It’s the companion piece to last week’s ten best players in the bottom half. The caveat for this piece is that the players must have started over half their club’s Premier League games this season.
NB: To avoid just naming ten of West Brom’s XI, we have picked one player per club…
10) Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
The wrath of Daniel Storey is being risked here because when that boy gets angry, he can tut quite loudly and send quite the pointed passive-aggressive tweet. Yes, Chelsea are top. And yes, Chelsea have one of the best defensive records in the Premier League, but Antonio Conte’s switch to a back three was at least partly forced by the utterly rotten form of Cahill earlier this season, reaching its nadir with that back pass against Arsenal.
On Saturday he was back in calamitous Cahill mode with astonishingly poor technique for Manchester City’s goal and then a spot of ‘standing stock still’ as Sergio Aguero pounced on a slightly errant pass from Marcos Alonso. Rotten and yet he has missed only six minutes of league football this season as Chelsea have surged to the top of the table; Conte may well be a bloody genius.
9) Eric Dier (Tottenham)
It’s worth noting that Tottenham’s only genuinely good 90 minutes against decent opposition this season did not feature Eric Dier until the 72nd minute, when he replaced Moussa Sissoko (who hasn’t played nearly enough football to merit inclusion in this list). Dier had lost his place in this Spurs side through injury and only regained it when Toby Alderweireld’s own injury left Mauricio Pochettino with an unenviable choice between Dier and Kevin Wimmer at centre-half.
That Dier is a downgrade on the Belgian is unsurprising, but we would not expect him to look quite so uncomfortable in what is theoretically his favoured position. The space he gave Pedro last week was criminal; maybe save your banterous videos for when you beat somebody other than Swansea, chaps.
Eric Dier celebrates Spurs 5 – Swansea 0 with this dressing room video pic.twitter.com/fSy91Qds3I
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) December 3, 2016
8) Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City)
Let’s play a game. What’s funnier?
a) The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson naming Kolarov at centre-half in a combined Manchester XI in September.
b) His performance against Tottenham, prompting Jamie Carragher to call him a “poser”.
c) His attempts to chase Willian and Eden Hazard on Saturday as City were once again exposed on the counter-attack.
d) That only Fernandinho has played more Premier League minutes this season for one of the world’s richest football clubs.
We still go a) but we know its a niche fetish.
7) Alex Iwobi (Arsenal)
It’s not that Alex Iwobi is a poor player, it’s just that he’s currently ‘not quite’ at a time when Arsenal need rather more than ‘not quite’. A beneficiary of Alexis Sanchez’s move up front, the Nigerian has started on the left eight times, though it’s telling that he has played only two minutes of Premier League football since his 70 underwhelming minutes against Tottenham. He has dropped below Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the race to be the bloke who looks a bit like he’s won a competition to play with Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
It’s Iwobi’s finishing that prompts the most concern; he has hit the target only twice from 13 attempted shots this season. Too often a split-second of indecision has allowed a defender to get back to block. He will undoubtedly get better but Arsenal need better right now.
6) Loris Karius (Liverpool)
Sorry fella, but you really are the weakest link. As Daniel Storey wrote on Sunday, Karius has clearly been bought for the future but the majority of this Liverpool side is ready now.
“This goalkeeper is yet to convince me – in any game – that he’s of the required standard,” said Jamie Carragher after a series of mistakes against Bournemouth. He didn’t even mention this…
In case anyone missed Loris Karius' superb goal kick against Sunderland. pic.twitter.com/6ZnG5v6FQC
— Andy Ha (@_AndyHa) November 26, 2016
5) Jordon Ibe (Bournemouth)
A great stat was unearthed by friend of the site Adam Bate last week – that Jordon Ibe’s ‘total of 37 touches in the opposition box is by far the most of any Premier League player this season without scoring a goal, providing an assist or creating a clear chance’. Astonishingly, despite playing 45 minutes in Bournemouth’s remarkable comeback against Liverpool, he did not add to that total as the effervescent Ryan Fraser looked closer to being a £15m player than the toothless Ibe.
“The only thing Jordon has struggled with for me has been consistency,” says his manager Eddie Howe but that’s the difference between being a Championship-standard winger and a hit in the Premier League. Bournemouth did not break their club transfer record for 15 minutes here and there. At this juncture I can hear Daniel Storey shouting “he’s only f***ing 20” so there you go…he’s only f***ing 20.
4) Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
Only nine Manchester United players actually fit the criteria for this list, such is the amount of faffing around from a flailing Jose Mourinho this season. Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo are surprisingly among those who have not yet started eight Premier League games; how United fans must wish Fellaini was similarly unpopular with his manager.
Of course it was not Jose Mourinho’s fault that Fellaini’s foul brought a third consecutive 1-1 draw on Sunday. How was he to know that his massive, awkward midfielder would do something massively awkward? It’s basically Everton’s fault for playing long balls. The d***s. Still, he was only as bad as Henrikh Mkhitaryan against Everton.
3) Craig Dawson (West Brom)
Only a Tony Pulis side could have a 6ft 2ins former Rochdale centre-half at right-back. Oh Craig Dawson, with your 61% pass completion rate, your nine accurate crosses (and 32 inaccurate) in 14 Premier League appearances, your complete lack of assists, you are absolute perfect for Pulis. Only 14 of his 56 touches came in Watford’s half on Saturday and they won 3-1. Just perfect.
Of course, he can struggle at actually being a full-back sometimes…
Did West Brom defender Craig Dawson have to pay to get back in to Anfield after Coutinho sent him the wrong way?
— Monkey Sponge (@monkey_sponge) October 22, 2016
2) Wilfried Bony (Stoke City)
You don’t have to be a statistical expert to spot that the graphic on the right is significantly smaller than the one on the left, which we believe is Not A Good Thing. Regardless of the method used, it’s fair to say that the Wilfried Bony we remember from Swansea has not turned up for Stoke…
Wilfried Bony. What Stoke probably thought they were buying versus how Bony has performed so far this season. pic.twitter.com/KUliGcMwQL
— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) December 5, 2016
Eventually, Stoke manager Mark Hughes had to concede that Bony’s return of two goals (against his old club) and very little effort in nine Premier League games was not nearly enough return on a £2m loan fee and not-insignificant wages and he suffered the ultimate humiliation of being dropped for Jonathan Walters.
1) Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Ronald Koeman dropped him once and was rewarded with a 2-0 victory over West Ham that remains their only win since mid-September but a switch to a disastrous three-man defence against Chelsea gave Everton’s captain a reprieve that he really did not deserve. What followed was a 5-0 defeat and the next week saw Jagielka – looking every minute of his 34 years – conceding his third penalty of the season. It took one more defeat – and the slowest foot race in Premier League history with Southampton’s Charlie Austin – to prompt Koeman into action once again.
The result? A better, infinitely quicker Everton defence who restricted Manchester United to just two shots on target.
A sobering reminder: Jagielka was in the last England squad along with Gary Cahill and Eric Dier.