Ramos backs Casillas as Bernabeu boo boys round on ‘keeper

Andy West 18/09/2014
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Club legend: Iker Casillas' recent performances have made many fans forget about his more memorable ones over the years.

Sergio Ramos has called for the Bernabeu boo-boys to lay off goalkeeper Iker Casillas, saying he cannot understand why any Real Madrid fan would want to jeer such an important player in the club’s history.

Casillas was whistled throughout his team’s last two games – Saturday’s derby defeat against Atletico and Tuesday’s Champions League thrashing of Basel – by a section of fans who want to see summer signing Keylor Navas elevated into the first team.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti has already expressed his dissatisfaction with the debate over Casillas’ role in the team, and now Ramos given his support.

“Fans are the ones who judge us and we have to respect that,” said the centre back.

“But as a Madrid fan and a teammate of Iker’s, I would be incapable of whistling him due to his career, his identity and everything he stands for.

“I will not get into a debate. That would be stupid. Iker can live with it and he knows that he can’t please everybody, but he is not a robot and the whistles affect him.”

Ramos also asked fans to improve their levels of support for the team as a whole, noting: “People should understand that we like to play in a comfortable and supportive environment.”

Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid striker Mario Mandzukic will undergo surgery on his broken nose, sustained during their 3-2 defeat by Olympiakos.

Mandzukic will almost certainly miss Saturday’s La Liga encounter with Celta Vigo and could be out for two weeks.

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Infographic: Match stats from Bayern Munich 2-0 Manchester City

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A recurring fixture in the last couple of years of Champions League football, Bayern Munich hosted Manchester City at the Allianz Arena last night.

The home side secured a late win over the English side thanks to former City defender Jerome Boateng's strike.

Here are all the statistics from the match.

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Sport360° view: Ozil must play central Arsenal role

James Piercy 18/09/2014
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Wide load: Arsenal's most expensive player has been played out on the wing more often than not.

As a returning World Cup hero, you’d have thought they would perhaps cut Mesut Ozil a bit of slack.

But then Germany haven’t got to where they are in world football through sentimentality.

Bild graded him a 6 – their worst possible rating on a scale of 1-6, from “Weltklasse” (world class) to “Hat Das Geld nicht Verdient” (didn’t earn his money’).

Die Welt were more witty with their assessment: “At least Mesut Ozil was able to record an assist but still, it didn’t happen on the pitch but on the bench – as Ozil lent team-mate Lukas Podolski his shin pads.”

Tuesday night’s anonymous performance against Borussia Dortmund was arguably Ozil’s worst of his 44 games for the Gunners. And while he can be, by nature, “that type of player”, his nondescript displays are becoming the rule, rather than the exception, as he drifts into Fernando Torres-like territory as the Premier League’s next great white elephant.

In the 62 minutes he was on the field, he touched the ball just 33 times and attempted 23 passes. To add context, his replacement Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who played the subsequent 28 minutes, had 23 touches with 15 passes attempts.

Champions League ties against opposition of the quality of Dortmund is precisely why Wenger purchased Ozil, and are the occasions when the manager needs his star acquisition the most. But an issue that reared its head around February, as Ozil’s fantastic early-season form flickered and died, has now resurfaced and he is looking even more detached from his best.

Two aspects of the German are becoming very clear: Ozil has never been and is incapable of subscribing to the image of a talismanic figure supporters crave, capable of brilliance amid collective mediocrity, and Wenger is also not getting the best out of him.

Mentally, this is the first time he’s been expected to be the main man.

At Schalke and then Werder Bremen, he was very much the enigmatic young and up-and-comer who, just as he began to establish himself, was earning international honours, starring at a World Cup and transferring to Real Madrid.

That’s not to say he shied away from responsibility, but at the Bernabeu he was shielded by the focus being, in an attacking sense, on Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and even Gonzalo Higuain. In the list of star names he came well down the pecking order.

Of course, no club’s supporters subject their players to such scrutiny as Madridistas but his position in the Arsenal dressing room in a symbolic sense, is very different.

Whether it be his fee, or Wenger’s own legendary bloody-mindedness, the Arsenal manager’s compulsion to shoehorn him into every team is also beginning to be counter-productive.

Of his 44 games for Arsenal, one has been off the bench. When he’s fit, he starts.

In four appearances this season, three – including Tuesday night – have been on the left of midfield and one on the right. None in his best position as a centralised No10.

What this has done is exposed Ozil’s poor defensive attributes and loose workrate. But then you’d be bemoaning Per Mertesacker’s poor vision and touch if you stuck him in centre midfield.

It’s an extreme example, but Ozil is simply not suited to such a role. He is among the best playmakers in the world who makes and creates space for others. To do this he needs the very abilities he lacks in his team-mates around him, something that once again highlights Wenger’s bizarre negligence in not signing a defensive midfielder.

On the occasions he has played wider – mainly for Germany – it’s been in a 4-3-3, not the 4-1-4-1 formation Wenger has adopted in an attempt to accommodate all his midfielders in their different guises.

The same logic, incidentally, can also be applied to Alexis Sanchez.

As the club’s record signing, it will always open Ozil up to greater criticism, and that’s just something he’ll have to deal with, but his continual status as scapegoat for Arsenal’s inherent failings remains grossly unfair.

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