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It always has to be about MarkoÖ


Filed: Sunday, 6th January 2019
By: Paul Walker


Marko Arnautovic crossed a line in the Cup tie win over Birmingham, an inexcusable line of respect for a manager that all footballers will understand.

You donít argue with the manager when you are being substituted. You are part of a team, part of as collective and nobody has that right.

You may well be upset, you may well disagree with the decision. But when it happens to walk off, you shake the hand of the player coming on, you accept the pat off the manager as you go past him. You then sit on the bench and try not to sulk.

Nobody is more important than the team. Nobody has the right to show personal feelings, to give the impression that you are above the laws that professional team sport is played under.

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Thatís what Marko did on Saturday, 20 minutes into a game in which he had already scored. He may have been disappointed, but the rules are you bottle that up and if thereís a need for a man-to-man shouting match afterwards, then that is the time. But even then you sense itís better to let it go, to keep your mouth shut and show a collective responsibility.

Manuel Pellegrini had seen something that made him uneasy. He may have heard some chatter coming off the pitch that Marko may well have hurt his back. Our manager made a decision.

With the state of our striking department, he knew that against Arsenal on Saturday he would need a fully fit, fully charged Marko. No Chicharito, with Andy Carroll still struggling for any sort of form or match fitness, with Lucas Perez just struggling, MP needed to have Marko on song.

He can throw Michail Antonio up front, and the big man would do his best as he has in every unlikely position he has been asked to fill this season. But against Arsenal, he would need Marko.

So he made the correct decision. We were probably going to be able to beat Birmingham in the FA Cup without Arnautovic, so getting him off the pitch was crucial. I donít doubt Marko was confused, but what was not needed was that arm waving, that shrugging, that heated exchange on the touchline.

The problem with Marko is that he can be a drama queen, giving the impression that he is injured, and then happy to indulge the media in a game of íwill be wonít heí be fit for the next match.

Pellegrini, though, is a bigger manager than that. He told Marko, quickly and quietly, why he had made his decision and afterwards played down the whole little drama by saying the player had been angry for "a minute".

He also established a very public level of authority. Pelle has managed Real Madrid, and all their superstars, and Manchester City, where he had his share of characters. I doubt he is over bothered about egos. And maybe Marko was not expecting what happened.

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But he knows now. Nobody is bigger than the club. The problem is that last season, when we were in a real mess, David Moyes decided to move him to central striker, and made him feel hugely important.

The cult grew and it pandered to Markoís ego. He responded to the responsibility, and frankly scored the goals that saved us from the drop. Moyes had cleverly harnessed that level of arrogance to get the best out of the Austrian.

But I always worry about situations when one man is disproportionately allowed so much importance. I prefer team unity and work ethic rather than over-reliance on one man. The old style Wimbledon, the Everton of Moyes, where there were no superstars but immense toil and team spirit.

Even the Manchester United of Alex Ferguson. His teams were full of big players and big personalities. But David Beckham was never more important than Denis Irwin, for example. Fergie was frighteningly quick to deflate players who started to think they were more important than the collective. He was never keen on Paul Inceís Ď GuvínorĎ nickname.

Marko has always been a difficult character to manage. Jose Mourinho gave up on him at Inter Milan, while Stoke City fans were never quite sure which Marko would turn up.

Letís put it this way: If it had been Mark Noble hooked like Marko was on Saturday, do you think we would have seen that exchange with the manager on the line? Donít get me wrong. I am not trying to devalue what Marko has done for us. His goals and assists are amongst the best in the country, but even during last season there was the impression that he was working under different rules to everyone else.

There have been suggestions on twitter - no more than that - that he can be aloof from some members of the squad. Last season I kept seeing the suggestion that it was Marko who would decide whether he was fit to play or not.

I doubt Pellegrini would be over-impressed with that approach. The manager and medical staff make those decisions. As it was on Saturday.

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Pellegrini decided that his top scorer could not be risked if he had even a hint of a back problem, which it seems it not as bad as was first thought. A bit too much primadonna there.

Saturdayís game should have been about the excellent debut of Samir Nasri, who produced a display of neat and controlled midfield possession that was a joy to watch. We do not have a player who can dictate midfield like that, and the main surprise was that he lasted that long after 13 months out.

He genuinely seems grateful to have been given this chance to resurrect his career, and he clearly needs to make an impression if he is to get an extended contract.
He was around the ball all the time, rotating possession, keeping the game moving nicely without any extravagant risks. But then at his peak with Manchester City, he was world class. He did not have the pace in his legs on Saturday, but did more than enough to show he can make our midfield purr.

He clearly fancies a chance to play against his former club Arsenal on Saturday, and there was enough obvious empathy with Arnautovic to suggest this could be a growing partnership.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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