Assessing Players: Perception is King

Assessing Players: Perception is King

There is a very curious curse in football about which players gets abuse and which do not from their own fans. Aroune Kone at Everton is a classic example, for the previous 2 years he received abuse, 22 appearances in two years after a £6m transfer from Wigan obviously riled the Goodison support (even though he had a serious knee injury). As a player he has 9 in 39 appearances for the Ivory Coast, (in a team dominated by Wilfried Bony and Didier Drogba upfront). His Wigan record was 11 in 34, and now 6 in 28 for Everton. So over Wigan, Everton and Ivory Coast that is 26 goals in 101 appearances, 1 in 4 games, as a £6m buy, is a fairly decent record at that price.

Assessing Players Perception King

Recently Liverpool fans on Twitter and in radio phone ins have been critical of James Milner, some are incredulous at his reputed £150,000 a week wages and a big signing on fee from Man City. Yet within their ranks they have Joe Allen, a £15m buy in 2012, who has 75 appearances and 2 goals in 3 years. Milner in 11 games for Liverpool has scored 1 goal, which is 50% of what Joe Allen has achieved in 3 long and tedious years with a £15m price tag (which used to be big money in 2012) and yet Joe Allen goes under the radar for criticism.

Andy Carroll was barracked and ridiculed from hell to high water at Liverpool, and yet we have Memphis Depay, Pedro and Falcao who have achieved far less than Carroll’s Liverpool stats to date, all bought for comparable fees (and or wages in Falcao’s case.) Carroll’s 6 goals in 44 games at Liverpool actually compares well with Depay, Pedro and Falcao’s combined record of 50 games and 7 goals in English football. These are internationally renowned footballers who have played a total of Falcao (62 Colombia) Pedro (52 Spain) and Depay (20 Holland) 134 times for their countries and yet hardly any criticism and Andy Carroll was rebuked and ridiculed as a 21year old novice footballer?

English Record
Radamel Falcao 35 apps 5 goals (52 Colombia caps)
Memphis Depay 8 apps 1 goal (20 Holland caps)
Pedro 7 apps 1 goal (52 Spain caps)

Unfortunately in England more so than in Spain, Italy or Germany the media narrative dictates a vast majority of fans views. Twitter and sites like Opta, Squawka and WhoScored, have readdressed some of the media bias but it still shapes a lot of views. You have the “anti-stat” brigade who think statistics prove nothing and go along with the often pernicious and spiteful media narrative.

It was noticeable Phillip Coutinho was getting more media criticism for his barren goal spell than Wayne Rooney, yet one is a creative midfielder no10 type and one a “supposed” out and out striker in a team playing with one up front.

Football is very tribal, and most fans have blinkers to their own squads’ shortfalls and readily criticise other players and squads even though evidence suggests there are worse culprits in their own squads.

It seems the fee and the wages all play a part in how much criticism a particular player gets when they endure a barren spell.

Nicholas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue were criticised at length by Arsenal fans as was Andy Carroll at Liverpool and their careers never recovered from the perceived sleight on their abilities and probably never will.

Jerome Boateng ridiculed at Man City is now a World Cup winner and successful stalwart of a multiple Bundesliga winning Bayern Munich. Equally Diego Forlan castigated by Man United and the English media subsequently had a sterling career at Villarreal and Athletico Madrid scoring 125 goals in 230 games after leaving United.

The “apologists” will argue certain leagues suit certain players playing styles and physiques, but looking at the stats it is often “perception”, by the media and this fuels perception by the fans that makes or breaks the players’ career at a particular club.

I would argue Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll’s Liverpool statistics and contribution far outweigh Joe Allen’s 75 apps and 2 goals in 3 years. But Brendan Rodgers fed the media on “Kenny’s poor signings”, and the media fed the fans. Even John Jo-Shelvey’s Liverpool career 37 games and 2 goals surpasses Joe Allen’s?

Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez were only ever any good for Alan Pardew’s bench when manager of West Ham in 2006. Mascherano subsequently won 3 La Liga’s & 2 Champs Lge’s and Tevez 3 Premier Lge’s 1 Champs Lge, 2 Serie A’s and the Argentinian league most recently with Boca Juniors in 2015-simply staggering. Astonishingly Pardew played Mascherano 5 times in the 2006/7 season at West Ham.

It seems “perception is king” on fickle fans views of players, fuelled by an ill-advised media often driven by their own media agendas, and the famous Rafa Benitez refrain “Facts, Facts, Facts,” does have some substance when applied to the English Media and the effect it has on fans views.