7 players who are accused of being lazy but aren't
From a Sunday league kickabout to the dizzy heights of Premier League football, every team has players that would burst a gut trying to latch onto a 30-yard pass. Comparatively, all clubs have their fair share of individuals that expect the ball to gravitate towards them and these select few are often dubbed as being lazy.Some genuinely do fail to pull their weight, but there’s no doubt football fans are sometimes way too quick to point the finger at a player for not tracking back enough or refusing to close down a player because they feel too fatigued. It’s difficult to maintain high offensive work rates in tandem with electric defensive work rates, especially in the most prestigious leagues across the continent.Let us then take a look at ten individuals who I’m certain you’ve yelled at via your TV screen for not making that potentially decisive run, but who are actually pretty athletic on the field.
#1 Mesut zil
Heralded as Arsenal’s star man so far this season, Mesut Özil pulls the strings in midfield for the Gunners. Snapped up for a fee of £42.5 million back in the summer of 2013, the German maestro has been heavily lambasted for his poor defensive work rate in the past and the general consensus initially dictated that his contribution in the final third failed to live up to the hefty fee paid by the North-London club.
I am in agreement with the majority and believe that he was defensively inept in the earlier stages of his Arsenal career, but lately this has not been the case. Combined with his remarkable tally of 17 league assists this term, the highest this Premier League season, Mesut’s also been influential in Arsenal’s tightening up at the back.
He now tracks back more frequently, providing cover for the likes of Nacho Monreal when deployed on the left flank, while he had covered just shy of 70km after only 7 appearances back at the start of the season.
All in all though, the former-Real man deserves greater credit for the way he has adapted to the intensity of the Premier League over time and he now shows greater ambition to take games by the scruff of their neck like a true world-beater should.
#2 Roberto Soldado
Strikers are especially prone to bone idleness and they are certainly a common denominator on this list. Many believe that a forward’s focus is on scoring goals and so their attention shifts away from any other aspect of the game; Roberto Soldado.
To say his Tottenham tenure was a disaster is an understatement, but since his transition to Villareal, a lot has changed for the Spaniard. He notched just 7 goals in three seasons while in the Premier League and this was thought to be a result of a poor work rate in the final third, but it seems that different factors could have affected the tally.
Soldado has carried out an incredible 48 defensive actions so far this campaign, the third highest of any La Liga forward, including 11 interceptions, 1 blocked shot and 36 clearances. His goal return hasn’t been phenomenal (4 goals in 23 matches) but it is becoming clear it’s not through a lack of trying.
Soldado is no stranger to bulking up the numbers in the box by tracking back and he’s played a big part in stabilising the fourth best defence in La Liga this season. While it’s crucial that forwards are seeing the net bulge on a regular basis, it’s somewhat refreshing to see such an astute defensive contribution from a man up-top.
#3 Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Another addition from the front-line. It’s a bizarre one yes, but some fans do generally deem the sensational Swede lazy and his team spirit especially has often been criticised. In all honesty, if you’ve won 12 league titles in 14 seasons, with an array of different clubs, from Barcelona to Inter Milan, it’s clear that your priorities lay with success and not forming relationships.
Zlatan too has been subject to the stigma surrounding strikers for being lazy, but few match his aggression and eagerness to get on the ball, so how can he possibly be considered even slightly indolent. This campaign with PSG alone, the Swedish frontman has bagged 23 goals in 21 appearances, meanwhile chipping in with 11 assists, the league’s second highest.
Add this to his remarkable 19 clearances made and it’s apparent that anyone thinking Ibra is out for only himself is severely wrong.
PSG operate with quick wide-men from Lucas to Di Maria, while there is also a strong supply line through the middle, so it’s easy to think Ibrahimovic gets an awful lot handed to him on a plate but, in reality, his movement is second to none and he’s the one who’s always made it all the more easier for his fellow teammates to pick a pass.
#4 Yaya Tour
The simultaneously superb but troublesome Yaya Toure is a prominent force in the Manchester City midfield, but his work ethic has frequently come under fire. Whenever City slip up, he’s the first to attract concerns regarding his apparently lethargic, sluggish approach to a match, as well as for his frequent tantrums off the field.
Critics can slam the Ivory Coast international as much as they wish though; the stats will do their best to prove them wrong. On average, Touré covers 10.4km every match, a respectable figure, while he’s managed 30 clearances and 22 interceptions this season alone, as well as having created 32 chances.
So he’s orchestrated success at both ends of the film and still remains a key component through the middle.
Touré’s agility and frequency of sprints may well let him down, but for such a power-orientated, robust figure, these are hardly the figures which count. His cardiovascular fitness is second to none and it’s evident that he is a team player, whatever some say. We shouldn’t forget that the 32-year-old is no spring chicken either.
#5 Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard’s decline has undoubtedly been synonymous with that of Chelsea’s. Rewind to the close of the 2014/15 season and all the statistics were in favour of the Belgian international.
His 335 duels won was the highest in the Premier League that campaign, as was his number of dribbles completed (179) and his number of chances created (101). I open on this point because, quite honestly, how could a ‘lazy’ player achieve that much? Answer: they couldn’t.
As with Özil, Hazard’s defensive play has been disparaged in seasons gone by, with many believing that when a breakdown in play occurs, he chooses to merely stay up the top of the pitch and not dare to aid the defensive party. On the contrary, he had covered an average 9719m per match by April last season and he managed to complete 38 defensive actions that same term, outlining that he was more than willing to track back when needed.
In all fairness, any supposed ‘idleness’ by Hazard this season is down to Chelsea’s poor form, which would have rendered him subconsciously less eager to apply a great deal of effort.
#6 Karim Benzema
When you’re part of a unit as dynamic as Real Madrid, there’s certainly less of a need to cover other individuals, because ‘Galacticos’ tend to be experts in their roles. That said, there’s more expectation of you as a player to work hard and put in a solid shift each and every match.
His playing style has come under scrutiny from José Mourinho especially but the Frenchman hasn’t been phased by the seemingly unanimous opinion of his playing style, quoted as saying, 'To me, to be lazy is not a defect, the only thing that matters are the goals.’ Perhaps this embeds a strand of arrogance but, at the same time, one can sympathise with Karim.
His goal tally hasn’t been poor, nor has his overall effect in the final third. In the last four seasons at the Bernabeu, Benzema has bagged himself 62 goals, while he’s also racked up 32 assists, underpinning how much energy he applies up top and the work ethic he shows, which few are aware of.
#7 Emmanuel Adebayor
For some, seeing Emmanuel Adebayor traverse the entire length of the pitch at the Etihad to taunt an angered group of Arsenal fans was a massive shock, given that the Togo striker seldom got his goals from trademark long-distance, winding runs but more from a close range header or flick inside the box. Yes, Adebayor encapsulates all the qualities of a modern day poacher, but this is perceived by some as simple laziness.
Like the aforementioned Benzema, Adebayor focuses on bumping up his goal tally rather than covering mammoth distances. Now at Crystal Palace, the 32-year-old has scored 166 goals in his career and is certainly no stranger to success but there’s been a tendency to fade in quality towards the end of his spells with different clubs.
Perhaps this is why he’s been dealt so much criticism for his efforts; he starts his tenures with clubs in sharp-shooting form to secure a first-team place, only to diminish as time progresses.
His work rate may not be fantastic from a defensive perspective while he’s not even one to sit back into midfield territory, but he’s certainly shown moments of acceleration and desire up top.