Why do we judge different players by different standards? by JT1
Now that most of us have calmed down a little since the weekend I thought I would ask the above innocent question and hope that somewhere amongst the anticipated abuse some of the more sensible posters will have something useful to say. I am keen to be educated. I see after the WHL fiasco that the usual suspects are being panned again, both the “old faithfuls” like Ozil, Giroud and Mertesacker etc and also “chart re-entries” such as Ramsey featuring heavily. I see some saying Welbeck should have started ahead of OG. I see some calling Theo a talentless “whippet” whilst others insist he should have started. I see Kos have a mare but Mertesacker’s name still comes to the fore. I hear it was one game too far for Santi – but after the event. I heard we would not miss Alexis but everyone changed their mind – after the event. And so it goes on.
Anyhow, I want to talk about style versus substance and why some players are venerated and others are prone to frequent ridicule and criticism. When certain players don’t feature in a match there is always a convenient knee-jerk reaction contending that X or Y would have been game-changers etc. The fact that this can never be proved makes it a doubly effective way to pan the manager and others. In essence, every time we lose, the manager should have picked someone else. You would think that stats would back-up these arguments but the reality is something quite troublesome to me. Two players that regularly come to the fore in this regard are Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (I know he is injured – but his name always crops up when he doesn’t feature). Two players that I would wager would come out top, or near the top, of any Arsenal fan popularity poll. Indeed TR has gone one stage further and has pulled off the commendable feat of achieving near-cult status.
I also want to include Jack Wilshere in this for slightly different reasons, primarily because he cuts through this board like bad Marmite in terms of his ability/worth etc. I will say now that AOC is my favourite Arsenal player and not one ounce of my being has any adverse feelings towards TR7. He joined us on the cusp of being world class but in my opinion his 8 year contribution has been sporadic and slightly underwhelming. He has a highlight reel to compare with anyone – but that is how I feel he is viewed and assessed by the faithful and the converted, his high points and not the overall contribution. However, and this is the nub of the matter, consider the following Premier League stats since Mesut Ozil (“weak”, “not physical enough”, “defensive liability”, “poor attitude”, “not up to it”, “waste of money”, “appalling body language”,”panic buy”, “liability” etc etc etc) arrived at the beginning of the 2013-14 season:
Mesut Ozil: 8 goals 11 assists 35 appearances (ie: he has not yet effectively completed a full PL season of stats)
Tomas Rosicky: 3 goals 2 assists 36 appearances
Alex O-C: 3 goals 3 assists 35 appearances
Jack Wilshere 4 goals 5 assists 33 appearances
Even more alarming, it took Ozil less than a season to all but match TR7’s 6 season PL haul of 9 goals and 11 assists (in 120 appearances) stretching way back to 2009/10. The comparison is made more stark if you listen to the throng of detractors telling you how poor Ozil has been. If you want to talk about other stats relevant to an attacking midfielder then last season he beat ALL three on ALL six other key stats (90 minute metric); possession, total passes, pass completion, chances created, successful passes, key passes). All these players are attacking midfielders whose job is to score and/or create. If the productivity is not there then you need at least be casting a Vieira-esque stamp of authority and influence over a game to justify selection. How is one an untouchable hero and the other a big fat zero to a good portion of the fan base. How does that work? Is it solely to do with sweat and endeavour and perceptions about attitude?
I conclude that fans, as humans, often base their opinions on selective criteria and those opinions are often more about emotion, style and endeavour rather than end product. The “warrior” players will always have a place in their hearts and if a player’s demeanour does not scream commitment, blood and thunder then they are ultimately doomed regardless of their real world contributions.
Is it coincidence that the Arsenal players that do have records showing numbers and end product, at least at some stage of their careers, are the ones most criticised (eg: Giroud, Ozil, Walcott and Ramsey) and others who do not have such comfort regarding end product and stats get the love; presumably for trying harder (Rosicky, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and latterly Campbell). Or are they just contrived arguments to have a pop at Wenger? There is thankfully one notable exception to all the above; Santi Cazorla who ticks both boxes. All fans, both the objective and the emotional types, can celebrate his contribution – at least of course until he has back to back bad games.