Consistency in sport is such an interesting concept – on the one hand, it can be deemed as the sign of a true champion or legend, being able to achieve greatness on so many occasions. On the other hand, football lives so much in the present, and only current success is enough. Why is this though? What makes certain sports different to football in the way we appreciate greatness. I’m no expert in all sports by any means, but I’m a big follower of tennis as well as football, especially during the Major’s. So how do they differ?
I think it’s fair to say that everyone is a huge Roger Federer fan, bar the odd few. His elegance, class on court and successful past mixed with his current efforts in still trying to win majors is what makes him such a legend of the game, probably the greatest ever. We all agonised at the site of him losing in the semi-finals of Wimbledon to an impressive Milos Raonic, as we saw probably his best chance of one last major disappear for the 34 year old.
This legend was applauded off court, being loved by everyone for his brilliance and for his ability to continue to challenge at the highest level. So, why don’t we apply this in football? Why is football so much more judgemental, so much more critical of players and clubs, and so far from appreciating the kind of greatness you don’t get in trophies and medals?
I’ll give some more examples. Barcelona, boasting some of the greatest teams of all time, got knocked out of the Champions League by a hugely impressive Atletico Madrid side. Immediately their style was questioned – whether their players were up to it, whether they were predictable or too one dimensional (despite winning La Liga AGAIN). The same was said about Spain after the Euro’s.
Arsene Wenger could maybe find himself hard done by – I’m not saying he gets everything right – but in a footballing world where there’s money spent on players that his club simply don’t have the funds for, where youngsters progress and development isn’t appreciated in the slightest (in England anyway), and where chairmen have sacked manager after manager looking for better, and better, and better, Wenger still delivers results. With what was a limited budget, and still is to a degree, Wenger has delivered beautiful football, young exciting players, trophies here and there (nowhere near as many as hoped, admittedly), and has given Arsenal Champions League football every year since his arrival, something which no other club in England has matched (this is all whilst moving Arsenal into the new Emirates Stadium).
So why are we so harsh on him? I’m not saying the criticism is wrong. He hasn’t given Arsenal as many trophies as the fans would have liked. He hasn’t always challenged at the top and perhaps he persists with players that don’t belong anywhere near an Arsenal side. He’s not faultless, by any means. But let’s not forget who’s stood in his way. Sir Alex Ferguson has been a huge block for him – perhaps as Nadal was for Federer at the French Open. Mourinho is arguably one of the greatest coaches of all time, and the financial power of Chelsea and Manchester City has meant Wenger missing out on targets he may have snapped up. In this time Wenger still made two Capital One Cup finals, a Champions League final, put in decent title challenges and reached FA Cup semi finals too, winning his most recent finals making Arsenal the joint most successful FA Cup team in England with arguably the greatest club in the country – Manchester United.
What makes Federer so brilliant is that at 34, 10 years past his peak, he still competes and he still makes semi-finals and finals. He’s an absolute, undoubted legend, and sport should look up to him in every way. Success is predominantly about trophies, but maybe if we kept an open mind like tennis fans and players do, we’d be a little more positive about football. Maybe we can appreciate how brilliant Stoke City have been since entering the Premier League, having been a force for 9 years now, hard to beat, and always hungry. Maybe we can cut the Spanish some slack for being ‘predictable’.
Federer tweaked, but he never changed. We should stick to our nature and go with what works for us, because sometimes you don’t know how good you’ve got it until it’s gone. Wenger may be the best thing for Arsenal right now, with a season about to commence with new managers and new players, maybe consistency will be what gives Arsenal an edge.
Ultimately success is based off being the best, but let’s appreciate good achievement when it’s comes about. I believe Federer has one more major in him. I believe Barcelona will be back, stronger and hungrier than ever. And I believe Wenger will show once more why consistency in football is key to any sort of long term success.