Monday, 6 March 2017

Body language and modern football: Sanchez and Arsenal no longer hand in glove

Perhaps football clubs should now employ body language experts as well as sports psychologists. Alexis Sanchez is rumoured to have had a training ground row with his Arsenal teammates, resulting in his demotion to the bench against Liverpool. The Chilean's apparent discontent was first identified during glove-gate at Bournemouth. Despite the Gunners recovering from a 0-3 deficit to draw 3-3, at the final whistle Sanchez was spotted throwing his gloves to the ground in the manner of a 'terrible twos' tantrum. 

Short of ripping up a snood in the noughties you couldn't hope for a better display of modern footballing stroppiness. The Sun reported that he was also seen 'waving his arms and shouting to himself' and stormed off down the tunnel looking a bit cross. The Guardian wrote that after being subbed at Swansea Sanchez was seen to "trudge off head down, and sit sulkily without acknowledging his manager." He then pulled a coat hood over his head and hid. And now he's been caught possibly sniggering behind his hand after being subbed in the 5-1 home humiliation by Bayern Munich.

These days footballers' body language is examined with the assiduity we used to apply to Hollywood divas. Every Diego Costa scowl or bib toss is analysed. In 2015 West Brom's Saido Berahino was accused of not smiling when he scored a hat-trick against Gateshead in the FA Cup. While West Ham's Dimitri Payet was also accused of not celebrating by some fans when West Ham equalised against Man United in a League Cup tie this season. 

Call me old-fashioned, but couldn't we have a return to the more traditional body language of footballers? When Eric Cantona was upset by a red card you didn't have to analyse what he did with his collar — he simply kicked a Crystal Palace supporter in the head. West Ham's Paulo Di Canio made rotating signals with his arms suggesting that Harry Redknapp substitute him when he was denied a third penalty appeal against Bradford in 2000. Kevin  Keegan and Billy Bremner ostentatiously threw their shirts to the ground after being sent off in the 1974 Charity Shield. No mistaking how they felt there.

While if Wimbledon's Vinnie Jones was feeling a little nervous he launched himself like an Inter City 125 at Liverpool's Steve McMahon in the 1988 FA Cup Final. If he was feeling a bit more playful he just grabbed Gazza by the testicles.

These days Match of the Day 2 is left analysing facial tics and glove-hurling. Don't mess around with gloves Alexis. If you feel upset with one of your team-mates go at it like team-mates Lee Bowyer and Keiron Dyer did during their infamous Newcastle bundle of 2005 — the sort of body language no-one could misinterpret.

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