When football pundits discuss Carlos Tevez, they often talk about his “work rate” and his “eye for the ball.” At times, though, the words “work rate” can morph into a backhanded compliment — as if those pundits are really saying, “He’s rubbish as a goal scorer, but boy, he sure works hard, doesn’t he?”
Indeed, Tevez has only two goals in league play this season, and he has expressed his frustration over his sudden inability to finish. His infamous work rate, however, might be the primary reason Manchester City was able to score twice in the second half at Anfield today.
Until Tevez replaced Gareth Barry at the hour mark, Man City’s attack looked listless and idea-free against Liverpool. Instead of working the ball through the midfield, City seemed content merely to bomb the ball forward to Emmanuel Adebayor and hope he could do something with it — a strategy that Liverpool could defend easily. Tevez’s entry into the game, however, seemed to give his teammates a boost, allowing City to poke some holes in Liverpool’s beleaguered back line. In fact, it was Tevez’s to win the ball near goal that set up Shaun Wright-Phillips’ pass to Stephen Ireland, who put City ahead 2-1 in the 76th minute.
City’s defending ultimately let them down in the end, and Yossi Benayoun’s equalizer just a moment later forced both sides to settle for a 2-2 draw. Still, Tevez proved today that there is much value in that “work rate” of his. Perhaps he needs to be more accepting of this role in City’s attack. Perhaps the glory of the goals he scored three years ago to save West Ham from relegation made him forget his biggest strength — winning and holding the ball up front and setting up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
There is much value in a point forward. Mark Hughes would do well to remind Tevez of this. Hughes has a great collection of players at City, but he has yet to mold those players into a team with a distinct identity. Convincing Tevez to embrace the role of set-up man might help City take that first step toward becoming that team.