With Premier League teams announcing the lists of released players, it's only natural that we try to piece together a squad from the wreckage.
Any good exercise needs rules, or at least contrainsts, so here are mine:
- Give the benefit of the doubt to players who have contributed to their Premier League teams over the last season.
- Injured players are considered, but their injuries are held against them. We need a team that can compete now.
- To that end, retired players should be allowed to do so with grace. Sorry, and best wishes, Paul Scholes.
So, without further ado, here's my All-Unwanted XI. In the fashionable 4-2-3-1 formation:
Goalkeeper: Mark Schwarzer. Yes, the big Australian's form has slipped this year. Yes, he's 40-years old. But you're not going to find starting keepers lying around the scrap heap... oh, right. You can! Fulham may have replaced him with Maarten Steklenburg (why not David Stockdale, we wonder?) but we're happy to have him anchoring our team.
Other names considered include Steve Harper, and Jan Mucha.
Right back: Danny Simpson. Released for not signing a new contract (and not being much better than utility player, James Perch) Simpson still has enough to offer our squad. Paulo Ferreira is just too old and slow, and Eric Lichaj (switched from his more natural left-side) hasn't made the cut.
Left back: Marc Tierney. The former Norwich (and soon to be Bolton Wanderer) defender has been hampered by injury, but was a starter for the Canaries before they signed Javier Garrido. We offered this position to William Gallas, but he refused to play on the left.
Center back: Jamie Carragher would be a shoe-in here, except for our rule about retirees. So instead we'll pick the player Liverpool are bringing in to replace him: Kolo Toure. Toure was Manchester City's third-choice center back, despite Joleon Lescott's presence in the side. He's aging, but can clearly still do the business.
Center back: Titus Bramble. Bramble lost his place at Sunderland for much of the season, but when needed he did an admirable job. If he could just concentrate on his job for a solid 90 minutes at a time. Other names considered include William Gallas (who refused to play for our team), Ryan Nelsen, and Matthew Upson. Just kidding about Upson.
Holding midfield: Chris Baird. What happened to Chris Baird? He was starting matches for Fulham before *pfft* he was never seen from again. We considered Baird's Fulham teammate, Mahamadou Diarra, but injury and age are in Baird's favor. Also gettting a look in here was Jay Tabb.
Deep-lying playmaker: Thomas Hitzlsperger. Der Hammer never got a chance at Everton who brought him in despite a glut of central midfielders (Gibson, Neville, Fellaini, Osman, Barkley). Their loss is our gain as he slots in to our double-pivot. We seriously considered Georgios Karagounis, who played a big role for Fulham this season. While, per our rules, that was in his favor, we have a soft spot for the German. We also expect that he could complete a 90-minute match if needed, something we don't think Karagounis is capable of at this point in his career.
Right-sided attacker: The first player in our attacking front four is Franco Di Santo. We were very tempted to slide Gary O'Neil in here, but Di Santo's greater physical skills, and higher ceiling, won the day for the Argentinian.
Left-sided attacker. We're going to break our rules again here. Despite not offering anything to his side this season, we're picking Florent Malouda on the left of the attack. He was forced to train with the reserves after not renegotiating his Chelsea contract, but we think he's a class player and would walk into most sides in the Premier League (or Ligue Un, as is expected). Marc-Antoine Fortune and Albert Cruast are on stand-by for this role, but guys... don't call us, we'll call you.
Withdrawn striker: Andrey Arshavin. No pun on withdrawn here (ok, pun intended), but we're giving Arshavin his favored central role behind the main striker. Here's hoping that bringing him in from the left-side (and in from the cold at Arsenal) revitalizes his career and we get to see the player who shined so brightly for Russia four or five years ago.
Striker: Carlton Cole. If for nothing else than that magical game against Chelsea. That and the fact that his main competition for the job was Roque Santa Cruz, who hasn't had a meaningful moment since his jersey was equal parts blue and white.