Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Arjen Robben's Final Failure

By Shane Thomas

It's morbidly self-indulgent for one to look back over what they have written in the past, but it turned out quite useful in this instance. After the 2010 World Cup final, I wrote of Arjen Robben's performance, "A good performance from the Bayern Munich man, but the bottom line is he missed two great chances that would have given the Netherlands the World Cup. When his chance came to seize the occasion, he choked."
You could transpose the bulk of that evaluation in regards to his display in the Champions League final. It's no secret that Robben is one of football's most sparkling performers, but also one of its most infuriating. His propensity only to play when 100% fit, and his egocentric desire to win games on his own is only tolerated due to the regularity with which he wins games on his own.

Bayern Munich are a club of high expectations, which often brings high egos. At half-time during the semi-final against Real Madrid, teammate Franck Ribery (no shrinking violet himself) became so enraged with Robben's selfish desire to take a free-kick, that the Frenchman (allegedly) punched Robben in the face.

And while an outrageously talented dribbler, Robben is a player who at times seems to be alarmingly lacking in nous - much like the criticism once aimed at Theo Walcott. He often has a simple modus operandi. Dribble down the right-hand side; get to the penalty area; cut inside on left-foot; shoot. Yet while this wasn't working against Chelsea on Saturday, it didn't convince him to try something else, it just hardened his resolve to win the match on his own.

He took 15 shots in Munich, with a third of them being so far off-target, they probably ended up in someone's back garden in Berlin. It got to the near-farcical stage that whenever Robben had the ball, his teammates stopped trying to make themselves available for a pass, because they knew a pass from the Dutchman was never going to come.

And his penalty that could have won the game was - by his own admission - so terrible, you have to wonder if it's worth indulging him if he continues to underperform in the biggest games. Lest we forget, he had a gilt-edged chance in the World Cup final two years ago, and failed to convert it. After failing again in the Allianz Arena... well, the Oscar Wilde quote about losing something twice spring to mind.

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