It is well-documented that Norfolk boasts a proud record of nurturing Nelsons. Two hundred and twelve years on from that pivotal naval victory off the coast of south-west Spain at Trafalgar, memories of our own Horatio are still employed, appropriated and instrumentalised as a means of evoking popular notions of both local pride and national commemoration.
Images of our parochial naval figure were embedded in First World War propaganda. Trafalgar Square’s Nelson’s Column was completed in 1843. Just over an hour’s drive west from Elland Road lies the Lancashire Town of Nelson, a civil parish named after one of our fine city’s most notable exports.
Forget Horatio and his intimate attachment to the city we all adore, however. In the current footballing climate, such nostalgia-eliciting manifestations of his legacy are rendered insignificant. Indeed, of the aforementioned places, Elland Road is the most pertinent for City fans, the location of our latest slip-up and the scene of our more contemporary Nelson’s most recent crime.
Oliveira’s latest showing for City was wretched, a performance characterised by an augmenting sense of apathy, greed and profligacy that functioned as nothing other than detrimental to our chances of departing West Yorkshire with the point we genuinely deserved.
Patience is wearing thin. While Oliveira’s impetuous manner was previously masked owing to his prolific exploits during the second-half of last season and the beginning of this year’s campaign, his ensuing lack of goals have only served to make his unsavoury attitude all the more conspicuous. His antics in recent weeks have functioned as an overt hindrance to Farke’s attempts to revitalise our season. He must change.
Social media is saturated with references to his indifference and ostensibly passive attitude that has become visible during home games. I didn’t make the trip to South Wales last Friday night, but from what my travelling brother informed me it was Oliveira’s rapacity that prevented us from going 2-0 up.
A week and a half earlier at the City Ground, his infuriating insistence on shooting from a series of bizarre positions frequently rendered periods of promising possession a waste. As a fan who has grown increasingly impatient with our slow and laboured build-up, I am all in favour of enhancing our directness and threat on goal, but such injudicious decision-making is irresponsible and futile.
Which brings us to Elland Road. Contrary to many ill-judged observations on Twitter over the weekend, City were good at Leeds, moving the ball around at a better tempo and creating considerably more than we did at Bolton or Forest. The below-par James Maddison had two golden opportunities in the first-half – both of which were, granted, created by Oliveira – while Alex Pritchard wasted our best chance. To those berating Farke, Webber, Delia or anything concerning the development of the current regime: on another day we could have easily won.
Despite Oliveira’s relative activity in the first-half, his exploits in the second verged on the unforgivable. Those of us at the game will recall his good work in escaping the challenges of the Leeds midfield, enabling him the space to advance and create a two-on-one scenario with the impressive Marley Watkins bounding forward on his right. The pass was obvious. If played with any degree of competence Watkins was through. Instead, he opted to intransigently keep the ball himself before being crowded out and becoming embroiled in an incident with the goal-scoring Pontus Jansson. Feckless.
Once I’d politely informed Oliveira exactly how I felt about his decision, I struggled to believe it could get any worse. However, with the clock ticking and City with multiple men forward, the striker’s botched attempt on goal represented the apogee of his stupidity and would have been better suited to the rugby ground three miles down the road. Selfish is a an understatement.
While Oliveira’s inability to behave in the interests of the team was not the reason City lost at the weekend, his failure to manifest any degree of footballing intelligence, awareness or responsibility was axiomatically harmful to our chances of departing the north with at least a point.
Of course, the principal blame lies with Maddison, Pritchard and the dithering Marco Stiepermann for their failure to convert opportunities and for the latter’s loss of concentration in allowing Jansson to escape him prior to the goal. However, Oliveira’s impulsive, unreasoned and self-centred decision-making is playing an increasingly inhibiting role in our season.
I do not dislike Nelson. In fact, I enjoy watching him play and his fervent desire to continuously create and make something happen. However, when this inherent sense of aggression and palpable willingness to disregard his team-mates comes at the expense of a more prudent, rational and effective option, something needs to change.
Only Oliveira himself will know if he is happy at Carrow Road. What characterised his performance at the weekend was less so much apathy as it was his selfishness and failure to further the exploits of his team. Bids may come in for him in January. If he does not change – and I hope he does –Webber and Farke will have to listen.
City in their current state have no room in the squad for egocentric and introverted individuals. With a crucial period imminent, we require a united group of hungry, determined and indefatigable characters who are committed to working selflessly and tenaciously for one another.
Oliveira’s City career is a tipping point. I can only hope that he realises and demonstrates the skill, pragmatism and awareness of his namesake who came two centuries before so he can turn his season around.