Antonio Valencia: Nobody knows anything

Someone, naming no names, wrote this about Antonio Valencia in April 2012:

They tell you that football is a game played by eleven, not one, but what is this sport, like the chocolate selection box you feel guilty for constantly treating yourself to, if you haven’t got your favourites? Valencia is the caramel hazelnut.

Things have changed. The caramel hazelnut that tasted so good has mysteriously disappeared; the wrapper*, of some sort of green-y, blue colour, is the same, but the contents are different. Some factory negligence or something.

When you look past the silverware and the guard of honours (i.e the important stuff (also: topical)), your favourites alone can make football worthwhile. It’s soppy, but true. It’s what makes a live game a little more enjoyable and your own sense of nostalgia feel unique and personal. Valencia could have confidently called himself a favourite of many not long ago, but, like life, extended chocolate metaphors and ’90s boybands, things invariably turn ugly. Fine, except it’s happened too soon. Valencia was better when he was one of the favourites. The Rafaels, De Geas and the Welbecks remain the milk ganaches, praline truffles and tangy oranges, but Valencia, this champagne-coffee-coconut-strawberry treat, is no longer among them.

Anything can be made to look better — or worse — when you have something to compare it to. Antonio Valencia has not had a good season. Put it next to the one before that and it’s been close to terrible. And, when you consider the expectation a player of his/at this level carries, ‘close to terrible’ still stands even if you were to completely isolate this season.

What’s more worrying is that it’s difficult to pin down why. For a player to become worse is expected; heck, Valencia is like any other winger, cursed from birth, but from one season to another and by this much? At 27? For such a superior United side? Is Garth Crooks more entertaining than he is thick? To simply put it down to confidence seems lazy, regardless if true, because it’s not really known how much confidence affects a player and then, if so, why it has such an impact. Does it suddenly erase natural ability? It could all just be a coincidence; that instead of having five or six forgettable games like he had last season, he’s had 25 or 26 out of his 30-odd this time around. What about the change of shirt numb- no.

In reality, it might be that United have set up differently in a way that hasn’t favoured the Ecuadorian. Sir Alex Ferguson has been bold with selection and constant with his changes: happy times for the wide-men in this joyful season where, at times, the manager has played just one or none at all (Valencia, though, has made as many league appearances as he had in his award-winning year). But it still doesn’t completely explain Valencia’s profligacy throughout, where, with the ball, he’s stumbled and stuttered (and not in the Valencia way of ’11, where his Garrincha stutter was his chief weapon), been matched by defenders he would usually get the better of and produced balls so unworthy of its homonym in the shadow cabinet. His struggles and the lack of answers for it suggests that football is a game better left alone, where all attempts at analysis are futile. Perhaps he was never that good at footb- no.

It’s hard being hard on Valencia, but ultimately justified. Singling him out makes sense because, one, he’s played the most games of all the wingers, and, two, because his descent is the most surprising.

All of this is less a criticism of the player than it is an expression of disappointment in a season largely lacking in these. It’s what makes you say ‘close to terrible’ instead of just ‘terrible’.

How sad. And, anyway, his best performance? The title-winning game against Aston Villa, perhaps, and in those around it up to the 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Sunday, but there’s little about a slight improvement to be enthusiastic about. There was also Chelsea in a cup replay — where he played at right-back, of course.

___

*Well, the non-bourgeois chocolate selection boxes contain wrapped chocolates.

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6 responses to “Antonio Valencia: Nobody knows anything”

  1. Essigreb says :

    I see the critics are lining up with one being ‘litter’ly better than the other. If you had seen all the games again this season and counted all the times his crosses should have been converred, this article maybe not have been materialized. Valencia has not been as good as last season, but his games against the better teams have all been fruitful. The Chelsea game comes easily to mind. Where I agree with Ferguson is in relentless use of the Ecuadorian – even below par he is a world class player. When he is paired with Jones at the fullback, he is far below par. Against Stoke Jones made one single overlap during the whole game. When playing with Rafael, Valencia is a better player. Jones used at anything but center defender is just a waste of space. A player who is 100% destructive should not have other duties than defend – and there is my biggest conflict with Ferguson.

