Jordi Gomez: The Marmite Midfielder


Loved and defended by some, hated and openly criticised by most others – the Spanish playmaker has undoubtedly been key to Wigan’s successes.

Elegance, flair and beautiful hair – Wigan’s Spanish midfielder is all-too-often slated and criticised by so-called ‘fans’ of the club.

Embarrassing fans insist on destroying Gomez’ confidence, groaning as loud as they possibly can whenever he loses the ball. The groans change to delusional cheers when the number 14 lights up on the fourth official’s electronic board, delivering the killer blow to the playmaker’s self-esteem. Said ‘fans’ wonder, too, why he “plays so badly”. Where is the motivation to work hard when mistakes, which are inevitable in football, are to be met with insults and undeserved criticism? Such fans are the first to tell Gomez about a mistake he has made but are also the first to sing his praises when he fashions a killer pass through a defence – the word ‘fickle’ springs to mind.
Common shouts from members of the crowd, who annoyingly provide unwanted running commentaries, are “he’s too slow”, “he holds onto the ball for too long”, “he’s too lightweight”, “he’s a lazy bastard”.

“Jordi divides opinions because he represents a style of football. It is not just the way he is as a footballer, it is the style he represents. I was disappointed on Saturday, a little sector of the crowd couldn’t wait until the final whistle to look back on his performance and then assess it. I was so proud of the manner Jordi reacted to whatever was going on. He showed an incredible mental strength. He was a great example to any youngster at the ground wanting to arrive into the first team. Jordi’s performance and his handling of the occasion was a real example of how to be a professional footballer. The dressing room was very proud. You don’t want players who don’t have the warmth from the crowd. All he did is do everything he could to win the points for Wigan Athletic and I think a sector of the crowd should realise that.” – Roberto Martinez on Jordi Gomez’s hat-trick against Reading in 2012 after the player was booed by some fans for making mistakes early in the match.

My theory is that Gomez’ footballing mind functions too quickly for the players around him; that he is two steps ahead of everybody else. He waits for space to be opened like he has imagined just milliseconds before, but his teammates’ inability to think steps ahead means that Gomez is often caught spending ‘too much time’ on the ball. In countries such as Spain and Holland, players are coached into thinking steps ahead. Gomez, a product of La Masia – Barcelona’s youth academy, visualises scenarios unthinkable of that to the average footballer. Jordi needs to be surrounded by players who create the pictures he imagines. In the current squad, I can think of only Jean Beausejour who ‘reads the game’ in such a similar way to Gomez. The pair link up so seemlessly on the left flank when Gomez drifts wide, Beausejour getting in behind opposition defensive lines thanks to a Gomez pass with unnoticed regularity.

Off the ball, he is slated for “not tracking back” or not getting “stuck in”. Footballers can’t be in two places at once, they are just humans after all. How can a player be expected to press high up the pitch yet be in a defensive block by the time a pass has been made? His pressing often goes unrecognised due to the fans’ tendency to use him as a scapegoat when other players fail to apply the principles of cover and balance behind him. The way in which he presses, too, is overlooked. He looks to position his body in a way that makes passes predictable whilst also blocking off nearby passing options, a feature that the majority of his teammates cannot grasp: effective pressing. He might not always be strong in the tackle but that is hardly without reason, he would rather block a passing lane than lose a tackle and concede space behind him. He knows that he lacks physical strength. Knowing his own weaknesses allows him to hide them and manipulate them into a positive.

The pass at 00:45, the movement and the shot at 00:55 looks effortless. The pass at 01:26 epitomises Gomez’ thinking of steps ahead – look how long he waits for the run. The execution is beautiful.

His ability to get between the lines and in half spaces is probably the greatest aspect of his game, but again it is inconspicuous to a large sample of simple-minded Wigan fans who fall in and out of love with him. Tactically excellent, he knows when and where to create overloads, which is central to a possession-based philosophy: regularly dropping deep to create 4v2s or 3v2s to help the defenders when building up play, getting between the lines to offer a forward option and create a central overload, and, my personal favourite, drifting wide to create 2v1s or 3v2s. When Gomez drops off to provide an extra receiving line and a pressure relief, he has done so because he has thought of the next move. The amount of times Gomez switches the ball to McManaman or Beausejour to create a 1v1 is ridiculous, but again goes undetected by the crowd who instead focus on the ball receiver. When Gomez drifts wide to support the full back and winger, he has done so because he has thought of the next move. One-twos between Gomez and Beausejour to put the Chilean in behind opposition defensive lines are performed almost habitually, but praise is only given by the certain few fans who appreciate him.

