x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

When the chips are down

Kieron Dyer's luck hit rock-bottom on Saturday when even his attempts to substitute himself failed, says Paul Radley

West Ham’s Kieron Dyer, top, has played just over 20 games in four years at Upton Park. Paul Hackett / Reuters
West Ham’s Kieron Dyer, top, has played just over 20 games in four years at Upton Park. Paul Hackett / Reuters

Worst low profile: Attwell 

An anonymous referee is a good referee. As the men themselves like to say, if a referee opens the newspaper the morning after a match and cannot find his name mentioned in the report, it is mission accomplished. 

In which case, Stuart Attwell is struggling. The poor guy probably hoped his career claim to fame would be the fact he was the youngest referee to officiate in the Premier League. But starting young actually just gave him more time to rack up the controversies.

You know they are bad when the incidents themselves are actually given their own titles. First there was the "Phantom Goal" which he inexplicably allowed Reading against Watford in 2008. The Reading players had originally hoped for a corner. They got an unexpected bonus when they were granted a goal for a shot that went a good four yards wide. Now there is Dirk Kuyt's gimme for Liverpool against Sunderland on Saturday, which the commentators immediately dubbed the "Clearance Goal".

In the first half at Anfield, Michael Turner, the Sunderland defender, knocked the ball towards his goalkeeper to take a free-kick. Attwell deemed Turner's delicate back-heel to have made the ball active, and hence allowed Fernando Torres to steal in and feed Kuyt to score. 

Best irony: Man City fans 

According to one particularly voluble chant when he entered the fray on Saturday, the Manchester City fans believe Daniel Sturridge's decision to leave them for Chelsea last year was motivated by greed.

What an ungrateful scallywag he was, jumping ship from the club who gave him his start in football in order to seek the best pay deal he could find. Oh, what delicious irony. Where do they think all their own players came from? Carlos Tevez must have left Manchester United on the basis that he wanted to win things, then. Yaya Toure probably did not think his former teammates at Barcelona knocked the ball around well enough, hence his move to City.

Things just were not happening for Joleon Lescott at Everton, so he needed to switch to Eastlands. And Gareth Barry's decision to relocate from the Midlands when he left Aston Villa, the club who raised him, was probably motivated by a desire for improved scenery or better weather. 

Money never entered their thinking. Ever. 

Worst goalkeeping: Almunia 

Having resisted the urge to recruit a world-class goalkeeper during the summer transfer window, Arsene Wenger's penny-pinching came back to haunt him on Saturday.

Manuel Almunia, the error-prone Gunners stopper, endured a miserable afternoon at the Emirates Stadium, the Spaniard making a catalogue of mistakes in Arsenal's shock 3-2 defeat to West Bromwich Albion, which ended their unbeaten start to the season. In the first-half, Almunia brought down Peter Odemwingie, Albion's speedy forward, to concede a penalty. He saved Chris Brunt's tame spot kick, but that was only the start of the drama.

After Odemwingie had put the visitors ahead, Almunia inexcusably allowed Gonzalo Jara's near-post effort to double the lead. The Spaniard's indecision, as Brunt surged in to the area, left him stranded - and the net unguarded - as Jerome Thomas, a former Gunner, put West Brom 3-0 up. 

Best Goal: Nani 

Last season they shared starting duties on the right of Manchester United's midfield; this year they will not. Antonio Valencia's horrific injury - suffered against Glasgow Rangers in the Champions League - has significantly cranked up the pressure on Nani to deliver.

Superlatively talented but frustratingly inconsistent, Nani's equaliser against Bolton Wanderers was a statement that he is ready to shoulder the burden of increased responsibility. There appeared little danger when the Portuguese winger latched on to a knock-down from Wayne Rooney just inside his own half, but Nani had other ideas. Surging away from Stuart Holden in midfield, Nani raced towards the Bolton area, sold Zat Knight a dummy, jinked inside the defender and, evading a last-ditch attempt by Michael Ricketts to intervene, drilled a venomous daisy-cutter into the bottom corner.

Worst waste of talent: Dyer 

It comes to something when a player is so down on his luck he tries to substitute himself. So it was for Kieron Dyer on Saturday, as he attempted to walk off the field against Tottenham Hotspur with four minutes to go before half time, only to be told decisions like that have to be made by his West Ham United manager, Avram Grant. When he did leave the field shortly after, he went for an apologetic handshake with his manager - but Grant left him hanging, preferring to pat him on the head instead. It was all going wrong.

The former England winger, once one of the most highly-rated players in English football, has played just over 20 games in four years at West Ham, and is now facing another spell on the sidelines. Premier League footballers, Dyer in particular, are not that easy to feel sorry for. But what a player he could have been had injuries not intervened.

pradley@thenational.ae 

With additional reporting from Euan Megson