As the 2015-16 Premier League season draws to a close, it’s time to honor and award those whose performances have captivated us over the course of the last nine months. It’s also a great time to shame those whose performances call into question the morality behind million dollar contracts and the myth of the sporting superhuman. These are the players whose performances will stick with us for all the wrong reasons; the biggest underachievers and flops of the 2015-16 Premier League season.
The Biggest Flops of the Premier League Season
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard | Everton
After nine years as the undisputed number one for Everton, Tim Howard was demoted to serving as the backup to Joel Robles on February 19. It marked another low in a thoroughly disappointing campaign for both Howard and Everton.
Howard endured a public spat with Everton supporters following some calamitous errors and unsure displays in net, and he was ultimately made the first scapegoat for the Toffee’s miserable defense.
Unfortunately for the United States, this position could’ve also been awarded to Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan. Once a position of rock solid certainty, the United States should be feeling anything but comfortable at the goalkeeper position heading into the Copa America.
Defender: Alan Hutton | Aston Villa
The 31-year-old Scotsman has endured a dreadful season at the back for Aston Villa. Villa have conceded a league-worst 72 goals this campaign, and Hutton’s positioning and individual errors have led to many of the opposition's goals.
Unlike some of his teammates, Hutton has displayed intensity and effort throughout the course of the season. However, his talents will be much more suitable at the Championship level.
Defender: Joleon Lescott | Aston Villa
Aston Villa’s final home match at Villa Park was surreal: beach balls invading the pitch at every opportunity, thousands of supporters in full voice despite a confirmed relegation and the booing of their own captain, Joleon Lescott, every time he touched the ball.
Villa supporters were heavily criticizing their captain for describing relegation as “a weight off the shoulders”. Hardly the kind of commitment and fight you’d like to see from your club's leader.
Having won 26 caps for England and two Premier League titles with Manchester City, Lescott’s arrival at Villa Park was seen as a massive coup over the summer. In hindsight, it was anything but.
Defender: John Stones | Everton
John Stones was always going to be under the microscope this season following rejected bids of £20 million, £26 million and £30 million from Chelsea over the summer. Roberto Martinez viewed the young Englishman as a cornerstone of the Everton defense moving forward — a player that he’d be able to groom and nurture over many years.
Now, Martinez has been sacked and Stones is once again the subject of intense transfer speculation. The Everton defense was hilariously slapstick this campaign, and Stones was guilty of his fair share of ridiculous moments.
While the defender shows wonderful skill and composure on the ball, his ability to deal with the more robust aspects of the Premier League game left much to be desired.
Defender: Branislav Ivanovic | Chelsea
The lasting image of Chelsea’s failed title defense will certainly be the ease with which Jose Mourinho’s opponents sliced through his side.
Once the epitome of solidarity and organization, Chelsea spent the first four months of the season floundering and chasing shadows. No defender displayed this shocking transformation of form better than Ivanovic.
A standout performer the year before, it looked as though all of Ivanovic’s speed, power and experience had deserted him.
Midfielder: Moussa Sissoko | Newcastle United
A player who has always had one eye on the exit door at Saint James Park, Moussa Sissoko will almost certainly be allowed to leave this summer.
The French international was shockingly anonymous throughout large portions of the season. His return of one goal in 32 Premier League appearances just wasn’t good enough for a player who’d been given license to attack.
While his displays perked up under Rafa Benitez, Sissoko will ultimately leave Newcastle having never come close to fulfilling his enormous potential.
Midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger | Manchester United
Bastian Schweinsteiger arrived in Manchester as an idol nearing mythical status. Capped over 100 times by Germany and having represented Bayern Munich over 300 times, Schweinsteiger is a universal childhood hero.
With Manchester United having been without a midfield general for years now, Schweini came to fill that void. In actuality, he arrived about four years too late.
The German captain struggled for form, fitness and never appeared to come to terms with life in the Premier League. He was unable to influence matches at his previous levels and will find it difficult to see out his three-year contract.
Midfielder: Eden Hazard | Chelsea
Two spectacular goals at the very end of the season provided a level of highlight reel gloss to Eden Hazard’s season, but for 35 weeks the Belgian floundered.
Both Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink admitted to being perplexed by Hazard’s form, they were equally unable to coax the best out of last year’s top Premier League performer. Hazard was supposed to become Chelsea’s Ronaldo, but he only managed four Premier League goals after scoring 14 in each of the last two seasons.
Midfielder: Memphis Depay | Manchester United
Memphis Depay, with his strength, directness and fearlessness, was supposed to succeed where Angel Di Maria failed. Having logged 44 appearances for United this season, it’s difficult to decide who was the worse signing.
Memphis is still only 22 years old, but Di Maria has been outstanding for Paris Saint-Germain following his transfer. Depay’s form deteriorated over the course of the season, much like Di Maria’s had the previous year.
Could Louis van Gaal share some of the blame for the decline of the two?
Forward: Theo Walcott | Arsenal
Theo Walcott looked poised for a massive year at Arsenal. Arsene Wenger had given the forward assurances that he’d be able to play in the striking role he craved while also confirming his belief in Walcott and Olivier Giroud by not purchasing another forward.
Do you think he regrets that now? Walcott managed only 5 goals in 28 Premier League appearances, and he doesn’t appear to be any better than Giroud. Now, he’s being linked with a move away from the Emirates while his selection for England at the Euros is anything but guaranteed.
Forward: Christian Benteke | Liverpool
You can’t help but feel bad for Christian Benteke. Purchased for £32.5 million, Benteke will always have the price tag associated with Liverpool’s second most expensive transfer above him.
To compound matters, he’s never really been suited to Liverpool’s style of play. Even before he arrived at Anfield, questions were being asked regarding his ability to play in a Brendan Rodgers side. When Jurgen Klopp was appointed, those questions only escalated.
Benteke’s return of 9 goals in 27 appearances isn’t as horrendous as some would have you believe, but the Belgian striker could soon be looking for another club.
Manager: Steve McClaren | Newcastle United
McClaren’s time with Newcastle United was, like his time as England manager, an unmitigated disaster. A win percentage of 22.6% tells you everything you need to know about his 31 games in charge.
Unable to find balance in his squad, and, more importantly, never able to motivate and unify his players, McClaren will ultimately shoulder a lot of the blame for Newcastle’s relegation.
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