How world cups, seasons and teams work
Watching this years World Cup and thinking on prior ones in all sports and decades of watching seasons of various teams I have developed a few ideas that I think define a season. These ideas, I think, can help us as Gooners think about how we evaluate our seasons and cup pursuits.
Note that I am writing while watching the World Cup final but may or may not so comment later! The theory stands alone without worrying about whether Argentina will have their perfect game or Germany their horror game.
And that defines it. Perfect games and horror games. As fans we all expect perfect games, and think that horror games are not allowed. I posit the following for a World Cup or cup competition.
- Each team plays to its current form or level. It’s coaches and player form that determine this, but over any cup period it is relatively constant (usually, though Agentina has in my opinion risen some in this cup). Over a season it varies based on team depth (fatigue) and injuries, around which coaching and preparation can fine tune or manage the level.
- In a cup, any team going past a short group stage visit will have:
- One Horror Game, where everything goes wrong or most of it. Well below form. Ideally one has this in the group stage and versus inferior opposition so you can win. An arguably not truly great Brazil team may have over achieved to get to the semi-final where they had unarguably their Horror Game.
- One Perfect Game, where everything goes right. IMO, unarguably also, Brazils horror game tragically coincided with Germany’s perfect game. The outcome was, well, ouch!!
I think we all understand number 1 over a season. IMO, last year Arsenal were too thin on quality up front and too injured for, let’s call it verve, in the midfield. The result was our form dropped and we had to play and win ugly for the second part of the season. Thus, the euphoria so far for this TW over getting another top ST and defenders etc… Equally, my delight over the German national team physio/trainer for keeping us at a higher level longer.
It’s number 2 however that determines the final result think. Last year, for me, Man City had the depth of SQ to be dominant and the lack of enough injuries to affect that. And they won, right? However, it was very very close. I think one could easily put this to misplaced perfect and horror games.
Let’s posit that in a 38 game EPL season, you have 28 form games, and 5 horror games and 5 perfect games. These are rough estimates, but I think we could easily point to those games for Arsenal last year if we are honest, although they are sometimes hard to recognize. Our first game against Spurs was a perfect game, despite closeness, and at the time we thought it was a horror game for Spurs who we later realized were merely playing to their form despite their acquisitions.
So, ideally, one would prefer to have perfect games or form games against top teams, if one is a top team let us say! 🙂 … Horror games should be against lesser teams who you can still beat. For Man City, however, they had their horror games against opposition who were having perfect games – and perfect from the bottom of the table beat horror from the top. This made it far closer than not.
For Arsenal, a few thoughts. Horror games versus Man City away (form at home) and that Pool game now immortalized by BT. IMO, away against top teams is the way to go, unless you can call up the perfect one! Horror games against mid table are where unaffordable losses come from, and equally perfect ones against bottom table are wasted.
So, what does it mean? Overall, I’d say that Arsenal had a good season and was more affected by form than by horror or perfect games. In contrast, Man City almost missed out as a result of them. Thus, for this season with some increased depth to keep players in top form and rested should see us maintain too form. Equally, last year, OGs loss of form was fatigue and hurt us like injuries as there was no comparable replacement.
Aside: it’s half time and 0-0, with both teams going to form in my opinion.
Thus, the real question, can we plan and manage these horror and perfect games? Can we minimize one and maximize the other?
Anyone can look back and say that was perfect that was horror and so on… It’s what makes blogs like this to an extent as it is impossible to really show, although clearly perfect (or horror) games are clear (think Napoli in the CL last year as perfect). So, I would posit that it is “impossible” to change my arguable number of 5 each (could be 3-4 🙂 ). Why?
I think what determines these games is a matter of circumstances. Response to pressure, conditions, particular player form? Equally, things we might blame, like maturity and experience, to me play into overall team form. A hugely talented team without maturity.
For example, 2 mins into half 2, Messi is through and you’d think in the box there is nothing Neuer can do versus such a clinical finisher. But, he scuffs it wide. Really? Or hmm…
And that is perhaps my point. Horror games may well come like perfect ones from individual elements that have an off game or cannot get going. In City’s losses, the talismanic Yaya was often missing, and for Arsenal in their horror games it was failures at a normally solid back line and defensive midfield that failed to respond like normal to the first goal and mistakes.
Can these be minimized with substitutions or tactics? I leave that to you to discuss? Certainly the coulda, woulda and shoulda brothers play a role in discussions that are difficult to prove!
Overall, I think that seasons are defined on form, but the fine tuning of the last few places revolves around these specific 8-10 games. We were fourth mostly on form last year, while City had a worst combination of these games, and, to my mind, Pool had a best one…
Ok, so I have a theory and some arguable data, but I think it’s a different way to view a season, after and before. During is hard to figure it, but we can look forward to these special games, or at least half of them!
So, to you, the following questions:
- What were our horror games last year, what were our perfect ones. You are limited to 3-5 of each in equal number!
- Will a new trainer help our form remain higher?
- Without becoming City, whose “depth” was fined by UEFA, will we have enough depth if we get Khedira or similar this summer?
So, it’s 0-0 at 64 mins with both teams having their opportunities, and their mistakes….
Written by: JGC