10) Tim Howard
Consistency has been a problem for Howard ever since he moved to England with Manchester United in 2003. At times he has looked like one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, but a run of mistakes has never been too far away. It’s why he never managed to establish himself as undisputed No.1 at Old Trafford, even with Roy Carroll as competition.
The American has proved to be an excellent purchase for Everton, however, and arguably began this season with his reputation at an all-time high after following the Toffees’ initial success under Roberto Martinez with an excellent World Cup campaign.
Unfortunately, things have gone badly downhill for the 36-year-old to the point of him becoming a liability. Goalkeepers are judged on their mistakes rather than their saves, and Howard has cost his side an enormous amount of goals this season. It is frankly remarkable he continues to be picked ahead of Joel Robles, and we will have to assume he has some incriminating pictures of Martinez not wearing tan shoes if he is not moved on in the summer. He is finished as a Premier League goalkeeper.
9) Rio Ferdinand
Having been released by Manchester United at the end of last season, Ferdinand’s decline had clearly already begun. But he was still viewed as an excellent signing for a QPR side that had just been promoted from the Championship and would benefit from the experience and composure the centre-back would surely provide.
Yet the 36-year-old has made only 11 Premier League appearances this season, and none since the first week of March. Clint Hill, also 36, has been preferred. The fact that Ferdinand is viewed as a worse option than a player whose previous clubs are Crystal Palace, Stoke, Oldham and Tranmere says a great deal about his durability, fitness and/or enthusiasm for the cause these days. It came as no surprise when he announced he was to retire at the end of the season; in reality, it comes 12 months too late.
8) Kevin Nolan
There is arguably no player in the West Ham squad who has contributed more to help the club once again establish itself as a Premier League outfit. He was instrumental in their Championship promotion campaign and scored 17 goals in their first two seasons back in the top flight.
On Saturday, however, boos rang around the Boleyn Ground when it was announced over the PA system that Nolan was coming on to replace Alex Song against Stoke. A midfielder that has scored 30 goals in less than four seasons, the club captain no less, has lost the faith of the fans so much that they actually booed the fact he was chosen to come on.
There is no defending that, of course, but there is no doubt that Nolan’s effectiveness has waned massively this season. Even the goals – always his biggest contribution to the cause – have dried up. He has scored only once in 1418 minutes of Premier League football.
Nolan has started only 15 games in the league – Allardyce clearly recognises the 32-year-old is no longer the player he was – but even his substitute appearances are now irking supporters. He will surely be shipped out to the Championship in the summer.
7) Sylvain Distin
Big, powerful and extremely quick, it is somewhat of a surprise that Distin was never capped by France nor pursued by one of the Premier League’s top sides. Even last season, despite his advancing years and the emergence of John Stones, he started all but five of Everton’s Premier League games.
This time around, however, he has started only 12, and at the ripe old age of 37 will surely be forced into retirement this summer. That he has not made a single appearance since the start of January is a pretty clear sign that Martinez will not extend his contract beyond the end of the season. Even Antolin Alcaraz has made five appearances in that time – that’s as damning an indictment as possible of Distin’s great fall from grace this season.
It’s a shame he will likely leave Goodison Park on the back of such a poor campaign, but so many years of prior excellence ensure the good times, rather than the bad, will live much longer in the memory on Merseyside.
6) Mikel Arteta
After making 29, 34 and 31 Premier League appearances in his first three seasons at Arsenal, Arteta has made only seven so far this term. That is largely down to injury but the emergence of Francis Coquelin means Arsene Wenger will no longer be required to shoehorn Arteta into the defensive midfield role. The Spaniard is suddenly very dispensable.
Wenger wants to keep Arteta, out of contract in the summer, at the Emirates Stadium for another season, but the 33-year-old is said to be holding out for a longer deal, increasing the chances that he will become the latest player to leave the club having been made club captain.
In truth, he would be little loss. His injury problems are unlikely to ease as he gets older, while his ever-slipping standards have made him something of a target for Arsenal fans in recent times. The fickle finger of football has spoken, and although Arteta would have suitors in the top half of the Premier League, he is no longer deemed good enough for a side with title ambitions.
5) Branislav Ivanovic
Some of the players on this list have been declining for some time, whereas for others this season has simply proved to be one too many. For Ivanovic, his decline is only just beginning, but it has been all-the-more noticeable for its suddenness.
