We forgot that you were here

Every club has one, even if it’s just a third-choice goalkeeper: a player who is still somehow lurking in the background of training ground photo galleries and occasionally even a subs’ although despite these days barely playing any proper football for a club you’ re absolutely certain they left at least two windows ago to join a Spanish club that’s like Real Betis but not Real Betis.

Arsenal – Cedric Soares
He’s off to Fulham, apparently, after an absolutely textbook “on the fringes” half-season that has brought him 28 Premier League minutes, two Europa League minutes and the full 90 minutes of a 3-1 Carabao defeat to Brighton. We would have bet you actual cash money he left in the summer, and if you’d told us Fulham was where he’d gone we’d have cheerfully believed it. But he did n’t, and so far he still hasn’t. Although he probably will. If you’re reading this, then at least he didn’t complete that cross-London move before we finished off the other 19 clubs in the Premier League and got round to publishing this. Perennial alphabet nuisances Arsenal did us over in that exact way last year with Sead Kolasinac, the pricks.

Aston Villa – Jed Steer
We generally try to steer (haha, see what we did there) clear of using third-choice keepers in this. Feels a bit cheap. Bit easy. Bit obvious. But Steer is a worthy exception to the rule after what is now almost a decade-long Villa career that has brought a grand total of three Premier League appearances, one of which was eight minutes long. He’s been out on loan five times but is currently to be found knocking around back at Villa unable to make so much as a substitutes’ bench even when Emi Martinez was on his extended post-World Cup jollies.

Bournemouth – Junior Stanislas
Bagged himself a goal and an assist – and even the captain’s armband – in the 4-1 Carabao victory over Everton but alas has nothing to show for four brief Premier League appearances in what appears certain to be his ninth and final season on the south coast .

Brentford – Sergi Canos
A fine servant for Brentford and crucial member of the side that earned promotion to the Premier League, but the bald facts are that only six of his 249 appearances for the club have come this season and only one of those appearances lasted longer than 10 minutes. He may well head back to Spain before this month is out. Just like, if you’re honest with yourself, you thought he had at least five months ago if you even gave him any thought at all. You’re a heartless bunch.

Brighton – Jan Paul van Hecke
We had Moises Caicedo here last year. We did say it was unlucky and harsh and for want of a better option, but still. It was and is testament to Brighton’s ability to plan three moves ahead, with Caicedo earmarked as Yves Bissouma’s replacement a year before Bissouma eventually moved on. This is all basically a long-winded way of signing Brighton’s squad is a hard one to do this with, and also congratulations to 22-year-old Dutch centre-back van Hecke. He may currently only have one two-minute Premier League appearance to his name but if we know Brighton like we think we know Brighton then this time next year he’ll be linked daily with a £80m move to Chelsea on a 15- year contract.

Chelsea – Marcus Bettinelli
This is traditionally the easiest of the lot, and, given Todd Boehly’s current masterplan of a) signing all of the footballers and b) putting them all on eight-year contracts for amortization purposes, it surely will be again. But for now it’s actually quite annoyingly tricky. We were able to put Kenedy here last year, for goodness’ sake. There’s usually some kind of long-forgotten perma-loaned mistake knocking around the place in between temporary spells at Vitesse Arnhem. But right now that particular cupboard is rather bare and the current injury crisis means even Hakim Ziyech is starting Premier League football matches.

So, upsettingly, we’re forced once again down the coward’s third-goalkeeper route. It still sort of works, though, because until being reminded by the internet that Bettinelli is not only at Chelsea but has sat on their bench a whopping 16 times this season, we’d not only forgotten he was still at the club but also that he’d ever joined them at all.

Crystal Palace – James McArthur
It’s at times like this one finds oneself pining for Jaroslaw Jach. An absolute staple of the feature. Palace are still weirdly good at the “having players you didn’t realize were still at the club” game, though, with James McArthur, Jairo Riedewald and James Tomkins managing barely 300 minutes of first-team football between them this season. McArthur has contributed precisely zero of those minutes after snaffling himself a one-year contract extension. Injuries have been a factor in this term, but it’s been a bonus year of Premier League wages for the 35-year-old. He only missed six Premier League games from 2017/18 to 2019/20 so it’s probably fair enough.

Everton vs Andros Townsend
Totally forgot he was at Everton now until they tweeted about him being back in training. Sometimes we genuinely worry about the useless forgetful lump of mush that was once our brain. In our flimsy defence, he hasn’t played since last season and we try not to spend too much time thinking about Everton because whenever we do a great melancholy sweeps across us and we have to go for a bit of a lie down. We’ve racked our useless forgetful mush lump trying to think of a combination more perfectly suited to silver-lining a disappointing and frustrating deadline day with a “like a new signing” than “Andros Townsend” “Everton” and “Frank Lampard” and drawn a blank. Again, see above for why that may not mean much but we’re still absolutely certain he’s going to say it, possibly in a Lampardian Transition if we’re all really lucky.

