While watching the draw at Boro yesterday, I found myself looking around the team, looking for the player who would make the difference, the one who would provide that spark and win us the game.
And I saw Cesc, desperately trying to play the killer pass from the centre circle rather that play simple balls, and realised what he had already realised – if he tried to play a slick passing move involving four or five players, it would break down at the feet of one of his fellow midfielders. His only option was to keep trying to play that match winning ball, but with Boro sitting off him and letting him try, they could cover all the angles. It was all so one dimensional.
That isn’t a criticism of our captain, more a reflection on how disillusioned he appeared to feel and how much responsibility he was forcing on to himself. And I saw it too, being unable to look beyond him for inspiration.
Our front two are fine, both scoring goals aplenty, while our full backs are the best pairing in the league. Our first choice wingers, Nasri and Walcott, are great players, while Cesc is obviously the star. That leaves central defence and central midfield. Anyone shocked?
The point is, you need every one of your eleven players to be able to make a crucial difference in a game – everyone, individually, should be capable of that crucial moment. For all his detractors, Almunia can do that, and does – yesterday’s excellent save prevented another embarrassing loss. The aforementioned players are also capable of those sparks of brilliance that make you thankful they are in your side.
But what of the rest? Denilson should have that capability, with his Brazilian nature, but neither holding midfield or left midfield seem to suit him, and going forward his final ball/shot is more often than not disappointing. Diaby, on the other hand, does have the potential wow factor I’m talking about – when he runs purposefully with the ball, you do get the feeling he could do something special. That he does not deliver as often as we’d like is beside the point I’m trying to make – he is capable, and that ability, if nurtured with the correct attitude, could make him a very useful player.
But what of Song? When has he ever done anything that you can be truly impressed at, rather than just ticking along in midfield? Sure, he had had good games, but his good games are mostly when he just does the simple things right. But is that enough? Some say Makelele and Gattuso are of that ilk, but both are committed in the challenge, and both consistently shield their defences for ninety minutes. Song neither protects nor recovers mistakes with any determination.
And match winners are not just the ones who set up the winning goals. Flamini was a match winner for us last season – a crucial tackle high up the park can just as easily turn a game.
I don’t blame Song for the fact that he isn’t good enough, but that status is fairly clear. Coupled with his lackadaisical attitude and you have a player that should not be in our first team, let along on a regular basis.
I’m not one to cut our players down, but of the trio, Diaby has the ability but needs the focus and competition, Denilson isn’t ready for regular first team football, while Song just doesn’t appear good enough. That does not mean I’d sell any of them, but by the end of January, they should find their queue to the first team longer than it currently is.
If they are good enough technically and mentally, they’ll overcome that. But I suspect in all three cases that they aren’t.