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A Widely Ignored Factor For Football Failure
Footytubeblog (Blog) 4 years ago
n individual sports, commentators and fans constantly talk of players choking; feeling the pressure, yet in football perhaps due to the team nature of the sport, the idea of choking seems to be too often ignored.
Footballers are only ever put under the individual scrutiny of a tennis player, boxer or golfer when forced to take a penalty. It is my belief the idea of nerves getting the better of players is too widely ignored in football. After all, pressure has often overwhelmed teams or individual players in football too.

Robin van Persie is a sensational striker but the Dutchman’s touch throughout Euro 2012 was non-existent, his natural goal-scoring instincts abandoned him. Against Denmark the 29-year-old missed multiple chances and seemed a shadow of the instinctive frontman that inspired Arsenal prior to the tournament and has been equally effective at Manchester United since.

Much of the Dutch press leading up to the tournament revolved around whether van Persie would be given the nod ahead of Klaas Jan Huntelaar who had also had an incredible scoring record that year. I think perhaps due to his success in England that season; British pundits overlooked his severe failings at the tournament. Other failures in the Holland team that under-performed miserably weren’t let off so easily, including Jetro Willems who was representing his national team in defence at just 18, a great achievement.

An example of perhaps a whole team being plagued by expectation is Tottenham Hotspur who drew 1-1 with Wolverhampton Wanderers when they had a chance to prove themselves to be genuine Premier League title contenders around Christmas time last year. Approaching the match, Spurs were considered by many to have the best midfield in the Premier League and were believed to be playing the best football in England. With both Manchester clubs not playing that day, Spurs could have moved within touching distance of the top of the division but were held to a draw by Wolverhampton Wanderers, in my opinion letting the situation get the better of them. In terms of teams crumbling last year, Manchester City came incredibly close against Queens Park Rangers only for £90 million worth of striking talent to bail them out. During that performance, players such as Samir Nasri seemed scared to attempt penetrating passes, or play their normally unshackled football due to a fear of failure. City played a majority of the second half against ten men, playing one of the division’s worst defences.

The motivation for this article and this often overlooked subject came from watching Adam Johnson at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, after all, the England international has built up a reputation as one of the most dynamic exciting wingers in the country. Yet on Saturday when he received the ball he often froze, the 25-year-old had several opportunities to attack inexperienced full backs on his left side yet constantly failed with his actions, telegraphing his intentions to Eric Lichaj, Joe Bennett and Enda Stevens. Considering Sunderland’s start and the onus placed on him as a marquee signing for the club to provide chances for the miss-firing team, Johnson has lost his swagger and arrogance that made him such a tricky winger. In my opinion he choked at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

A team that sometimes get banded as ‘bottle-merchants’ are Arsenal, the team are constantly reminded of their long-lasting trophy drought. Despite having had some of the most talented footballers in England during that time period they haven’t won a trophy. I believe there’s a mental barrier with that club and winning a trophy such is the length of period they’ve gone without success. Their last final in the League Cup against Birmingham City saw Arsenal fail badly with young players wilting under the spotlight. Kieran Gibbs had a torrid time and Wojciech Szczesny dropped a regulation catch to ultimately cost the Gunners the game.

The do or die nature of cup competition often leads to players failing to find their best football. The last two European Championships has seen some breathtaking group stage matches before nerves get the better of teams as they get closer to the prize, leading to often more cagey affairs. A recent example of a team imploding mentally in a cup competition is Everton against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final. The Blues finished above Liverpool that year and had looked imperious in a quarter final replay against Sunderland. All the composure and quality they showed at the Stadium of Light went out the window playing their local rivals for a spot in the final. My main memory of that semi final showdown was just the lack of quality both teams showed – especially in the first half. For such an experienced team it just seemed as if the pressure of beating their neighbours who have overshadowed them for so long, meant they were unable to play the great football we saw from them at the back end of last season.

In my opinion in this country we get too bogged down in the technical failings of players and don’t often talk enough about players being overcome with the situation they’re facing. In other sports great players get too quickly labelled as chokers, the accusation has been aimed at some of Britain’s best sports stars, Lee Westwood and Andy Murray are just two examples. My point is like any other sport, footballers can have a crisis of confidence.

Written By James Lowson

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