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Ten new Premiership signings who will struggle this season

The players who won’t make the grade at their new clubs

Alberto Aquilani

In the spirit of writing people off at an unreasonably early stage of the season, we asked Spoiler correspondent Joe Thompson to list the top ten newbies who are likely to struggle in 2009/10. Thankfully, he obliged…

Alberto Aquilani
(Roma to Liverpool, £20m)
‘What?! I’ve seen him on YouTube, he’s a maestro! Great vision, long range shooting! Like Gerrard with nice hair!’ True, but he’s also crocked enough to make Darren Anderton look like The Terminator. In all competitions, he’s made 90 starts in five seasons. Look at the YouTube compilations again, he’s got a different haircut in every clip. OK, he’s Italian – it proves nothing- but he doesn’t play much. At £20m, Benitez has taken a massive gamble. By the time he plays it’ll be nearly Christmas, and a crunching (or even soft) tackle away at Stoke or Bolton might mean he’s glad to get back to the comfort of the treatment room.

Ronald Zubar
(Marseille to Wolves, undisclosed)
Very few players are immortalised in a football expression– The ‘Cruyff’ Turn, The ‘Blanco’ Bounce and ‘Zubrelances’. The latter is a term the Marseille faithful coined to describe Zubar’s regular defensive howlers. He’s played for France U-21’s, but then Titus Bramble also played U-21 football when he was clowning around at Newcastle. Mick McCarthy is already ‘pleading for patience’ with his new signing – Wolves fans are going to need it.

Roque Santa Cruz
(Blackburn Rovers to Man City, £17m)
Initially, this looked like a great match. Hughes had long been giving him the eye after re-launching his career at Blackburn, and City needed a physical forward to give their array of fancy-dan midfielders an edge. Then along came Adebayor. Like the new cool kid at school, similar to Roque, but slightly better in every way. He even came with his wing man Toure, and suddenly everyone wanted to be in their gang; fans, press, players… manager. Second fiddle to Adebayor means he’s the new Nicklas Bendtner.

Jason Scotland
(Swansea City to Wigan, £2m)
Scotland is 30. These are his previous clubs: Defence Force (Trinidad & Tabago), Dundee Utd, St.Johnstone and Swansea City. Big time Jimmy Scotland was in Scotland for four years, and if you’re even a tiny bit good up there, you go to Celtic or Rangers. And even if you are good enough for the Old Firm, you’re probably not good enough for the Premier League (just ask Kenny Miller). Scotland scored an impressive goal every other game for Swansea, but he’ll get no change from the likes of Terry and Ferdinand.

Fabian Delph
(Leeds to Aston Villa, £6m)
Delph is an obviously very promising young English player, who’s gone to a club and manager with previous experience of nurturing promising young English players. The problem though, is that too much is expected, meaning he’ll have a nasty case of the ‘Walcotts’. He’s only 19, and unless you play for Arsene Wenger, the best centre midfielders mature in their early twenties: Look at Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick and, of course, Gareth Barry – the man whose big boots Delph is meant to be filling.

Christian Benitez
(Santos Laguna to Birmingham, circa £8m)
All the ingredients are there with this one. Record Fee? Check. Temperamental foreigner? Check. From a random league? Check. Generally unheard of? Check. McLeish has had money at Birmingham this summer, and he’s spent big. His team really struggled to hit the net during the promotion campaign in the Championship, and this certainly feels like a Championship Manager signing – his stats were amazing. The South America scout says he’s like Pele and Maradona rolled into one, but we suspect that by Christmas McLeish might wish he’d saved a few quid and bought Jason Scotland…

Lee Chung-Yong
(FC Seoul to Bolton Wanderers, undisclosed)
Park Ji-Sung has steadily won over the Old Trafford faithful. Lee Young-Pyo was solid if unspectacular at Spurs. Seol Ki-Hyeon was OK at Reading and then a bit less so at Fulham. The difference between them and Lee is that they’d all played elsewhere in Europe before coming to England. Indeed, Lee is the first player to come straight from Korea’s K-League, and with big fanfare too. His progress will be closely followed back home, and we think they’ll be disappointed. It’ll be a shock to the system for him and it’s difficult to see where the winger will fit into the Bolton team, unless it’s for 08/09 flop Johann Elmander.

Tyrone Mears
(Derby County to Burnley, circa £500,000)
Having been a part of the record breakingly-terrible Derby team that went down in 07/08, Mears went for a trial at Marseille on the sly. He was fined by Derby for his sneakiness, but ended up at Marseille for the season. He hardly played, scored the winner against Ajax in the UEFA Cup, and came home. He claims Derby’s lack of quality meant he couldn’t play to his strengths last time he was here: “I like to get forward but it was difficult to do that as we never had any of the ball.” Burnley won’t have much of the ball either.

Luis Jimenez
(Inter Milan to West Ham, Loan)
When a respected former player becomes a manager, the theory goes that he can attract equally great players to his club, as when Hoddle bought Ruud Gullit to Chelsea. If he’s foreign too, he surely must also have the inside track on the best talent in his homeland. Perhaps that’s why the West Ham message boards are buzzing about Luis Jiminez, the only player Zola’s bought in from Italy. Jiminez will get games too, as West Ham have so few attackers. That’ll make a change- he’s made 22 starts in three seasons- but we cant see him finding his form in the frantic Premier league.

Michael Owen
(Newcastle to Man Utd, Free)
Everyone agreed he was past it. Hull and Blackburn wouldn’t touch him. His agents tried to flog him with a ridiculous brochure. Then Sir Alex came-a-calling, and overnight everyone agreed this was a masterstroke – Owen was still world class and would score 30 goals. Owen will be an impact substitute, but we might not see that much of him. He can only play in a 4-4-2, and not alongside Rooney. He’s also competing directly with exciting ladies’ man Federico Macheda. He’ll score goals – he always has – but unless there’s an injury to Rooney or Berbatov, the hype will be forgotten by Christmas.


6 responses so far
  • Harold // August 17, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Why does michael owen appear in both the top ten players most likely to struggle and the top ten best buys of the summer? seems a bit of a contradiction, no?

  • Ryan Bailey // August 17, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Two opinions from two different writers, Harold. Which top ten do you think he belongs in?

  • Mwepu_Llunga // August 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Delph, Jiminez, Owen and Santa Cruz will all be fine and most probably do the job they were bought for. The rest probably not. Totally agree on Aqualani, ridiculous signing when you consider they could have got Barry for £12m and £8m spare.

  • Luis // August 17, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I watched Benitez play in the much exciting mexican league (where people are paid to fake injuries) and, to be honest, the guy can definitely play some ball.

    But, in honor to the truth, I have to say he could NEVER be worth that much money, being a mexican I would have say “take deportivo’s andres guardado and prepare to be blown away”

  • Harold // August 17, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    to be fair i think he could go either way. depends how much he manages to play with injurys etc. didnt even notice it was two different writers

  • james // August 18, 2009 at 9:11 am

    i think lee will do great
    the coach even said
    he will struggle only the first season but after that
    i think he will dominate

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