Top ten worst individual Premier League performances ever includes Liverpool star’s self-destruction

Matt Stead
Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard takes a shot

Junior Firpo had a stinker for Leeds but there have been far worse individual performances in Premier League history – often for or against Liverpool.

For the sake of interest, appalling substitute cameos will be ignored and early red cards will also not be considered. Here’s to you, Tiemoue Bakayoko, because we want abhorrent performances from players who were on the pitch for as close to 90 minutes as possible.

 

10) Djibril Cisse (Sunderland v West Ham, 2008)
‘Sunderland striker Cisse was guilty of missing a number of chances,’ was the BBC’s take on the Lord of the Manor of Frodsham’s display for those unlucky Black Cats against West Ham in November 2008, with the fine work of Andy Reid and Kieran Richardson so often going to waste.

Before the game, former Liverpool forward Cisse had noted a “need to be more ruthless and score more” after “getting into good positions and getting two or three chances every game”. There was an improvement in that sense: he got into enough good positions to have seven shots, all of which were off-target. It is difficult to fathom the level of sheer contempt manager Roy Keane must have reserved for him in the dressing room.

 

9) Carl Jenkinson (West Ham v Bournemouth, 2015)
“I’ve had a couple of 90 minutes under my belt so I’m looking to be flying now as I should be fully fit,” said Carl Jenkinson in August 2015, his most recent West Ham appearance having culminated in a goalkeeping cameo after Adrian was sent off against Leicester.

“I’ve got to express myself and play to the best of my ability,” Jenkinson continued in the build-up to the Hammers’ next game, with Bournemouth visiting Upton Park. A stoppage-time clean sheet against the obvious future champions to his name, the on-loan Arsenal defender escorted Callum Wilson to a hat-trick while going down in history as the only person ever to fall for a Marc Pugh dummy.

Aaron Cresswell had a dreadful time of it against the promoted Cherries but Jenkinson was in a world of hurt on the other side, his afternoon cut ever so slightly short with a tug of Max Gradel’s shirt in the box, the concession of a penalty and the sweet relief of a red card for what turned out to be Bournemouth’s winner in a seven-goal thriller. He’d have fared better being back in net.

Carl Jenkinson puts on a goalkeeper top

 

8) Steven Gerrard (Liverpool v Chelsea, 2014)
First up, some admin: The Slip wasn’t the worst aspect of this performance. The funniest? Absolutely. The one dripping in the most schadenfreude? For sure. The moment which will forever best capture the essence of Gerrard’s entire career for some? Without doubt.

But the Liverpool captain’s response was the most damaging aspect. Gerrard tried to summon the simultaneous spirits of Istanbul, Olympiakos and the 2006 FA Cup final and summarily failed. He had 38 more touches than any other player, attempted at least three times more passes than anyone in Chelsea blue and had nine shots, eight of which came after his mistake for Demba Ba’s goal, with seven of those from outside the area.

It was the most efforts Gerrard had had on goal in a single game in five years, as Liverpool teammates were regularly ignored so that Mark Schwarzer could do some comfortable catching drills behind a Chelsea defence which welcomed such tame pot-shots. Gerrard even failed to dispossess Jose Mourinho at one stage during an equally desperate attempt to restart play from a throw-in; the Portuguese plotted everything to perfection.

 

7) Roberto Jimenez (West Ham v Burnley, 2019)
There are many ways to encapsulate how bad Roberto Jimenez was for West Ham. The keeper’s basic record of 17 goals conceded in eight games with no clean sheets in Lukasz Fabianski’s injury absence at the back end of 2019, for example. The fact that the signing of the Spaniard was cited by many as part of the reason behind director of football Mario Husillos’ sacking. Manuel Pellegrini literally blamed Roberto for his own demise, saying: “He had responsibility in several goals. The team was losing confidence.” And David Moyes felt it necessary to promote third-choice keeper David Martin for his Premier League debut, the 33-year-old immediately keeping a clean sheet.

The nadir for Jimenez came against Burnley, who frankly and unsurprisingly bullied him. Roberto was unconvincing throughout, punching crosses he could have caught and showing a rare level of naive incompetence. He pushed Ashley Barnes into position for the striker to score the first goal from a set-piece, then launched a Burnley counter for the second with a lazy throw, before palming a corner into his own net.

 

6) Danny Rose (Watford v Liverpool, 2021)
It became uncomfortable to watch the once-wonderful Rose in the twilight of his Premier League career, doomed to insignificance in a retirement-inducing spell at Watford. But in no game was he more visibly powerless than against Liverpool in October 2021.

Mo Salah held him at arm’s length to assist the first goal, then collective defensive failures brought on the second and third. The fourth was more Salah majesty as he wriggled free of three players with some fine footwork as Rose offered a flimsy final line of resistance. The leg Rose dangled at Neco Williams as the full-back crossed for Roberto Firmino to complete his hat-trick was the epitome of both mental and physical exhaustion.

