The Anatomy of a Footballer

Professional footballers are apparently not built like you and I. From head to toe, their bodies are subject to an entirely different terminology to the Average Joe. 

Used figuratively as often as it is literally, the concept of the head in football is conveniently vague. Composed young footballers are said to have an old head on young shoulders, at least until they lose their head, at which point they need an arm around their shoulder. Players who lack genuine pace are able to call upon the yard in their head (pace is quantified simply in yards, on a narrow scale from 0.5-1). 

A predatory striker is said to have an eye for goal, which occasionally involves giving the goalkeeper the eyes (having seen the whites of them), despite often having one eye (or half an eye) on an upcoming fixture. Meanwhile, today's mutant referees are required to have eyes in the back of their head

Calling upon the other senses, players can sniff out a chance if their team smells blood (unless they're not given a sniff) but only after the two teams have finished feeling each other out. Hearing is less frequently referenced, but the universal gesture for a footballer not hearing something (a referee's whistle, or a goalkeeper's shout) is unmistakable:

A goalkeeper faces the frequent prospect of a shot arriving straight down his throat, which in reality is much less threatening than it sounds. One can only assume that big-money signings wear their price tags around their necks, while players still subject to a hands-off warning have their price tag slapped upon their person.

A particularly goal-shy centre-forward must bear the burden of both a monkey and the crowd on his back. The well-established (if rather dubious) remedy for his goal drought, however, is for one to go in off his backside.

In the game of football, the hands and arms are a consistently controversial region of the body. Penalty areas are frequent witnesses to a suspicion of a hand while everyone knows that as soon as you raise your hands, you're asking for trouble. Goalkeepers must possess a strong hand while making sure errant crosses are plucked out of the air using their grateful hands. Palms, meanwhile, exist only to be "stung" - the act of palming away has slowly been superseded by the more menacing-sounding clawing away.

No sports scientist has yet been able to determine the whereabouts of a player's engine, but it is likely to be found in a lung-bursting location near the centre of the body. There's no real room for innuendo in football commentary, but a great deal of mirth is reserved for when a player is struck in the unmentionables by a shot or a boot. 

And so the business end of the footballer's anatomy. The legs seem the most obvious place to find the ever-elusive malicious bone, but loyal managers have rendered the search fruitless. The most notable part of the lower-body skeleton is surely the dreaded metatarsal, which homo sapiens only developed in the early 2000s if the succession of major tournament-disrupting breaks to the feet of your Beckhams, your Rooneys, your Nevilles and your Owens are anything to go by. 

Flat-footed defenders are exposed by fleet-footed wingers, and given a torrid time by jet-heeled ones, resulting (in extreme cases) in twisted blood. Appropriately, some footballers' feet are now beyond cliché - the good feet for a big man are now rarely referenced unknowingly. A distinct bias towards the exotic, sinistral footballer has always been in evidence - left feet are educated and cultured, while any old neanderthal can swing his right boot.

When a footballer finally loses that half a yard, it is said that his legs have gone. Luckily, fresh legs are always on hand (so to speak) to replace them.


He Knows Where the Goal Is: Mapping the Modern Football Pitch

The modern footballer must know his place. If the forensic analysis of Zonal Marking is to be believed, most of them are mindless chess pieces moved around at will by their gesticulating manager. But, while the positions they are allocated have well-established names, the areas of the pitch they occupy are still subject to the eccentricity of the football cliché.

All credit to @jon_foley for putting the image together

The Engine Room
Smack-bang in the middle of the park is the British Crown dependency of the midfield engine room, the domain of the Lampards, the Gerrards and the Parkers of this world. As the name suggests, everyone within the engine room must possess an engine, or at least be full of running.

Going Nowhere
You know the drill - a bumbling winger, in a desperate attempt to track back, fouls an opponent as they loiter (facing the wrong way) in this specific, innocuous part of the pitch. Located near half-way and close to the touchline, the vast majority of free-kicks conceded here will be classified as silly.

The Hole
The hole is fast becoming a quaint anachronism in the era of false nines who flit between the lines. A stealthy place to inhabit, the hole confounds opposing defenders who struggle to pick up the deep-lying forward.

The Channels
The thinking man's wings, the channels represent the dire straits between penalty area and touchline where full-backs can be given a torrid time - either by fleet-footed (or jet-heeled) wingers or by their swashbuckling opposite numbers.

The endangered species of the old fashioned winger (centre-forwards and cup-ties can also be old-fashioned) has been forced inside to survive, leaving its former home of the wing (or the "flank") derelict and languishing under the vague term "wide areas". 

In a figurative sense, one of the worst places a footballer can find himself is on the periphery, from where it is very difficult to get into the game.

David Beckham Territory
A hotly disputed area, but various attempts to annex it permanently over the last decade have proved fruitless, many coming to a ignominious end up in Row Z.

It is the most popular strategic base to launch attacks on the tiny enclave in the top corner of the goal - known as the postage stamp - located just next to the angle of post and bar.
The Mixer
There's a distinct whiff of Big Ron about this (Ronglish was an unsanctioned splinter lexicon which is thankfully fading from view), but the mixer remains a great leveller. From Sunday League to the top flight, last throws of the dice find their way into this perilous badland. The mixer must be accessed with a hopeful long ball - no team has ever attempted to walk the ball into the mixer.

To further emphasise the stresses of the mixer, it often gives proverbial nosebleeds to no-nonsense defenders who venture upfield, often with the kitchen sink tucked under their arms.

many thanks to @Steve_Sub for the image
No Man's Land
A horrid void in which hapless goalkeepers are said to have "gone walkabout". Littered with suicidal backpasses, this is where the custodian feels most alone. But it's not the only danger that 'keepers face...

The Corridor of Uncertainty
One of the most poetic of all the football cliches. Originally a cricket phrase, as many seem keen to point out, but now undeniably adopted by football. The narrow corridor of uncertainty straddles the six-yard line, and is permeated regularly by crosses fizzed in from the channels.

Whether you're marauding, swashbuckling, rampaging, venturing, flooding, backpedalling, gliding, ghosting, wandering, drifting, racing, slaloming, jinking or simply ambling
always know where you are.