The Football Reality: Seeing alternative possibilities always makes more sense.


By Dr Billy “the dog” McGraw, senior psychologist at the University College Hospital of the North Circular Road.

Forget Arsenal for a moment.  Just think about winning the League.   According to lots of supporters and a lot of people who make their money out of talking about football, argue that how one goes about winning the League is simple.  They can describe it. They know what to do.  And they could do it, given the chance.

The amazing thing is that these people who really do know about how to manage a team never get that chance, despite the fact that 60 League managers left their jobs in the 92 league clubs during the season 2017/18.  Most of those who have left were dismissed.  Only a few jumped.

So let us try an example of how things can go wrong.  And what better place than to consider further the very particular case of a Mr A Sanchez, a gentleman of Chilean descent who is described generally as a genius.

When Alexis left Arsenal to go to Manchester United this was widely seen as a good move for Manchester United, a good move for Alexis and a bad move for Arsenal.  Although not everyone saw it that way at the time. ran the article “Why Arsenal have made a genius signing in brainy Henrikh,” and there were one or two others who thought the moves of the January window were particularly astute from an Arsenal point of view, but not very many.

Indeed I recall most writers hammering Arsenal for their incompetence in letting Alexis slip away.   And yet today we see headlines such as “Alexis Sanchez, getting the best out of Paul Pogba and producing an attacking brand of football… what problems does Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho face this summer?” That was in the Mail.   Paul Scholes also lays into Alexis Sanchez: ‘His performances for Man Utd must improve – they can’t get any worse’.”   That was in the Telegraph.

And indeed this has been going on for a while as the Manchester Evening News wrote way back in March (which is a long time ago in football) “Manchester United reveal what is wrong with Alexis Sanchez”.    Apparently it was the timing of the transfer although that doesn’t really explain Mkhitaryan’s success, nor why Man U fell into such an obvious trap.

Meanwhile the always exceptionally droll and amusing Jonathan Liew ran a piece under the headline, “What’s wrong with Alexis Sanchez? Atom and Humber attempt to explain his struggles at Manchester United” which opened with the lines…

“With another limp performance and a Champions League exit, Sanchez’s move to Old Trafford has not been the blockbuster move that he had hoped for when he left Arsenal.”  (Atom and Humber are Alexis’ dogs.)

In fact even Sky Sports, that normally most anti-Arsenal of reporting centres got in the on the act with “Why is Alexis Sanchez struggling at Manchester United?”

Some people actually gave us answers as with, “JOSE MOURINHO is playing Alexis Sanchez out of position at Manchester United,” which is a story that originates with ESPN FC pundit Craig Burley and casts down on the astuteness of the Man U manager.  Surely not!

The Sun of course felt obliged to join in, and back in March said, “Alexis Sanchez has failed to light up Old Trafford since joining Man United … “What is wrong is that he came in the worst moment of the season.”

What would perhaps make this a little more believable of those saying that the January transfer should not have happened because it was the worst moment of the season BEFORE it happened.   Saying it after the event looks just a trifle like being wise after the cock-up, as the old saying goes.

But if you want to know a little bit more about what really is going on, you could try Mertersacker’s autobiography.   The book says, “We don’t have to understand the mechanics of the universe to go about our daily lives. But it’s good to take a step back every once in a while just to double check that our views of the world are in accordance with what some might call “the evidence of my own eyes.”

It is an interesting twist on the view Untold has of that phrase.  Mert is using it as a way of telling young players to check that one’s own life against the evidence out there of players who succeeded and players who failed.  It certainly isn’t a bad idea.

My guess from the outside is that Manchester United saw nothing wrong with Alexis, and put the entire blame for any decline that they did see during 2017/18 before he signed, on the incompetence of Arsenal’s training procedures rather than anything amiss within Alexis.  But sometimes it is worth checking all the options.

