Premier League Relegation XI: Best players from the worst teams

Football


The Premier League is losing West Brom, Swansea and Stoke to relegation this season, but those sides have plenty of talent that could be back in the top flight following the summer transfer window.

Goalkeeper: It seems inevitable that Jack Butland will leave Stoke following their relegation, with Liverpool among the clubs reported to be chasing the £40 million-rated goalkeeper. Butland is one of few players at the Bet365 Stadium to keep his reputation intact, demonstrating his ability with a clean sheet at Anfield in April. The 25-year-old is now in the curious position of heading to the World Cup, probably as England’s No. 1 despite dropping down to the Championship. An impressive tournament in Russia would only increase the competition for his signature.

Right-back: Selected as a full-back in this XI, Craig Dawson‘s versatility is likely to earn him a Premier League lifeline following West Brom’s demotion. The 28-year-old is at home either on the right or in the centre of defence, holding down a regular first-team spot with the Baggies over the past four seasons. An assured defender who is certainly worth his £12m price tag, it’s no surprise to see the likes of Burnley, Newcastle and West Ham all monitoring his situation.

Centre-back: West Brom fought to keep hold of Jonny Evans in January amid interest from Arsenal and Manchester City, but the defender is unlikely to join his teammates in the Championship. Evans’ £3m relegation release clause has been the subject of speculation for months, with several top-flight clubs vying for a bargain addition at the start of the transfer window. Still only 30, the Northern Ireland international has three Premier League winners’ medals and considerable Champions League experience from his spell at Manchester United. It surely won’t be long before someone snaps him up.

Centre-back: Ahmed Hegazi is another member of a West Brom defence who is bound to be in demand this summer. The giant Egypt international settled quickly at the Hawthorns, prompting links to Liverpool and Leicester before his loan deal was made permanent in January. The £4m fee the Baggies paid for him is likely to prove a shrewd investment, as he continues to gain admirers despite the club’s relegation. His performances in victories against Manchester United, Tottenham and Newcastle showed he belongs at the top level.

Here is our Best of the Relegated XI. Do you agree with our picks?

Centre-back: Similar to West Brom, it was an impotent attack that largely proved to be Swansea’s undoing. The Swans conceded 56 goals in their 38 matches (the same number as the Baggies), with seven teams owning a worse defensive record. Yet Alfie Mawson stood out with some heroic displays at the back, particularly in the 1-0 victory over Liverpool in January in which he scored the winning goal. The 24-year-old was called up to the England squad for the first time in March and still stands a chance of going to the World Cup before resolving his future at the Liberty Stadium.

Left-back: Despite the disappointment of West Brom’s demotion, there were some personal positives to the campaign for Kieran Gibbs. The left-back started more games in the Premier League (32) than he managed in any of his 10 seasons at Arsenal, having arrived at the Hawthorns in a £7m switch last summer. It seems Gibbs’ injury troubles are finally behind him, and the 28-year-old could add quality and experience to a bottom-half team looking to kick on next year.

Midfield: Joe Allen has endured a tough time since swapping Liverpool for Stoke shortly after being named in the Euro 2016 team of the tournament. The 28-year-old has proven Premier League pedigree, however, famously being described as “the Welsh Xavi” by his former manager, Brendan Rodgers. A relegation release clause dictates that Allen can join any top-six club — other than Liverpool — for £25m, although his future might lie in mid-table, with West Ham and Wolves both keen.

Midfield: A relative Premier League novice of just 13 appearances, Badou Ndiaye made a big impression after joining Stoke from Galatasaray for £14m in January. The 27-year-old added some much-needed steel alongside Allen in the centre of midfield, but his combative presence wasn’t enough to keep the Potters in the division. Amid talk of interest from Turkey and the Premier League, Ndiaye will be eager to showcase his talents with Senegal at the World Cup to avoid hanging around in the Championship.

Shaqiri is heading to the World Cup after tasting relegation but will be eager to show his worth for a new club.

Midfield: The third member of this XI who could be on England’s plane to Russia, Jake Livermore is likely to depart West Brom as part of the club’s cost-cutting measures. Baggies supporters might feel they haven’t seen the best of a player who has had to battle tragic personal circumstances over the past few years, but Livermore’s performances in the run-in will no doubt have caught the eye. Crystal Palace have been reported as a possible destination, but they might have to wait until after the World Cup to make their move.

Attack: As one of six Champions League winners in the Stoke squad this season, Xherdan Shaqiri couldn’t save Paul Lambert’s side from the drop despite contributing eight goals and seven assists. Boasting the likes of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan on his résumé, the 26-year-old will have a long list of suitors in the summer given the opportunity to impress prospective new clubs when he leads Switzerland’s hopes at the World Cup. Shaqiri’s £12m release clause has reportedly piqued the interest of Everton, West Ham and Crystal Palace, but he might hold out for the chance to play European football again next season.

Attack: With just 94 goals among them this season — 12 fewer than Manchester City — West Brom, Stoke and Swansea all failed to fire themselves to safety. No one in the three relegated teams managed more than Shaqiri’s haul of eight goals, but West Brom strikers Salomon Rondon and Jay Rodriguez weren’t far behind on seven strikes each. Rondon is most likely to be offered another chance in the Premier League owing to his physical style and ability to play as a lone target man. After scoring in draws against Spurs and Liverpool, the 28-year-old fits the “Plan B” mould many clubs will be searching for in the summer.

Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger





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