Picking our worst Premier League XI of the season

Another Premier League season has reached its conclusion and it’s time for the football media to dish out their honourable – and dishonourable – awards for the 2022/23 campaign.

The Team of the Season is always eagerly anticipated, but what about the candidates for the most disappointing XI of the season? We’ve comprised a team of players who have fallen short of expectations in 2022/23.

Here is our most disappointing Premier League XI of the season.

Goalkeeper: Gavin Bazunu – Southampton

The jump from League One football to the Premier League always looked a tough task for Gavin Bazunu, who signed for Southampton last summer after an impressive period on loan at south coast rivals Portsmouth.

The 21-year-old’s talent has seen Bazunu win 14 caps for the Republic of Ireland, but he struggled during a challenging season at Southampton that ended in relegation. The Saints’ inexperienced team finished bottom of the division and Bazunu, statistically, performed poorly.

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Bazunu had the lowest save percentage (54.2%) of any goalkeeper to have played at least 1,000 minutes, while he ranked bottom of the division for post-shot expected goals (-16.6), a metric used to deem how likely the goalkeeper is to save the shot.

A full season of second-tier football could be what Bazunu needs after a challenging 2022/23 at St Mary’s.

Right-back: Reece James – Chelsea

Arguably Chelsea’s most important asset, 2022/23 proved a disappointing campaign for Reece James. The right-back struggled with fitness issues and was unable to replicate the output he showed the previous season, with James restricted to just 16 league appearances for Chelsea.

Those appearances failed to produce consistent returns with just one goal and one assist, a marked drop from 2021/22 when James averaged a goal involvement every 133 minutes in the Premier League.

Chelsea will hope a full pre-season can see James return to form and fitness as the Mauricio Pochettino era begins at Stamford Bridge.

Centre-back: Harry Maguire – Manchester United

Harry Maguire is at a crossroads in his career right now and the sensible road seems to lead to an exit from Manchester United.

Maguire began the season in the side as United lost back-to-back games to Brighton and Brentford, but lost his place in Erik ten Hag’s plans and ended the season with just seven league starts.

Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof are all ahead of Maguire in terms of favour, while Luke Shaw has been preferred to the England international in an unfamiliar central role. Ten Hag suggested an exit is probable for the club captain after admitting Maguire has ‘a decision he has to make’.

Gareth Southgate has remained loyal to the 30-year-old until now, but Maguire cannot afford another season on the sidelines if he is to remain in the England side. Next season shapes as an important one for the centre-back, who will want to gain form and confidence before Euro 2024.

Centre-back: Kalidou Koulibaly – Chelsea

Kalidou Koulibaly spent the best part of a decade being linked with a Premier League move, before Chelsea agreed a deal to sign the defender from Napoli last summer.

The Senegal international had been a mountainous presence for Napoli during his seven seasons with the club, but has struggled during a difficult adaptation to English football. Koulibaly has failed to get to grips with the pace of the Premier League and has often looked more suited to the slower pace of Serie A.

Just one season after his £33m arrival, the 31-year-old is being linked with an exit.

Left-back: Marc Cucurella – Chelsea

Marc Cucurella was another of the expensive imports at Chelsea last summer, with the west Londoners agreeing a deal worth £63m for the Brighton left-back.

The Spaniard had starred during an impressive season at Brighton, but has looked out of place for much of a disappointing debut season at Chelsea.

Cucurella’s averages for interceptions, dribbles, key passes and crosses per 90 minutes have all dropped from last season, while he has been exposed defensively on occasion, particularly during Chelsea’s Champions League exit to Real Madrid.

Given the presence of Ben Chilwell in the squad and Lewis Hall and Ian Maatsen as back-up left-back options, Cucurella has been a questionable investment.

Midfield: Kalvin Phillips – Manchester City

Kalvin Phillips’ first season at Manchester City has not gone to plan, with the England midfielder reduced to a bit-part role under Pep Guardiola.

