Football Phraseology

Despite having a slight pop at footballing clichés last week, I really do love the game’s lingo.

For instance, the official Premier League website describes Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud as having a ‘cultured left foot.’ Isn’t that brilliant? I’d love to imagine the Frenchman’s pied gauche as being adept to pirouetting its way down the wing. If only it weren’t for his clumsy right hoof, the gallic gooner could have enjoyed a career in the ballet, playing Swan Lake instead of Swansea City…

Amid transfer gossip, Andy Carroll is consistently referred to as a ‘traditional English centre-forward.’ If the definition of such is one who is a strong, powerful bench-warmer with a paltry goals-to-game ratio of 1:5, then it is little wonder the Three Lions have endured 46 years of hurt.

It amazes me how the game forever evolves and pros create new positions for themselves. In the mid-nineties Liverpool’s Steve McManaman seemingly discovered ‘the hole‘, a no-man’s-land where he would roam freely, linking attacks. Commonly referred to today as the ‘No.10 role‘ (despite Macca wearing No.17 back in the day.)

In the mid-to-late 90’s it was also popular for Premiership clubs to experiment with ‘wing-backs‘- a hybrid post requiring one to bomb-on and get forward, before racing back to defend. I have a vivid childhood memory of a confused Jason McAteer announcing he was a “wing-back… apparently,” before Liverpool’s ’96 cup final defeat to Man Utd. Wing-backs fell out of fashion as the new millennium dawned, roughly around the same time as Liverpool realised Jason McAteer wasn’t Roberto Carlos.

If only Claude Makélélé could claim a royalty for every time ‘the Makélélé role‘ has been has referenced in the past decade. It must be the ultimate compliment for the now-retired defensive midfielder to have the position universally named after him. Hopefully, the former Chelsea star will continue to be remembered for his prowess on the pitch and not for allegedly punching his ex-girlfriend; sentencing is next month and the term ‘Makélélé on parole’ would somewhat tarnish his reputation.

Before Claude, Didier Deschamps was the combative anchorman of France. Yet, in 1996, he was famously dismissed as being nothing more than a ‘water-carrier‘ by Eric Cantona. Deschamps, however, went on to captain les bleus to both World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000 glory, proving every team needs its water-carriers to balance defence and midfield. (Not to literally carry their water. Most sportsmen prefer glucose-based energy drinks, anyway. Bottled water isn’t all it’s cracked-up to be. Deschamps will be the first to tell you that ‘evian’ spelt backwards is ‘naive.’)

And so to the ‘cultured midfielder.’ Opinion seems split as to what the term actually means. Some suggest a cultured midfielder is well-travelled and has excelled in top leagues across the continent- think Zinedine Zidane. Many suggest he is composed on the ball with a good range of passing- think Paul Scholes. Others quip he enjoys classy trips to the opera- think Andrea Pirlo (probably).

I’d say cultured midfielders are smooth operators, always one step ahead, almost turning the game into an art form- think Zidane/Scholes/Pirlo. They are the fine wines of the footballing world. also defines ‘cultured’ as ‘enlightened; refined’ … Much like this blog 😉

Fell free to comment with your fave football phrases.


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