Vinicius and the role of the ball-hog
Watching Vinicius in action at Son Moix on Saturday reminded me (as have other performances from the Brazilian) of the old figure of a ball-hogger who were so abundant in the 70s and start of the 1980s. The modern game has become more scientific with all major clubs now possessing a department who study the science of the game with the assistance of artificial intelligence. The role of a player trying to dribble past the entire opposition I thought had disappeared until I watched Vinicius in action with the Brazilian incurring the wrath of of both Jovic and Benzema for failing to pass on Saturday. The problem with a ball-hogger is when the move breaks down, it breaks down badly.
When I started to analysis the game of football in greater detail, Amancio broke through at Real Madrid. He played on the wing and every time he received the ball, he would, without fail try and take on the defender, and then another and then another... “Ball-hog!”, they used to yell at him and when he lost possession there was a massive groan: "He always tried to beat one man too many!”. But there were times when his work would lead to a goal or he would deliver a killer pass and then the reaction was one of joy. This is the way Amancio endeared himself to the Santiago Bernabéu crowd. The problem however with Vinicius is that when he beats a few men he fails to see the ideal pass or ends up blazing the ball into row Z of the stand.
Back in the day, every team had a 'ball-hogger' in the side and it was felt that they held the key to unlock opposition defensive walls. The role was almost exclusively held for wingers with the likes of Juanito, Onésimo, Ortuondo or Juanele being perfect examples. Occasionally the role would fall to a central player with the likes of Solsona or Villa fitting the bill. These were always highly talented individuals who always stood by their way of playing the game irrespective of how impatient fans would become with their brand of football. Those who prospered playing this saw their career move forward but there were lost causes as was the case with Ito. This "old school revival" style of playing the game that we're witnessing with Vinicius (and that somewhat floundered when executed by Deulofeu), will only prosper if the player acquires that final flourish that at present is lacking in his game. I'm not sure if his style is compatible with the modern game or that Zidane will have the patentice with his brand of playing.
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