by Nathan Critchlow
At this point in the season it is fair to say that all players who have seen a bit of game time have all had a decent chance to impress. However, just because all of them have had a chance to impress it is safe to say that they haven’t all taken their chance. Adopting the classic 4-4-2 formation let’s have a look at the Premier League players whose best performances have been on Fifa not the football pitch (other football simulation games are available, they just aren’t that good).
Goalkeeper – Simon Mignolet
Whilst it was very tempting to select Arsenal’s Szczesny, the current undisputed king of flapping is Liverpool’s beleaguered Belgian goalkeeper. Shaky all season Mignolet was dropped ‘indefinitely’ by manager Brendan Rodgers, a period that only proved to be three matches and he regained his place as a sub when replacement Brad Jones got injured against Burnley. He hasn’t looked any better since he came back.
Right back – Bacary Sagna
It is hard to understand the motives behind Sagna’s move north to the Etihad (cough, cough… except of course for the money). Before he signed it was evident the 31-year old Frenchman was unlikely to displace City fans favourite and all-round adopted Mancunian ‘PabZab’, and so it has proved. Regularly spotted spending his weekends on the bench and relegated to bit part player, it is questionable whether Sagna would have been better off basking in FA cup glory with Arsenal.
Centre back – Rio Ferdinand
Ever since his move to QPR Rio Ferdinand has looked every bit the opposite of a former England captain who has won multiple Premier League Crowns and the Champions League. Dogged by criticism for his Twitter activities and banned for 3 matches Rio’s struggle to force his way back into the team has led to a decision that he will retire at the end of the season. Let’s be honest, you thought he had already right?
Centre back – Dejan Lovren
Given Jose Fonte’s stoic performances at the heart of Southampton’s brilliant first half of the season Liverpool fans can be forgiven for thinking they may have bought the wrong centre half. At a costly £20 million Lovren has failed to add much defensive solidarity to Liverpool’s leaky defence from last season and the defender was even named as the most error-prone defender in the Premier League in November. Uncertainty and inconsistency has led to the Croat fighting for his place in the Liverpool team with equally erratic Mamadou Sakho.
Left Back – Luke Shaw
A big money move to United has really chucked the former Southampton left back into the spotlight. With his early days at Manchester United blighted by comments that he wasn’t fit enough, multiple injuries and the shame of having his place in the team taken at times by Tom Daley impersonator Ashley Young it is clear that Luke Shaw still has a way to go to recapture the form that convinced Manchester United to splash out £30million to prize him from the South Coast.
Right winger – Mohammed Salah
Who is Mohammed Salah I hear you ask? Exactly. Clearly the Egyptian’s move from Basel hasn’t worked. Salah has only made three appearances this season, one of which included Bradford’s historical victory at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup. It is clear he is going to need to shape up or ship out. The latter seems more likely, with Roma amongst the front runners.
Central midfield – Tom Cleverley
I was very tempted to include Manchester United’s Anderson in this list (yes, he genuinely still ‘plays’ for them), but instead I have plumped for his much criticized on-loan peer, Tom Cleverley. I’ll hold my hand up and say that I felt a bit bad at the end of last season having singled Tom Cleverley as a scapegoat for David Moyes short tenure at Manchester. “Give him another chance”, “One bad player doesn’t make a bad team” I told myself. The loan move to Villa’s uncreative struggling midfield seemed like the perfect place in which to reinvent his game. However, so far in 18 appearances Tom Cleverly has managed no assists, only 1 key pass and less than one shot on goal per game. The stats don’t lie, this once promising midfielder has truly gone off the boil.
Central midfield – Jack Rodwell
It is not looking good for young English midfielders as I select another here (although Paulinho at Spurs was a close second). After an injury hit and frustrating two years on the side lines at the Etihad Stadium, many in football saw the move to the Stadium of Light as a perfect platform for the former Everton to kick start his career. Instead the trice England capped midfielder has seen his career stall even further. Don’t be fooled by goals against the two Manchester clubs, Rodwell has struggled for form in the North East and has flittered in-and-out of the Sunderland team, running the risk of falling even further into obscurity. His sending off at Fulham in the FA Cup (in which he could have gone several times) sums up his frustration perfectly. Put it this way, Lee Cattermole is getting more games than Jack.
Left Midfield – Tom Ince
Oh England, the future doesn’t look bright. The final midfield berth was a tough one with several poor performers being considered (Gaston Ramirez was a real consideration). Ultimately, however, I’m going for the boy Ince. Having shone bright at Blackpool and showing signs of Premier League quality on loan at Crystal Palace last season a summer move to dad’s pal Steve Bruce seemed to represent the best platform from to which to kick on. Ince however has struggled to even get into the Tiger’s first team and has had to make do with a bit-part role in the club’s poor Premier League and unsuccessful Europa league campaign. Was even sent on loan to Nottingham Forest pre-Christmas, but was recalled to cover injuries.
Striker – Mario Balotelli
Why always me? As a Manchester City fan permanently indebted to ‘Super Mario’ for that pass to Sergio Aguero in 2012 it genuinely pains me to have to put our once eccentric forward in this team. However, given that Balotelli is yet to score in 12 league games it hard to argue that he has provided any return on his £16 million price tag. Given that Brendan Rodger has recently criticised Mario by saying he doesn’t play well enough in training to warrant selection it suggests Mario’s Liverpool career may already be over. Surely a reunion with father-figure Roberto Mancini and Inter Milan is not far away?
Striker – Roberto Soldado
The final place in the under-performing XI was a really tough one with multiple candidates vying for the final place. The short list included Stefan Jovetic (no don’t believe the hype), Radamal Falcao (he cost how much?) and Christian Benteke. I say was a hard choice until a mid-week FA Cup reply changed everything when much maligned, row Z bothering Spanish striker Robert Soldado went all Ronny Rosenthal and missed inexplicitly hit the crossbar from two yards out. For a £22million pound international striker such misses are unforgivable. It shows why he only has 15 goals in 55 appearances for Spurs.
Note: He doesn’t even score when nobody is challenging him, as demonstrated when he hit the post from two yards when trying to boot the ball in after a goal had been scored in the Europa league – YouTube it.