Everton v Wigan Athletic - FA Cup Sixth Round

A prominent feature of his game is his determination to protect the ball. He knows when to receive on the back foot, when to receive on the front foot, and knows how to win free kicks by placing his body between the opponent and the ball. His technique is unquestionable, striking the ball with such gracefulness each time he has it at his feet. It is like the ball is his friend, treating it with a respect that the English game lacks.

Gomez is far from the perfect player. He isn’t the paciest of players, he isn’t very strong, he might not be the most confident either, but his technique, positioning and movement, speed of thought and untainted resilience should be appreciated greatly. He is a unique player who has brought Wigan fans the greatest of joy, and admittedly some frustration but that, I believe, is because he is steps ahead of the players around him.

“English players don’t think until they have the ball at their feet. You have to give the ball at the right moment. In Holland we don’t think about the first man. We think of the third man, the one who has to run. If I get the ball, the third man can run immediately because he knows that immediately I will pass to the second man, and he will give it to him. If I delay, the third man has to delay his run and the moment is over. It is that special moment, that special pass.” – Arnold Muhren


8 thoughts on “Jordi Gomez: The Marmite Midfielder

  1. Great article Jamie. One of the best analyses I’ve ever read of a Latics player’s strengths and weaknesses. One disagreement: the people who boo Jordi one week don’t change their minds when he plays well, they just stay silent. I think very few people are fickle, it’s just different people making different noises at different times.

    • Thank you, Pete! I could have delved into images and made it a lot more in-depth but I didn’t want to alienate the average reader. I see what you mean regarding your disagreement, but some of the people I sit near often complain about Gomez then, when he plays well, say things like, “he can do it when he can be bothered”, which is very annoying. I definitely agree with your last comment – the lack of consistent positivity really doesn’t help.

  2. Brilliant! The fans that boo really get on my nerves and most of them are just going along with other fans around them! A true fan would never boo their own player even if they had a bad game it does not help. :)

  3. Great article. Just hope that jordi sees the positive stuff written about him like this as well as the tripe he hears in the stands and gets sent on twitter.

    • He retweeted it after I sent him a link to the article so perhaps he did read it! I am by no means saying he doesn’t have faults in his game, but sometimes he is a class above the rest and it shows. Hope he plays tomorrow.

  4. Jordi gomez is my favourate player for wigan and he is a treat to watch. I always sigh when he isnt on the teamsheet :( Excellent cameo from him yesterday

  5. Hi Jamie

    I vaguely remembered reading this piece way back in the day, and marvelling – as you suggest in your article – that people could have such differing opinions of Gomez. I have to say I recognised very little in your article that could be applied to the player I watched week in and week out when he was at WAFC. I’d probably reverse your summary to a player who gave us “fans the greatest of frustration, and admittedly some joy”.

    Anyway, fast forward to today when following up on the Crystal Palace game at the weekend (11/4/15) and reading about McArthur’s contribution,I came across this on a Sunderland forum from a few months ago –

    The article linked in the thread OP is much closer to my assessment of the player when he was with us, and I thoughtI would just share itwith you, seewhat you thought (if you still care afterall these years!)

    All the best!

    • Hi Paul,
      I understand what you are getting at, particularly regarding the slowing of counter attacks and ‘casual nature’. However, at Wigan, and judging by the article it seems so at Sunderland, Gomez was a player much more suited to games where a team will enjoy a lot of possession facing a side that sits deep. I haven’t watched Sunderland in a long while so I’m unsure on how you are set up, but I presume that you are rarely in the position where you have the opposition camped on the edge of their own box for you to try and break down. Under Martinez, that was something we experienced a lot. If you’ve seen the goal 2nd goal against Millwall in the FA Cup semi final, that is what I would call Jordi at his best.

      He isn’t the most of physical of players and this is probably the weakest part of his game. However, towards the end of his Wigan career it appeared that his pressing and overall contribution to defending had improved, though this could have been impacted by the system we played.

      I would need context to discuss the misplaced passing issue – but from what I saw of him, he very rarely misplaced simple passes, and he often attempted difficult passes and a lot of the time they weren’t successful. He has his flaws, but also has great strengths and I think it is probably a case of not being suited to Sunderland’s system. It was an interesting read, though, and reminded me of how frustrating he could be at times. He was very much the opposite of a fan favourite at times due to his style of play and weaknesses; British fans, typicallly, love a player who will tackle all day, but often fail to appreciate technical players who lack such physicality.
      All the best to you too, we bloody need it!

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