Thursday, 11 March 2010

Amr can't

In very simple terms, Amr Zaki has, thus far, been a disaster.

This specifically applies to the games he has started for Hull City. There have been only two of them, but he should not have been on the pitch for either.

The Egyptian is evidently a skilful and gifted footballer. There is evidence of this on film and we have seen glimpses - meagre glimpses, but glimpses nonetheless - of these attributes when he has taken to the field as a substitute for the Tigers.

But he did not earn his starting place at either West Ham United or Everton and still hasn't earned one as the shape of the side for this weekend's visit of Arsenal to the KC hovers into sight.

Zaki clearly isn't fit yet. To give a semi-fit striker a lone role up front and expect him to scamper around like Craig Fagan, using the wings and irritating defenders, strikes of real stupidity.

He also seems to have a powerful cheating chromosome in his system which he cannot shake off. This needs sorting urgently. Not just because his wild plunges to the deck make him look foolish, but also because he sometimes does it in situations where he may actually be in a good enough position, on the ball, to benefit from staying on his feet. Football fans aren't happy even with people who cheat to their own team's advantage. They're even less happy when that player happens to be rubbish at it.

The biggest problem caused by Zaki's elevation to the side, however, is the effect it will have on Jozy Altidore. The American scored his long-awaited first Premier League goal in the win over Manchester City, and it was a beauty too. He gave their defence a torrid time, scared the wits out of Chelsea's John Terry a few days before, and then got dropped after the ten-man horror show at Blackburn Rovers which left him isolated. Altidore is evidently a confidence player as he continues to get used to his surroundings. All the self-belief instilled in him after recent performances and that goal will have drained from his system the moment Phil Brown told him he was being jettisoned in favour of someone unfit and untried.

Zaki's rise to the team also meant Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink had to give way. The Dutchman is longer in the tooth and will not be mentally affected by being dropped, but there's little doubt he'd have been annoyed by it, especially as he was genuinely blameless at Blackburn owing to his instant withdrawal for tactical reasons the moment the Tigers were reduced to ten.

The proof, dare we need more of it, that the dreaded 4-5-1 doesn't work is evident from two away games that ended 8-1 on aggregate and in which City were just utterly dire. The Arsenal game is a hiding to nothing anyway, but Brown simply has to restore a 4-4-2 with Altidore playing alongside Vennegoor of Hesselink. There is real mileage in the hope that Altidore can give Sol Campbell as rough a time as he gave Terry and those two Manchester City defenders. And with his pace and Vennegoor of Hesselink's aerial strength, there would be two proper targets for Jimmy Bullard to look for.

Zaki, at best, belongs on the bench. Or in the gymnasium, shifting some weight and gaining some real fitness. And someone really needs to tell him that his brand of simulation just makes his club look weak and dishonest. Right now, there is no place for his type of player in our team.