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Jack: Premier League's biggest disappointments so far

Kristian Jack
11/7/2013 10:40:46 PM
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Ten games into a Premier League season is slightly more than a quarter of the campaign. Or exactly 26.3 per cent for the perfectionists amongst us.

It is the equivalent of 42 games into a major league baseball season, just under 22 games of an NHL season, or 132 miles into the Indianapolis 500. Assumptions can be made, premature conclusions will be drawn but at the end of the day, there remains a long way to go in the race.

During the first quarter of the season, the team dominating many of the storylines has been Manchester United. Collectively, they have been the league's most underwhelming side and certainly its biggest underachiever.

However, United players are not alone when it comes to struggling in the Premier League this season.

After 10 matches, here is the top 10 players so far who have been more than just a disappointment for their team.

Nicolas Anelka (WBA) - No one at The Hawthorns expected the Frenchman to fill the void left behind by Romelu Lukaku, scorer of 17 league goals last season, but they certainly hoped he would be better than what he has done so far. A total of six shots in the seven games he has played leaves him still searching for his first goal of the season, on a team desperate for goals. West Brom started the campaign without a goal in their first 360 minutes and, although they have been better lately, they still look like a team that will struggle to average more than a goal per game over the entire season. Home form will keep the club safe but it is worth noting their only away goals scored from open play this season came in the stunning 2-1 win at Manchester United. They need Anelka to find his scoring boots but at the moment, he looks more like a player who is finished at this level.

Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham) - When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and it appears Berbatov goes hiding. Scorer of 15 goals for Fulham last season, the Bulgarian looks back to his lazy best this season. Fulham have looked far too open under Martin Jol, but this has been an attempt by the Dutchman to get more people in the attacking third to connect with his star striker, scorer of just one goal so far. It hasn't worked. Berbatov remains the most natural goalscorer on the team but now has just three goals in his last 17 league games, dating back to April. Three goals in his next 17 league games will likely put Fulham in the bottom three by March. He has to be better.

Papiss Cisse (Newcastle) - In his first 87 days as a Premier League player, Cisse scored 13 goals in his first 12 Premier League games. He took on the iconic number nine shirt at St James' Park and looked every bit like a player who deserved it, scoring a wonder goal at Chelsea that took his face into homes around the world. All of last season, he carried those high expectations into each Newcastle match and rarely delivered. This season, much like last, he is off to a terrible start and hasn't found the back of the net yet. Thankfully for Alan Pardew, the Magpies got Loic Remy on loan, and only Daniel Sturridge and Sergio Aguero have scored more than the Frenchman so far, but Cisse has now played his way out of a starting spot in recent games. When he is given his chance, he looks lost in front of goal. He may never be the star he was when he arrived in England but Newcastle fans will take somewhere in between that and the liability he is right now.

Andreas Cornelius (Cardiff City) - When I met Cardiff's head of recruitment, Iain Moody this summer, we talked at length about the need for newly promoted teams to find a striker who can score between 12 and 15 league goals a season. A week later, Moody splashed 5 million pounds on the Danish Superliga top scorer. Ten games into the season, Moody has been let go (although that is a different story itself) and Cornelius has played just one minute in the Premier League. Two separate ankle injuries have hampered his progress and Peter Odemwingie and Fraizer Campbell have filled in very well up to now but it is a long season and Cardiff fans need to see soon what Moody saw in the 20-year-old striker.

Marouane Fellaini (Manchester Utd) - Fellaini's Premier League performances this season have not been as poor as some have made out but when the champions splash 27 million pounds on a player who is dropped for three weeks, during a rough time for the club, it is clear he has been underachieving. Fellaini began the year as a deeper midfielder for Roberto Martinez's Everton at Norwich and, despite allowing Steven Whittaker room to score Norwich's opener, impressed in a role he has always said he prefers. However, since coming to Old Trafford, he has struggled to enforce the usual physical presence he has on games. He was overrun by a powerful and fast Manchester City in the derby and again against Southampton was exposed by not protecting his full back, an essential part of a central midfielder's job. Since signing his Manchester United contract, the Belgian has started two of seven league games for David Moyes.

Joe Hart (Manchester City) - With headline stealers Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Roberto Mancini all out of the club, this was supposed to be a season of smooth sailing for City. In truth, they have played some blistering football at times and remain the most talented squad in the league, but in goal, they have had major issues. Blunders against Cardiff, Aston Villa and Chelsea have cost Hart the number one position as City go about using a goalkeeper who cannot lose them any more points. New manager Manuel Pellegrini does not have history of knowing how much he can rely on Hart. It could be some time before the Englishman is trusted again between the posts for City.

Frank Lampard (Chelsea) - It is difficult to know whether Lampard is playing poorly this season or whether this is just a veteran struggling to play a position that is so vital in the modern game. Chelsea's performances away from home in the league this season have been very average. When they have been in control of the game, they have struggled to maintain quick tempo and good possession. When they have lost the ascendancy in a game, their central midfield have been overrun. Lampard is at the heart of both these issues. Jose Mourinho's decision to keep playing the 35-year-old with Ramires in the double pivot is puzzling but may change soon. Lampard has been taken off in each of their last two matches and Mourinho's loyalty towards him will be tested between now and May.

David Luiz (Chelsea) - Mourinho has used three centre-backs in 10 games this season (John Terry 10 times and Gary Cahill and Luiz five times each alongside him). They have won four and drawn one, including matches against Man Utd and Man City, with Cahill. They have won two, drawn one and lost two with Luiz. The two losses, at Everton and Newcastle, exposed Luiz as a defender prone to poor decision-making at crucial times. He was out of position and failed to track the run of Steven Naismith at Goodison Park and was called out by BBC pundit Alan Shearer this week when he failed to win a crucial challenge against Newcastle's Shola Ameobi. Under Mourinho, this Chelsea team will not destroy many teams, making it even more important they do not concede the unnecessary goals they have let in when Luiz has been on the pitch.

Ashley Westwood (Aston Villa) - He is not a household name to many Premier League fans, but those dressed in claret and blue each week know the value his ball treasuring skills bring to the club. Westwood is on this list because of the standards he achieved last season. The young English midfielder was the face of a new system and approach under Paul Lambert in his first top-flight campaign but this season has struggled to maintain a high level of consistency. Westwood has missed games through injury and played some of the best midfields in the league already, but he needs to improve his passing ratio (down to 82 per cent this season) if he is to get to a level where he will one day be considered for England, something that very much could be in his future.

Ashley Young (Manchester United) - Of all the players on the list, it is a real possibility that the first one to move clubs will be Young. The former Aston Villa creator has regressed badly in the last 12 months at Old Trafford. The winger used to be an explosive threat on the flanks who could turn defenders either way, while also providing some excellent defensive coverage for his fullbacks. Now he is known as a notorious diver, a winner of disputed penalties, the king of the con merchants who can cheat a fellow professional to gain a massive advantage in a game. Young's antics could be tolerated if he produced consistent performances when he plays but the truth is, with every showing in a Manchester United shirt, he is giving more and more evidence that he is simply not good enough to play for a club of that stature any more.




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