Bungling centre-backs from Crystal Palace and Leeds feature in front of a flapping keeper in the Premier League’s worst XI from the festive round of fixtures.
Here is that XI, according to WhoScored ratings…
GK: Gavin Bazunu – 4.98
Nathan Jones got off to a miserable start at St Mary’s in his first home game as Southampton boss, and it certainly did not help that his keeper chucked in Brighton’s opening goal. Bazunu flapped pathetically at Adam Lallana’s header before contributing to the chaos that led to Romain Perraud scoring an own goal shortly after.
RB: Jack Stacey – 5.63
Stacey started as right wing-back in a back five for Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge but he spent much of the first half backpedalling before being hooked at half-time with the Cherries 2-0 down and Gary O’Neil moving to a four-man defence. In fairness to Stacey, he was little worse than the other Bournemouth defenders.
CB: Liam Cooper 4.86
Dealing with a fresh Erling Haaland was hard enough for Leeds without their skipper giving Manchester City chances they barely needed. It was Cooper’s sloppy square pass across the hosts’ defensive line that gifted Jack Grealish the ball and, having missed a couple of sitters in the first half, the £100million man wisely chose to present Haaland with an open goal. Cooper’s error ended what little hope Leeds may have had of getting anything from their first game back.
CB: James Tomkins 4.66
When Palace were already a goal down and a man light, the last thing the Eagles needed was to lose their centre-back to a needless second booking. Tomkins received his first caution on 20 minutes before stepping across Aleksandar Mitrovic for no good reason just before the hour mark, leaving the Eagles to slip to a 3-0 defeat while playing more than half an hour with nine men.
LB: Tyrick Mitchell – 5.08
Palace’s first red card was the first of Mitchell’s senior career, and the Palace youngster knew he’d f***ed up if the way he covered his face while leaving the pitch was any indication. It was a daft, dangerous challenge on Kenny Tete, but more misjudged than malicious. Still, coming so soon after going a goal down, his indiscipline left Palace facing an uphill task.
CM: Michael Olise – 5.79
Palace’s creative players were handicapped by their defenders’ recklessness but Olise, playing to the right of a midfield three, did woefully little with what possession he had. Neither of his two shots troubled Bernd Leno and he lost possession 10 times while failing to complete a key pass or a cross.
CM: Marc Roca – 5.80
Many Leeds fans remain unconvinced of Roca’s quality and his performance against City won’t have swayed many opinions in West Yorkshire. The midfielder chased gamely but his passing was poor. Roca gave possession away 18 times and was dribbled past more often than he completed a tackle.
RW: Brennan Johnson – 5.67
Forest’s front three rarely threatened Manchester United’s makeshift defence at Old Trafford, with Johnson rating marginally worse than Taiwo Awoniyi (5.77), with the pair either side of Jesse Lingard. Johnson gave the ball back to United 18 times while completing only eight passes in 90 minutes and winning just one of his seven duels.
LW: Harvey Barnes – 5.76
Leicester’s keeper and both centre-backs earned sub-six scores, with Wout Faes and Daniel Amartey both culpable for Newcastle’s early goals. Boubakary Soumare barely bothered to try stopping Joelinton attacking a corner for the Magpies’ third, but it is Leicester’s attacking players who make this XI. Barnes tried but too often ran down dead ends, losing possession 16 times while coming out second-best in three-quarters of his eight duels.
FWD: Patson Daka – 5.77
Daka had Leicester’s best chance to claw themselves back into the game but the forward, in ahead of Jamie Vardy, finished meekly when Nick Pope was ripe to be chipped. He was replaced shortly after, at half-time, having lost the ball nine times from 22 touches.
FWD: Wilfried Zaha – 5.73
Palace were even more reliant than usual on Zaha to drag them up the pitch and give their defence a breather but the forward failed to complete a successful dribble while the Eagles caved in to Fulham. Nor did Zaha make a key pass, attempt a shot or deliver a cross.
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