Fulham – Josh Onomah
With the Cottagers at last seemingly tearing themselves out of their Premier League-Championship yo-yo existence, Onomah looks to be in bother. Over the last four seasons he’s played 51 Championship games and 13 Premier League games for Fulham which in a way makes him the most Fulham player imaginable, at least until this season’s efforts. Fun fact: his two substitute appearances in the league this season mean he still only has the same number of Premier League appearances for Fulham as he managed at Tottenham.

Leeds – Junior Firpo
Went back to Spain in the summer, didn’t he? He definitely did. Real Betis or somewhere like that. Just didn’t work out for him in England. Happens sometimes. Best for everyone to just face facts and move on. What’s that? He’s still at Leeds? No, don’t think so mate. He literally came off the bench in Leeds’ most recent Premier League match? Oh right. Fair play then. Good for him.

Leicester – Jannik Vestergaard
Hasn’t played a single minute of Premier League football this season. Has sat and watched the four straight post-World Cup defeats from the bench. Can’t decide if that’s a mercy of a humiliation. Has had a bit of a go in the FA and Carabao Cups, but that’s it.

Liverpool – Nat Phillips
The fact Arthur Melo is only at Liverpool on loan and still makes a compelling case for tearing up the rulebook and sticking him in is testament to the success of that particular transfer. But we’re ever so slightly better than that and will therefore opt for Nat Phillips, of 2020/21 fame, instead. He’s played 66 minutes of Premier League football this season, which is 66 more than our first guess.

Manchester City – Scott Carson
Has sat on the City bench 46 times in the last season and a half, and every single time we are reminded anew that Scott Carson is a Manchester City footballer. It’s a lovely thing, it really is, and we do once again find ourselves slightly concerned about our brain’s inability to retain this piece of enjoyable information. A goldfish that isn’t even really that into football would have a better grasp of the Manchester City squad for the 2022/23 season.

Manchester United – Phil Jones
He’s still there. Marvelous. Maybe he could even roll back the years and fill in as a defensive-minded central midfielder against Arsenal due to Casemiro foolishly getting himself suspended with a fifth yellow of the season at Palace in midweek? Probably not, to be honest, but my word just imagine it.

Newcastle – Paul Dummett
More and more Old Newcastle players are going to find themselves out in the cold as the club makes its march towards inevitable world domination. One such is local lad Dummett, whose only first-team involvement this season was a Carabao run out against Tranmere. That was in August. Even for a Geordie, it’s a long time to be out in the cold. Might even have to put a top on.

Nottingham Forest – Harry Arter
Anyone could be forgiven for not being able to remember who precisely is in the Forest squad after all the signings and whatnot, but Arter’s case is a standout one. It’s two years since he played a competitive game for Forest, but he’s still at the club, training with the academy players and picking up his paycheque. The fact that paycheque is £40,000 a week might just explain why Forest have found it quite so tricky to offload a player who has made just 14 appearances for the club since joining two-and-a-half years ago.

Southampton – Willy Caballero
All right, it’s another third-choice goalkeeper and we’ve said we don’t like those. But he’s also a Champions League-winning Argentina international who ca n’t get close to a game for relegation-haunted Southampton. He is 41, which might explain it a bit. But it’s still less than five years since he made his international debut.

Tottenham – Lucas Moura
Spurs have apparently offered him to Everton because of course they have. After the success of last season’s move for a fast-fading Spurs attacker, Everton will surely be all over this one. Out of contract in the summer, Lucas has been an inconsistent and mercurial performer for Spurs and somehow has eight Premier League appearances this season which we’re pretty sure is a complete lie. We’d surely remember something from that many games? But before this forgettable bit-part of a season there have been some great moments along the way, including one of the most memorable and iconic hat-tricks in Spurs history, against Huddersfield, and also it says here another one against Ajax?

West Ham – Maxwel Cornet
Admittedly, this one’s not so much “we forgot he was still there” as “We forget he ever joined”. We’re going let ourselves off, though. You can’t expect us to keep 100 percent on top of it every single time a player swaps one set of drab and lifeless claret-and-blue relegation battlers for another.

Wolves – Raul Jimenez
Has scored three Carabao goals this season but we can’t claim to have noticed that. He hasn’t scored a Premier League goal since March last year in a 4-0 win over Watford. Since December 2021 he has just about managed more Premier League goals (3) than red cards (2).

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