While the Premier League’s best players soak up end-of-season adulation from media and peers alike, a slew of also-rans race home to fudge the details of their respective report cards before mum and dad get a look.
In the spirit of a scholarly misfit who’s eyeing a summer-school sojourn, here’s a frank look at the biggest flop from every Premier League club this season.
Benjamin Mendy: Repeated injuries have sidetracked Mendy’s once-burgeoning career at Manchester City, though fitness concerns aren’t the only reason for the Frenchman’s absence. The perpetually online left-back has drawn Pep Guardiola’s ire for his active social media presence, reporting late to injury treatment in September, and some late nights spent at the disco. Is Mendy a reliable first-team player? No. Is he cool as heck? Objectively, yes.
Dejan Lovren: A solid World Cup showing with finalists Croatia paired with the authoritative influence of center-back partner Virgil van Dijk was supposed to see Lovren find the consistency that’s been in short supply since a move from Southampton. Instead, the Liverpool defender has lost first-choice duties to Joel Matip following two injuries, and while he’s an amiable veteran who can spin a decent jape, Lovren’s future appears to be elsewhere.
Mateo Kovacic: Surplus to requirements at Real Madrid, Kovacic was loaned to the Blues in hopes of reinvigorating a career gone stale, and even with 31 league outings, the Croatian has done little to impress. Tasked with an opportunity to claim a third midfield spot alongside N’Golo Kante and Jorginho, he’s instead lost out to Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. A transfer ban means Chelsea may have no choice but to sign Kovacic.
Kieran Trippier: Of the many England internationals mired by World Cup hangovers after logging abundant minutes in Russia, Trippier’s underwhelming showings for Tottenham were the most glaring. The 28-year-old right-back is still a threat going forward courtesy of his precise crossing skills, but the former Burnley man has been a liability when defending and in recovery of possession. An extended summer spent in Marbella with the lads might help.
Shkodran Mustafi: Of all the horrible showings during Unai Emery’s first year in charge – which was largely rescued by the exploits of two world-class strikers – blundering defender Mustafi stands out. The target of derision from Arsenal fans, Mustafi’s endless litany of errors was last on display with a befuddling gaffe versus Crystal Palace, and at this point, the remnants of last week’s leftovers would be a decent fee for the 27-year-old.
Fred: Manchester United shelled out a reported £53 million to beat rivals City to Fred, only to find out he’s not up for the task. After struggling to get a game under Jose Mourinho, the 26-year-old was gifted a chance by Ole Gunnar. However, Gary Neville put it best in responding to Roy Keane’s criticisms of Fred following a drab display vs. City, saying “That’s what he is.” Harsh, but fair.
Adama Traore: Hard to be critical of any of Nuno Espirito Santo’s stellar lupine lot, though considering a club-record £18 million was tabled for Traore, you’d expect more than one goal in 28 league outings. A dribbling wizard who busts through full-backs like knives in a wet paper bag, Traore was largely relegated to impact sub status because of that lack of final product. Perhaps a second season at Molineux will serve his progression well.
Yerry Mina: When Everton swooped in for unwanted Barcelona trio Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes, and Yerry Mina, the football world laughed. Several months on, Digne has been one of the league’s best full-backs and Gomes has had a career-defining campaign, while Mina has picked up a pair of foot worries and a hamstring injury suffered on international duty. While it’s not entirely the 24-year-old’s fault, £27 million for nine league starts qualifies as a flop.
Kelechi Iheanacho: The 22-year-old Nigerian’s wayward late strike against former side Manchester City on the penultimate matchday was the perfect microcosm of a promising career gone awry. Iheanacho’s had his chances, appearing in 30 league matches this season for the Foxes, but he’s scored just once and is on a run of 28 scoreless outings in all competitions. It seems scoring misanthrope Shinji Okazaki has really rubbed off on Iheanacho.
Isaac Success: With a name like Success, perhaps the Nigerian forward has set an unfair precedent for himself. The 23-year will find supplanting Andre Gray, Troy Deeney, and possibly Fortuna Dusseldorf forward Dodi Lukebakio next season a challenge if he never scores, and goals have been in short supply for him with just one in 30 matches. Still, the guy is built like a cottage, so here’s hoping he doesn’t read this.