Claudio Ranieri tried to handle Rose with delicate gloves and cut him down carefully but even football’s nicest man struggled. “I don’t think he is finished, but here I think we need another kind of player for us. I want a left-back who goes up and down for 90 minutes, just this,” the Italian said, after giving Rose three more games to prove himself. That they were against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City suggests Ranieri’s mind had been made up long before then.

 

5) Per Kroldrup (Everton v Aston Villa, 2005)
Considering it took six months for his debut to arrive, perhaps the nerves of new Everton defender Kroldrup were as understandable as they were immediately obvious. But after David Weir had made some costly mistakes and with fans desperate to finally see the transfer fruits of their Champions League qualification labour, he was thrown in.

Kroldrup had struggled with injuries and acclimatisation but was given the nod for the Boxing Day fixture at Aston Villa. With the ball played straight back to him at kick-off, the centre-half – supposedly comfortable in possession – just barely managed to get it out of his feet under pressure from Milan Baros, with Nigel Martyn subsequently lumping it forward.

The Dane had his weaknesses thoroughly exploited by a physical Villa side: Luke Moore should have scored after Kroldrup bounced off him when challenging for a header, Baros held him off with consummate ease to score and Juan Pablo Angel made it it 3-0 when the Everton centre-half neither tracked his run nor applied pressure to Baros as he made the final pass.

Leon Osman shed some light on the situation many years later: “On his very first day of training, the gaffer took him to one side and started doing heading practice with him, like you would with a seven-year-old. It was a case of holding the ball, saying: ‘Are you ready? One, two, three – jump.'” Kroldrup, a £5m signing, never played for the Toffees again after that chastening debut.

 

4) Danny Drinkwater (Aston Villa v Manchester City, 2020)
Fun as it would be to retrospectively dissect a debut which featured a laughable attempt to tackle former teammate Riyad Mahrez for the first and a forlorn request for so much time on the ball he ended up getting tackled in his own area in the build-up to the second goal of half a dozen, Drinkwater’s extraordinary introspection of his Aston Villa loan spell in 2020 said plenty enough:

“Villa was the biggest wake-up call in terms of my fitness. I was catching up three pre-seasons, a full season with no football and half a season where I’ve played two games. And I’m thinking ‘eight games, I’ll be fine’. I played four or five games and I didn’t manage to do anything. The fans were waiting for Danny Drinkwater and this loaf of bread turned up in midfield.”

 

3) Ade Akinbiyi (Leicester v Liverpool, 2001)
The variety of misses was genuinely impressive: a one-on-one taken early but skewed high and wide; a volley from Trevor Benjamin’s near-post flick almost clearing the stadium; an unmarked header from six yards out in the final minute instead sent bouncing into the ether off his shoulder. They formed the backbone of any early 21st century own goals and gaffes compilation worth its salt for a reason.

It was the reaction to that last of four glaring misses which summed everything up. Akinbiyi pulled his shirt over his face and clasped his hands behind his head while Jerzy Dudek offered a sympathetic pat on the back and Leicester fans let their frustrations be known with a chorus of boos.

It perhaps didn’t help the club-record signing that Robbie Fowler managed to convert his opportunities in the same game, the Liverpool striker’s hat-trick securing a 4-1 win which ought to have been rather different.

 

2) Massimo Taibi (Man Utd v Chelsea, 1999)
When being nutmegged by Jody Morris probably doesn’t rank in your three worst moments of a single game, it is safe to say things haven’t gone all that well. Taibi had coped modestly in his first two appearances for Treble holders Man Utd after joining in those shaky post-Schmeichel months in 1999, but letting a Matt Le Tissier shot wriggle underneath him in a 3-3 draw against Southampton conspired to undermine the £4.5m Italian’s entire career.

Taibi was given one last chance to redeem himself the following week at Stamford Bridge; it took him 27 seconds to completely miss Dan Petrescu’s speculative cross while clearing out Denis Irwin to let Gus Poyet nod into an empty net. What followed was not a considerable improvement as Chelsea humiliated Man Utd: Chris Sutton lobbed Taibi with a header, Poyet scored again when the keeper parried a tame Frank Leboeuf shot straight back out in front of him, Henning Berg put a Gianfranco Zola cross into his own net and Morris completed the rout. Sir Alex Ferguson never did pick the Blind Venetian again.

 

1) Jonathan Walters (Stoke v Chelsea, 2013)
Four players have scored two own goals in the same Premier League game. But at least Jamie Carragher, Michael Proctor and Wout Faes can console themselves with the fact that things never deteriorated further than those freakish low points.

Jon Walters cannot say the same, with his two stunning headers in a 4-0 win for Chelsea against Stoke a mere filling to the sh*t sandwich of a missed penalty in stoppage-time and an overhead cross in the first half which backfired to such an extent that the ball simply hit him in the face.

“No-one really speaks about that one,” Walters later said in a light-hearted assessment of a public self-destruction which would have destroyed the psyche of most ordinary men. In fairness, that early blow to the head might have helped to explain what followed.