There are two ways to rubbish players. One is to dismiss them in one line, just saying “he’s ineffective” and leaving it at that. The implication is that he is so bad everyone knows it, you don’t have to say another word. The other is to argue the point constructively, using the stats, showing comparisons with other players at different times in their careers etc.
So, if we take Adebayor, we could call him “ineffective” or “past it” or whatever, or we could do an analysis which shows that up to the end of last season he was on a par with Henry in terms of goals scored year by year since joining the club. Of late he seems to have lost his way – so we could then have a debate about how many players do go through bad times, whether they come back from it, how long it takes etc.
Sadly this latter type of debate doesn’t happen much, which is a shame, because people are more complex than one-liners. OK in extreme circumstances you can do it (as in the somewhat unlikely scenario of the Lord Wenger selecting me to play in midfield against Cardiff on tuesday) but mostly there are deeper issues to take into account.
Nowhere is this more so than with Denilson. I’ve been thinking all season, wow, this guy has come on, he really is starting to patrol and control the midfield, generally in the right place, intercepting, moving on with telling passes, getting better game by game.
Then in saturday’s Independent there was a dreadful snipe at him – one of those simple one or two word dismissals, with no argument, no debate – consigning Denilson to the dustbin of football.
It amazed me, because as I watch him, he is becoming more and more like – and even beyond – Gilberto. If you remember everyone said Gilberto was useless, but then when he was out for a year we missed him like anything, and there was a huge roar upon his return. When he became captain of Brazil few people admitted that maybe their judgement had been wrong.
So, Denilson. The stats show he is the second best defensive midfielder in the country. Of course I don’t sit in the Ems and do stats – I am rather otherwise engaged in supporting my team and having hearty banter with those around me.
But yesterday against the bankrupted West Iceland it was so obvious: he ran the show. He must have touched the ball two or three times more than anyone else – he had that remarkable ability to know where to be to intercept (the ability that led to Gilberto being called The Invisible Wall). Yes, he misplaced a handful of passes. But it was only a handful, compared with a huge number of correct, well-timed and above all important tackles, followed by a release of the ball taking us onto another attack.
As I mentioned in my little piece in the Observer, the guy can’t to it all alone, and what he needed was another creative player near him whom he could release and send on his way. Theo, Cesc, Rosicky… any of them playing with Denilson and Nasri, and we’d be there.
As it was, Nasri was the one creative hope in midfield until Vela came on, with Diaby playing one of his more defensive games. Then sadly Vela seemed to fade quite quickly and that early promise wasn’t sustained.
Of course I am talking from watching the match there, in the freezing cold, rather than on TV with all the replays and the defining view of the commentators. But I did sneak a look at the goal attempts in the Guardian this morning. We won 15-2. And those goal attempts all started somewhere. Mostly, I would venture to say, with Denilson.
Finally: West Iceland United. Before the match there was a brief tribute to a previous club doctor who died recently. His wife was there, and the players wore armbands. What did the West Iceland fans do during the very brief speech about the deceased? They chanted abuse.
Some things never change.
Again apologies for the delay in passing comments for publication for the last two days, I was away from any computers. And while I do appreciate comments about how good the blog is, that vision tends to be a bit diminished if it is then immediately followed by a series of adverts for another site.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009