05 December 2011

Football Answered

By Dr3 

Thus it is proven. Possession is directly proportional to goals conceded
In short, yet another reactive post by me. But this weekend as ever, football reacted, and answered, with careless goals, and detrimental effects. As is usual, Cox writes something, people salivate and purport it as interesting and thoughtful. In one of his latest installments of banal football philosophy with graphs, he insists that playing from the back, can actually be safer than ‘safety-first’ hammering of the ball as we know it. He then somehow managed to back this up by graphing Goalkeeper short passes, to the previously unrelated to safety, overall possession. Anyway, without turning this into a diatribe against the man, or me yet again being a full out hater here’s the point (read as points);
  • Possession football can be a form of defending ‘overall’ as is underlined in his post. However the line between safety and defending is being blurred. Even Barcelona knows the right time to boot the ball out to infinity. Safety is about managing risk. To bastardize defenders everywhere else as being people who simply boot the ball out as part of defending is more than a bit ridiculous.
  •  Playing from the back assumes that the players at the back are technically gifted enough to do so. In watching ‘some’ players do it with seemingly nonchalant ease, couch/internet footballers lacking in a bit of perspective (making a judgement call) may believe that it’s a tactic to be employed as the norm rather than the exception. However, if Nelson Rivas and Titus Bramble are the defenders in the backline, how realistic is that? Does this mean that only Barcelona should play from the back? No. Many small teams can and do as even he mentioned with Swansea (Bari of 2009-2010 being the best ball playing backline including keeper I have ever seen). As a matter of fact, very few teams don’t. But when channels are blocked, whereas Dani Alves could dribble his way out of it before finding a pass, Demichelis would probably stumble, before allowing Bolivia to score in a WC qualifier.
  •  Small teams need to manage risk even more so than big ones. Had the genius shown that small teams playing from the back (whatever that means) conceded less goals than others, then perhaps his analysis regardless of how oversimplified would hold more substance. Unlike Barcelona, who can afford the occasional foul up, concessions of cheap goals can sometimes mean the difference between relegation and survival for the likes of Norwich.  The odd calamitous goal is no trite matter at certain positions in the league table.
  • There is a reason why Tiki Taka has been mastered by fewAs a philosophy it’s incredible. In practice, not so much. All it takes is one Oleguer for it not to work in defense, and one Kluivert for it to falter in attack. Again, if the argument is simply about possession perhaps being the way to play both sides of football, then that’s fine. Stretching it to redefine safety first is a bit foolish though (which sadly is his conclusion). As is the case when something is successful, added to perhaps a bit of denial; people (as in Cox et al.) seem unwilling to accept that Barcelona are this good, because the players are simply not very normal like you, me, or Muntari.
Here's Whittal about "possession football" being a fetish, but again, seems to be implying in closing that Barca football can be exported. This is problematic because to quote George Costanza; It's like saying to Pavorotti, "Teach me to sing like you." 

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