Here’s a first XI of players who just need a holiday.
As the 2011/12 Premier League season comes to a close, the physical and mental demands of the year are beginning to show in the performances of some players. Here’s a first XI of players who just need a holiday.
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Goalkeeper: Ali Al-Habsi
A tough decision due to the amount of game time that goalkeepers are accustomed to but the title of most overused goalkeeper must go to the Oman international, who has played every minute of every game for Roberto Martinez’s Wigan, making 119 saves in the process. His workload isn’t helped by Gary Caldwell’s ‘unorthodox’ defensive ways either.
Righ back: Phil Jones
Injuries to Rafael, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic meant that Sir Alex Ferguson had to give a more regular role than he would have wanted to Jones in the Manchester United starting line-up. Despite Jones’s clear potential and outstanding early performances, he has suffered the effects of his first season with the champions and a series of injuries between January and March coupled with a constant expression of exhaustion implies that Jones just needs a lay down. While Newcastle’s Danny Simpson has played roughly 1,000 more minutes of league football, it is Jones who requires a long rest.
Centre Back: Martin Skrtel
Since the 4-0 loss to Tottenham in September, Skrtel has played the full 90 in every league game at the centre of Liverpool’s defence. Injuries to Carragher and Agger along with Sebastian Coates’s scissor kicking skills but inability to defend, meant that Skrtel has had to struggle along attempting to deal with opposition attacks caused by the ineptness of Charlie Adam and absence of Lucas.
Centre Back: Brede Hangeland
Despite consistent performances throughout the season, Brede Hangeland will surely be looking forward to a few months off after playing the full 90 minutes of every league game for Martin Jol’s Fulham and all 6 group matches in the Europa League group stages. And he’s had to play with Phillip Senderos.
Left Back: José Enrique
Liverpool’s best and essentially only left back since the sale of Insua, the disaster of Konchesky, Fabio Aurelio’s questionable defensive methods and Glen Johnson’s confusion on the left side. The summer acquisition from Newcastle has played every game league game except the 0-0 draw with Spurs in February. An element of complacency and/or fatigue has crept into the Spaniard’s game of late with many Liverpool fans of the opinion that Enrique thinks he is undroppable. No doubt however, that he is just fed up seeing Stewart Downing line up in front of him.
Midfield: David Silva
The Spanish magician was the fulcrum of Manchester City’s blistering start to the season, when it looked like the Citizens were going to bulldoze their way to the Premier League trophy. A long season of overreliance however saw the Spaniard provide one assist and no goals betweent February and mid-April as he patrolled the midfield, looking as if he had just gotten out of bed at times. Roberto Mancini is dangerously reliant on the former Valencia man’s creativity but he has managed him poorly throughout the season. This is summed up perfectly by an unnecessary full 90 minutes against an embarrassing Wolves side in the Etihad stadium in December when the result was never in doubt.
Midfield: Scott Parker
Brought in to provide cover to Spurs’s back 4 and to Ledley King’s knees, Harry Redknapp has trusted Parker to stifle the inevitable counter attacks that his attacking side are susceptible to. With Sandro’s tendency to wander wherever he feels, Parker is crucial to Redknapp’s tactics. Something the Tottenham manager is all too aware of with the occasional rest here and there but Parker’s game is too energetic to play 2,400 minutes and maintain the high level of performance that the position requires. While not entirely to blame, one of the reasons for Spurs’s traditional late season slump this year is how their system has been hindered by a weary Parker.
Midfield: Gareth Bale
Not a player who relies on tricks and shimmies to beat his man, Bale’s main trait is running in a straight line, leaving opposition full backs desperately trying to keep up with his blistering pace. Indeed, Bale’s poorest performances come in games when a full back can in some way match him for speed and the Welshman is forced to re-evaluate his ‘ruler dribble’ tactic. There is no doubt that he is a wonderful player, but his game relies on his speed and stamina because of his relentless running. That he has played the full 90 minutes in all but 2 games for Totthnham is both a testament to his fitness levels but also a terrible indictment of Harry Redknapp’s squad rotation.
Striker: Junior Hoilett
One of few Blackburn players who can take some credit from their performances this year, Rovers will be indebted to Hoilett if they avoid the drop as he is their only player with any sort of flair. Roughly 2,600 minutes played and having to deal with the sometime tactic of ‘Give Junior the ball’, it’s been a tough one for the 21 year old.
Striker: Robin van Persie
Arsenal’s flying Dutchman has had a wonderful season but has often had to beat teams single handed as Arsene Wenger’s side struggled for much of the season. During the Christmas period, Wenger must surely have eyed up a few ‘easy’ games to rest van Persie such as the home ties against Wolves and QPR. But they drew at home to Wolves and struggled to a 1-0 win against the Rs meaning that van Persie played roughly 135 more minutes than Wenger would have wanted. Consecutive losses to Fulham, Swansea and Man United further added to van Persie’s responsibility and playing time. He has played 400 minutes more than any other striker this season and will soon have played more than 3,000. It’s a miracle his knees haven’t had their annual breakdown.
Striker: Gabriel Agbonlahor
Similar to Gareth Bale, the Aston Villa relies on raw pace to beat his man but has only missed 4 games all season as Alex McCleish’s increasingly bewildered and generally boring side look for any sort of inspiration. That burden is often hurled the Englishman’s way in a kind of ‘Run Gabby Run’ type tactic which clearly hasn’t worked as Villa find themselves further dragged into a relegation battle.
Honourable mentions- Clint Dempsey, Ryan Shawcross, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Demba Ba, Kyle Walker, Stephen Ward, Victor Moses.