Pace Wins The Race

This week we look at pace…that stunning ability to attack at a speed that so few players possess. Not just the ability to run with speed, but to run at breathtaking speed with the ball at what misleadingly seems like an attitude of reckless abandon, but is actually a strategic intention full of confidence, representing the culmination of a natural talent that the player has developed over many years both technically and physically.

For each of us, some player fitting this description immediately comes to mind. Such a player literally imposes his will on match outcomes with regularity. Such a player frequently causes opposing managers to take heed and develop tactics that must deal with him as an absolute priority.

Paying homage: when I first really, truly, started thinking about the impact of pace on the game, the great Welshman Ryan Giggs emerged at Old Trafford. Young, hungry, and brimming with an attitude that was very direct: “I am here, and I am going to come right at you with everything I have relentlessly. I will not stop throwing attack after attack at you regardless of the outcome of each attempt…I will keep coming at you for 90 minutes with an ambition that will frighten you before I even step on the pitch.”

Here are a few we all admire in today’s game. All of them seem to be blessed with pace, and the ability to both create and score for themselves or for others.

  • Messi: The little man with the big thighs…fearless and at times seemingly unstoppable.
  • Ronaldo: The perfect football specimen….body, skill, quickness, speed…can pass, dribble, score from distance while on the move or from set pieces. Picked up and took off where Giggs left off with absolutely no ceiling in sight.
  • Rooney: Given his size and sheer strength, absolutely phenomenal speed and quickness. Can do it all. Never takes a moment off on the pitch…just keeps going with an almost blissfully ignorant yet wildly childlike spirit that he has clearly learned to utilize to his advantage.
  • Gerard: Long and slender…more graceful as in the mould of Messi and Ronaldo. His elevated pace is obvious every time he carries the ball. His long distance prowess is well-recorded, but his rhythm while dribbling and passing makes it seem so effortless.
  • Ribery: A small piece of iron that can move at will and knows no scarcity of energy. He just keeps going at the opponent with the utmost determined look in his eye…another one that creates and finishes. Absolute guile. Fabregas: We’ve mentioned this before, but his willingness to impose his pace on the game seems to have emerged most consistently this year.
  • And some of the other players… Joe Cole, Lennon, Walcott, Diamanti, Wright-Phillips.

    Weekly Musings

    On The Arsenal: After observing the last few weeks, due credit to all those we have criticized in past weeks…Bendtner, Eboue, Walcott, Denilson, Alumunia. When a footballer is in form, his confidence, aggressiveness and determination are absolutely instinctive. And naturally, hail to the Professor.

    On Benitez, looks like everyone agrees it comes down to the ability of a golden parachute to open. He moves on when he moves on.

    The race for fourth, by the way, remains as intriguing as ever…will come down to the last day of the season.

    We’ve saluted him before…and we do it again…Roy Hodgson…wonderful results at Fulham. The calm demeanour of an elder statesman. The same winning soul full of the same grace and class when he began decades ago. How could anyone protest him serving as England Manager.

    World Cup…just 3 months away!

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