Tag Archives: lazy

Flair Players and Flawed Genius

Have flair players always been undervalued?

When compared to the grafters, the midfielders who put in a shift at both ends of the pitch.

When in contrast to the strikers, the goal-getters, the ones who change a scoreline.

When in parallel to the defenders, those who resist in the face of opposition.

Have the players who really make a difference in tight games always been under-prioritised by those in charge?

Let’s go back a little.

Peter Marinello – the Scottish George Best, or so tagged by the media. A record move to Arsenal to the tune of £100k. He made an instant splash by scoring on his debut and also contributing to our run to the Fair Cup Final in 1970. However, MArinello was left out of the final matchday squad and a combination of a knee injury and a fondness of the glitz and glamour combined to take the focus away from football. However, when fit, Marinello could change a game with a swish of his boot. He lasted a little over three years at the club – despite the massive fanfare at the start and his own undoubtable talent.

Jon Sammels – Those that saw him could attest to the fact that the midfielder had a passing range that would eclipse many in the modern game. He was a pivotal part in our Fairs Cup triumph and made more than 200 appearances for the club. That number was stretched out over eight years though. Sammels was often derided by not only the fans at times – but he had to win over his managers Billy Wright and Bertie Mee to get into the team at regular intervals. Not known for his physicality, Sammels would sculpt games with his distribution and shooting range.

Charlie Nicholas – The Scot will forever remain in our hearts for his League Cup heroics in 1987. Lifting that cup is attributed by many to have been the birth of George Graham’s golden era, and the precursor to the Miracle at Anfield in 89 – and the Almost Invincibles of 1991. Yet Charlie struggled with being played out of position and couldn’t find the consistency, despite the brightest of flashes intermittently. When George Graham rejoined the club as manager in 1986, it signalled the end for Charlie, despite his league cup heroics the later year. Nicholas was quickly deemed surplus to requirements.

Anders Limpar – The Swede was the difference-maker for Arsenal in 1991. All too often, those tiny feet of his led defenders on a merry dance and he bewitched opponents with his dazzling footwork. Again though, George Graham was at odds with Limpar – and according to teammates at the time, the Swede was called out all too often for a perceived lack of effort in training. This led to the slow crumbling of Limpar’s time at Arsenal, ended with a transfer to Everton in 1994, just three years after joining Arsenal so explosively.

It isn’t just wide players with a penchant for the extravagant that were kicked to the kerb in favour of more industrial alternatives.

Bobbi Pires is a bona fide Arsenal icon. Part of the triumphant teams of 02 and 04, the Frenchman is anything but surplus. Yet in our Champions League Final loss to Barcelona, it was Pires who was sacrificed after Jens Lehmann was sent off, in order to bring Almunia on. It wasn’t a full-back. It wasn’t a striker – it was a wideman, a flair player.

Arsenal v Barcelona Champions Lge Final 17/5/06 Pic Andy Hooper…..Daily Mail Arsenals Pires on Bench

The players above – bar Pires – all had their own afflictions. Drink, glamour, even sheer laziness. Some perhaps thought talent alone would get them where they want to be but this wasn’t the case. However, when it came to changing the outcome of a game, these geniuses with the ball were the best equipped.

What I’m trying to illustrate is that this ability that is all too unique, is all too often cast into the shadows by gaffers, in favour of other roles. It is the one that is deemed the runt of the litter in terms of importance.

The decision to bring off Pires when down to ten men makes sense in plenty of ways. We needed the numbers in defence, we also still needed to maintain some semblance of attack – but retaining the ability to create something from nothing was omitted.

It is this magic-like skill that fans adore, but is not at the top of the list for managers when it comes to attributes. It now needs to come hand in hand with workrate, physicality. Look at Bukayo Saka. The kid has muscles where there shouldn’t be, he covers more ground than the majority and he also defends like his life depends on it. It is the reason why his meteoric rise has been so rapid.

But spare a thought for the flawed geniuses. The ones who carried the magic in their boots, the ones who carried fans hopes with them on their shoulders. The sight of them trudging the touchline was always an uplifting one. We may not have always got the best out of them – but WE prioritised their skills more than anything else.

They were top of the tree for fans.

