Sagging into Some Kind of Nothingness (for a while)

Vessel Sagging[We’re thinking of this: ‘Sagging’ is the direct opposite of hogging. When a vessel is supported at bow and stern by wave crests, she will tend to sag in the middle. High buoyancy forces occur at the extremities of the ship. High gravitational forces, from the weight of the ship’s structure, act vertically down about the midship’s point, in opposition to the buoyancy forces. Source: General Cargo Ship.

Jeans SaggingNot this: ‘Sagging’ is wearing one’s pants below the waist to make pants baggier. This is seen as a “cool” way to wear pants, as seen by the number of rappers, skaters, rock stars, etc. that wear them. Usually a belt is not worn to reinforce sagging. Source: The Urban Dictionary.]

Is there anything more enjoyable than analysing data for patterns, or playing about with numbers? If your answer is yes then you are probably nothing more than a drug addled, alcohol soaked husk, rotten with gonorrhoea, whose mind is now rendered incapable of anything more than dribbling down its own chin due to a life given over to every indulgence and excess.

Then again you may be just a balanced individual with healthy interests and a fulfilled life.

But we digress. Following on from Blueboydave’s point about our recent form, I looked at our results over the 32 games so far and for added interest have added the equivalent results from last year in brackets.

Because it is very satisfying but ultimately pointless, I divided the season in two.

The first 16 games (up to the draw with Everton): W 9 (12) – D 3 (1) – L 4 (3)
The second 16 games (from the Spuds game): W 9 (10) – D 4 (4) – L 3 (2)

Now divide the season into thirds, for no other reason than 32 divides nicely into two sets of 11 and one of ten, leaving the 33rd game open for prediction.

Games 1-11 (to Liverpool defeat): W 8 (9) – D 1(0) – L 2 (2)
Games 12-22 (Fulham win to Blackburn win):  W 3 (7) – D 4 (3) – L 4 (1)
Games 23-32: W 7 (6) – D 2 (2) – L 1 (2)

Because this is just so delightful let’s go further and divide the 32 games into sets of four (that’s eight in each) and it looks like this.

West Brom to Villa: W 6 (7) – D 1 (1) – L 1 (0)
Wolves to Everton: W 3 (5) – D 2 (1) – L 3 (2)
Spuds to Sunderland: W 4 (5) – D 2 (3) – L 2 (0)
Liverpool to West Brom: W 5 (5) – D 2 (1) – L 1 (2)

Yes, like my own body it’s all about the sagging middle.

And finally splitting the 38 game season into four sections of 9-10-10-9 we observe thus.

Games 1-9: W 7 (7) – D 1 (0) – L 1 (2)
Games 10-19: W 3 (6) – D 3 (3) – L 4 (1)
Games 20-29: W 6 (7) – D 2 (1) – L 2 (2)
Games 30-38: W 2 (7) – D 1 (1) – L 0 (1) (so far)

It is clear that games 10-19 are where it went into comparative meltdown. But over two seasons the rest of the results show a remarkably even and consistent level of performance in terms of outcomes.

And as if it needed saying again, the second quarter is where most of the damage was done and two of the wins in that period all came in the first three games, before November 11th and the sacking of Wilkins, with the third win (in game 19) marking the return to a steady ship. It really was a pivotal moment, irrespective of his talents or contribution. We drew three and lost three of the next six games, a run of form that’s never been repeated.

Another point worth noting is that the emerging from the poor stats around game 17 to 20 could have been even better. Yes, there are always games where we feel we should have got something, Birmingham away for instance, but in general where we lost and drew this season the results are what they are. But the games against Spurs and Villa really were in our own hands. Drogba missed a last minute penalty at the Lane and we went 3-2 up on Villa at home with only minutes left. Win either or both and the results would be even more consistent and also mirror last season more closely, particularly the third quarter.

So while injuries, form, style of play, management can all be called on as contributing factors, in terms of the season so far it is difficult to get away from the feeling that something else went wrong, very wrong in November and December.

From the outside it would have seemed to deeply affect the whole club.

Then again, perhaps an in-depth analysis of personnel, injuries and form might indicate the perfect storm, where all these factors combined at that point in the season. Too many players out, those playing starting to feel the strain, returning players not played in yet and young players not established enough. Might be worth a look.

This is not special pleading for Carlo, more a reflection of surprise at how consistent our form has been through large parts of the season, indeed both seasons. The idea that we got results at the start of the season and that was it, doesn’t stand up strangely enough, because whichever way you slice it there is a steadiness to our results away from mid-November to late December this season.

