There are a few problems with modern football. The game itself is so overexposed, so ubiquitous, that as fans, we’ve become totally and utterly spoilt. We can tune in to Sky Sports, listen to TalkSport or pick up a newspaper every day and become exposed to a plethora of news, features, opinion pieces, ‘big questions’ etc. Every day a game is televised or repeated or at the very least, highlights are available some.
We can also control our teams now; videogame adaptations of playing a game, managing our team or Fantasy Leagues all allow us to assume the role of someone who can manipulate our team in the way we demand. Not only this, but we have a forum for our opinions on the internet; forums, blogs, social networks and comment boxes all allow us to prove that we know better than anyone else. Because we all think we do. We all think we know more than Alan Hansen, Andy Gray and Jamie Redknapp (although in his case, we probably do) and we now have a place to allow us to air our opinions.
Herein lie the problems: we watch too much football and we talk about it too much. This dilution of the game and the over analysis of the game mean that we’re rapidly losing sight of what is actually happening on the pitch and how the results are altering the leagues; we don’t care, as we’re too busy talking up player X vs. player Y and formation A vs. formation B.
But the worst of this is statistics. They say you can prove anything with facts, but you certainly can’t when it comes to stats in football. Statistics are rapidly becoming the new trophies; wheeled out to prove meaningless ideas and opinions and the current darling of the ‘traditional’ media as a way to stand apart from the lazy blogs (ahem) and twitter rants.
Last week, there was a ludicrous statistic that was being banded around the media regarding Rafa Benitez’s first 200 games in charge of Liverpool in comparison to other managers. It literally meant nothing as it was taken entirely out of context and forgot almost entirely about the game of football.
This week, it took 2 days after the Manchester United and Liverpool game for one of the broadsheets to make any quality comment on the first goal. So concerned were people about the stats of possession and the formations used, the number of times Vidic has been sent off and the number of games Man United have lost against the ‘Big Four’ that the goals were seemingly ignored. What was the real talking point was that the Man United defence was twice beaten by pace and for the first goal, Ferdinand was absolutely roasted by Torres. It was a huge goal, not only in the context of the game, but also because it served to demonstrate the fact that Ferdinand could not cope with the power, skill and determination of Torres.
And so to Arsenal. This season, alot has been made of the fact that we’ve let in a few goals. Alot has been made of the goals we’ve scored. People have been looking at stats, people have been saying how we need to buy player X and Y to sit in front of the defence and we shou…zzzzzz.
This season, we are playing a much more attacking formation. We have a ‘top heavy’ squad. We are scoring more goals and we are letting more goals in, but if people stop trying to comment, analyse stats and actually watch games you’ll notice something; defences are rubbish. Ours is fine, others are much, much worse. And so, how do you beat other teams? You score more goals then they do.
It seems to be a big secret that few people are commenting on, some dirty whisper that few people are willing to talk about, but football is about scoring goals and Wenger knows this. Let’s address why we’re scoring for fun: defences are rubbish. Yes, we’ve played some poor teams, but defences across the league are getting worse and much less reliable. If we actually watch games we can quickly see a lack of organisation, individual mistakes and defenders regularly being beaten by pace. If Joleon Lescott is supposedly one the very best defenders in the league, you know that something is wrong. As a barometer, both of England’s starting centre-backs are having very indifferent seasons so far and no one is really putting in consistently solid defensive efforts.
Watch the games, keep an eye out for individual performances; this year, the best form of attack is attack. No longer are teams sitting back and keeping clean sheets, not losing games. We don’t need to worry about our defence so long as we’re scoring as many as we can. Our only issues are individual mistakes which should, with time become eradicated, so long as morale and motivation are high. For now, let’s concern ourselves not with the stats and the analysis, the hyperbole and the dreams, rather watch and support our team as they play better than the opposition and score more. After all, isn’t that what football is meant to be about?