EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Europe’s team of the season: 5 from La Liga, 3 from Premier League, 1 each from Bundesliga, Ligue 1

David de Gea doesn’t make it and neither does Harry Kane.

The Premier League and Bundesliga seasons are over, and the Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 seasons are just one game away from completion.

Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and PSG are all run-away champions with Juventus the only one of the champions of Europe’s top five leagues to sweat, because of Napoli’s persistence.

That said, it’s time to pick our team of the season from Europe’s top five leagues.

Jan Oblak – Atletico Madrid

Premier League and Manchester United fans may well pick David de Gea and the Spaniard has bailed out the Mancunians on many occasions, but Atleti’s Slovenian shot-stopper has been the most consistent of them all.

The 25-year-old has kept 21 clean sheets in 34 appearances for this team in La Liga and is the rock on which Diego Simeone has built his defence. Oblak has a 91% claim success and has only let in 18 goals this season. Arsenal are not the only ones interested.

Joshua Kimmich – Bayern Munich

Germany and Bayern Munich may never have a full-back of the calibre of Philipp Lahm again but Joshua Kimmich is determined to make a mockery of those claims.

Dani Alves has been his consistent, energetic self but Kimmich truly deserves the right-back slot, boasting a 90% pass accuracy. The 23-year-old German has bagged 10 assists in just league starts for Bayern, an incredible statistic for a defender to have.

Milan Skriniar – Inter Milan

Signed from Sampdoria this season, the 23-year-old central defender has been a constant at the back for Inter, making 37 appearances in the league.

It could be argued that the Slovakian is Inter’s most important player, even more than Mauro Icardi. Apart from scoring four goals and boasting a 91% passing accuracy, Skriniar has made zero defensive errors directly leading to a goal.

Diego Godin – Atletico Madrid

It had to be the Uruguayan, didn’t it, with his last-ditch clearances and grass-searing tackles. Godin is one half of the centre-back combination which conceded the lowest goals in Europe’s top five divisions.

He has been on top of his game this season as well, as Los Colchoneros have only let in 20 all season. Boasting 4.7 clearances and 2 interceptions per game, Godin has been truly world-class, despite the chopping and changing in defence.

Jordi Alba – Barcelona

With David Alaba not at his storming best this season, that leaves the door open for Jordi Alba to take his spot in defence.

As Barcelona strolled to the title, Alba played an integral part, starting 29 games for the Blaugrana and having a hand in 10 goals, including eight assists. Alba’s helped out defensively as well, making 1.9 tackles, 2 interceptions and 1.6 clearances per game.

Mousa Dembele – Tottenham

When on song, there are few better than the Belgian in a compact Spurs unit. The 30-year-old continues to operate deep in Spurs’ midfield and Dembele’s contribution can’t really be gauged by his stats.

Mauricio Pochettino really trusts his man and you can see why; Dembele registered a 92% accuracy with his passes, 70% of which were played forward. The shimmies to beat two men, or the floating passes sprayed around, Dembele’s game has it’s intangible pros and he’s the reason that Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane and Dele Alli do what they do best.

Kevin de Bruyne – Manchester City

From one Belgian to another, there are very few words which can describe Kevin de Bruyne this season. One of the words is majestic, the other is stupendous.

The Premier League has rarely seen a playmaker operate at this level and Pep Guardiola has taken de Bruyne to the next. He ranks first in the Premier League for assists (15), chances created (104), crosses (237), accurate through balls (15) and goals from outside the area (5). If you’re still debating over whether he’s world-class, throws those doubts into the nearest bin right now.

Neymar – PSG

He might have been upstaged by Mo’ Salah this season, but the Brazilian’s transfer to PSG brought an unreal amount of criticism, some of which centred around the quality of the French league.

Yet, with injury curtailing his season, Neymar has led from the front, and is the fulcrum around which Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe operate. A tally of 19 goals and 13 assists in just 20 league appearances, farmer’s league or not, the World Cup in Russia would be poorer without Neymar’s presence.

Mohamed Salah – Liverpool

Chocolate Oreos, baby pugs, Mo’ Salah – there are a few things in the world that you have to be heartless not to love.

Salah now holds multiple records, including one for most Premier League goals in a season, 32. That’s more than Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Sergio Aguero, Thierry Henry ever managed in a single 38-game campaign. Let that sink in for a moment.

Lionel Messi – Barcelona

What Salah does in 2017-’18 is an average season for the atomic flea. No list is really complete without him, and neither is this one.

Messi at times has played in a deeper role this season but that hasn’t stopped him from racking up the numbers. Leo has scored 34 goals and has notched up 12 assists in 32 starts to all but confirm another Golden Boot.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid

Ask yourselves, did you write him off after his early season struggles? The 33-year-old started slowly (for his lofty standards), scoring only two goals in his first 10 La Liga games but has come storming back in the second half of the season.

Ronaldo has 44 goals in all competitions across 44 games, fewer than Messi and Salah have played. The man from Madeira just won’t go away, not this easily.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.