Tunnel vision: the players can never win

The game between Arsenal and Manchester United had no end of talking points. Before the game, it centred on the choices of the two managers and their futures. During the game, the performances of Mesut Ozil and Wayne Rooney were both under the spotlight. Whilst after the final whistle, Arsene Wenger breaking his poor streak against Jose Mourinho and the Manchester United boss’ selection were top of the agenda.

Oddly, though, former Manchester United defender Phil Neville and Arsenal centre-half Martin Keown slammed the players in the tunnel before the game, as they were seen hugging, kissing and joking before a match that was so vital to the fortunes and futures of both sides.

SEE ALSO: English football and its cripplingly parochial mindset

The criticism of players has split the opinion of the fans. Many cite that some players will always be friends considering they may have grown up together, have previously played together or play for the same nation. Others say that acting so friendly before a game makes professionalism difficult, with players instead better off staring forward in the tunnel, merely shaking hands before kick-off and instead hugging and exchanging niceties following the full-time whistle.
Whatever your view, there will be someone out there that says it’s wrong.

Possibly the most confusing theory on pre-game antics has seen England’s players once again attacked. Some have cited that, in comparison to their counterparts, the English players are far too serious.

The likes of Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick can be seen, staring straight forward, steely eyed. Petr Cech and David de Gea on the other hand were caught shaking hands and hugging before the game, while Nacho Monreal bore the brunt of the criticism from Neville:

I think Monreal thinks he’s going to a christening and not a football match. I can’t imagine doing that to Martin Keown ten years ago in the tunnel at Highbury. It doesn’t matter if you know them. You see each other in the bar afterwards but before the game you need to concentrate

Phil Neville

Martin Keown also weighed in, with the no nonsense former Arsenal man saying:

“This is what modern day players are like. I hated it when French players were like this with one another

Martin Keown

The two former England internationals were highly critical of the way that some players acted in the tunnel then. However, some have claimed it is exactly this sort of attitude that makes the England team so unsuccessful at major competitions.

Apparently, players preference to remain quiet and focus on the task at hand is not the correct way to build up to a big game, well, according to same people anyway.

In truth, players can’t really win. Of course, there should be a higher degree of professionalism, with players indulging their friendships after the game instead. However, some have apparently taken this focus too far, with Joe Hart against Wales an example of this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ee82bmL2OHo

SEE ALSO: Joe Hart’s Italian Job: A half-century and counting

The players are either deemed too serious in the tunnel, with Joe Hart’s shouting, swearing and calls to ‘focus’ too much, or, according to Neville, they act like they are at a christening. It seems as though the days of tunnel bust-ups are gone, and they have been replaced by the exchanging of phone numbers.

Of course, the two different ways of building up to a game have their benefits. Some players prefer to quietly contemplate the task at hand, others play jokes to keep their nerves at bay, while others shout and swear to get themselves pumped up before hand.

Whatever happens, the players will never be right, unfortunately. If Hart, for example, makes a mistake, his pre-match build-up will be blamed. If a player that is quiet has a poor game, they will be blamed for being too passive.

Another case of pre-conceived agendas in football, being shoehorned in, to make them relevant; no wonder footballers are loathed to step away from tireless post-match dialogue, through fear of being castrated by the media.