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Greed, forgetfulness, stupidity, statistics

It would be amusing to hear all the shouting and complaining about ITV’s cock up while showing a bit of a local game from the north west the other day, if it weren’t for the greed and the crass stupidity of the footballing authorities that led up to the situation.

On 1 May 2002 ITV Digital stopped broadcasting.  It had bid a fortune to get football league coverage on the service, but when it stopped it then failed to pay up the money that contractually it owed the League and the clubs.  As a result many clubs were left in extremely difficult circumstances.

There was much gnashing of teeth, and demands that football fans should stop watching top programmes on ITV.   There was talk that football authorities in general would never deal with ITV again.   Ever.

But of course time goes on, and hey, who cares if a few little clubs get into financial trouble?  We have to see the bigger picture, and if ITV want the FA Cup, then why not?  They’ll pay lots of money, and we can’t always look back to the past.

Except that sometimes looking back can be insightful.   It depends how far you want to look back – but in essence ITV has been screwing up football coverage since at least the 1960s when, having got the coverage of an England game for recorded highlights, they failed to show the final goal in a 3-2 victory, and failed also to give any explanation of apology.   Later they cited editing errors.

ITV Digital could have been seen as a brave experiment that didn’t work – or an ill-conceived desparate attempt to catch up with Sky.   But either way there was never any excuse for ITV not to pay the clubs the money that was owed, just as there is no excuse for the FA to forgive and forget.  It is a bit like us being expected to forget what the bankers have done, and ignore the current plans to pay themselves bonuses for their failure.   “Bankers Behind Bars” is what I say – but that’s another story.

Moving back to what was by all accounts a typically dull and boring game between two northern sides, it is interesting the note in the light of the discussion among the highly educated and literate readership of this site on the topic of football statistics, the array of stats currently coming out about one S Gerrard, a football player from the north west.  This fella, who is apparently quite well known locally, got injured in the advert interrupted game, and can’t play for a bit.

Apparently when the Insolvents don’t have him in the team the average number of points they get per game goes down from something like 2.2 to 1.   The number of goals they score on average goes down a lot too.  In short, without him, they are akin to Blackburn.

Now I don’t say this to gloat over injuries – although myself a player of zero quality and ability, I nevertheless managed in my career to score quite highly on the injury count, and some of those pulled muscles and hamstrings could hurt.  So I don’t wish this on anyone.  Not even a player from the Insolvents.

But it is interesting to note the contrast with Arsenal.  We don’t have 3 star midfielders, and yet we still manage  to put together a 10 match unbeaten run.  OK it is not perfect stuff, and since the last two games I have been at were 0-0 (I didn’t go to Everton) I am losing my ability to leap up and down and shout a bit.   But I really don’t think we have that sort of dependence on one man that the Insolvents have.

What is remarkable is not just that with the departure of Flamini we didn’t have to buy anyone because we already had the top defensive midfielder in the league sitting in the reserves.  It is also the way that the squad battles on no matter what.   True Adebayor is having a poor run just now, but Van Persie compensates.  True we have lost our midfield, but the replacements work hard and Denilson has come to the fore.   Another 18 months and missing Cesc won’t matter because Merida will slot straight in.

We all love superstars like Bergkamp, Henry and Vieira, but one-man teams have never been a good idea.   Liverpool I might find someone wonderful to pull it all together at this moment, but history suggests they will struggle with their football, rather like ITV struggle with technology.

Still maybe they could get ITV to show all their games, and then Benitez could pretend that they had scored, and thus won, every time there is a commecial break.   He could then complain to the EPL that the scores on BBC were given out wrong, and that really they are top of the league by 20 points.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

4 comments to Greed, forgetfulness, stupidity, statistics

  • Ian Trevett

    I admire your faith that Merida could slot into the role of Cesc, but by the time Cesc was Merida’s age he had a fair bit of first team experience. I like the look of Merida but I’m surprised by his lack of first team appearances – even if for a few minutes. Anyone know why Merida has been used so sparingly?
    Perhaps one reason at the lack of first team appearances, especially for Wilshere, I think may be due to the closeness of our games. It’s been a long time since we have had a game won by the 70th minute (eg a safe 3-0 lead). The last minutes of virtually every game have been very nervy and Wenger hasn’t risked the inexperienced players. We need a few goal fests to see our youngsters on the pitch. White Hart Lane would be a good place to start 🙂

  • Joel Cairo

    Your point about Denilson is a good one, and while they may not all develop in the end, you have to toss Song and Diaby in there, too. I don’t know why Wenger didn’t land Alonso in the summer, but I bet that as the year has progressed, he has found himself less and less interested in trying again.

    Has Ade really been so bad? Personally, I think he’s been less productive than last season because he’s had a better partner in Robin. But how do people square his alleged laziness with his high Actim ranking?

    And since when has Wenger rewarded lack of hard work? I really don’t see it. There are many other qualities a team needs than some guy running wildly all over the pitch and out of position like Wayne Rooney.

  • don't believe the hype

    Ian Trevett – I think your comment is exactly the reason. Cesc is a one-off, a phenomenon, whereas most players don’t mature at that age. Arsene really believes in Merida, but he believes he is a late developer physically so he is not yet ready for the rough and tumble of the PL. That doesn’t mean he won’t get there though, and having seen a bit of him in the reserves, I agree with Tony that it’s only a matter of time.

  • Jonny Neale

    Ian, interesting points you raise. One of the frustrating quirks of Wenger’s stewardship to my mind has always been his reluctance to give his youngsters playing time when a match is effectively dead and buried.

    We haven’t had the luxury often this season but, even if we had, Wenger has always been extremely cautious in this area. It’s something I used to bemoan greatly but have just come to accept.

    Nonetheless after watching our kids demolish Wigan’s first team in what was arguably Arsenal’s performance of the season it is hard not to conclude that at other clubs several of those players would have been given a chance to contribute at the end of games to see if they can really step up and give a few first team players 15 minutes of rest.

    I was heartened to see Ramsey given a chance against Galatasaray but this is by far the exception, than the rule.

    It is also notable that usually once you have broken into the first team Wenger sticks by you regardless of fan opinion or indeed your performance.

    I think most people would have preferred to see Vela given more playing time over Bendtner this season but Wenger sticks by his man – even though he has been largely woeful. I concede there is something to be said for this in terms of it telegraphing the manager’s belief in your skills but it can be destructive to the understudies watching Bentdner put in poor performance after poor performance.

    I believe Wenger is overtly cautious with regards what damage the psychological impact of introducing a player too soon might have (were the player to make a crucial mistake).

    It’s a pity because mistakes are there to learn from and the fearlessness of youth can come very good indeed – just ask Gosling.