Khamis, 19 Januari 2012

Men Who Have Been Missed

Ten players who have been badly missed by their sides.

10 - Jermaine Beckford - Everton

Sure, Beckford is far from a world-beater, and it says plenty that Everton were perfectly happy to trouser the £3million from Leicester in the summer, but the fact remains that he has not been properly replaced, and was at least a fairly durable and reliable striker. At present Everton are scrabbling by with Louis Saha and Victor Anichebe, who can be trusted to stay fit in the same way you can trust Augustus Gloop with a box of Ferrero Rocher, Apostolos Vellios, who is...erm...raw, Denis Stracqualursi, a loan signing who not even David Moyes seemed to think was much good, and Tim Cahill, a midfielder who hasn't scored in a year. It's not ideal. And Beckford's scoring record was actually pretty decent last season - he got eight goals in 15 league starts, his strikes earning Everton an extra nine points.

9 - Asamoah Gyan - Sunderland
While their form is turning around, Sunderland's primary issues this season have been up front. Sebastian Larsson is their top scorer, while Nicklas Bendtner, Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-Won have contributed just five goals between them. With ten goals in 20 starts last season, Gyan was actually more prolific than Darren Bent (eight in 20), and boy could Sunderland have done with his eye for a strike and pace up top, before his magician of an agent conjured a whacking great pile of cash in the United Arab Emirates.

8 - Michael Essien
Because any team would miss Essien. Because he's Chelsea's best player in at least three different positions. Because Chelsea have missed his physicality and drive from midfield. Because...oh, because he's Michael Essien.

7 - Stewart Downing and Ashley Young - Aston Villa
Their respective big moves haven't been outstanding successes, but the only thing at Aston Villa that has benefited from Downing and Young's departure is the wage bill that Randy Lerner was fretting about. It might have as much to do with the manager as personnel, but without their two wingers Villa are one of the most joyless, bloodless sides to watch in the Premier League. That Villa saw fit to replace two very good widemen with one inconsistent winger, in Charles N'Zogbia, has hardly helped.

6 - Raul Meireles - Liverpool
As we all know, Liverpool's big problem this season has been scoring. With Andy Carroll a shambling wreck of a striker (who, by blocking two shots at the weekend graduated from simply being misfiring to actively preventing them from scoring) and Luis Suarez also goal-shy even before his suspension, both Bolton and Blackburn have found the net more often than Liverpool this season. Meireles may not have completely solved Liverpool's issues in that area, but he did provide something that they have been missing this season - namely some dynamism from midfield. And goals too - he bagged five times in a month this time last year, including in that tight but vital win over Chelsea. Steven Gerrard has been missed too, but his current role seems to be in a deeper midfield position, a spot in which they have not been too lacking.

5 - Tom Cleverley - Manchester United
Of course, Cleverley is the classic example of a man whose reputation has grown in his absence, but had he stayed fit and had the form he showed at the start of the season continued, then a good portion of United's midfield issues would have been at worst severely reduced. If nothing else, it would've saved the car crash that was fielding a central midfield of Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs against Chieck Tiote and Yohann Cabaye against Newcastle. The hype surrounding Cleverley has often been ridiculous, but it is perhaps indicative of United's wider problems that he is already regarded as one of their most important players.

4 - Stuart Holden - Bolton
Bit of useless knowledge for you - before he started playing football and causing otherwise heterosexual Lancastrians to question their lifestyle choices, Holden used to represent the USA in Counter Strike, which is apparently some form of computer game. So good was the midfielder, he once won $10,000 in a competition. Anyway, while it would be a bit strong to blame all of Bolton's woes on Holden's absence, it is noticeable that the arse really fell out of their season after Jonny Evans broke him in March. Bolton have played 29 games since that fateful day, winning just seven, and again while their issues run deeper, they have badly missed his drive from midfield. For the sake of the team, and the butterflies Bolton fans feel when they see their golden boy, he needs to return pretty quickly.

3 - Bacary Sagna - Arsenal
You really could've picked any one of the four full-backs that have coincidentally and unluckily broken, but Sagna is the most experienced of the quartet, so he gets the nod. Without Sagna, Kieron Gibbs, Andre Santos and Carl Jenkinson, Arsenal have been forced to improvise with assorted central defenders and midfielders in the full-back slots, with often hilarious and slapstick consequences. For Exhibit A, see how Ignasi Miquel had his pants pulled down and his bottom spanked scarlet by Nathan Dyer, a decent but not spectacular winger, against Swansea on Sunday. Their defensive issues are arguably deeper than these four injuries, but they have crippled them.

2 - Edwin van der Sar - Manchester United
Before, an experienced and reliable stopper who rarely made mistakes and generally made his defence feel calm and secure. Now...well...the opposite of all that. As we've written a number of times before, David de Gea could well be a fine goalkeeper one day, but he is not at the moment, and United have suffered because of it. If this list was being written in a couple of months' time, Nemanja Vidic could well be on it, but United have only seriously missed their centre-back in one game, the beasting at Newcastle.

1 - Jack Wilshere - Arsenal
It's perhaps not quite so much that Arsenal have seriously missed Wilshere, although his assurance in midfield and option as an 'out ball' would certainly have been nice in some of their more testing encounters this season. Arguably, the biggest problem Wilshere's absence has caused has been an over-reliance on Aaron Ramsey, undeniably an incredibly talented midfielder, but one forgets that he is still only 21, and in the wider scheme of things is not long recovered from a horrific injury. The pressure on Ramsey to provide a good amount of Arsenal's creativity is also a problem, as is playing him in a deeper role, which exposes his tackling weakness. Ideally, one might think that with both men fit, Arsene Wenger would've made sure that Wilshere and Ramsey played 25-30 games each this season, so as to protect them and prevent burn-out. As it is, Ramsey is flagging, and Wilshere has spent most of the season with a pot on his foot.

Tiada ulasan:

Catat Ulasan