Now this is a separate issue from how we are actually playing, but goes more to whether the current set up can prepare and maintain a competitive team. It takes very small margins to fall short. Given there is supposed to be a transition, we are close to achieving last year’s levels, with the exception of the big hairy gorilla in the corner. I am not trying to pretend that all is well. Rather, looking at these numbers shines a light on that which we already knew, it is not a question thus far of erratic form but rather of one serious derailment.

Why? In the old days you would send your answers on a postcard. And the chances are that amongst them would be a postcard from a young man (well any excuse to play a favourite Scouser helping out some Welsh blokes).

(Of course deep down I suspect most team’s seasons have patterns where each segment is quite consistent in results. I just don’t have the enthusiasm to go searching.)

There are 10 comments

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  1. Anonymous

    Nice work BB. It does make you wonder what happened during those 10 games. I don’t know that we’ll ever know until the next round of autobiographies.

    This also makes me think that retaining Carlo isn’t such a bad idea, assuming whatever it was during that period was situational and not structural. If it is a problem that was identified and is unlikely to reappear, then The Eyebrow has been pumping out good results for two years now.

  2. Anonymous

    So if I follow you, BB, [and I have been limbering up by reading one of Brian Greene’s books on Superstring Theory], but for a saggily, elongated bad “moment” in quarter 2, pretty much results like last season, without actually winning anything this time, subject to late collapse by the Mancs presenting us with EPL.

    As we seem to have recovered how much change do we need this summer? Not much according to Carlo, here, on the great youth non-appearance saga. This might be the comments by Carlo that Limetreebower was looking for on the last blog:

    Have to say it reads to me like a recipe for never giving your youngsters a chance to establish themselves:

    if your established players are all fit, they play and Josh and Co. get 10 minutes at the end when a game is won if they’re lucky; if your established players are all injured you can’t put pressure on your youngsters so they don’t play at all.

    Is that an unfair summary?

  3. bluebayou

    I thought it was good that Carlo came out and tried to give me some answers, having seen my post………….

    You make a good point but I read it that without the injury crisis, with better results and perhaps less pressure (well when does that ever happen really) he would have been able to build up the youngsters playing minutes. I say that because the sun is out and it’s warm so I’m trying for positivity.

    I don’t know what would be considered a time without pressure. 12 points up at Christmas? Then if we play more youngsters, lose a couple what then. It’s a conundrum and no mistake.

    One thought I had and not directed at anyone in particular is where does starting Torres and then bringing on Drogba, who scores and gives us 45 seconds of hope, stop being poor selection and start being inspired substitution. Possibly if your name’s not Ancelotti?

    Oh and BBD if we win the EPL it wont be because the Mancs hand it to us. It will be down to our strong minded experience and the importance of knowing how to play a good run in. It will be down to the never say die attitude of a highly skilled set of players directed by an experienced manager who knows how to win and never doubted that the opposition would at some point hit heavy weather and completely bottle it, exposing themselves as chokers of the highest order.

    Are you convinced? No neither am I

  4. bluebayou

    Somewhere in a parallel universe where God is is his heaven and all is right with the world, we will be stepping up to second in the league.

    Oh that it were so in this particular one.

    Historical Note:

    It was after Game 33 last season that we ascended to the top step from second place, there to remain. We beat a team from Salford 2-1 to go onto 74 points with 84 for 30 against. Today after 32 games we have 61 points with 58 for and 26 against.

    So provided we keep it tight at the back tonight we can take a lot of pleasure from the vast defensive improvement in a difficult year.

    • Cunningplan

      I take it from your posts BB that you’re having the same insane thoughts as me, that we could well pinch this title.
      If you do deny it, it’s no shame, of course I can take all the plaudits of…. I told you so. 😉

  5. Anonymous

    Somehow, from somewhere wwwwaaaaayyyyyyyy out left-field, we’ve appeared very much in the title race.

    6 points behind Utd and them, us and Arsenal all doing our damnedest not to win the thing.

    There’d be something poetic about us pulling it off, bearing in mind we died for two months over Xmas, and we’ve lately been carrying the Worlds most expensive work experience student. But – whisper it quietly – we’re still just about in it.

  6. Anonymous

    As long as we’re playing the 4-3-3 we look decent enough to keep winning games.

    The descent into pointless confused chaos as soon as the second two substitutions were made was remarkably instantaneous. Suddenly everyone began being utter crap.

    Great to see Ryan Bertrand appear, and a nice reminder that yoof football isn’t ultimately about results (a helpful thing to be able to persuade ourselves of this evening in particular …)

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