Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe Myth of Appearance: How Premier League Stars Are Judged On Their Looks - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The Myth of Appearance: How Premier League Stars Are Judged On Their Looks - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The Myth of Appearance: How Premier League Stars Are Judged On Their Looks

First off, just let me nip this in the bud: this isn’t a passionate article about how, say, Martin Skrtel is a beautiful person, whose loveliness is all the more lovely if you look far enough beyond his brutish exterior.

No, this article was born at some point during Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Bolton at the weekend, after David Luiz’s majestic opener sent Chelsea on their way to one of those wins you know that even a team undergoing a severe crisis will pick up, because no team in the world loses every single game they play, no matter how poor their form.

At some point during the match, it struck me just how much the goal will have meant to a player who was heralded as a tremendous acquisition when he first arrived in English football. A player who could easily have gone to Manchester City or Real Madrid the summer before he packed his bags for London. A player with a funny haircut.

Yes, David Luiz is almost universally acknowledged to be a ‘comical’ central defender because his frizzy coiffure makes him look like a Simpsons character. Luiz has struggled for form in what has been a testing time for Chelsea’s entire defence and, yes, he has made individual mistakes amid the collective lapse. But would his mistakes have been magnified to the extent that they have been by the British press had a 14-stone, shaven-headed Englishman with big thighs and a bad attitude made them?

David Luiz is a classic case of football fans imposing an obvious collective pre-disposition on their own opinions of how a player plays. Let me re-phrase my question: how awe-inspiring (and downright surreal) if said 14-stone Englishman skipped out of defence with the ball, Beckenbauer-style, slipped past two players, did a cheeky one-two and charged down the wing with the ball? Yet if Luiz does it, it’s to a quiet cacophony of half-baked opinions, the general consensus being “well, he can’t defend but, y’know, he’s a talented footballer. Bit eccentric. Foreign.”.

The fact is, Luiz was bought for his defending. At Benfica, whilst his obvious ability with the ball was acknowledged, he was admired as a central defender because of his tackling, aggressive marking style, aerial ability and reading of the game. Whilst his central defensive partner, Luisao, was an experienced defender lacking in pace but full of experience, Luiz was able to defend aggressively, high up the pitch, with his Brazilian countryman mopping up behind him. At Chelsea, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic defend in much the same way as Luiz, leaving a gaping hole, which was filled comfortably by the more conservative Gary Cahill last weekend. But then, it’s much easier to look at someone’s hair than their career.

Luiz isn’t the only example, however, so I’ve decided to come up with a list of footballers whose looks have defined the way they are perceived in the Premier League:

Yaya Toure – Though Manchester City’s title challenge has thrust him into the limelight a little more, the perennially under-rated Ivorian is one of the most intelligent users of the ball in the game, with a deceptively delicate touch and an Ozil-like ability to patiently wait for an attack to unfold before releasing the right pass. Rather than the skilful and spontaneous Silva, it is the reliable Toure who sets Man City’s tempo in a game. But he is tall and well-built and, let’s be honest, shares an obvious trait with the greatest ‘destroyers’ in the recent history of the Premier League: he’s black (think Vieira, Makelele, Essien, Song, Diarra, Mikel etc).

The amount of comments I have read and heard from British pundits alluding to Toure’s defensive performances when he’s been deployed in an advanced midfield role is astounding. If he were a squat Argentinian with an ‘80s hairdo he would be lauded as the finest playmaker in the Premier League, but the fact that he’s more reminiscent of Patrick Vieira makes him one of the most misunderstood players in the public consciousness.

Mikel Arteta

Going in the opposite direction, we have the supposed replacement for Cesc Fabregas. While Arteta is excellent on the ball, there seems to be the impression that his style is rather more creative than it actually is; Arteta is really the epitome of the newer breed of English midfielders – more comfortable on the ball than those of previous generations but still essentially an all-round box-to-box player who could reasonably play anywhere in midfield.

Peter Crouch

The obvious one. aside from the ‘good feet for such a big lad’ joke and his renowned inability to head the ball, Crouch is actually criticised a lot for his supposed physical weakness. English football fans like their strikers tall, but not lanky; Crouch may be a beanpole, but he actually wins a lot of balls in the air. His poor heading ability is a much more realistic point of criticism than any physical incapacity.

Marouane Fellaini

Non-Everton fans unaware of his disciplinary record continually assume he must be some sort of “foreign fancy dan” because of his hair, name and build. Nothing could be further than the truth….

Can you think of a player who is misunderstood because of his appearance?

 Augusto Neto

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