The Times a Single Player Was Blamed for Ruining a Club’s Season

Olivier Giroud
Manchester United v Arsenal – Premier League | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

As we’ve heard many times, sometimes a bit of adversity can be the making of a season.

From Calciopoli ahead of Italy’s 2006 World Cup win to Craig Bellamy assisting John Arne Riise at the Nou Camp having threatened to brutalise him with a golf club days before, in sport, chaos has a strange habit of begetting order.

Except for the majority of times, of course, when it does not.

Here 90min pays ‘tribute’ to the individuals who’ve been popularly blamed (rightly or wrongly) for undoing their clubs season, with partying, transfer controversies, missed sitters and more…

Faustino Asprilla of Newcastle UnitedFaustino Asprilla of Newcastle United
Faustino Asprilla of Newcastle United | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Yeah, alright, the biggest factor in Newcastle crashing and burning in 1996 was probably Kevin Keegan allowing his head to throughly depart the building during a crucial part of the run-in.

But, as the story goes, the arrival of Asprilla from Parma in February is also to blame..?

Well… probably not. Though Asprilla is often blamed for his casual approach to both life and football, and Keegan is blamed for shifting Peter Beardsley to the right wing to accomodate the forward, almost everyone involved with the disastrous campaign has flatly denied that the short but scintillating stint of the Colombian had anything to do with it.

In truth a lack of quality/organisation at the other end of the pitch was more responsible for the club’s dramatic downfall.

Bayer Leverkusen v BremanBayer Leverkusen v Breman
Bayer Leverkusen v Breman | Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

What do you reckon the most frustrating season in your club’s history is? Times it by 10 to the power of a million and you’ve got Bayer Leverkusen’s unwanted treble of 2001/02.

Ballack had already cost Leverkusen the league in 2000 with an uncharacteristic own goal against minnows Unterhaching, but in 2001/02 things were looking up with Die Werkself competing for league, DFB-Pokal and Champions League glory.

The legendary German midfielder was once again at the center of things as Leverkusen spectacularly choked in all three, casting a shadow over the season by agreeing a pre-contract with Bayern Munich in January.

The bright side? Leverkusen profited off their own misfortune by trademarking the phrase Vizekusen (literally ‘Neverkusen’).

WEST HAM V MAN UTDWEST HAM V MAN UTD
WEST HAM V MAN UTD | Getty Images/Getty Images

The circumstances of Manchester United losing the title to Blackburn in 1995 just aren’t discussed enough.

With Kenny Dalglish’s side losing to Liverpool, United just needed to beat West Ham to win the league.

Famously, West Ham stopper Luděk Mikloško had other ideas as United somehow slumped to a 1-1 draw, but unusually the biggest culprit on the day was Cole, who spurned two of the simplest one-on-one chances you’ll ever see.

Edmundo of FiorentinaEdmundo of Fiorentina
Edmundo of Fiorentina | Getty Images/Getty Images

Anyone who has been watching The Last Dance on Netflix will know that Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson sanctioning defensive powerhouse Dennis Rodman’s 72-hour Las Vegas bender worked wonders for the team – the same wasn’t quite true for Fiorentina and Edmundo.

Fiorentina were first in the league in February of 1999, with the enigmatic Brazilian Edmundo forming a lethal strike partnership with Gabriel Batistuta, but decided he fancied attending carnival in Rio de Janeiro while Batigol was injured.

Fiorentina lost all three games during his ‘holiday’, he alienated the entire team, and the craziest part – Edmundo’s leave of abscence was actually sanctioned by Fiorentina.

FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-CRYSTAL PALACEFBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-CRYSTAL PALACE
FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-CRYSTAL PALACE | OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

It feels a little gratuitous to include Gerrard on this list after his 2014 tumble famously set Demba Ba clean through at Anfield.

The midfielder was an imperious set-piece wizard in a deeper role for Liverpool that year, scoring 13 goals in the Premier League. Meanwhile, draws to Aston Villa, West Brom and losses to Hull and Southampton earlier in the season were just as damaging for the Reds as the Chelsea loss.

But also, Gerrard did say Liverpool weren’t going to let their title lead slip, and then he… y’know slipped.

Olivier Giroud, Mesut OzilOlivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil
Arsenal v Watford – The Emirates FA Cup Sixth Round | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Mesut Özil will probably look back fondly over his career, when he retires, reflecting on all the joy he had linking up with an enormous variety of forwards… except Olivier Giroud.

With Arsenal firmly in the title race by December 2015, and Özil in one of the most abundantly creative periods of his career, all Giroud had to do was stick the endless feast of pinpoint through balls into the back of the net.

The end result? A 15-game scoring drought which allowed Leicester to steal in and win the league, though the Frenchman’s final day hat-trick at least kept Spurs at bay.

Pierre van Hooijdonk (Nottingham Forest)

Pierre Van Hooijdonk of Nottingham ForestPierre Van Hooijdonk of Nottingham Forest
Pierre Van Hooijdonk of Nottingham Forest | Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Dutch hotshot was a man who just liked to score goals (and lots of them). The one thing holding him back? Literally everyone else.

Van Hooijdonk has since spoken about the low regard in which he held his superiors at Nottingham Forest, from ‘pub manager’ Ron Atkinson to the ‘primitive’ training routines of Dave Bassett.

Thus it transpired that after a barnstorming first full season in English football, which saw Van Hooijdonk’s 29 goals promote Nottingham Forest, the Dutchman disgusted his teammates by going on strike to force a move, promptly relegating his side by depriving them of their main striker.

So deeply was the snub felt amongst the playing staff at Forest, that they would simply celebrate with whoever assisted Van Hooijdonk during his sporadic appearances.

Martin TaylorMartin Taylor
Birmingham v Arsenal – Premier League | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Sometimes, it’s not always one of your own players to blame when the title slips out of your grasp, and Martin Taylor remains a scapegoat amongst Arsenal fans to this day for his horror tackle on Eduardo in 2008.

While Taylor’s intention has since been established as most probably to play the ball, it sent Arsenal’s season into freefall with their young star out of action, seeing them squander a lead of five points over Manchester United in February by going on a four-match winless run.

Eduardo himself remains one of the most intriguing ‘what if’ moments in Arsenal’s modern history, although he’ll always be remembered as part of a landmark case in football’s legal history when banned for diving by UEFA in 2009.

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