Finding Answers in Football

Everyone feels the urge to find answers to things that are left hanging. No one likes to be in the position where they are either clueless or misinformed. Everyone wants to know what happened, how it happened, why it happened, who was responsible, etc. The questions asked in a matter of seconds in one’s mind are pretty much endless. From the creation of the universe to the shocking ending of the TV series episode you just watched, you still have so many questions and it eats you up inside that you can’t answer them all.

Pretty often, the answers are pretty obvious and non-debatable. You take those answers as facts and move on with it. It’s the case with science and history. Sometimes, answers are less obvious. The way two people explain what they see in a painting probably differs. One might be closer to the reality of the painting but the other still probably makes a point.

I have always believed that the most difficult sport to analyze is football. You go for one answer, as if believing you have the right one. While in reality, thousands of other answers will appear. Some answers seem rather ridiculous and far away from the truth while others seem more logical. There is no significant manager, or any manager for that matter, who believes he actually got the hang of what happens in the 90 minutes of football. He receives snippets, moments, incidents, and strategies. He tries his best to come up with a plan as soon as possible and instructions to give to his players. Is this plan truly the final answer? Will all his problems on the field be solved? Will it be obvious to the spectators? The answer is a mysterious no.

Pretty often, spectators who have been following the game for a while have a collection of correct answers. These correct answers might even contradict each other. This is the result of football being the most errorful sport in the world. However, these same spectators build biases and go on to defend them. They suggest that their conclusion applies to ‘all of football’. However, they are not really willing to apply it when it goes against their liking.

In other words, in a football match you ask yourself many questions. To each question you get a thousand answers. You choose the answers that seem the most logical and move on. Out of the answers that seem the most logical you choose the one that suits you. You take this answer and represent it as the only reality.

Two Barcelona fans sit together to discuss a match.

“Why is Luis Enrique still Barcelona coach if he won’t help the team win?”

“How could he help them if the players refuse to run?”

“It’s his job to implement the correct tactics”.

“So you’re telling me it’s Luis Enrique’s fault that Busquets passed like that?”

“No, it’s his fault that Busquets is isolated.”

“So what, he told the players to freeze and leave Busquets without any support?”

“No, the players just aren’t helping him out.”

“So it’s the players’ fault?”

“No, it’s Luis Enrique’s fault for not telling the players to help Busquets out.”

“So there is no blame on the players?”

“Minor blame, these are world class players. He has a world class squad. He should do better.”

“But how could you blame a manager for a player’s reaction after an interception or a pass?”

The conversation goes on and on.

In different parts of the world, things happen in a similar fashion but they differ based on the case:

“Why aren’t these idiots doing what Klopp asked them to?”

“Mourinho has absolutely lost it as a coach”

“Have you seen how Herrera has been playing? This match was lost because of him.”

“It’s Mourinho’s fault for not kicking him out!”

“Wow what an exciting lineup from Pep. There is always something new and innovative”.

“Look at this idiot messing up his own team”.

If Pep’s team wins the match:

“Innovative Pep back at it again!”

“Not really, he has world class players to save his butt”.

If not:

“This is what happens when a coach tries to seem smart in his lineup.”

“Have you seen Aguero? He has been terrible”.

By nature, most football fans will always contradict themselves. Certain likings and even obsessions will always force such behaviors.

You will find a person who believes that Luis Enrique was extremely successful ONLY because he had a world class squad yet he’ll simply ignore the world class squads Carlo Ancelotti had on his path to either failure or glory. In fact, in case Carlo fails, this same person might even defend Carlo saying that these world class players did not apply what the coach asked them to.
In fact, everything related to Real Madrid’s recent history suggests that people’s theory about Luis Enrique only makes Real Madrid’s relative failures over the past decade deeper and more embarrassing considering all the resources and exceptional managers they have had.

There is a wide list of teams which had the resources and managers to build something great.

They didn’t do that. Barcelona, with Pep and Luis Enrique, made history. But sure, whatever serves the agenda.

Many people who say that Messi is the reason behind it all in Barcelona will defend Leo in Argentina saying his coach and team don’t help him out. The major contradiction here is that their second conclusion(the accurate one) suggests that Messi needs the support of a team and a coach to succeed(which is not only true but super normal and how football actually works). So how is Leo the reason behind it ‘all’? But, sure, whatever serves the agenda.

There is of course the argument that any failure is the coach’s fault while success is the result of the players’ brilliance. There are many exceptions to that rule. If the coach happens to be likable or a hipster’s favorite choice then he might have just helped the team win. And hold up while I write a 2000 word article about this coach’s revolutionary tactical perspective. You can’t even deny it then. Look! There are yellow arrows and triangles on the pictures explaining everything that takes place. You might as well completely ignore the coach who wins by his players’ individual brilliance. You can’t even find one thing tactically right about him.

Wait, but isn’t helping a player’s individual brilliance shine part of tactics?

“No if you have world class players they can shine on their own, anywhere. Only weaker players need a proper setting to flourish”.

So many questions. So many contradictions.

So this coach is tactically absent because you decided not to draw yellow arrows and triangles?

What about the weaker players who flourished under this coach?

What about the good players who improved?

What decides which coach actually uses individual brilliance to win? In reality, they all do. But will fans ever admit that their favorite coach got the help of his players(which is normal)?

Without depending on individual brilliance any top team will go from treble winners to struggling to make top 4. Why is individual brilliance expressed almost as a fault for certain coaches yet it’s glorified for others?

Why does Luis Enrique “depend” on MSN while Pep and Mourinho “got the best out of” players X and Y?

Why does everyone discuss individual brilliance yet less attention is given to individual failure?

So many questions. So many contradictions.

Football, being possibly the most flexible and errorful sport in the world has made it also the most debatable. But some people decide that it makes perfect sense to come up with one conclusion, just literally one conclusion, to everything that happens in 90 minutes and consider it a fact in the sport with the most human errors.

In football, I believe there is only one fact. It is a fact that I never learnt by watching, but by playing.

When you play a team sport(especially one that involves a large field and many players) you understand the concept of taking blame. You understand the concept of football’s domino effect. It is the simple fact you were taught when you were 5 and first handed a football. “You’re a team. You play like a team. You win like a team and you lose like a team”.

As poetic and kindergarten-themed that last statement may be, it is actually the most accurate description of a team sport. Blame is the number one poison for a football club(especially one that has the obvious ability to succeed like Barcelona). You will always find an argument against everyone involved in the team because football allows you to do that.

Finding someone to blame is the easy way out in football. You’ll probably always have a point.

But that’s only one point in a match of 90 minutes and 22 men. There are a thousand other points which you have missed or simply decided to miss.


  1. Brilliant. F@#$ing Brilliant.
    Drops mic.

    Man we needed this.
    Some of these guys would’ve commited suicide pre-Pep days or pre Rijkaard days even. SMH.

  2. Simplistic yet coherently complete. I especially like the way you analysed the cunning perspective Çules take in as real points while not taking a glance at other probabilities. Its mild yet one-sided. And just to be clear it’s not a fanbase thing it’s equally spread and proliferated by the pro-hipster world that is developing. I hope this gets to make some look at the possibility things all coming together in not so long a time & more importantly that no one in that squad is enjoying this run plus the coach.

  3. Interresting stuff!

    Just a request, could you make the fonts bolder or change the background or something. It’s a nightmare to read (not the content) 😀

    1. Indeed – it is very clear that we are at the fork on the road. Or we passed it by onto the wrong path.

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