From Hart to Saivet: the Premier League’s forgotten men | Football
Joe Hart, Burnley
Seventy-five England caps are not to be sniffed at but the former Manchester City goalkeeper’s fall has been pretty extraordinary. It is three years since Iceland humiliated England at Euro 2016 and Hart, having failed to repair his reputation at Torino or West Ham, has not started a Premier League game since Boxing Day, a 5-1 home defeat by Everton, which compounded a miserable defensive record: he kept three clean sheets and conceded 41 goals in 19 top-flight matches last season. Not even the departure of Tom Heaton has soothed things for Hart, 32, with Nick Pope restored as Sean Dyche’s No 1 and the arrival of Bailey Peacock-Farrell meaning he is not guaranteed to be second-choice. His sole appearance this season came in a cup defeat by Sunderland, and it proved nightmarish: Sunderland scored from three of their four shots on target and Hart’s only save led to a goal.
Cuco Martina, Everton
The Curaçao defender, ordered to train away from the first team by Marco Silva more than a year ago, has not featured for Everton since defeat at Burnley in March 2018. Ronald Koeman, who signed him for Everton and earlier for Southampton, heralded Martina’s versatility but that trait appears to have hindered the 29-year-old, who was relegated to the Under-23s this season. The full-back, a free transfer two years ago, is out of contract next summer. Spent last season on loan at Stoke and then Feyenoord.
Winston Reid, West Ham United
But for Mark Noble, the New Zealand defender would be the longest-serving player at the club. The scorer of the last goal at Upton Park, Reid is something of a cult hero but West Ham supporters have not seen him in first-team action since March 2018 owing to injury. Reid returned in pre-season after twice undergoing knee surgery but continues to build his fitness behind the scenes. The club are reluctant to rush Reid, who signed a new six-and-a-half year contract to stave off interest in 2015, given his injury history and in the meantime they can call on Angelo Ogbonna, Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena.
Shkodran Mustafi, Arsenal
Unai Emery told the German defender, as well as Mohamed Elneny, to find a new challenge before the summer window shut but Mustafi stayed. The 27-year-old was at the centre of calamitous defensive displays last season – gifting Crystal Palace three goals springs to mind – and was booed by supporters throughout pre-season. Mustafi has two years on the contract he signed on arrival from Valencia for £35m in 2016, when the World Cup winner was trumpeted as a solution to Arsenal’s meek surrender.
Marcos Rojo, Manchester United
Not so long ago José Mourinho said the Argentinian was playing the best football of his career. Now, he’s making up the numbers, with the 29-year-old, signed by Louis van Gaal, sticking around this summer to provide cover for the injured Luke Shaw. Rojo got his first United appearance of the season in a much-changed Europa League side on Thursday. Everton held an interest in Rojo over the summer but injury put paid to the defender’s hopes of following Chris Smalling out of the door, despite Ole Gunnar Solskjær acknowledging he is overstocked at centre-half. Rojo has made 63 league starts since arriving from Sporting Lisbon five years ago but only seven in the past 18 months and was left out of Argentina’s Copa América squad.
Victor Wanyama, Tottenham Hotspur
No player has felt the force of Tanguy Ndombele’s club-record £53.8m move more than the Kenya midfielder. Wanyama has been sidelined after playing a bit-part role last season, during which he made four top-flight starts. No longer a key cog – he missed two Premier League games as Tottenham finished runners-up to Chelsea two years ago –he was given the green light to join Club Brugge in a £10m deal this summer but failed to agree personal terms. When Ndombele was ruled out against Arsenal this month he failed to make the bench with Harry Winks and the 18-year-old Oliver Skipp among those ahead of him in Mauricio Pochettino’s thinking.
Jairo Riedewald, Crystal Palace
League Two Colchester are the only first-team opposition the Dutchman has faced this season, with the midfielder, who was playing in the Europa League final for Ajax two years ago, otherwise having to make do with run-outs for the Under-23s. Riedewald’s career was given lift-off by Frank de Boer as a teenager but upon being reunited at Selhurst Park things did not go to plan for either party. De Boer was sacked after 77 days and Riedewald has filled in at centre-back and left-back and not started a Premier League game since February 2018. Ray Lewington, the Palace assistant manager, has acknowledged Riedewald faces something of an impossible job to dislodge captain Luka Milivojevic from the starting lineup, and James McArthur, James McCarthy and Chiekhou Kouyate are also preferred midfield options.
Marco van Ginkel, Chelsea
To put the midfielder’s Chelsea career into some perspective, his last appearance came at Swindon, six years ago, when the manager was Mourinho, Fernando Torres was up front and Samuel Eto’o on the bench. Oh, and Mark Schwarzer was in goal. The 26-year-old was an £8m signing from Vitesse Arnhem but has spent precious little time at Stamford Bridge. Van Ginkel, who has made four first-team Chelsea appearances, was loaned to Milan in 2014-15, Stoke the following season and then PSV Eindhoven, where he impressed, scoring 14 goals in 28 games in 2017-18 before sustaining a serious knee injury. Van Ginkel is continuing his rehabilitation and building fitness following surgery last year.
Oumar Niasse, Everton
A £13.5m signing from Lokomotiv Moscow three years ago, the striker is in the final 12 months of his contract and the only surprise is that he has lasted this long. Things turned acrimonious six months after he signed. He was stripped of his shirt number and ordered to train with the Under-23s by Ronald Koeman, and, despite the odd goal and green shoot under Sam Allardyce, it has been a largely disastrous spell. Niasse featured this pre-season before being phased out and last started a league game in May 2018. A fruitless loan at Cardiff did little to resuscitate his career and the arrival of Moise Kean has pushed him further away from Everton’s first team.
Henri Saivet, Newcastle United
From Demba Ba and Georginio Wijnaldum to Gabriel Obertan and Emmanuel Rivière, the former chief scout Graham Carr had a mixed record at Newcastle. Saivet, 28, is another arrival with Carr’s fingerprints but the former Bordeaux midfielder has proved a lesser-spotted figure since joining three years ago, having spent the majority of time on loan at Saint-Étienne, Sivasspor and Bursaspor. Saivet’s last Newcastle outing came at West Ham two years ago, when he scored his only goal for the club, but he remains a influential figure for Senegal, playing five of their six matches, including the final, at the Africa Cup of Nations this summer.