For a long time, picking the best right-back in the Premier League has been a straight choice between Ivanovic and Pablo Zabaleta, but both players are now in their 30s, with the Chelsea man in particular starting to get caught out up the flank a little too often. For a long time one of the rare modern full-backs as good defensively as they are going forward, suddenly Ivanovic is edging towards – if not yet into – Glen Johnson territory.
Recent speculation that Chelsea are considering a move for Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne this summer suggests Ivanovic’s dip in form has become a concern for Jose Mourinho. The only surprise is that Bayern Munich are apparently waiting in the wings should Mourinho decide to move the Serb on altogether.
4) Yaya Toure
In terms of form dips, Toure deserves to be much higher on this list, but it remains to be seen whether his reduced impact on games is down to age catching up on him or simply because he no longer wants to be at Manchester City.
Either way, there is no doubt he has gone from being one of the most influential players in the Premier League to one that is making little contribution at either end of the field.
There’s only so much that statistics in football can tell us, but in the case of Toure they cerrtainly give a good indication of how much his form has dropped off, at least going forward. Eight goals in 24 appearances is not bad, but it’s well down on the 20 he managed last season, while a solitary assist, down from nine, is extremely poor for a player of Toure’s undoubted ability in a title-chasing team.
Defensively, Toure has always been prone to lapses in concentration, but this season it has often looked like he simply can’t be bothered. It would be wrong to judge him on his languid style of running, but he does genuinely appear to jog at times when he should sprint. Again, it is unclear whether that is down to physical or mental reasons, but what is certain is that City must address the situation in the summer.
On current form, Toure simply isn’t good enough. With Paul Pogba potentially available, City’s midfield could well be set for a much-needed overhaul.
3) Gareth Barry
As we reach the third Everton player on this list, it is not hard to understand why Roberto Martinez has been unable to build on his excellent first season in charge at Goodison Park.
Barry was integral to that success on loan for the season from Manchester City, but his decline since joining the Toffees on a permanent basis has been as sharp as anyone’s on this list. He has gone from a Player of the Season contender to a candidate for the club’s least effective player.
Barry has certainly never been a player that has relied on pace, leading Martinez to suggest last season he could play into his 40s, but the rate at which he picks up bookings these days suggests his lack of speed around the pitch has now become a serious problem. He looks close to the end.
Barry himself admitted earlier this month that he would have likely played less games this season had it not been for injuries to team-mates, but it is going to take more than extra rest for the 34-year-old to play out the remaining two years of his contract; Martinez would do well to seek a replacement midfielder this summer.
2) Steven Gerrard
Little can be written about Gerrard that has not been said or written before, but the fact that the 34-year-old has played only 230 minutes of Premier League football since it was announced he would leave Liverpool this summer says a lot. Brendan Rodgers has not felt obliged to play the Reds legend even with the end in sight – and supporters haven’t complained a jot.
It would be wrong to say Gerrard is no longer up to playing in the Premier League – Liverpool would happily have kept him as a squad player – but he’s clearly unable to perform the sort of match-winning role he has taken on so often over the years. He has scored only twice from open play in the league this season.
Unfortunately for Gerrard, despite the best efforts of Rodgers, he has also failed to effectively tailor his game to a holding midfield role, meaning he is simply a pale shadow of the old Gerrard rather than a different but just as effective new Gerrard. There had been signs of his decline for some time, and although he will leave Anfield without achieving his dream of winning the league title, he will at least leave before that decline takes on an even greater pace.
1) Robin van Persie
The arrival of Louis van Gaal was supposed to rejuvenate Van Persie. He scored 26 Premier League goals to help Manchester United to the title in his first season at Old Trafford but struggled for form and fitness under David Moyes and looked likely to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the managerial change. There was even talk he would be made captain by Van Gaal, having skippered the Dutch side under his new club boss.
His record this season, however, is even worse than under Moyes, with just ten goals scored in 26 appearances to date compared to 18 in 28 last term. Injuries have once again hindered his campaign – he has missed the last seven games with an ankle injury – but even when fit he has looked less than threatening.
Van Gaal initially persisted with the 31-year-old up front, dropping Wayne Rooney into midfield, but the form of the team in Van Persie’s absence, with Rooney moved back into attack, means his usefulness going forward will surely be on the agenda as United plan their summer transfer business.
The former Arsenal star only has a year left on his contract and could well find himself surplus to requirements if Van Gaal signs a new striker, but regardless of whether he stays at Old Trafford or moves on, it seems the days of him challenging for the Golden Boot are well and truly behind him.
Mark Holmes – he’s on Twitter
10) Tim Howard