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Thursday, July 26, 2012
Time to seek greener pitches?

By Ravi Ubha
ESPN.com

Clint Dempsey, Leighton Baines, Grant Holt
Forget the tiring RvP saga. Here are some outstanding players -- Clint Dempsey, Leighton Baines and Grant Holt, among them -- who deserve to play at bigger clubs.

Will Robin van Persie stay at Arsenal or will he go? With Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and van Persie (tiring, eh?), Arsenal fans haven't been able to relax this summer.

Let's veer away from van Persie for a second and unveil an EPL starting XI who, based on form, deserve to be plying their trade at bigger clubs. This is meant as no disrespect to any of the below clubs but as an appreciation for what these players have accomplished -- and what they could do if surrounded by even more talent.

G -- Michel Vorm, Swansea: Vorm was one of the buys of last season. Brought in for 1.5 million pounds from Utrecht, he was virtually unknown. The Dutchman made a name for himself in England as early as August, when he repelled 11 shots in the Swans' opener against Manchester City and saved a penalty in the next game versus Wigan. In the January transfer window, Vorm was linked with Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham, though nothing materialized.

LB -- Leighton Baines, Everton: Did any of the left backs who featured for the top three truly stand out last season? Patrice Evra slumped at Manchester United, Gael Clichy didn't nail down a regular spot for City until near the end of the campaign, and Arsenal's duo of Kieran Gibbs and Andre Santos are far from defensively aware. True, Baines couldn't match his outstanding 2010-11, but as the Liverpool Echo pointed out, he created the most chances per touch of any player in the top division. Perennially tied to heftier sides, Baines, 27, should move on before age limits his viability on the transfer market. Guess who is circling this time? United.

CB -- Fabricio Coloccini, Newcastle: Coloccini has made commendable progress in English soccer. He endured a torrid time in his first season in 2008-09, when the Argentine and Steven Taylor formed one of the worst central defensive pairings in the Premier League. Only three teams conceded more goals, and Newcastle was painfully relegated. Coloccini looked like a different player last term, putting in assured displays from the center of defense in the captain's role. It's unlikely he'll leave Newcastle, but he'd have no shortage of takers if he decides to go.

CB -- Brede Hangeland, Fulham: Hangeland, at 6-foot-5, remains one of the Premier League's most imposing defenders. He has been consistently good for Fulham since joining from FC Copenhagen in 2008, and last season was no exception. Hangeland's size means he is well equipped to deal with the physical nature of the Premier League and is a threat on set pieces. He is durable too, playing every Premier League game last term. With Arsenal keen on Hangeland in the summer of 2009, he signed a new contract at Fulham months later.

RB -- Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton: Clyne just signed with newly promoted Southampton, becoming the latest young prospect to leave Crystal Palace. (When will winger Wilfried Zaha depart?) But could the England under-21 international have moved to an established Premier League side? Perhaps. After all, Manchester United was reportedly interested in him in January.

M -- Clint Dempsey, Fulham: Is it a matter of a few dollars here or there, or will Fulham play hard ball and not sell Dempsey to Liverpool unless it receives an overinflated offer? Last week, it seemed as if Dempsey was a Liverpool player, but the talk has cooled. We know Dempsey has served his time at Craven Cottage, banging in 23 goals in all competitions last season. If a transfer to Liverpool doesn't materialize, bigger clubs will surely swoop in.

M -- Scott Sinclair, Swansea: A willingness to go on loan and leave Chelsea for Swansea turned out to be a great career move. Sinclair would have languished on the bench at Chelsea instead of getting the playing time a young player needs. Sinclair scored eight league goals last season, impressive for a winger -- even if a bunch came from the penalty spot. With Sinclair entering the final year of his contract, Swansea could be tempted to sell if it receives a good offer for the 23-year-old.

M -- Cheik Tiote, Newcastle: Tiote would fit in nicely at Manchester United, since the Red Devils desperately require a ball winner with bite. At this stage, Tiote, who led the Premier League in yellow cards the past two seasons, is so much better than Anderson. As Arsenal fans will tell you, Tiote can score from distance. He said last week he was "very happy" at Newcastle, but it doesn't mean he couldn't be very happy at another club. Purchased for 3.5 million pounds in August 2010, he is worth much more now.

M -- Victor Moses, Wigan: How much longer will Moses be a Wigan player? Chelsea is apparently intent on stacking its lineup with young midfielders, and the speedy Moses would be another scalp. The Evening Standard reported Thursday that the Blues made another bid for him. Moses was frustrating for a chunk of last season: He didn't look for teammates in the opposition third, overshot and, when he did shoot, was often off target. But Moses matured toward the end of the season, the main reason Wigan engineered a minor miracle and stayed up.

M -- Stephane Sessegnon, Sunderland: Of the top 10 assist-makers in the Premier League last season, only one didn't play for Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham or Chelsea -- the quick, diminutive Sessegnon, who was named Sunderland's player of the year by fans as he flourished lining up behind a lone striker. On the attacking front, Sessegnon and winger James McClean were the only positives for the Black Cats. In May, Sessegnon reportedly drew interest from Arsenal.

F -- Grant Holt, Norwich: What more does Holt need to do to get a little respect from those in the England setup? For those who say he is not gifted enough technically, they should check out some of his goals last season. The big striker scored 15 times in the Premier League and, if he's healthy, will hit double digits this season too. About two weeks after handing in a transfer request, he signed a new three-year deal at Norwich.