If you want to go further (and here it does get a bit freaky) there is a book by Carlo Rovelli called “The Order of Time” which argues that chronology and continuity are just a story we tell ourselves in order to make sense of our existence, and that actually time is merely a perspective.

All that exists is the process of transformation of one thing to another, from which it is possible to calculate possibilities and relations.  We superimpose order on what we see, but in reality the world is much more complex and chaotic than we can allow for.

So we rely on approximate descriptions that actually ignore most of the other events, relations, and possibilities.  Alexis is a great player but being held back by playing for a naff manager in a naff team.  Give them Mkhitaryan.

That’s one translation of events.  Another is, Alexis has got issues about being the top dog in the team and finds it hard to integrate.  Mkhitaryan is a brilliant player who gets along with most people and particularly with Aubamayang.  That’s another.  There are many more.

Two simple but different interpretations of the same event.  Only people who believe they are always right only see one of those two.



7 Replies to “The Football Reality: Seeing alternative possibilities always makes more sense.”

  1. It seems Santi is off to his former club, what I hoped from before he was injured, oh well.

    Hopefully Nacho decides to join him, Perez can play RW, he was effective, seems he is with us for ore season.

    Cohen also.

    I thought Joel had another year, seems he’s out of contract, I thought he had another year left? Will be very interesting at World Cup.

    With Danny and David in final year, this summer has to be the last surely?

    Aaron and Petr also, I could see the latter being sold, he didn’t fancy competition, hence that nonsense in EL newsroom. Macey it could well be, still like Jack Butland.

    Nacho is coming to final year.

    So that’s still a decent amount to liquidate and Mustarfi would add to that nicely, with a few lesser sales such as Akpom and Carl potentially, but hopefully Carl, Cohen and Asano could do well pre season, we are playing proper conpetitve teams and it will ve a short pre season, hopefully just those PSG and Athletico games and Emirates Pre Season Cup.

    Let’s hope football Lpndonnare making up reports we are going to lose Meyer to Hoffenheim and Diallo will go to Dortmund so we can buy their boy.

    They are the only people running this, and I wouldn’t put it past them to have started adding to UA traffic.

  2. Some reports out, about Santi going back to Villareal.

    Santi according to Wikipedia spent 7 years at Villareal. Just a little more than he spent here. He is Spanish. Villareal is not his closest club to his birth (as far as I can tell). He is from the north coast of Spain, on the Atlantic. Villareal is in northern Spain, but on the Mediterranean coast.

    It is possible he goes back to Villareal. I suspect that if that is true, and things don’t work out, he would consider coming back here.


    The only thing that needs to be liquidated in the above statements (or any other statement) is U know who.

  3. Some minor blog puts the chance of some imaginary transfer at 40%. As Untold has show before, it is probably NOT 40%, but rather something like 4%. And that would assume that a change in managers isn’t happening.


  4. Wonderful, this last comment which ends about Dorks goes through, the previous one supposedly seen, in limbo.

  5. ” The amazing thing is that these people who really do know about how to manage a team never get that chance, despite the fact that 60 League managers left their jobs in the 92 league clubs during the season 2017/18.”

    The problem is that there are still clubs gullible enough and who ignore the manager’s obvious failed past history and abilities , and still tend to go for said deadwood managers(but albeit) with EPL/International experience.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we get in new and fresh blood as managers , especially as there seems to be millions of eligible candidates ?

    So out with the following still active managers –
    – Sam Allardyce(managed 7 EPL clubs & England with unique 100% win record !))
    – Mark Hughes ( 6 EPL & Wales.)
    – Roy Hodgson ( 5 EPL ,England & 14 others.)
    – David Moyes ( 4 EPL & 2 others)
    – Steve Bruce ( 4 EPL & 4 others)
    – Chris Hughton ( 3 EPL + caretaker Spurs & 1 other(+asst manager R.Ireland)

    What would you reaction be if one of the above were to be appointed as the new manager of your club ?

    While thinking about this try this quiz –

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