Phillips featured for just 291 minutes in the Premier League and did not start a league fixture for the Citizens until May, starting a 1-0 win over Chelsea when the title had already been confirmed. The 27-year-old faces a difficult task to secure regular minutes given the competition in the City midfield, with Rodri established as arguably Europe’s leading defensive specialist.

“I came here to win trophies and play football,” Phillips told BBC Radio Manchester recently. “I’ve not done as much as I’d like to this season. Next pre-season I’ll try and come back as fit as possible and hopefully I can be similar to the likes of Rodri and [Ilkay] Gundogan who are very important to the team and undroppable.

“Not being big-headed but I was one of the standout players [at Leeds] and the first couple of training sessions [with City] I was like ‘what am I doing here?’. I’ve adapted, longer time than normal because of my injuries.”

The midfielder needs a full summer of hard work on the training ground to earn a place in his manager’s plans.

Midfield: Fabinho – Liverpool

Liverpool’s decline was one of the surprises of the season, with the Reds missing out on the top four having challenged to win four trophies the previous campaign.

No player epitomised that regression more than Fabinho, who for large periods of the season looked a shadow of his former self. The security the Brazilian brought to the team defensively was gone, with Fabinho slow to challenges and far leggier than in past campaigns.

At his best the midfielder covered the ground and regained the ball prolifically, but his mobility was questioned as Liverpool struggled for consistent results and performances. Despite improvement during the run-in, Fabinho symbolised a wider decline in Klopp’s side and a malfunctioning midfield that must be addressed in this summer’s transfer window.

Right-wing: Richarlison – Tottenham

Expectations were high when Richarlison signed for Tottenham from Everton last summer, with the forward moving to north London in a deal that could reach a club-record £60m.

The Brazilian has scored just one league goal during a disastrous debut season, a campaign which has seen Richarlison receive more yellow cards for removing his shirt in celebration of VAR overturned goals than he has scored actual goals.

Barring an impressive individual performance at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it’s been a season to forget for Richarlison. He was signed to provide reliable goalscoring support for Harry Kane but has so far failed to live up to expectations.

Left-wing: Mykhailo Mudryk – Chelsea

Mykhailo Mudryk arrived at Chelsea lauded as one of the most exciting young talents in Europe, with the west Londoners having beaten Arsenal to the signing of the Ukrainian winger.

Mudryks’ exciting emergence at Shakhtar Donetsk had turned the head of the London rivals and Chelsea won the race for his signature in a deal that could reach £88.5m with add-ons.

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There’s been little return on that investment to date, with Mudryk struggling for form and confidence in the Premier League. An eye-catching debut has been followed with ineffective performances and the price tag has appeared to weigh on the 22-year-old during his opening months at Chelsea.

Mudryk – who has failed to score in 16 appearances in all competitions and has provided just two assists – will need to show significant improvement next season if he is to avoid being labelled a big-money mistake.

Forward: Georginio Rutter – Leeds

Georgino Rutter ranks as one of the most bizarre signings of the Premier League season, with Leeds securing his signing in a club-record deal from Hoffenheim in January, only to leave the forward watching on from the sideline as the club were relegated.

The 21-year-old ended the season without scoring a single goal in 13 appearances, made only one Premier League start, and managed just one assist. Leeds spent £36m to sign Rutter, but failed to give the forward a run of games despite Patrick Bamford’s woes around goal.

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Rutter’s six months at the club were epitomised when he tried to hand his shirt to the Leeds supporters after relegation was confirmed, only to see furious fans throw it back onto the pitch.

Forward: Jamie Vardy – Leicester

Has age finally caught up with one of the Premier League’s great goalscorers?

Jamie Vardy looked miles off the type of form we have become accustomed to as Leicester were relegated this season, with the Foxes becoming one of the most talented squads ever to suffer relegation to the second tier. Vardy had scored 15 league goals during 2021/22 and had reached double figures in the Premier League for seven consecutive campaigns.

The 36-year-old lacked the sharpness of old during a tough campaign at the King Power Stadium and mustered just three league goals.

Read – Six of the best games of the 2022/23 Premier League season

Read Also – Ranking the five Premier League teams who statistically improved the most in 22/23

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