    Valencia can read. This and other articles roaming about his decline can hardly help him. Lets hope you are a Manchester United fan and stop this nonsence. I wouldnt swap him with any right winger in the world – even if he has below par rhis season

    • Twenny-Four says :

      I’d like us to keep Valencia, I agree there.

      “Valencia can read. This and other articles roaming about his decline can hardly help him.”

      Haven’t seen the others. Also, no, I doubt Valencia has read this or will read. MU24 isn’t quite what you think it, though I’m flattered.

      If you’re really reading, Ant, everything above is an elaborate lie. You’ve been great this season.

  2. Charlie says :

    Valencia may not be a rocketing up the footballing ladder but you imply that he’s been on some sort of downward spiral this season, which is so far from the truth I pity you for the fact you actually spent this much time putting thought into it only to reveal that you clearly have no knowledge of what a good player actually is. Valencia is not a flashy winger with the pace of Walcott or the skills of Neymar or the goals of Ronaldo.

    Antonio is solid, he’s diverse, and he gives 110% every time he plays, all qualities that are installed and developed in United players from the minute they put pen to paper. If he has been so terrible this season, explain to me why he has been in the team for 27 of United’s League games this year and only been on the loosing side 3 times. He is a key part of what United have achieved this season and it’s clear you need to sit down and re-evaluate the criteria upon which you base your judgement of players.

    Being a United fan myself I’m shocked to see such a feeble view of one of the key players in our success this season.

    • Ryan Donovan says :

      He has been on a downward spiral this season. Are you honestly saying that his performances this year have been anywhere near the standard he has set in recent seasons?

      We all know Valencia is not a flashy player – that’s probably precisely the reason he has been adored by United fans. In the past, instead of skills he would provide quality crosses; he used to power-hose his way through defences and, in a robust way, it was exhilarating to watch.

      However, Valencia has been unable to provide that this year. Stats are often overused and can reduce a beautiful game to mere numbers, but sometimes they are worth having a look at. This season, in 27 Premier League games, he has managed one goal and four assists. Last season, he managed four goals and 13 assists in the same amount of games.

      Regardless of the comparison with his stellar campaign last year, his return this year has been pitiful.

      “Antonio is solid, he’s diverse, and he gives 110% every time he plays, all qualities that are installed and developed in United players from the minute they put pen to paper”

      There’s no doubt he’s solid and gives a lot of effort. However, that’s not enough. Alan Smith gave a lot of effort. Diverse? How so? He’s very one-dimensional and that’s been evident this season. However, when he’s playing well that isn’t a problem. No one complained about his lack of a left foot in his first three seasons.

      Now onto your point about if he’s so bad, why does he constantly play. Well, embarrassingly, who else is there? Ashley Young is the definition of mediocre. Nani has looked like he has been on the way out all season. And Danny Welbeck isn’t a natural winger. It’s also worth noting Nani and Young have missed decent chunks of the season through injury.

      And he isn’t the reason United have lost so few games this season. De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Rio, Vidic, Evra, Carrick and Van Persie have been fundamental parts of United’s success this term. Our wingers, in contrast, have played little part.

  3. Twenny-Four says :

    Charlie: “Antonio is solid, he’s diverse, and he gives 110% every time he plays, all qualities that are installed and developed in United players.”

    In what way is being ‘solid’, ‘diverse’ and giving ’110%’ *qualities*? Those aren’t qualities. Those are just air words that sound like something to be admired but don’t actually mean anything. What’s solid for a right-winger? Heck, what’s diverse? (DIVERSE?) And giving 110%; look, I love Valencia, but I can put on the shirt and run on the pitch and try my best – or give 110%. That’s not really much of a plus point. A player that tries and cares is the minimum expectation, and I think it’s not wrong to suggest that everyone tries their hardest on the football pitch.

    “Explain to me why he has been in the team for 27 of United’s League games this year.” Seems like even you can’t do that :)

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