The state of things . The Men’s PFA’s footballer of the year shortlist is in, and it’s another indication that everything in the entire world is completely terrible. I want out. It goes like this: Luis Suarez (controversial because he’s a racist baddie), Juan Mata (loved by all because he is a cutie and a good player with a beard), Robin Van Persie (admired by all because he is greying at the sides), Gareth Bale (a divisive player: do you fancy him for the muscles or think he looks bizarre?), Eden Hazard (whom everyone forgot about after a while) and Michael Carrick, who errr, hold on, wait, Michael Carrick? Player of the Year? The state of things!
The first problem with this list doesn’t exactly involve its individual components. Apart from Michael Carrick. Rather the problem is, if these six players do, collectively, represent the best the Premier League has to offer—and they probably do—then that really does say bad things about the ol’ EPL. Of the six, only one could be defined in any sense as an interesting character, and that is Suarez, because he has been found guilty of racism, has bitten opponents, and has been accused of being the biggest cheats currently playing football, professionally or otherwise. The others are all quite nice, a bit egotistical but not in a fun way, and Michael Carrick. So, the list reminds us that the league is either bland or nasty, take your pick from the worst pick ‘n’ mix selection eva.
The second problem is that Michael Carrick is on the list. I’ve checked again and he definitely is on there. I’m checking again now and he’s still there. Michael Carrick has almost definitely made the list of the six best players in the league. It’s a trick of the light, it must be! No, it’s not, it’s really happened. Blind me now, I don’t want to go on any more seeing this list in my face like that. Get Michael Carrick’s name out of my damn face.
Look, obviously Michael is a really good player, playing in the best team this season, playing a crucial, consistent role in that team’s success as well, and playing some of his best football to date. But Michael Carrick’s best football remains, and this should be made clear, Michael Carrick’s best football. Michael Carrick’s best football will always be Michael Carrick’s best football. He is permanently tied to being Michael Carrick, via being Michael Carrick, for better or worse. And it is for worse. He passes the ball short-to-medium distances, usually to other midfielders, he makes useful interceptions and is very often in the right place at the right time. He’s even upped his tempo a bit this season, I think, which certainly marks out his better seasons. None of these things is high on my list of criteria for best footballer. And if they’re on yours then I don’t like you – cheers, bye.
All of the things that Michael Carrick does are useful for Manchester United, but the deal with deciding who the best footballer is is that it’s not an objective measure, it’s a value judgement which you get to make for yourself. You get to decide for yourself which attributes you value most and ignore the ones you don’t care about. So why oh why would anyone choose to value Michael Carrick’s work the most? Hazard scores spectacular goals, Van Persie does too; Bale’s pace has caused more existential crises than Woody Allen will ever manage; Mata’s hair is springy; Suarez is a bit of an arsehole but he is very good at nutmegs; what has Michael done to make you feel alive? Carrick’s inclusion rings the bell for football as the steady accumulation of points and—the next logical step—capital. Is that what you want?
On an even less fun note, there’s a third problem with the list. Suarez’s inclusion rings the bell for football as lacking a moral compass. The chairman of the PFA defended the inclusion of a player who has been found guilty of racial abuse by the FA with this: “This is a footballing award and Suárez’s footballing ability shines through.” It’s not quite convincing. Because, Peter, a footballing award, for footballers, does also require giving an award to a person. If that person has been found guilty of racism, then you are still giving the award to someone who has been found guilty of racism. The person and the footballer are one, Peter. If it is helpful, consider that it would be odd if my right arm tried to disown my left arm, because they are being run by the same idiot. Suarez apologised to Liverpool for how he acted, but never to Evra, I don’t think this footballer-cum-human being should be rewarded by the PFA.
The league probably likes these controversies and it might well be falling into a trap to run through them. Controversy is surely why Danny Welbeck made the young player list and Rafael didn’t—or, okay Nastasic. But just because a list is designed to provoke you doesn’t mean you’re wrong to be provoked. This season, the list tells you that the league has either been pretty bland or a bit nasty. The state of things! The only consolation is that no defenders or goalkeepers made either the main list or the young players list: one correct value judgement, then, because as we all know defending is innately boring. Michael Carrick? FML.
A note on
The newly introduced Women’s Player of the Year list was also out today. The candidates are: Gemma Davison, Toni Duggan, Jessica Fishlock, Kim Little, Jordan Nobbs, and Jodie Taylor. Not my area of expertise, but I consulted Georgina Turner, who is In The Know. Her opinion was that it will be close between Kim Little and Jess Fishlock. So if you don’t know, now you do know.