Football Football

EPL fails; the half-time report


LONDON, England, December 27- As 2013 draws to a close and the Premier League approaches its halfway point, ESPN FC picks out each team’s most disappointing player so far.

Arsenal: Thomas Vermaelen

THOMAS-VERMAELENDropping a player apparently wanted by Barcelona isn’t the obvious path to improvement, especially when he is the captain, but the seeds of Arsenal’s revival lay in Arsene Wenger’s decision to pair Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the centre of defence.

Thomas Vermaelen was the odd man out and the Belgian’s few first-team starts have been unhappy. He deputised for Mertesacker in the 1-0 defeat at Manchester United and came on for Koscielny in the 6-3 thrashing at Manchester City, when four goals were scored during his time on the pitch as Arsenal descended into disarray.

While that was not purely Vermaelen’s fault, he has an uphill task to ensure he stays in the team when the Frenchman is fit again.

Aston Villa: Christian Benteke

The first month of the campaign rather resembled last season. Then Christian Benteke went from flood to drought with no warning. The man who couldn’t stop scoring now can’t start again.

He has gone three months, 10 games and 719 minutes of first-team football without finding the net. The Belgian battering ram is no longer the destroyer of defences and isn’t playing with the same sense of bullishness and bravado.

Instead, there are some Aston Villa supporters who prefer to see Libor Kozak in the side as Paul Lambert’s team, like their star striker, are finding goals a rarity.

Cardiff: Peter Odemwingie

On the plus side, Peter Odemwingie completed a transfer without turning up in the car park of a club he wanted to sign before a deal had been agreed.

On the negative, a man who delivered 15 Premier League goals in a season for West Bromwich Albion has mustered just one so far for his new employers.

Odemwingie has not been threatening enough and, while he has mainly operated on the flanks, Cardiff are likely to need more goals from their wingers if they are to survive.

Chelsea: Ashley Cole

ASHLEY-COLEA byword for consistency for many a year, Ashley Cole has had an in-and-out season. Unusually, he has spent some of it out of the Chelsea team.

The left-back was dropped after the defeat at Newcastle and has not been seen in the Premier League since, with the right-footed Cesar Azpilicueta playing out of position in his stead.

It followed some indifferent performances from Cole and, while the Chelsea strikers have come in for more criticism this season, it was telling that the ever-analytical Jose Mourinho axed a man he bought during his first spell in charge.