In his first 39 Premier League games for Spurs, Richarlison scored two goals, one of which was a heartbreaking late equaliser against Liverpool that was followed by an even later winner for the home team.
With six goals in his past six Premier League games for Spurs, he’s now on a trajectory that may land him a spot on this list of Barclays failures turned success stories.
10) West Ham’s Michail Antonio
There is a well-established and genuine striker curse at West Ham. When was the last decent one they signed? Try not to come up with one. They have never recruited a striker who has performed well; therefore, the question is a trick. By recruiting a versatile player who can and has played in almost every position on both wings, from left wing to right back, they were able to deftly avoid the curse with Antonio by first converting him into a striker.
Quite clever, and a strategy the Hammers have resumed with Jarrod Bowen, but one that does not so much include the “early struggles in the wide positions despite somehow scoring goals at a rate that hints at untapped potential.”
9) Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny
The France defender was given a red card at Anfield on the first day of the 2010–11 season, which led to one of the most unfortunate starts in Our League history. And Koscielny was so happy with being sent off in injury time on his Premier League debut that he repeated the same in Newcastle’s ninth encounter.
And these weren’t even the most memorable disasters of his first season in England, as Obafemi Martins’ winner for Birmingham in the League Cup final extended the Gunners’ already six-year trophy drought due to a ridiculous last-minute mix-up with Wojciech Szczesny.
However, Koscielny’s abilities were sufficiently evident in between the disasters, and he emerged as a pivotal member of a squad that would break through the trophy drought by winning the FA Cup in 2014, 2015, and 2017. Due to a red card on the last day of the Premier League season, Koscielny was able to have himself suspended from the 2017 final—old habits die hard.
Speaking about the last days of Premier League seasons, Koscielny also had the odd but enjoyable habit of scoring on them in 2012 and 2013, helping Arsenal qualify for the Champions League.
8) Liverpool’s Fabinho
While most players on this list have a story of a year or more of hardship before finding success, atonement, and accolades, Fabinho was able to wrap up everything in one season after joining Monaco with much fanfare in the summer of 2018.
He was still waiting for his Premier League debut by the middle of October, and there were suggestions that PSG might attempt to send the disgruntled Brazilian back to France when the transfer market opened. Fabinho had established himself in Liverpool’s midfield by the time the transfer window opened, and this suggestion seemed ridiculous. He would mostly stay in this position for the next four years, with the exception of the few, long periods during which he was needed to cover at center-back, a position in which he performed remarkably well.
The most ridiculous near-miss in Premier League championship history marked the conclusion of his debut season, but a Champions League gold helped to lessen the damage. Liverpool’s lengthy quest for a Premier League championship came to an end with his second. In years to come, his name may not be the first that springs to mind when discussing the accomplishments of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team, but he played a tremendously important role in them.
7) Manchester United’s David De Gea
The season began and finished poorly, but there was a significant period in the middle when David De Gea was the finest custodian in the Premier League, and there were a concerning number of occasions when Manchester United would have collapsed if Dave Saves hadn’t kept them afloat.
His looks were blamed for a lot of his early troubles. At the age of 20, he signed a goalkeeping contract with United for a then-record-breaking £18.9 million. This was an additional element. With his scrawny build, patchy beard, and somewhat bewildered gaze, De Gea gave off the impression of a shy werewolf from an adolescent horror film. It was an awful amount of money for an incredibly young goalie. For a team more used to seeing Peter Schmeichel or Edwin van der Sar in goal, it was not a sight to instill confidence.
De Gea made the goal seem large, even if he appeared diminutive in comparison to those actual and figurative giants. During his debut season at United, De Gea saw Manchester City put six goals past him at Old Trafford. He later said that he considered quitting the team.
De Gea became the greatest in the league gradually as his self-assurance increased and his physical attributes developed. The second time he considered quitting, it was because Real Madrid was interested, but a fax machine apparently had other ideas. Before leaving last summer, the bashful lad who made his debut in the United goal would go on to be chosen five times in the Premier League team of the year and four times as United’s players’ player of the year. It’s still free agency, which is kind of crazy.
6) Granit (Arsenal) Xhaka
Declan Rice joined a title-challenging Arsenal team, which has since become worse after allowing Granit Xhaka to depart for a Bayer Leverkusen club that is now threatening to inflict the greatest setback of Harry Kane’s career so far. Declan Rice left relegation-battling West Ham, who are now in the top six. These are actual facts. True, some facts are selective and deceptive, but facts nonetheless.
For significant portions of his Arsenal career, Xhaka was a laughing stock, a potential red card who was similar to the scene in The Simpsons when everyone is standing around the power plant, waiting for Homer to do something dumb. Additionally, Xhaka’s fondue was always ready. Let’s face it, he is Swiss.
But little by little, Xhaka changed from a player whose own fans had once applauded his substitution to a key player in one of the most excitingly unexpected championship runs for Barclays. He missed just one game all season and scored a career-high seven goals from midfield as he finally brought his international form to the Emirates.
5) Leicester’s Jamie Vardy
It’s not often that a £1 million transfer to a Championship team draws much notice, but Vardy’s £1 million move from Fleetwood Town to Leicester set a record for a non-league player’s transfer cost, so it was certain to draw attention. In his first season, Vardy scored four goals in 26 Championship games, which was less impressive and made him question whether he had what it required to thrive at that level, let alone higher. After that first season, he needed to be persuaded out of quitting the team. Vardy was a bit of a player until he wasn’t, scoring five goals in Leicester’s incredible comeback in the 2014–15 season, yet even so, the team was promoted.