Theo Walcott – The Facts

Published on Goonersphere

Amidst the maelstrom of transfer rumours, one of the particular gusts of hot air pertained to the interest of West Ham for two of our players.

Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott were the players in question, and whilst the actual story was about as truthful as a Time Magazine cover featuring Donal Trump, the reaction on social media was a fascinating look at the barometer of opinion on the attacking pair.

There was a potent mix of shouts to both keep and sell Giroud, with most looking to improve our attack with wholesale changes. There was a fair percentage who could acknowledge the Frenchman’s talents though, and his effectiveness as an alternative option from the bench.

The concensus on Theo Walcott though, was heavily in favour of letting the England man go.

Throughout last season and through to this latest link to his exit, our fanbase have not exactly been impressed with our longest serving player. When pressed, most indicated his poor control, his lack of endeavour in tracking back and his wastefulness as key reasons why he is not a player who improves us.

I disagree though, and have done for some time.

If you give me until the end of this article, I hope to at least show you why Walcott is far more than loose debris we need to shake from the rug at London Colney.

Firstly, Walcott scores goals when he plays.

The first nine games last season saw Theo score five times. with two assists. He then missed one game versus Sunderland through a slight injury, and then played the next seven, scoring three. The winger was then injured for five games, but when he did return, we all expected him to hit the ground running again. It took him another five games to hit the net.

It is his slow starts when his rhythm is disrupted that cost him dearly. With many players able to cover his position, it means there can be no adjustment periods. Every player must perform every week and any dip means a spell on the sidelines. 

This is the sole criticism that can be levelled at Walcott. He should be more than acclimatised for returning from injury, but he does take some time to wind up before he begins to hit top gear. Think of him like a car with an awful gearbox but with a fantastic top speed.

The Crystal Palace fiasco then saw him relegated to a bit part role, and no player can produce their best when they are unsure if they will get even the slightest of cameos. Sound like I’m fighting a losing battle?

Stay with me.

19 goals last season. That return is not to be sniffed at. Especially when he was utilised primarily as a wide man and he still bagged three more than his handsome striking counterpart Giroud. What cannot be underestimated is how difficult it is to maintain that elusive sharpness that all goalscorers desire when they are getting splinters in their shorts on the bench.

What about Walcott’s perceived lack of fight and tracking back then?

When placing Walcott, Alexis, The Ox and Raheem Sterling (to add some perception) into a comparison matrix for last season, some surprising numbers popped up.

Well, Theo scored more interceptions than a player famed for his desire and running – Alex Olade-Chamberlain. Walcott also outperformed Raheem Sterling in successful tackles. This is all despite playing less games than both of these players. Interceptions and tackles would not be accrued by sitting on your heels and waiting for possession to come to you. Theo has been working.

Then there is shot percentage. Theo Walcott was equal best with our top scorer Alexis with 58% of all of his shots being on target. As for being wasteful, his percentage of take-ons falls just below The Ox and far above Sterling. His passing percentage is also higher than Alexis’s too.

So, Theo isn’t quite the waste of space people would have you believe. this is not to say the winger is infallible. Far from it, he is still one of the most likely to induce screaming and blood from your eyes through sheer rage. His passing choices are still in question, and he often goes missing.

What is now hopefully clear though, is that Theo is useful. His 19 goals should have been enough to spell that out, but he is a player we could well need next season. 

Why? He makes things happen. He may be completely ineffective for 85 minutes, but Walcott can score a goal even when he has appeared to let the game pass him by. There have been many players who do not add much to the game other than goals, but Walcott gets far more criticism than most.

He is a luxury player, but he is also the Ace in the deck that completely rips up the form guide and changes losing hands into winning ones. Theo Walcott is a far better player than most give him credit for, and we should get behind him.

If he stays fit, then he will get goals. 

Mesut Ozil – The Defence Rests Its Case

Some people value certain assets and characteristics above others. It is a part of life that an object can be viewed by two people and seen completely differently by both. 

When purchasing a vehicle, the customer will scour the web and car publications with certain parameters. The family-orientated customer will look for a vehicle with ample space and boot size. The businessman/woman will look for fuel economy. Different strokes for different folks.

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