Top Ten: Best Of The Bottom Half

We have picked one player from each team in the bottom half of the table who could play at a higher level. The vultures could be circling this summer over the fallen...

Last Updated: 18/03/14 at 09:50 Post Comment

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10. Steve Sidwell
If Fulham fail to beat the drop this year - which is looking more than likely - there won't be a stampede to sign Steve Sidwell. But that isn't to say the midfielder hasn't impressed in a season of struggle for the Cottagers. The best of a bad bunch, Sidwell has tried to lead by example, chipping in with six goals so far - his highest total in a single Premier League campaign. The midfielder also averages more tackles and more interceptions than any other regular starter at the club, illustrating his diligence as the dirge rings out for Fulham.

9. Joel Ward
After playing an important role in Palace's promotion campaign last year, Ward has kicked on this season to help give the Eagles a fighting chance of survival. The 24-year-old has missed only two top-flight matches after establishing himself as a key member of Tony Pulis' side and he has cultivated a reputation as a promising, combative defender who is normally composed in his use of possession. With Palace winning only one of their last six matches, it's beginning to look like they might succumb to the drop, but Ward should stand a good chance of securing a move to remain in the Premier League next year.

8. Sebastien Bassong
This was the hardest pick on the list. While Bassong is undoubtedly vital to Norwich's chances of survival, the defender has frequently been below par this season as the Canaries circle the drop zone. There is no-one at Norwich who really stands out as being good, however, or even adequate, with the squad filled with Championship players who most Premier League sides wouldn't even consider trying to sign. Bassong's dogged display in the 0-0 draw against Manchester City served as a reminder of his qualities, however, and Chris Hughton will be looking for more of the same in a tough run-in that pits Norwich against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

7. Youssouf Mulumbu
Although Claudio Yacob averages more tackles per game than any other player in the Premier League, Mulumbu sneaks in ahead of the Argentine as West Brom's pick for his box-to-box contribution at the heart of the Baggies' midfield. Only Crystal Palace's Mile Jedinak has recorded more interceptions than the 27-year-old this season, with Mulumbu's intensity key to the style Pepe Mel is trying to introduce at the Hawthorns. A better record in front of goal is perhaps the main area in which the midfielder should seek to improve after he notched only his second strike of the season - and a fine goal it was - in the 2-1 win over Swansea at the weekend.

6. Curtis Davies
After Davies failed to establish himself in the Premier League with Aston Villa and Birmingham, it looked as though Steve Bruce was taking a risky gamble when he snapped up the 29-year-old for around £2m last summer. However, it has proven to be a shrewd decision. Davies' impressive performances have been crucial in Hull keeping their heads above water and maintaining the best defensive record in the bottom half. The 2-0 defeat to Manchester City on Saturday left the Tigers just five points above the relegation zone but, if Davies can maintain the sort of form that saw him named man of the match againstn the recent FA Cup win over Sunderland, Hull will be well-equipped for the run-in.

5. Adam Johnson
Still Mr Inconsistency, while some were championing Johnson for an England call-up at the start of the month, the winger was busy being substituted after only an hour against Manchester City in the League Cup final. Johnson may be frustratingly hit-and-miss, but he's made more contribution than anybody in Sunderland's battle to survive. The 26-year-old's tally of seven Premier League goals is more than double any other player in the squad, while he's also claimed the highest number of assists. If the Black Cats are to beat the drop, they'll be looking to Johnson for inspiration.

4. David Marshall
Despite one or two high-profile gaffes - notably his shambolic display at Stamford Bridge - Marshall has been excellent this year, securing Cardiff points they probably didn't deserve as the rest of the team struggle to adapt to the top flight. The defeat to Everton was a case in point, as the keeper pulled off a number of fine saves to deny the Toffees before the cruel blow of Seamus Coleman's sliced winning goal. "The confidence and belief is still there," said Marshall after Cardiff's latest loss. He's probably the main reason for that.

3. Ben Davies
Still only 20, Swansea have a huge prospect in Davies, who has become a fixture in the first team since replacing Neil Taylor at the start of last season. The left-back has been a consistent performer in a campaign of mixed fortunes at the Liberty Stadium, and starred in both legs of the Swans' Europa League last-16 tie against Napoli. There are rumours that Davies is on Brendan Rodgers' shortlist to solve Liverpool's left-back problem in the summer and, should the youngster continue to impress between now and the end of the season, he can expect to attract a number of suitors.

2. Winston Reid
The drop in West Ham's performances following Reid's ankle injury in November emphasised the defender's importance to the team. The Hammers picked up six clean sheets in Reid's ten appearances before he crocked himself against Aston Villa, with that 0-0 stalemate pointing to Sam Allardyce's biggest problem in a slow start to the campaign. A lack of goals was not the only issue during Reid's absence, however, as West Ham then shipped three strikes to each of Norwich, West Brom and Newcastle, crashed out of the FA Cup with a 5-0 thrashing at Nottingham Forest and lost 9-0 on aggregate to Manchester City in the League Cup semi-final. Reid made his first start since November in the 3-1 defeat to Stoke at the weekend and Big Sam will hope to get him up to speed as soon as possible.

1. Asmir Begovic
Talk of a move to Real Madrid may be a bit far-fetched, but Begovic is one of the hottest properties in the bottom half, having been linked to Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool over the last two years. The 26-year-old gave City a timely reminder of his ability recently with a heroic display in Stoke's 1-0 defeat at the Etihad and his starting role for Bosnia and Herzegovina at the World Cup will afford the keeper another chance to put himself in the shop window. Should he replicate his domestic form in Brazil, Mark Hughes can expect a busy summer of speculation surrounding his number one.

Matthew Stanger

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ven if United were to sign CR7 & Messi to play upfront, the fact remains Fletcher and Cleverly are playing in midfield. That's where the problem is. Fletcher is too slow with an awful pass, while Cleverly is simply rubbish

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