2016/17’s Premier League underachieving XI of the season
From club-record flops heading for the exit to good players who must do better – the footballers who’ve failed to live up to their potential this season
GK: Steve Mandanda (Crystal Palace)
Mandanda’s move to Palace after eight years with Marseille seemed to be a signal of intent from the Eagles last summer. The 32-year-old keeper was a Ligue 1 winner – and even more impressively had been named the best goalkeeper in the division on four occasions (including for 2015/16).
Yet the France international has made just nine appearances for the south London club. Admittedly, his season was disrupted by a knee operation – but even before that, he had conceded 11 goals in four straight defeats.
In February Mandanda said it would be a “great pleasure” to return to Marseille. It looks like he may get his wish this summer.
CB: John Stones (Manchester City)
It’s not Stones’s fault that City paid £47.5m for him over the summer, but it certainly raised expectations. The merger of England’s best ball-playing defender and the master tactician, Pep Guardiola, seemed like a match made in heaven. Right?
Well, not entirely. Stones has been directly at fault for three Premier League goals (the second most in the division) and played in all six of City’s top-tier defeats. They’ve won seven of the 10 matches he’s missed, drawing the other three. Stones finished the season on the bench, with Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany the preferred central defensive duo.
CB: Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal)
“Think Jonny Evans would have been a better buy than Mustafi,” tweeted The Mirror’s chief football writer and Gunners aficionado, John Cross, after the 3-1 defeat to West Brom in April.
He could well have been right. The £35m paid to Valencia for the Germany international last summer seemed increasingly cockamamy as the 25-year-old perpetuated to accommodate as a symbol for why this Arsene Wenger team is falling short. The potential may be there (and he’s shown glimpses of what he can do), but the consistency isn’t.
CB: Ragnar Klavan (Liverpool)
With Martin Skrtel deemed past it last summer after eight years at Anfield, Reds fans could have been forgiven for thinking a younger model would be signed to fit Jurgen Klopp’s high-intensity tactics.
Instead Klavan arrived, a centre-back just one year junior to Skrtel and effectively a budget version of the Slovakian at £4.2m. Liverpool have kept three clean sheets this season with the 31-year-old Estonian in the starting XI, while the four consecutive clean sheets they recorded in May were all achieved with Klaven on the bench.