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12th Aug 2010

Premier League: 10 who must do better

Now that the Premier League is almost upon us, JOE picks out ten players who need a big season to salvage their Premier League careers.


Now that the Premier League is almost upon us, JOE picks out ten players who need a big season to salvage their Premier League careers.

By Rodney Farry

While every Premiership player will start the upcoming season hoping to fulfill their potential, for those that underperformed last term the desire to do well takes on even greater significance.

Most managers will forgive a player one dud season, but two in a row and you could very easily find yourself surplus to requirements come the January transfer window.

JOE has thrown the spotlight on ten players who will be hoping that their 2010/2011 season is one to remember for all the right reasons.

Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Last season was most certainly one to forget for our Robbie. While the rest of his Tottenham teammates were creating history by qualifying for the Champions League for the first time, the Tallaght native was (ahem) “fulfilling a boyhood dream” of playing for Glasgow Celtic. The only pity was that his loan spell at  Parkhead co-incided with one of the worst season’s in the club’s recent history, the lowest of many low points being the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Ross County.

After being shipped out of Anfield halfway through the 2008/2009 campaign, Keano really needed a good season last time around, but found himself behind the hardly dazzling attacking trio of Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Roman Payluchenko in the White Hart Lane pecking order.

The Irish captain needs a big season, but will he be at Spurs or elsewhere?

Whereever he ends up plying his trade this season, and it’s looking increasingly likely he’ll be staying at Spurs, the Ireland captain will need to buck the trend of recent seasons and display a level of consistency that we havent seen for quite a while.

Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)

While most seasoned United observers will  concede that Berba possesses the technical skills to play a central role for the team, the fact that the Bulgarian international has displayed his talents all too irregularly means that if he departs before the end of the transfer window, there won’t be too many fans crying into their pints.

If he is to the dispel the increasingly widely held theory that he is one of those players that thrives when he is a big fish in a little pond rather than the other way around, then he is going to have to start delivering on a consistent basis and in the games that really matter. Otherwise the Andy Garcia lookalike may find his position at the club even further compromised by the very promising Javier Hernandez.

Michael Carrick (Manchester United)

Unlike Berbatov who has under impressed since he arrived at United in 2008, Michael Carrick played a central role in United’s hat trick of Premiership successes before his dramatic loss of form last season.

Renowned, first and foremost, for his accurate passing, the former West Ham man was a shadow of his former self last term and was at fault for a number of goals in high profile games, most notably against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Despite being linked to a variety of clubs over the summer, it looks as if Fergie will give  the England international a chance to redeem himself in the coming campaign.

Liam Lawrence (Stoke City)

Unlike most of the other featured players, last season was a mixed bag for the Stoke man. While he spent a lot of time warming the Stoke bench, he justifiably cemented his place in the Irish squad and, if the play-off games against France are anything to go by, has overtaken the less physical Aiden McGeady in Trapatonni’s thoughts.

However, as he approaches his 29th birthday, the last thing he will want to do is spend another campaign as a reserve, especially if he wants to retain his Irish place.

If his much touted move to Celtic goes through, it could prove highly beneficial to both player and club.

Alberto Aquilani (Liverpool)

As debut seasons go, it was hardly one for the scrapbook. Not only was he sidelined for most of the campaign by an ankle problem and a manager who seemed reluctant to play him, his arrival also coincides with his new club’s worst seasons in years. Yip, the only way really is up for Alberto Aquilani.

It may be a little harsh to judge the Italian international on his first year in English football, but to say that he has yet to live up to his huge transfer would be the understatement of the year.

According to reports coming from Anfield, the man, who was up to recently seen as one of Italy’s brightest attacking hopes, has been sharp in training and many Reds expect him to play a big part in Woy’s wevolution. Let’s be honest, it won’t take much to be an improvement on his first season in English football.

Ben Foster (Birmingham City)

Last season started so full of promise for the former Man United goalkeeper. Widely feted as the natural successor to the then injured Edwin Van der Sar, Foster began the start of the 2009/2010 championship as the club’s number one and many expected him to end it as the first choice goalkeeper in Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad.

However, a few high profile howlers later and Foster’s future looked a lot less rosy.As the season drew to a close and Van der Sar was fit and on form again, it became obvious that the only place the now third choice net minder was going at Old Trafford was towards the exit, and to add insult to injury, he was omitted from the England World Cup squad. (However, subsequent events proved that this may have been a blessing in disguise).

At 27, the undoubtedly talented keeper still has time on his side and Birmingham City may prove the perfect place to resurrect his career.

Joleon Lescott (Manchester City)

I’m not sure if Richard Dunne knows what Schadenfraude* is, but I’m sure he experienced it last season when he watched Joleon Lescott’s tragi-comical performances at the heart of the Manchester City defence.

Arriving from Everton in the sort of fractious multi-million pound transfer deal that City do better/worse than any other club, the centre half has blamed injury for his sub standard showings during his maiden season at Eastlands.

While he, no doubt, hopes to show City fans that he has the talent and temperament to thrive alongside David Silva and Co., he’s likely to find himself starting the season on the bench following the purchase of the German World Cup star Jerome Boateng from Hamburg and may have to wait his chance.

*Schadenfreude, is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others

Stephen Ireland (Manchester City)

Of all the players featured, the Cobh man’s fall from grace is perhaps the most striking. In the space of twelve short months he has gone from being Manchester City’s player of the year to a possible make weight in the massively overrated James Milner’s transfer from Aston Villa.

Stephen Ireland may need to leave Manchester City if he is to have a big impact this season

Without doubt one of the Premiership’s most talented offensive midfielders, Ireland’s current position on the periphery of City’s polyglot squad says a lot about both how newly minted the club is run, and the player’s questionable temperament.

Whether the Villa deal goes through after Martin O’Neill’s departure remains to be seen, but it would be a major surprise if he started September still at City. Let’s just hope that wherever he goes, he can start to rebuild what could be a dazzling career.

Emile Heskey (Aston Villa)

Poor Emile, the 2009/2010 season won’t go down as one of his finest. After only three league goals and losing his place to Villa’s other “big man” John Carew, he may have went to the World Cup thinking that things couldn’t get any worse. He was wrong

Not only did England under perform at an international tournament for the umpteenth time, the former Leiceister man, who literally can trap the ball further than some people can kick it, was held up by many as the embodiment of all that was wrong with English football.

It’s hard to know what the future holds for Big Emile, especially after Martin O’Neill’s resignation earlier this week. However, it would hardly be a surprise if some mid table manager “looking for a presence in the box” decided that he was the man for the job – just as long as that job isn’t scoring twenty goals a season, of course.

Joe Cole (Liverpool)

Nearly every member of the England squad that stuttered so spectacularly in South Africa have a point to prove, but perhaps none more so than Cole, who will now have a platform upon which to display the talent that we all know he has, but that he has only sporadically delivered throughout his career.

Cole was often hamstrung by the tactical discipline of first Jose Mourinho and to a lesser extent Carlo Ancelotti in his time at Chelsea. But at Liverpool, in a squad that is not nearly as talented or doesn’t have the strength in depth that Chelsea have, Cole will be expected to be the main creative influence and will be one of the first targets of finger-pointing from the fans if Liverpool don’t improve on last year’s disastrous campaign.