Just another gripe about pundits

We Make Footballers
06 April 2022

Pundits pedalling lazy cliches is a poisonous part of the English game. There are many highly intelligent casual football fans, or very good footballers, (some are even both) out there are some who don’t have a natural gift for understanding the game. The views of this large group are largely shaped by the footballing media they are exposed to.

Understandably so. When you hear an analysis of a game by Craig Burley compared to a Guillem Balague, the chasm of quality is as huge as the difference in thoughtfulness on the pitch between Charlie Adam and Andrea Pirlo. In the UK, our understanding of the game is way behind many of the top nations. It shows in our players, and it surely shows in our pundits.

It is dangerous to take everything you hear or read on face value.

For example; “The best team always wins the league.”

When was this scientifically proven?

The quality of a team is an intangible, something open to interpretation, with success being merely the main ingredient used to make a judgment.

Over the years I came to accept this statement as a fact rather than an opinion or cliche. The final league tables in the Premiership and La Liga in May gave me reason to question the belief which had been formed from what I’d heard many pass off as factual.

The two Manchester clubs fought a fierce two horse race from very early on last season, one that had a few twists. With United’s final game already finished City still required two goals to become Champions. And with a matter of seconds remaining, Sergio Aguero scored THAT history making goal, stealing the title from Sir Alex Ferguson’s tightly clenched grip.

When such fine margins decide who finishes above who, how can anyone say with complete certainty which of the teams was really better. This is not to say City weren’t worthy Champions. It is difficult for anyone to claim after 38 games, a team finishing first out of 20 is undeserving. That does not automatically mean they were the best though.

Real Madrid finished nine points ahead of the team frequently afforded the precursor, ‘the greatest team in footballing history’. So why is no one lauding Jose Mourinho’s team in similar fashion? Simply put, the Real Madrid team which finished first in La Liga in 2011-12, is not of the same quality as the Barcelona team which finished second.

Despite the disparity in points, the only thing supporting claims that Real Madrid are better than Barcelona is that cliche I have quoted above.

While people will readily admit that winning a Cup competition, even the drawn out Champions League, can sometimes be attributed to factors other than the quality of the team, they will literally become defensive over a claim that winning a league can be achieved by a team which was not the best.

What makes 38 the magic number? Why is that the amount of games where luck (injuries, suspensions, other external factors) magically ‘even themselves out’?

38 matches while more than any team has to play to win a Cup, is not a definitive sample size, assuring the best team always wins.

I have decided to start a rival cliche; “The best team doesn’t necessarily win the league.” Hopefully it will catch on.

Another example of the abuse of power by the footballing media in this country is the demonization of Luis Suarez. I’ve already argued extensively about the racism issue but this was something which started way before the infamous Patrice Evra incident.

Luis Suarez was a footballer way before the 2010 World Cup when he made an incredible illegal save to deny Ghana a place in the Semi Finals. Rewind a few years, where was the vilification Suarez would come to receive when Phil Neville did exactly the same thing to a young Lucas Leiva. A goal in a Merseyside derby would have made the young Brazilian an instant hero at Anfield, but instead he didn’t get credit for the converted penalty and went through three years of abuse from a large section of his own fans before eventually proving them all wrong.

Neither Neville nor Suarez deserves criticism in my eyes. It is something I would do for my team without thinking. But with one it was instantly forgotten, whilst the other was made into a pantomime villain.

Suarez is no angel on the pitch, but he is surely no John Terry off it. When you hear about Suarez the man, you hear about someone who loves his family and gets along famously with his team mates. But if you were to believe the English press, the Uruguayan is the definition of evil. I would hate to see the press Liverpool’s star would get if he behaved like Chelsea’s captain off the pitch.

People often seem to get wound up in arguments with me. I assume it’s because I come across as arrogant when I’m making my points. I am obviously going to believe in my own opinion, or it wouldn’t be my opinion. I don’t ask anyone to agree with me for the sake of it. I do ask you to convince me otherwise. I will change my opinion if I am given reason to no longer think I am correct.

I hear way too many recycled opinions from people when they talk about football. Often if you argue with these types of people and you dig a little deeper, they can struggle to substantiate their views, and this stems from the fact that they are not actually their views.

The overall point I am trying to make is I would implore you to challenge everything you hear and read. Don’t just take something as gospel because someone on TV who used to play football said it.

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