Monday, 20 September 2010

On Tévez as captain

I'm conscious of the fact that I've barely written anything about the captaincy situation so far this season. This is out of character - I've previously written about it, criticising Kolo Touré's performance of the role and advocating for his replacement by either Nigel de Jong or Vincent Kompany. I was surprised by the Tévez appointment, and didn't know what I thought at first. But the more I think, and the more I watch, the more I sympathise with it.

Initially I thought Tévez was poorly suited to the role. His lack of English, his erratic and bolshie behaviour might well have excluded him; how different to the loyal, honest Richard 'Boxer' Dunne. He's certainly not a conventional captain in the way that Vincent Kompany is: vocal, consistent, articulate in both English and French (thus allowing him to cover two of the squad's three major linguistic groupings). He would have been the natural pick, and Nigel de Jong would not have been too far behind. (Given that de Jong is one of the world's most infamous footballers after the World Cup the idea of him captaining one of the world's most hated football clubs - from a seige mentality, 'two fingers up' perspective does hold some attraction.)

But there are reasons to appoint a captain beyond merely the case of the player who best fits the checklist. One of the key facts of City in 2010 thus far has been just how dependent were are on Carlos Tévez. He's scored 20 in 27 games this calendar year, but even that stat feels like it undersells him. Just think of the games where we looked flat before he opened the scoring and turned the game. The 3-0 win at Molineux, where he scored twice, both goals in the League Cup semi against United at home, and the goal at Old Trafford that almost took it to injury time. At Stamford Bridge in February we were 1-0 down but out of it just before half time. But Tévez spun Terry, tore past Carvalho and drew us level. Or the Wigan game, where we played miserably and relied on a Tévez hat-trick within the last twenty minutes to win it for us. Then on Sunday, against Wigan again, it was his chip just before the break that allowed us to go in on a high, with the win in our nostrils. If you don't think that changed the game, compare the respective second halves of the Sunderland and Wigan games this year.

I think it's fair to say that no team in the Premier League is as carried by one individual as we are by Tévez. For Gerrard there is Torres. For Rooney there is Scholes and now Nani and Berbatov. But Tévez is the sole carrier of our torch, the only man capable of lifting a flat performance, of carving something out of nothing through his own bubbling blend of will and talent. At times last season he was not just our only competent finisher but also our only creative player, the only one who could create a chance - even if it he had to take it himself. With Robinho back at Santos and Ireland drifting out of favour he was certainly our most effective trequartista even if he lacked the chances to show this.

Carlos Tévez is the difference between a pedestrian, tidy but fairly inconsequential team and a very different outfit: with Tévez charging around up front we can beat almost anyone: we did the double over Chelsea last season, and he scored three of our six goals. If we are going to achieve anything, this year or in the next few years, he will be at the centre of it. And therefore Mancini is right to do everything possible to keep him interested and motivated. If giving him the captaincy is what is required to sustain and enhance his emotional involvement with the club, then it has to be the right decision.

Tévez needs to be as invested in the project as it is in him. If his time at Manchester United taught us anything, it is that he needs to feel like the most important man at the club, as if the whole enterprise rests on his shoulders. Now, this wasn't the case at Old Trafford. But, as it happens, it is at City. By giving him the armband Mancini is reminding Tévez that our stories, and our chances at glory, are intertwined. When Kolo Touré discussed losing the captaincy, he said the manager told him it was so Tévez would be 'more involved in the set up' - and made reference to Diego Maradona at Napoli. Just because a comparison is lazy doesn't mean it's irrelevant. As an unlikely captain himself Maradona led Napoli to the most successful spell in their history. He carried the team, the armband was a manifestation of that fact. If we ever win anything under Roberto Mancini, it will be thanks to Carlos Tévez. It is only right that it should be Tévez who would lift the trophy.


chrissyboy said...

Agree in some respects, but he needs to improve his english so he can talk to the ref more. Blackburn kicked us off the park but tevez was miles away, think about what terry or neville Would have done..

Johnny Crossan said...

"If we ever win anything under Roberto Mancini, it will be thanks to Carlos Tévez. It is only right that it should be Tévez who would lift the trophy."

You've lost it completely now Lonely, what a shame.

SymphonyinBlue said...

I think City are anything but a one man team which your piece proposes. The fact that Adebayors form has yet to return to early last season levels has hardly helped share the striking load but I think when Balotelli, Kolarov and Boateng are installed in the team you will find goals coming from throughout the whole team.

Regrettably you seem to have overdosed on red top hysteria in claiming that City are one of the Worlds most hated clubs.

Undoubtedly there is immense jealousy, particularly amongst the Sky 4, for Citys superb backers but the fact that they hardly constitute the World (although they may think they do) outside of that I think most real football fans find the whole thing as fascinating and interesting as we do. After all any fan worth the name football fan will see great players coming into the English game as a benefit not a detriment.

As for the decision to appoint Tevez as captain, whatever the logistics it appears to be working. He leads by example and Toure's game seems to have improved after having that extra responsibility removed from his shoulders.

My choice would have been Nigel de Jong but if it ain't broke there is no need to fix it.

Blue Moon said...

I think the comments here are why non-english fans a puzzled by the importance England places on football captains. This isn't rugby - the days of the captain being the only one to talk to the referree are over. The days of the captain being THE leader are over (except perhaps in west London). Nige, Vinny, Garry Barry, James Milner, AJ, Joe, Micah, Kolo all speak english well enough to say "Oi ref!!! Send him off!!!" Do you really need to speak the language of the referree to indicate that Scholes just snapped your leg?

Carlos has the highest work rate in the side, he scores the most goals, and he is the least likely to be sent off. To the extent that City have a person emblematic of the club, it is he and de Jong -- and as much as I have a huge man crush on Nigel, he is, uh shall we say a red card waiting to happen. And Johnny, you are fooling yourself if you don't think that Carlos, while maybe not being the only reason, will be the major factor in silverware / CL participation. Without Carlos, the Wigan match ends 0-0.

And Symphony, if you don't think City are hated, find me a match report that does not mention how much the team cost to assemble. This is NEVER mentioned in a Barca, Madrid, Chelsea or United report.

Anonymous said...

I'm really not sure on this one, so won't vote in the poll...

But, Tevez is our talisman and I can see why Mancini's made him captain... Even though I didn't see it coming at all.

My choice would've been Kompany for all the reasons you state plus the fact he's our best and most consistent defender. He's also, by miles, our most under-rated player (outside the club). So maybe this is part of the reason to not pick him... So no one else realises just how good he is.

For loyalty I'll agree with Mancini, but if it was me, I'd have picked Vinny.

Oh ok I'll vote then...

Anonymous said...

I predicted Mancini would appoint Tevez as captain prior to the opening spurs game on 13/8. He is key to our success this season. While I agree his English is a problem the same can be said for Mancini himself, (plus most of his support staff!). I am pleased the role has re-ignited Tevez's enthusiasm. If we get into the champions league at the end of the season there will be nothing to hold us back from attracting the world's top talent. Happy days!

Anonymous said...

I disagree! because Tevez is not a native English person and he is new to the City squad, which must be a captain in the City is the person or persons who have experienced long .. but it is my personal opinion. I leave the decision to Roberto Mancini, and I will always support him ....