Common sense dictates that it is far from ideal for a side to be hugely reliant on an individual and this is a truth that seemingly exists unchallenged. When supporters claim a rival club is a ‘one man team’ it is clearly intended as an accusation, not a mere observation. And when that club’s fans respond it is usually defensive, their replies amounting to vehement denial.
Yet when the subject is explored beyond surface level it is difficult to determine exactly why seeking inspiration from a single player is wholly a bad thing. Certainly Neapolitans were over-joyed that Maradona was at a different level to his team-mates as Napoli twice won a Scudetto in the nineteen-eighties while Welsh fans had absolutely no problem that Gareth Bale was several lightyears ahead of Jonny Williams and David Edwards as the Real Madrid superstar hauled Wales through a qualification campaign all the way to a Euro semi-final two years back.
This immediately brings us to a staggeringly obvious but pertinent plus: that for a team to be dependent on one player suggests they have in their possession a very special talent and furthermore one who delivers on a consistent basis.
More so, the benefits exceed even what that player personally produces. If we look at two Premier League sides whose fan-bases regularly bristle at the claim their team is overly aided by a star man it is incalculable how important Harry Kane’s 113 league goals have been to Spurs in recent seasons while Mo Salah’s 42 across all competitions last season elevated Liverpool to great heights. Yet their strike-rate is only half of the gifts they bring to the party with Kane a gold standard focal point whose clever movement and final-third interplay coaxes the best performances from Eriksen and Alli. The Egyptian Messi meanwhile acts as a lightning rod that affords precious space elsewhere for Liverpool’s three-pronged attack.
If these are the plus points surely the negatives are substantial given that a side containing a PFA Team of the Year shoo-in is so often damned rather than admired? In fact the chief concern is a hypothetical rather than anything grounded in reality. “Ah, but they are half the team when he’s injured or ineffectual” seems to be the gist of it; a strange reasoning that is only applied in this particular instance.
Using this worst-case-scenario example elsewhere reveals just how skewed the logic is. Imagine if you will a club signing a guaranteed twenty-goal-a-season striker and instead of excitement accompanying the move Joe Public and the media instead point out the possibility of a drought. Where would that club be then, without his twenty goals?
Presently a sizable number of people are telling Chelsea fans they should be very concerned because so many of their goals and attacking impetus is coming from Eden Hazard. For the Blues to succeed it is claimed, their end product needs to be shared around while outside of the penalty area the magician who was statistically Europe’s most effective dribbler last term must have less burden of responsibility placed upon him.
This reasoning is entirely subjective of course but to play devil’s advocate might include pointing out that Chelsea are currently undergoing a dramatic period of transition under one of the most exacting coaches in top level football. The general feeling prior to the season was that the 2016/17 champions would require several months of acclimatising to Maurizio Sarri’s demands and only once his blueprint became instinctive throughout the team would points be accrued on a regular basis.
Instead, largely due to an exceptional talent playing out of his skin each and every week – very possibly motivated with the desire to secure a big money move to La Liga next summer – Chelsea find themselves only two points off the top and unbeaten. Hazard for his part has scored six goals from nine shots and assisted twice.
Is that a worry then that the Belgian has scored 37% of Chelsea’s goals? Or should they be delighted that an attacking midfielder has stepped up to the plate and contributed more than his usual share during a time of change? Sarri for one is most definitely in the glass-half-full camp, recently declaring that he believes his jewel can sustain his hot streak and ultimately score forty this season.
We have seen this happen before, just last year in fact, and then Salah’s solo brilliance and campaign of a lifetime helped take his team to a Champions League final. Which is further proof that while it might not be ideal to be hugely reliant on an individual it certainly can have its rewards.
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