In Defense of Leighton Baines

Clive Brunskill

Sometimes you run across an article that leaves you confounded by sheer nonsense. Normally these articles are designed to grab attention and spark debate. Rarely is the position nuanced, instead it is designed to get page views and stoke the writer's ego. Sadly Unibet decided they needed one of these articles about how Leighton Baines would fit in at Manchester United. The problem is that this is not a well researched article, instead it reeks of something written by a cricket fan who turns up at the football pitch without a clue. I really shouldn't get upset, but the amount of discussion around this article is an utter joke, and it boggles my mind that it got published. If you missed the article, Google "Leighton Baines Unibet" and you will find it.

The first point I will take a sharpened stick to is pace. The author says, "Leighton Baines, however, has next to no pace. For all intents and purposes, Leighton Baines is a reasonably athletic cow. He cannot make any great contribution to a counter attack." I just don't understand how this can even be spoken. Baines actually has pace which the author would know if he bothered to watch a football match. To be successful on the wing you have to at least be an athletic goat, not a cow.

But for some true evidence let's look at one of Everton's games against Tottenham. Baines had to defend Spurs winger Aaron Lennon who is a pretty spry fellow, and Baines did well. Was he perfect? No, but he was able to keep up reasonably well which is all you can ask. Baines also did pretty well defending against Gareth Bale when the Welshman decided to gallivant down Spurs' right flank.

Not convinced? Let's look at Baines on the counter. Everton is not a club where the manager can just grab a play maker off the bench when he needs a spark. Against the bigger clubs it can be better to play a style where the Toffees absorb pressure and then hit on the counter. In almost all of those matches Baines is still getting forward consistently. Yes, he isn't always leading the attack, but he is a fullback. He has defensive responsibilities first, once those are done then he can join in the attack and he always does.

Now we will mosey on down to a beautiful statement that makes everyone just laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. Here the author goes on to talk about Baines crossing ability and says, "He can, though, cross. Which is good if you are a boring, archaic side that indulges in the methodical 4-4-2."

I will stay here and wait while you go throw a book out your window. Go ahead and vent at the moronic nature of that statement.

Good? OK, even the most casual football fan should know that Everton played a 4-5-1 under David Moyes. Some might call it a 4-4-1-1, but maybe 10 times during David Moyes' tenure at Goodison did he trot out a 4-4-2. I'm not sure I've even heard a TV broadcaster mistake Everton's formation for a 4-4-2 and they normally get these things wrong.

There are also complaints that Baines is one of the quiet types unlike Mr. Evra. Baines puts his head down and goes to work whereas Evra has no issues creating a stir in the press by calling out players both on and off the pitch. Apparently someone has forgotten the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Both are well known names in football, but both also put in hard shifts each week and then went home. They didn't try to cause controversy and yet they are still legends at Old Trafford. Creating a stir has its place, but it isn't required for a team to be successful.

To end things, let's look at another gem. Mr. Netherton, the author, says that Leighton Baines is nothing amazing like Bayern Munich's David Alaba or Barcelona's Jordi Alba. My question is who else would be better at left back? If you look at the position in Europe, and even the world Those 3 men are probably the best left backs you can find. There isn't a glut of world-class left backs like there is central midfielders. Hell for the US National Team there has been an ongoing search for a quality left-back for the past decade. It is arguably the hardest field position to play because the left-back faces the strongest flank of most clubs.

There are plenty of questions about if Manchester United would be a good fit for Leighton Baines including his age and the purchase price. The problem is that none of the above issues are really problems, especially when the research sounds like something Harry Redknapp did between bites of his bacon sandwich. Maybe next time Unibet will bother to do some Google searching before writing an article that involves common sense facts.

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