OK, let’s get this out of the way: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Yes, bring up penalty shootouts, quarter-finals, a half-a-century of abject failure. All I say is “South Korea”, or if I’m feeling particularly expansive, “Korea Republic”. We’ve had Rob Green in goal, fumbling over his own line, but no England goalkeeper thought himself better than an outfield player. Manuel Neuer wore his clown shoes in Kazan and Germany paid the price.
This World Cup is going to take some beating.
Not if you are Mesut Özil. The previously untouchable midfielder as far as the fans were concerned – five Player of the Year awards testifies to his previous popularity – but he copped flak as he walked off the pitch. His mistake was to answer back.
It’s an invidious position; fail as a footballer and plenty are disgruntled with none reticent in making their views known. There’s nothing new in that as far as supporters are concerned; we vent the minute defeat is apparent – previously sixty seconds before kick-off with Arsenal – and players are expected to take it. Why? Why do we expect players to not react when ‘in the office’, we would?
Anyway, Özil copped flak and that brought forth a slew of statistics which proved he had ‘done his job’. Quite how he did his job in a team sport when his team lost, is another matter. It smacked of my theory, which is frankly not startling, but Özil is untouchable. Or uncriticisable.
Criticise him and a bewildering barrage of distances run, passes completed, and how many chances he created, surface. Or now, ‘big’ chances, as if there is something tangible in that and no subjectivity involved in defining that whatsoever.
Anyway, no-one of German birthright scored so were the chances that big?
Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
The usual strawman arguments about defending surfaced when nobody mentioned it as if to deflect attention from the fact that, like all his countrymen, Özil was not very good at all during this World Cup. And he wasn’t, there’s no point arguing with that. He was dropped, sorry, injured for the Sweden game which was previously unthinkable, sorry, very unfortunate in its’ timing.
What does it mean for us? Well, he’ll be back in training a fortnight or so sooner than expected and you’d think, good shape for the new season in August. Unai Emery has a bit of work to do mentally with the midfielder because he isn’t feeling the love at the moment.
And if anything, Unai knows how to work a crowd. At the supporters gig last night, he woke up from Ivan’s droning to tell us that he’s got a wonky table leg. There are plans, Ivan said, to fix that leg with more wood being added during the course of the summer. A Greek redwood for strength, a Turkish sapling for flexibility, with some South American planks added for good measure.
Less jaw-jaw, just more-more signings. Those will be due to Unai Emery’s analysis of the squad, the head honcho declared thus making sure everyone know that it’s a collective effort, but it falls on Unai’s shoulders if we don’t see any improvement.
Sven appeared in a few rock star photos, looking for all intents and purposes like a scruffy hipster, not your average football scout/recruiter. Which is good because we don’t want ‘average’ at Arsenal anymore.
Anyway, we know Ivan’s good with words and my new optimism won’t be dimmed until events on the pitch play out. The transfer business will ramp up in coming weeks, especially with the curtailed English window.
England kick-off later with all sorts of permutations about winning the group and playing for second. So, it’s Brazil in the quarter-finals, France/Argentina in the semi-finals or Spain in the last four; whichever route England take in the competition, it’s tough.
There was a good point in the Guardian podcast: England have at once an inferiority and superiority complex, labelled the ‘English condition’. That it might be and the point was rightly made, we’re hard-wired to think Brazil will win. Except England are unbeaten in four of the last five meetings between the two.
Frankly, I’d fancy our chances against this Brazil; it’s not 1982, not even 2006 they resemble. This is a shadow of a team and the darkness is caused by Neymar. It’s him and ten others, no matter the reputation of those players. Everything is about him to the detriment of the collective.
Socrates, Zico, the Real Ronaldo; they were the stars whose performances lifted the team, but theirs were team performances. Neymar strikes me as more Rivaldo; playing for himself first and foremost, the team can come second.
Not that it matters. England are going to ‘England’ themselves this evening and lose to Belgium reserves…