Sunday 23 November 2014

Number 10

At the occasion of this blog’s tenth post, I propose to take stock of the evolution of some of the main issues touched upon so far. I am very much aware that Strategy of Football is not your average entertainment blog and that it rather requires attentiveness on the part of the reader. So as to ensure neither you nor I are wasting our time with mere opinion, let’s revisit some of the main themes discussed. Although, critically, the blog is about analysis rather than prediction, from the analyses, often times predictions – either implicitly or explicitly – naturally flow.

In the inaugural post, I challenged Belgian national coach Wilmots’s tactical savvy. Concretely, I disintegrated the strategy of Belgium in their World Cup quarterfinal against Argentina and constructed a more promising game-plan from the bottom up. Although, most unfortunately, it would be impossible to have the game replayed with the proposed tactical plan in place instead, at least now, 3.5 months after the post, (Belgian) people are slowly waking up to some of the facts underlying my analysis. The most relevant evolution probably being that recently some of the star players of the national team (Hazard, De Bruyne, Courtois) openly started questioning Wilmots’ tactics and thereby his tactical capability. Whereas the general public seemed ready to erect a statue for the national coach after the World Cup, the euphoria – or, better, ignorance – is gradually making place for the realisation that we missed a unique chance to write and witness history. Whereas, still in early October, most Belgians’ heart skipped a beat when it was made public Wilmots had offers other than continuing his mission with the national team, to most of them it would now seem to come as a relief if Eric Gerets were announced to be taking over.

Source: nieuwsblad.be

The second post was published after the second match-day in the Premier League. I explained how Courtois was bound to win the duel with Cech as Chelsea’s number 1 and how – most critically – he had the backing of Mourinho. I encouraged Cech to use the last days of the transfer window to find himself a suitable team as he has the quality to be the undisputed number 1 at virtually any top team in the world – but Chelsea. Recently, Cech pointed out how unhappy he is with his substitute role at Chelsea and wants to move on. He could have saved himself four months of being benched and a whole lot of frustration.

In the same post, I suggested that Real Madrid was unlikely to win any trophies as long as they were to keep their hands above the head of their once star goalkeeper Iker Casillas. While, obviously, no trophies have been handed out yet since, Real is topping the Liga table at the moment as well as its Champions League group. I leave it up to the reader to judge what Casillas’s contribution to Real Madrid’s current success is, but at least I acknowledge to be surprised Casillas is still being given preference over Navas. And while even the ultraconservative Spanish national coach Vicente del Bosque found it in his heart to bench San Iker against Luxembourg, meanwhile, the 33-year old seems to have regained his place in La Roja from de Gea. Casillas himself recently stated he is convinced he has seven more seasons in him, so who am I to challenge that. Time will tell who’s right – and I doubt we will have to wait seven more years to find out.

In ‘The Falcon Has Landed…But Is He Here to Stay?’ I pointed out that UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, next to being constraining, also seemed to have a curious enabling effect. For the first time in history, teams are given a credible excuse not to pay full transfer fees but rather borrow star players for a year – in which these players essentially can be tried and tested. When the world seemed convinced that what was going on was a mere payment in instalments spread over time, I pointed out that the option element would likely make that underperformers were never to be finally transferred. 

Interestingly, yesterday – and 2.5 months after writing the post – I read a first voice along those lines – and no less than Louis van Gaal's. Following Falcao’s persistent injury problems, and following a week in which Man. U. allegedly paid nearly €1 million in wages to its injured players alone, van Gaal admitted that it was all but sure they will exercise the purchase option on Falcao: “Last year, he was out for a long time with a knee injury. Then it is not necessary to take unnecessary risks”, the Dutchman reportedly said. Whether or not Man. U. will eventually exercise the purchase option on the Colombian or not, the fact that they are considering not to proves exactly the point I was making in the third post. Should Falcao not be a Mancunian anymore next year it won’t take long for van Gaal to receive a "biscuit of own dough" (koekje van eigen deeg) as Chicharito is not all that unlikely to be returning to Manchester himself.

In ‘Munir vs. Neymar: 0-2’, I damped the premature optimism regarding Barça’s new sensational youngster Munir and pointed out that Neymar is – and always will be – a much higher quality player. Let’s have a quick glance at the descriptive statistics of both players. In the league and the Champions League combined, since the publication of the blog post to date, Neymar scored 11 goals and gave 3 assists in 13 appearances. Munir totalled 0 goals and 0 assists in 8 appearances. On average, during this period, Neymar has scored 1 goal per 90 minutes he was on the field; Munir no goal per 334 minutes he was on the field.

Source: theguardian.com

The sixth post, I dedicated to troubled Belgian (former) supertalent El Ghanassy having become a free agent. I’m surprised to see that, two months down the road, he is still without a team. Interestingly, the club that showed most concrete interest in signing him so far was reported – about a week after the post – to have been my own KV Mechelen. They were, however, snubbed by El Ghanassy’s agent. Although I doubt both that my club needs another winger and that they are fit to provide the different types of professional support El Ghanassy would need to succeed, in case they are still interested, it would be well worth informing about him again. Meanwhile, his expectations will likely have been adjusted downwards now that he’s been without an employer – and thus income – for over two months already. Indeed, relegation-threatened Cercle Brugge now seem to be his best available tangible alternative – probably not what he or his manager had in mind at the time of telling KV Mechelen off.

Source: zimbio.com

Of the remaining published posts, only some conveyed ready predictions. Ronaldinho is still in Mexico rather than the MLS, but give the man some time. As for Brendan Rodgers, he, predictably, got burnt playing with fire, his side losing at home against Chelsea, in spite of their relative physical fitness. Still most interesting to see will be whether at least Rodgers can salvage a Champions League qualification for his Reds in the remaining two matches, having forfeited 3 potential points against Real Madrid, in the advent of the Chelsea game.

To conclude and look ahead, do note that at the bottom of every post there is a possibility to comment: for any substantive matters, feel free to do so, as we all stand to learn!