps around like a bird in a shoe cupboard. Karius may improve – he started awkwardly at Mainz – but the early signs are that he’s a long way off top-four quality.
Claudio Bravo: Another goalkeeper, and the one that’s got the most flak from fans. Pep Guardiola’s decision to jettison four-time Golden Glove winner Joe Hart to make room for Bravo‘s footwork didn’t pay off, as the Chilean did his best hologram impression when called upon.
Anthony Martial:Martial could cost £58 million if he meets various clauses in his Manchester United contract, but right now he’s regressing. The Frenchman has just four Premier League goals to his name, and is regularly behind the distinctly average Jesse Lingard in Jose Mourinho’s pecking order.
Viktor Fischer:Marten de Roon couldn’t rehash his performances for Atalanta in the Premier League, but the biggest disappointment has to be Fischer. The young Dane was quickly forgotten at Ajax through the emergence of Kasper Dolberg, and at Middlesbrough he simply hasn’t adjusted following much fanfare around his arrival.
Shane Long: The Irishman cost Southampton around £12 million in 2014 despite never being a potent finisher in the top flight. In injured Charlie Austin‘s stead, Long has mustered just three goals. He fleetingly shows class, but the Saints would be better off with a poacher – hence Manolo Gabbiadini‘s arrival – than someone who struggles at holding up play.
Giannelli Imbula:Wilfried Bony has been a disaster, but it only took watching a few Manchester City matches last season to foresee that happening. So the award goes to Imbula, the £18.3-million battering ram of a midfielder who’s conversely been shunted out the first-team picture by the slender Joe Allen and the supremely slow veteran Glenn Whelan.
Wahbi Khazri: Only Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford were out of the running for Sunderland‘s most disappointing player. Didier Ndong is frustrating, and Adnan Januzaj and Javi Manquillo have been bad, but the promise Wahbi Khazri showed on set-pieces and deliveries in open play went AWOL.
Jordi Amat:Swansea City doesn’t have the finest complement of defenders apart from the promising Alfie Mawson, and Amat is the worst. A requisite for a modern centre-half is to be proficient with the ball at your feet, but don’t expect the Spaniard to win an aerial battle. He couldn’t get his head on a pillow.
Moussa Sissoko: Why did Mauricio Pochettino sign him? Granted, Sissoko had a good Euro 2016, but the way his exit was rapturously received by large sections of the Newcastle United fanbase provided a hint at how little he exerted himself on Tyneside. Just seven league starts in the £30-million midfielder’s first campaign with Tottenham Hotspur.
Odion Ighalo: Remember that exciting Nigerian talent that completely busted at Watford and wasn’t called Isaac Success? Ighalo scored one goal in 18 appearances – he’d scored 15 in the previous season – before he chased the riches of the Chinese Super League. He’s tallied two strikes in seven outings for Changchun Yatai.
West Bromwich Albion
James McClean: There’s a time when the perpetually angry nature and blind, bulldozing runs wear a little thin. With his rawness and immaturity, it’s quite surprising that McClean is aged 28, and even more astonishing that he regularly represents a team in the top half of the table.
West Ham United
Havard Nordtveit: Where to start? So many players have underachieved at the London Stadium, but it’s difficult to overlook Nordtveit, the ex-Arsenal youngster who flourished at Borussia Monchengladbach. He’s been unconvincing in the tackle, and is yet to impose himself in a variety of positions. West Ham United should expect more from the Norwegian in 2017-18.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)