Watching Shinji Kagawa start for the first time in what feels like an age against Stoke at the weekend got me thinking: what if I were to put together a starting XI of players who don’t start regularly for their clubs? Would be able to reach the top 4, or would it sink into the Football League sea? Before I begin, I want to highlight some notable omissions from the XI, perhaps forming a sub’s subs bench if you will.
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea) – It says a lot about Chelsea’s faith in Petr Cech that arguably the best young keeper in the world is constantly being loaned out to Atletico Madrid. It’s about time he got his chance in the blue jersey. Personally, I think he’ll be gone within a few seasons, probably to Barcelona. The only reason he doesn’t make the squad is because he is getting regular football, albeit in a different division.
Willian and Kevin de Bruyne (Chelsea) – Both of these have been used in rotation with mainly Schurrle and Mata this season but Mourinho seems to have settled on his trio being Schurrle, Hazard and Mata. Haven’t shown me enough in the games they have played in to warrant a place in my side.
Gerard Deulofeu and Arouna Kone (Everton) – Big things were expected of these two when they signed for Everton. Deulofeu has buckets of potential and Kone has last season to live up two. Neither have played enough, though when Kone has, he hasn’t been brilliant. I’ve left these two out because they are being kept out by players in form.
Edin Dzeko (Manchester City) and Iago Aspas (Liverpool) – Dzeko has been scoring goals this season when he has played, and Aspas looked inspired in pre-season. However, they aren’t making the lineups for their respective clubs because of the form of their positional counterparts: Negredo/Aguero and Luis Suarez respectively.
Here’s the XI:
GK – Brad Friedel: Due to his advancing years, he probably will never be considered a first choice keeper by any Premier League side. However, I believe that he still puts most of the Prem’s keepers to shame with solid and consistent goalkeeping displays. Personally, I hope he gets another chance at regular Premier League goalkeeping at another club, because no keeper can overthrow Hugo Lloris at Spurs right now.
RB – Micah Richards: A player with bags of ability going forwards and going back who never seems to have been given a fair crack of the whip, Micah Richards occupies my right-back position. Personally, Zabaleta has been the only good part of City’s back 5 this season, but that doesn’t mean that Richards isn’t being criminally wasted at City. He’s more than capable of playing at centre back ahead of Demichelis in the absence of Kompany. And why he never gets called up for England is a mega-rant for another day…
CB – Daniel Agger: When Liverpool played a flat back four with a laughable lack of success against Southampton earlier this season, Daniel Agger was the one who was criticised the most with his performance at left back. Let me get this straight, he IS NOT a left back. Sakho CAN play there. It was a terrible decision to begin with. Now that Liverpool play 3 centre backs, Agger has been left out in the cold and that’s strange considering Martin Skrtel hasn’t played well all season (he seems to give away a not-penalty every game). No wonder he’s being linked with moves away.
CB – Mobido Diakite: Sunderland landed somewhat of a coup when they signed highly-rated French defender Diakite in the summer. Since then, he has been plagued with hamstring injuries which have limited his appearances. However, when he has been fit, he’s played well alongside the very very poor John O’Shea and out-of-depth Valentin Roberge, even helping his side to a point at Southampton with a dominant defensive display. Now he has disappeared from the squad again after first being dropped (don’t ask me, ask Di Canio) and then not re-emerging in the squads with what I would presume to be another injury. This guy needs a solid centre back partner, and more game time.
LB – Nacho Monreal: Monreal ended last season in great form but has barely played this season and I really can’t understand why. Kieran Gibbs is a good attacking full-back but I honestly can’t see him ever being better than Monreal defensively and I’d call it evens going forward. Arsene, this is the one mistake you’ve made all season… barring what happened against Villa.
CDM – Sandro: Sandro has been absolutely dominant in midfield in the Europa League this season. He breaks play up, sets it up, tackles hard, drives forward, gets back, he’s the complete package, yet Dembele, who isn’t even a defensive midfielder, plays in his place. It beggars belief. Yes, Dembele is quality, particularly at retaining the ball, but Spurs shouldn’t oust Sandro just to squeeze him in. Fortunately, I think AVB is beginning to realise this, as he has started Sandro in the Prem recently.
CAM – Shinji Kagawa: This one’s been discussed so much it’s becoming cliched to mention ‘omission from the starting line up’ and ‘Kagawa’ in the same utterance. All I will say is this: #freeshinji. Oh, and when you do free him, don’t stick him on the left.
CAM – Stefan Jovetic: This is the most criminal waste of talent in the squad. Why spend £20 million on a benchwarmer? He’s too good to be left out in favour of the likes of Samir ‘passenger’ Nasri, James Milner and and out-of-position Yaya Toure. Maybe the issue here is that he works best off a striker, and City already play both Aguero and Negredo. It’s going against what I believe to squeeze players into teams out-of-position just to get them in, so City may need to find a new role for the Montenegrin.
RW – Juan Mata: No need for too much discussion here. Yes, people will say his form has dipped, but Chelsea’s PLAYER OF THE SEASON FOR 2012-13 probably just needs a bit of confidence from Mourinho, who seems to think quite low of him, which must be affecting his confidence.
LW – Erik Lamela: £30m buys you cover for Andros Townsend it seems. Widely tipped as a replacement for Gareth Bale, Lamela’s Tottenham career is yet to take off, with no starts in the Premier League. Part of this is the form of Townsend and Holtby at right and centre-attack midfield respectively, but left-mid is yet to be nailed down it seems, with Sigurdsson, while in good form, not being a natural wideman. If they do start playing Lamela here over Sigurdsson and the likes of the inconsistent Eriksen and Lennon (which they should, games means player development), I’d expect to see a much more potent Spurs attack, because Lamela has goals and assists aplenty in his arsenal.
ST – Javier Hernandez: When Robin van Persie appeared to show signs of a dip in form earlier this season, Moyes has stuck with him, to his credit. And it’s fair to say van Persie is being outclassed by Rooney still, which is very unlike him. That’s why I can’t understand why Moyes hasn’t dropped him for Hernandez yet. Not only would it give van Persie a kick up the arse, but Hernandez is a proven goalscorer who would have buried a lot of the chances van Persie has missed this season. He’s quick and is a very natural poacher-style goalscorer, which would seem to complement Rooney’s playing style perfectly. Criminally wasted talent who may need to work harder for the team on the pitch to nail down a starting birth.
Where would this team finish?: Given the attacking prowess of this team, a top 4 finish would seem a lock. However, I could see this being a team that gets somewhat drowned out in midfield a little if Mata and Lamela don’t track back and help out, which could lead to problems for the back 4. They could easily finish in the top 6 and push for Champions League though, albeit probably not under my management.
If you think there’s a player I’ve missed who is criminally underutilised, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.