Carlos Sanchez: Curious veteran additions Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri, and Andy Carroll all had campaigns largely blighted by injury, but Colombian World Cup dimwit Sanchez’s season stands out. The 33-year-old made six appearances, missed seven months with a knee injury, and in the end, was £5 million down the drain for financial muttonheads Sullivan & Gold. You hate to see that.
Max Meyer: German midfielder Meyer’s arrival at Selhurst Park was seen as a major feat for the Eagles. A season on, and – to the ire of the Palace faithful – the 23-year-old former Schalke star has struggled to find a regular place in the starting XI. “All those midfield players we have are always close to starting,” manager Roy Hodgson claimed as a reason for Meyer’s sporadic appearances. At least he was a free transfer.
Dominic Solanke: Find someone who loves you as much as Bournemouth love overpaying Liverpool for young English attackers. First, it was Jordon Ibe, who arrived on the south coast for a then-club-record £15 million in 2016. Then, it was Solanke, who in January joined the Cherries for £19 million despite making five league starts for the Merseysiders. The once-capped England man was named to the Bournemouth starting XI twice.
Jonjo Shelvey: After playing an influential role last season, Shelvey’s importance has dwindled amid the emergence of Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden. To Shelvey’s credit, a slide down the pecking order could’ve been met with a foolhardy response, but the 27-year-old instead asked gaffer Rafael Benitez to play him with the Under-23 side to improve his match fitness. Better late than never, as Shelvey’s first goal of the season came on the final matchday at Fulham.
Joe Hart: With fellow England internationals Tom Heaton and Nick Pope missing the start of the season due to injury, Burnley offered Hart refuge from his Manchester City exile. He responded by conceding 41 goals in 19 appearances as one of the Clarets’ top earners, and with one of the club’s three ‘keepers certain to leave this summer, the 32-year-old has reportedly attracted interest from Premier League returnees Norwich and an unnamed MLS outfit.
Mohamed Elyounoussi: Norwegian winger Elyounoussi’s £16-million move to St. Mary’s was met with anticipation, especially after creative attacking forces Dusan Tadic, who was sold to Ajax for a paltry €11.4 million, and Sofiane Boufal, who was loaned to Celta Vigo, made summer exits. Instead, Elyounoussi has been very disappointing with nary a goal to show for 16 league appearances.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh: Dropping deep to help Martin Montoya stymie Tottenham star Heung-Min Son was hardly what Jahanbakhsh envisioned when making a club-record switch from AZ Alkmaar. But that’s exactly what was asked of the Iranian a fortnight ago, and despite leading the Eredivisie in goals last season only to put up bagels in England, the attacker’s enthusiasm in performing an altered role on the day should be commended.
Oumar Niasse: Though not quite on the level of former club-record signing Andreas Cornelius’ brutal stay in South Wales, Niasse was in prime position to bolster a Cardiff attack that scored the second-fewest goals while on loan from Everton. Emiliano Sala’s tragic death only elevated the Bluebirds’ dependence on the Senegalese striker. Niasse didn’t score in 13 matches, and the 29-year-old ranked second for most shots without a goal.
Jean-Michael Seri: Fulham’s awful return to the top flight means any number of players qualify for this undesirable distinction, though considering the expectations and anticipation surrounding Seri’s £25-million move to Craven Cottage, the Ivorian takes the prize. Once linked with continental heavyweights Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, Seri was largely ineffective for Fulham and is more likely to head back to Ligue 1 than English football’s second tier.
Laurent Depoitre: Depoitre stands out as the biggest flop on a club that’s had a terrible campaign. The forward failed to score a single goal in 23 matches despite recording 30 shots, a standard that flatters Niasse. Compare that to six in 33 with Huddersfield last season, and one has to wonder what the budget once-capped Belgian got up to on that drunken rickshaw home. Regardless, his season’s been rotten.