5 Great Players Who Had 1 Glaring Weakness in Their Game

Every player has certain flaws but a lot of the game’s greats might only slightly dip from their normal calibre in several areas, while never clearly being bad at one in particular. 

But then there are some whose illusion of perfection is shattered when an uncharacteristically lacking aspect of their game is highlighted. Like a child missing the day of school when telling the time was taught and breaking out into a cold sweat whenever faced with an analogue clock.  

Despite these players’ unquestionable status as fantastic footballers, it’s both odd and reassuring that even those who can make the game look so effortless do have one glaring flaw. 

Thierry Henry – Heading

Arsenal's forward Thierry Henry of Franc

A scorer of great goals? Unquestionably. A great goalscorer? Of course. Any good with his head? Err…

Of Thierry Henry’s 175 ​Premier League goals just six were headers. And while he notably scored a 94th minute winner  against Manchester United in 2007 with his head, the fact that this moment stands out is because seeing Henry convert a header was such a rare occurrence.

In fact, earlier in that same match the Frenchman had delivered a much more familiar outcome when tasked with heading the ball goalward. Namely, limply nodding it directly into the keeper’s hands as his 33rd minute effort barely forced Edwin van der Sar into a dive.

When you’re a player so elegant and graceful that you can pull off a catchphrase as laughable as ‘va va voom’, being below average at heading hardly undermines what was a stellar career. 

Gonzalo Higuaín – Finals

Gonzalo Higuain

Higuaín suffers a reputation unbefitting of a striker who has averaged roughly a goal every other game across Argentina, Spain and Italy (let’s brush that misadventure at Chelsea under the carpet). 

Unfortunately, the man who opponents (and sometimes brutal home fans) cruelly taunt with the moniker ‘Piguaín’, is perhaps most closely associated with occasions in which he fails to find the net. 

While the Argentinian can point to goals in the Spanish and Italian Super Cups (which are technically finals but other than José Mourinho, who counts those?) ​Higuaín has mustered a trio of utterly woeful performances in showpiece matches for his national side. 

In the space of two years Argentina reached the final of the World Cup and two editions of the Copa América. Higuaín not only failed to score in each but missed presentable opportunities he may have converted on a lesser stage and a penalty in the shoot-out of the 2015 continental competition. 

Petr Čech – Penalties

Sergio Aguero,Petr Cech

One of the ​greatest goalkeepers of the modern era made countless, miraculous saves from point-blank range but was surprisingly poor when facing efforts from 12 yards.  

Čech enjoyed a mixed record in penalty shoot-outs – experiencing both outcomes in two Champions League finals four years apart – but was more than underwhelming when facing spot-kicks in the Premier League.

The former Chelsea and ​Arsenal keeper had a below average save-rate and endured a horrific run in the second half of his career. 

In a period which lasted more than seven years, Čech failed to save a single spot-kick in the Premier League – seeing no less than 19 efforts whip past him before he finally ended the drought in 2018 against Troy Deeney. 

Yet, incredibly, on his ​ice hockey debut, one of the more interesting post-football careers, Čech saved not one but two penalties to win the match.  

Paul Scholes – Tackling

Roma's midfieldder Rodrigo Taddei of Bra...

There are several misconceptions surrounding Paul Scholes’ playing career: the notion that he was exclusively shunted out on the left for England or that he spent his entire career spraying passes from the base of midfield. 

However, the idea that his tackling was anything but wretched has not been misconstrued by the fog of time, even if the man himself likes to propagate that narrative.

In 2011 Scholes argued: “Of course I can tackle,” on BBC Radio Five Live. “There’s plenty of evidence of me being able to tackle.”

Yet, the fifth-most booked player in Premier League history continued to emphasise his innocence when he told the ​Guardian that he wasn’t a ‘dirty player’ and ‘I have never been nasty’. But you don’t have to be malicious to be a poor tackler and Scholes himself admitted that at least some of his challenges were down to ‘bad timing’. 

Former teammate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer summed up the contrast of Scholes’ game neatly when he ​said: “He’s not the quickest, he doesn’t run the most, he never wins a header, he can’t tackle but he’s the best player.”

Steven Gerrard – Tactical Indiscipline

Liverpool's English midfielder Steven Ge

While Gerrard could be relied upon to produce innumerable moments of brilliance to often drag Liverpool kicking and screaming to success, you couldn’t guarantee he’d follow any tactical instructions.  

Gerrard enjoyed his most successful period at ​Liverpool under Rafa Benítez. A manager whose approach revolved around research, preparation and control yet his two Liverpool trophies came in such dramatic, improbable and manic circumstances with both largely thanks to Gerrard.

After being used in a 4-4-2, Benítez seemed to have finally given up relying upon his captain to follow any directions and handed him a free role in a 4-2-3-1 with two defensive midfielders behind him so as to prevent gaping chasms opening up when Gerrard had exhausted himself with his best impression of ‘Roy of the Rovers’.

Although, even if Gerrard had been blessed with all the tactical discipline in the world, it’s unlikely Sven-Göran Eriksson would ever have got a midfield duo of Frank Lampard and himself to work. 


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