by Daisy Cutter
Shoehorning philosophy into football can be a clunky fit but certainly right now Manchester City are experiencing a crisis or two that would greatly amuse the chin-strokers from the ages.
Floating here, there and nowhere we have existentialism writ large in the form of Samir Nasri. The Frenchman exists but appears to have no purpose. He is the human personification of being and nothingness.
Is he there to create? The last occasion Nasri beat a man or threaded through a defence-splitting pass Scotland were still at the ‘it’s complicated’ stage with England.
Is he there to recycle the ball in attacking areas? Within a team built around quick, nimble possession his propensity to slow things up with an extra touch or five is infuriating and is precisely the opposite of what is desired. So too is his habit of seeking out a safe pass to a full-back cornered on the touchline.
To best explain my problem with Samir here’s an existential joke that can easily be changed to suit –
Jean-Paul Satre visits a café and asks the waitress “I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream.” The waitress replies, “I’m sorry, Monsieur, but we’re out of cream. How about with no milk?”
Continuing on the philosophy tip what we witnessed from Yaya Toure in Munich last evening was nihilism pure and simple. God is dead. God remains dead. And apparently we killed him through lack of birthday bumps and the absence of cake.
There have been no-shows from Toure before – the fearsome beast curled up in metaphorical slippers and PJs watching the game evolve around him, a spectator like you or I – but all have been excusable for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, every player is afforded an off-day, whether it’s due to nursing a slight muscle pull, distracted by personal matters, struggling with the demands of international commitments, or simply through a quirk of form.
Secondly, his languid style deceives. Even in imperious form he appears almost disinterested for the most part so this notion is understandably exaggerated when the surging runs are awol.
Last night however his appearance at the Allianz – I will refrain from calling it a performance – went beyond the realms of exoneration and bordered an outright disgrace. I would go so far as to deem it unprofessional.
He was a passenger too bored to even enquire if we’re there yet and his quarter-hearted trots around the centre-circle forced Ferandinho to do the work of two men in a fixture that required three in there.
In a Champions League clash between the English and German title-holders it was surprising to see master craftsmen in Lahm and Alonso given so much time and space to carve out their work. That surprise became anger when the duo soon realised there was no need to probe from deep, that the usually formidable figure of the Ivorian before them was nothing more than a glorified training cone who could be stepped past with the barest of effort.
It was a ‘shift’ so lacking in basic application as to provoke genuine ire and though this was by far his most glaring hour and a half stroll it was by no means his first this term.
It was a summer of pragmatism for City, with the achieved aims of tying down Kompany, Silva and Aguero to new contracts and purchasing astute additions to an already strong squad. So it was that ‘Cake-gate’ – the almighty strop at a perceived lack of respect following Toure’s birthday – was viewed in that context almost as a comedy subplot.
Who can blame us and indeed the club for that? It was a development so utterly bizarre as to merit only perplexed scorn.
Yet such is Toure’s lacklustre displays so far this season it is becoming increasingly clear that the darkly comic relief that cut through the serious business has moved to beneath the spotlights centre stage.
This is no mere sulk from the big man and it is my assertion that Yaya Toure is engineering the move he was denied by putting in a series of piss-poor 90 minutes.
I do not write that lightly and can hear my knee jerking as I do so. But I believe it all the same.
Toure’s ego is as colossal as his talent and frame. He matters. City do not.
The club stared down the player and his agent this summer. Now they must address his nihilism before it is their undoing.
A disaffected talent is one thing – we’ve been there before and weathered the storm – but an integral part of the masterplan effectively going on hunger strike is quite another. It has become a matter of grave concern and City cannot afford to be philosophical about it.