The worst XI of the Premier League season's new signings
There’s no guarantee that a signing will join a new club and be an instant success. Some take time to adjust to their new surroundings. Some don't take time: they simply never adjust. Others succeed only in confirming those pre-season suspicions that the club have brought in an absolute dud, whether on loan from one of the big boys or as a marquee signing. With the Premier League campaign done and indeed dusted, we choose a different kind of Team of the Season, the kind that nobody wants to be selected in – a Worst XI of new signings. Tear up that chequebook...
GK: Joe Hart (Manchester City to West Ham, loan)
In the debate over who should go to the World Cup, Joe Hart has gone from shoo-in to shoeing. A year ago, despite a questionable loan spell at Torino, he was still England’s undisputed No.1. After another dodgy temporary transfer, this time to the derision-magnets of West Ham, many are saying he shouldn't even be among Gareth Southgate's goalkeeping trio.
It’s been quite the fall from grace for Hart, who lost his Hammers place to Adrian after conceding 30 goals in 14 matches, won it back but lost it again after shipping another nine in five.
RB: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City to West Ham)
In years gone by, "the West Ham way" meant passing football, preferably by homegrown players, for passionate fans. Now all too often it means off-field rancour, underachievement - and paying through the nose for players too long in the tooth. The latest example is Zabaleta, who swapped the Etihad for the Olympic Stadium on a two-year contract worth a reported £90k per week.
Zabaleta was one of the best right-backs of the Premier League era, but so was Gary Neville: you get nothing for last season. No team conceded more top-flight goals than West Ham, for whom the former Argentina international started all but one game.
CB: Michael Keane (Burnley to Everton)
Keane is one of the more surprising flops on the list. Following a brilliant 2016/17 season with former club Burnley, Keane was linked with a move back to Manchester United but opted for Everton instead, who paid £25m for his services.
The 25-year-old’s form has stuttered for the Merseysiders, and Everton have conceded 18 more league goals than the centre-back's former side Burnley.
Meanwhile, Keane's replacement for the Clarets, James Tarkowski, has taken his place in Gareth Southgate's England setup after a stellar season and Keane’s World Cup place is in jeopardy having been left out of each of the last two squads.
CB: Jairo Riedewald (Ajax to Crystal Palace)
Riedewald joined Palace as one of Frank de Boer’s summer signings but things quickly went wrong for the Dutch interntional. While former Ajax team-mate Davinson Sanchez was flourishing across London with Tottenham, Riedewald was pushed to the margins of the first team at Selhurst Park as De Boer was given the boot after just five matches. Having started the opening-day 3-0 home defeat to newly promoted Huddersfield, Riedewald was dropped and only returned from the bench three matches later for De Boer's final game in charge. Since being shifted to defensive midfield, the 21-year-old has managed just three more Premier League starts under the Dutchman's successor, Roy Hodgson.
LB: Patrice Evra (Marseille to West Ham)
Former Manchester United left-back Evra had his Marseille contract cancelled after an altercation with a supporter. There might be one or two Hammers fans who'd be happy to have a word in his shell-like after his performances this season.
West Ham signed the five-time Premier League winner in February, just weeks after David Sullivan had declared that the Hammers' next arrivals "won’t be old journeymen, they will be young players. They won’t be 32." He was correct with the last bit: Evra turns 37 in May.
MF: Tiemoue Bakayoko (Monaco to Chelsea)
Monaco’s reward for a phenomenal 2016/17 during which they reached the Champions League semi-final and beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title was to have their best players picked off by Europe’s richest clubs. Off went Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva to Manchester City, Kylian Mbappe made his way north to Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea got lumped with Tiemoue Bakayoko.
The midfield powerhouse looked to be a great signing last summer when he swapped the principality for west London, but he has been a shadow of his Monaco incarnation. There’s a fantastic footballer in there somewhere, but Chelsea supporters are yet to see it in what has been a terrible season for the Blues.
MF: Davy Klaassen (Ajax to Everton)
Everton fans had much to be hopeful about a year ago. The newly-rich Toffees had a savvy Director of Football in Steve Walsh seeking to rejuvenate the squad that Ronald Koeman had led into European football at his first attempt.
What actually happened was that the club’s transfer policy seemed to be to sign as many No.10s as possible and try to cram them all into the same XI. Wayne Rooney arrived from Manchester United, Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea and Ajax captain Davy Klaassen swapped Amsterdam for Liverpool. Koeman was soon gone and seven league appearances totalling 250 minutes suggests Klassen was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
MF: Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich to Swansea, loan)
Some on this list were half-expected to fail, but not Renato Sanches. The Portuguese wonderkid commanded a fee of up to €80m when he joined Bayern Munich from Benfica off the back of helping Portugal to Euro 2016 success and when Swansea boss Paul Clement called up old mate Carlo Ancelotti to borrow Sanches for the season, it was universally hailed as a real coup for the Welsh side.
If the deal was designed to help the young player regain his confidence, though, it has massively backfired. Amid injury and poor form, Sanches has managed only 12 league appearances in a spell that is best remembered for the 20-year-old passing the ball to an advertising hoarding during a 1-0 defeat at Chelsea.
FW: Guido Carrillo (Monaco to Southampton)
Whereas Liverpool spent their Philippe Coutinho money on strengthening their defence with Southampton's Virgil van Dijk, the Saints went the opposite way, seeking to guarantee goals by signing Guido Carrillo for £19m. After all, the Argentinian striker had won the league with Monaco in 2016/17.
However, under-fire boss Mauricio Pellegrino may not have noticed that his compatriot had scored just four in 31 during his debut Ligue 1 season of 2015/16. Clearly not a man to hit the ground running, Carrillo didn't bag in his first seven Saints appearances and has played just seven minutes since Mark Hughes replaced Pellegrino in March.
FW: Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid to Chelsea)
It might seem harsh to call Morata’s first and potentially only season in English football will go down as a failure, considering his 11 goals and six assists in 31 Premier League appearances. But then, Chelsea had paid £60m for the former Real Madrid and Juventus man.
What's more, he scored six goals in his first six games, which means he's scored just five league goals since September. As such, he somehow epitomises a title defence in which the wheels didn't so much come off as explode, leaving Chelsea directionless and stranded.
FW: Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City to Leicester)
How Leicester fans must chuckle ruefully upon hearing that Kelechi Iheanacho's middle name is Promise. Tall, fast and with a frightening goals-per-minute rate at Manchester City, the young Nigerian was so highly regarded that the Mancunians were careful to insert a buyback clause at £50m, twice the price the Foxes paid.
Frequently struggling and even told publicly by Claude Puel that he needs to improve, Iheanacho didn't score a league goal until March – and at that, a grace goal in a 4-1 win against bottom club West Brom. He's scored another two since, in the closing games against Arsenal and Tottenham, so maybe there's hope yet – but 2017/18 hasn't lived up to its promise.
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