UEFA’s Nations League is the ICC of the international arena. There, I’ve said it. A pointless competition with the supposed kudos of being ‘champions’ at the end of it. Adding it to a football association roll of honour is the same as releasing a DVD celebrating a Norwich Hospital Charity Cup final win.
A number of countries are fielding depleted squads this week with the sheer pointlessness of fixtures laid bare. Grabbing the headlines is Denmark, with their futsal team managed by Faxe; the absurdity of it all laid bare when Martin O’Neill worried about how the situation would affect their group. You’ll still finish bottom of it is the answer nobody gave him, so be happy about that.
Aaron Ramsey will disagree; it’s a very important tournament but only because he scored in Wales’ 4 – 1 win last night which if nothing else, boosts his confidence. Another whose confidence is boosted is Matteo Guendouzi, voted the first Player of the Month of the season.
It’s a big change for the player, from the paternalistic approach to an environment where the coach is ambitious and driven. Very hands on judging by comments and photos of his training sessions which show Emery taking on the defence. Probably winning in a Brian Glover kind of way.
The Tunnel Of Love
Anyway, Monreal warned people need to stop trying to make Özil into that which he is not.
“People must understand that every player is completely different. He is like that [quiet] and 10 years ago he was the same.
“So you can’t expect on the pitch that he starts to fight, to talk with the referee because he never did it. He is not going to change in this case.
“The important thing is he plays at his highest level, gives a lot of assists, scores a lot of goals and basically helps the team. That’s what he knows. He doesn’t know how to go up to a player and grab him by the throat.”
Therein is the rub. We, the supporters, want a player to show passion for the club. Each man is different but any outward sign of emotion, of playing for more than a wage packet. That’s the perception, rightly or wrongly, that players who don’t show passion or something similar, are only in it for the money. A guy who is the highest earner at the club but has a languid style, with its attendant body language problems, has problems.
Monreal makes the point that Özil is never going to be an archetypal captain. Not for him a bollocking to others when they aren’t pulling their weight. The German isn’t going to hang someone on a clothes peg and then read the riot act while they struggle free. It isn’t him.
And it only matters what sort of body language is displayed when the performances aren’t at a level expected. If Özil was playing well and we were challenging for the title; not one jot would be given whether he sullenly strolled off the pitch on being substituted.
But we aren’t.
This is the downside for Özil of last season’s contract shenanigans. It’s something for Ramsey to be wary of, with neither looking at Theo Walcott’s gradual demise in popularity as any kind of warning worth heeding.
As if the players particularly care at the moment. A downside for us of the febrile atmosphere is that they have developed a hard skin when it comes to us, the supporters and what is being said. Pleasantries will be exchanged with the majority and in public, but when the grief manifests, I’d guess they shrug their shoulders with the rest of the squad viewing it as ‘Hector’s turn this week’.
That doesn’t mean the criticism isn’t justified – nor that it is all over the top – simply that the players aren’t going to change because of what we think. They ought to be impervious to that because the quickest way to lose confidence is to believe what the fans or social media think.