What followed was very amazing. In 2015–16, Vardy scored 24 goals. In addition, Leicester, who avoided relegation the year before, emerged victorious in the league as widely anticipated. How could Vardy not be connected to that one crazy season? It will always be attached to him. It wasn’t for Vardy personally, even if it was a bit of a flash in the pan for the team.
The 20 goals he scored in 2017–18, the 18 in 2018–19, and particularly the 23 goals he scored in 2019–20—destroy any notion that season was an exception or an aberration. Vardy had more successful seasons in 2021 and 2022, and his stats only declined during Leicester’s dreadful relegation campaign to anything approaching what might have been predicted after his first second-tier performance.
Overall, we suppose that a guy who never kicked a ball in the Premier League until he was 27 scored 136 goals in the Barclays, which is more than any player, including Robbie Keane, Dwight Yorke, Romelu Lukaku, and Ian Wright.
4) Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson
You all know what we think of him now, but in his early days at Anfield after a big-money move from Sunderland, he was a fine leader and midfield stalwart for one of the greatest Premier League teams of all time. This was about as likely to happen as “p*ssing away the entirety of a reputation hard-won over the course of a decade-long career by going to Saudi Arabia for five months.”
In 2012, one of Brendan Rodgers’ first actions as manager of Liverpool was to attempt to transfer Henderson to Fulham, but the player turned down the offer and vowed to stay at Liverpool. Henderson took Steven Gerrard’s position as Liverpool’s captain three years later. He won the Champions League championship four years later. The next year, he won the Premier League title in a campaign that saw him win both the FWA Footballer of the Year trophy and the Liverpool supporters’ Player of the Year award. Oh, Brendan.
3) Tottenham’s Gareth Bale
Even though Richarlison has scored six goals in his previous six games, he still has a ways to go before he can rival Spurs’ most inspiring zero-to-hero story in Premier League history. Given the severity of his early form and fitness issues and those rumoured £3 million departures to your Nottingham Forests or Birmingham Citys before he started simply scoring absurd Roy of the Rovers goals every single week, earning every individual accolade going, and eventually a world-record £86 million move to Real Madrid, Bale has a strong case to be considered the most extreme example of the phenomenon anywhere in the last 30 years.
It is well known that Bale needed 26 attempts to win a Premier League match at Spurs. Although it would be unfair to attribute that statistic solely to a young, injured left-back, it is also hard to imagine the player Bale would develop into a few years later allowing that many games to pass without winning a dozen or so of them on his own by simply scoring with an unstoppable 30-yard thunderbolt or running through the entire opposition defence before cutting one over the keeper for a winner in injury time.
Because Bale didn’t get any team honours, some people are still a little sour about the player of the year trophies he won while playing for Spurs. We say this to such individuals: Find “Gareth Bale goals 2010 to 2013” on Google. The guy was a real-life, breathing example of success.
Even his rather lacklustre loan return to the team a few years later yielded 11 goals in 20 Premier League games, a figure surpassed in only three of the nine Premier League seasons by…
2) Chelsea’s Didier Drogba
Flop would be an exaggerated way to characterise Drogba’s inaugural Premier League season, which culminated with him being a proud member of a Chelsea team that won the title by a dozen points. Despite his high profile upon arrival, the player managed just 10 goals, being outscored by Frank Lampard, the team’s midfielder, and the infrequently productive Eidur Gudjohnsen. As an individual, it was at best a low pass, bearing just the faintest inkling of what a power he would grow into.
Only 12 Premier League goals were scored the next season, but a startling number of assists demonstrated his increasing significance. Drogba scored 20 goals in the 2006–07 season, but he really showed his best form in the 2009–10 title-winning squad, scoring 29 goals in 32 games and dishing out another double-figure amount of assists.
However, with Drogba, it was never truly about the stats. In 381 appearances with the team, he scored 164 goals, according to his final, bald Chelsea numbers. That’s the stat line of a rather good, long-serving forward. It’s obvious that Drogba was much more than that. Since scoring goals isn’t only about quantity in football, it’s also about timing, and Drogba scored a tonne of very significant goals.
1) Arsenal’s Dennis Bergkamp
“What a waste of money?” was a common cry during the first seven goalless games of Bergkamp’s Arsenal tenure, as the unquestionably talented player struggled to regain the confidence damaged by a terribly disappointing stint at Inter. Though it has largely faded from memory now, the consistently funny British tabloids decided he was a worthy target for mockery in the span of those seven games, partly due to his inability to become an overnight sensation in north London like Jurgen Klinsmann did at Tottenham a year earlier.
Although Klinsmann had left Spurs after only one, although very impressive, season, Bergkamp was set to stay for the long run. And what a find!
It’s safe to conclude that the 1996 transfer of Arsene Wenger to Arsenal marked a turning point in both Arsenal and Premier League history. Bergkamp’s career took a significant turn as he established himself as a vital member of Wenger’s outstanding squad. Bergkamp was not so much a brilliant striker as a creative genius who thrived with Thierry Henry, while the British media and supporters feigned they had never taken a piss.
There is currently a monument to the seven-game flop outside the Emirates. It’s one of Barclays’s greatest farewell jokes ever.