Wish you weren’t here? One struggling signing per club

Date published: Thursday 7th February 2019 8:07

Arsenal – Stephan Lichtsteiner
With his seven Serie A titles, five Coppas Italia, 104 international caps and ten World Cup appearances across two tournaments, Stephan Lichtsteiner was signed for what he offers off the pitch as much as on it. Unai Emery referenced the right-back’s “experience and leadership” when signing him. But while he might be the first in and last out of training, the one who always sits at the front of the team bus, who always tucks his chair in and who confiscates everyone’s phones to prevent dressing-room selfies, the 35-year-old has been a bit sh*t when it comes to playing. Arsenal have lost three of the seven Premier League games he has started at right, left and centre-back.


Bournemouth – Diego Rico
Having last started a Premier League win in September, Diego Rico would be forgiven for hopping on the next flight back to Madrid. The left-back joined for £10m in the summer but has played just eight more minutes than Jordon Ibe in all competitions, finding the unique combination of Charlie Daniels and Adam Smith impossible to shift.


Brighton – Alireza Jahanbakhsh
“It’s very much been stop-start,” said Chris Hughton last week of a club-record signing who missed pre-season due to the World Cup, was sidelined for ten games with a hamstring injury, recovered in time to be called up for Asian Cup duty, and has only now returned to a club that has won just one of their last ten Premier League games. “We hope we can develop that from now through to the end of the season,” the Brighton manager added. “Because of the way the season has gone it might be next season that we see the best of him.” If, indeed, at all.


Burnley – All of them
There’s Ben Gibson, whose injury struggles only go so far as to explaining why he has made just one Premier League appearance all season. There’s Joe Hart, who helped Burnley to three wins in their first 19 games before losing his place to Tom Heaton, with the Clarets then winning three and drawing three. There’s Matej Vydra, who willingly replaced Nahki Wells as Sean Dyche’s non-playing striker, and has since seen Peter Crouch stoop into the Turf Moor dressing room. That trio cost a combined £27.5m, ad are nowhere near becoming first-team regulars.


Cardiff – Greg Cunningham
He has at least managed to beat his record of two Premier League appearances in a single season, set with Manchester City in 2009/10. But Greg Cunningham has had to play second fiddle to Joe Bennett for the majority of the season, and that is a fate one would not wish on their worst enemy. Kenny’s brother is yet to play three straight games for the Bluebirds.


Chelsea – Mateo Kovacic
Maurizio Sarri’s olive branch
, the Chelsea manager describing Mateo Kovacic as “a very good option” to provide back-up for Jorginho, could spare the Croatian an ignominious summer exit. The Real Madrid loanee has been by no means a disaster, but offers less of an attacking threat than Ruben Loftus-Cheek, is not as useful in defence as N’Golo Kante, and does not offer as much dynamism or drive as Ross Barkley. The Blues should be in no rush to make his spell permanent; they can surely do better.


Crystal Palace – Max Meyer
‘One of the most talented German players of his generation’ has seen a slight upturn in his fortunes since his continued Crystal Palace absence forced this article in October. Max Meyer had to wait until October for his first Premier League start but was a permanent fixture in the team from November 4 to Boxing Day. Two assists and no goals in that run meant he lost his place far quicker than he earned it, and he failed to start any of the subsequent six league matches, relegated to FA Cup duty. He has played 54 more league minutes than Jeffrey Schlupp.


Everton – Yerry Mina
Injuries have undoubtedly played a part, but Yerry Mina did not leave Barcelona for £27m to start in just two Premier League wins by the start of February – one at home to Cardiff and the other away against a horribly out of form Burnley. Before his latest fitness setback the Colombian was busy being thoroughly humbled by Championship side Millwall.


Fulham – André-Frank Zambo Anguissa
Seven starts, six defeats, one draw, five goals for, 20 goals against, and £22.3m wasted.


Huddersfield – Adama Diakhaby
By virtue of Ramadan Sobhi having struggled so much he had to leave within six months, fellow failed winger Adama Diakhaby takes the spot for having two shots and creating four chances in 14 appearances.


Leicester – Danny Ward
Edging out £12.6m Rachid Ghezzal’s six and £19m Caglar Soyuncu’s five Premier League starts respectively is Danny Ward, whose only Leicester appearances since joining from Liverpool for £12m have come in the FA and League Cups. “Probably the best No. 3 in the whole of world football” is still nowhere No. 1.


Liverpool – Naby Keita
A club-record signing for a team that had just finished fourth by a single point after an entire season without European football in 2017, Naby Keita took so long to even arrive at Liverpool that he actually joined the Champions League finalists as their third-most expensive signing ever. And he is now indicative of their midfield muddle.


Manchester City – Riyad Mahrez
The big fish in Leicester’s small pond has been submerged in a sea of Manchester City talent. Riyad Mahrez has started just ten of a possible 26 Premier League games since joining for £60m, playing just two minutes in the club’s last six league matches. But the starkest example of his struggles is that only he, Aro Muric and Eric Garcia played every minute of both legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final win over Burton. That was not in the contract.


Manchester United – Fred
The headline
was that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer compared Fred to Juan Sebastian Veron and Diego Forlan, but perhaps more instructive was that Manchester United’s interim manager lumped the £47m summer signing in with two of the club’s midfield stragglers. “He’s a good lad, same with Andreas,” said the Norwegian last week. “He’s working really hard. You’ve got Scott McTominay too. And when they get the chance, because they will, we want to see improvement.”


Newcastle – Yoshinori Muto
Life has never again been quite as good as ten minutes into his first Premier League start for Yoshinori Muto, who put Newcastle 2-0 up against Manchester United in an eventual 3-2 defeat in October. The striker has played just five times since, losing his place through injury and failing to regain it upon his return before heading off for the Asian Cup. He started just two of seven games for Japan there, too.


Southampton – Mohamed Elyounoussi
Angus Gunn probably isn’t enjoying his solitary Premier League appearance, in which he kept a clean sheet away at Chelsea. But Mohamed Elyounoussi was more expensive and had much more expected of him. The £16m summer signing has played as many Premier League games under Ralph Hasenhuttl as teenager Callum Slattery and the departed Cedric Soares, which is about as good a look as Southampton creepily stalking him in the first place.


Tottenham – N/A
Signings are for mugs and nerds.


Watford – Adam Masina
With Jose Holebas having just turned 34, Watford’s decision to spend just £3.5m on his former Serie B Footballer of the Year replacement, a full decade his junior, felt like a no-brainer. But Adam Masina has summarily failed to make that left-back spot his own, not missing a single minute of FA or League Cup action but starting just four Premier League games.


West Ham – Jack Wilshere
It must come as a great surprise to West Ham that the injury-prone Jack Wilshere has spent most of the season prone to injury. The midfielder started the club’s first four games of the season – all of which ended in defeat – and has played five minutes in all competitions since September 1. It is a scenario so impossible to envisage that Unai Emery told him to sod off way back in May.


Wolves – Adama Traore
Tim Sherwood confidently (can Tim Sherwood do anything in any other way?) suggested Adama Traore “could go and play for Manchester City tomorrow” back in less than a year ago. It turns out that Adama Traore can’t even regularly play for Wolves tomorrow, today or yesterday, with the club’s record signing playing 29.4% of their Premier League minutes so far this season.

Matt Stead


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