FIFA World Cup, Football, Serious Writing, Thoughts

What makes a winning Football Team? Part I: The Circumstances

I am not talking about ‘winning mentality’ or ‘winning tactics’ or ‘hard work’ or ‘discipline’ or ‘sacrifice for the team’ or ‘work ethics’. I am simply asking what makes a winning football team? More specifically put, I am asking what makes aconsistently winning team? What was so special about Johan Cryuff’s ‘Dream Team’,  Real Madrid’s ‘Second Galacticos’, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team, the current Bayern Munich team, AC Milan in the mid 2000’s, Spain’s impressive run of 3 major international titles or Manchester United’s hugely successful team in the mid to late 2000’s?

A hugely successful period for the Spanish national team

All those above mentioned examples were teams that won or are winning titles in a specific period of time – usually between 3 and 5 years. During these years, the team wins the domestic leagues and cups and reaches the finals or semi finals of the Champions League almost always, and winning it at least once. If a team is able to do this for 3-5 years, then it can be considered a successful team by any standards. The teams mentioned in the list above have all done it. So, the question is if there is a pattern here at all. If so, then whatdoes it take to build such a consistently winning team?

The answer to the first question is ‘Yes.’

Every football player goes through a normal distribution curve (bell shaped curve) when his performance is plotted against time. (I am not going to take into account uncertainties such as injuries, fallouts with managers, attitude problems, etc.) The peak of a player’s career lasts for a certain period of time. Here the ‘peak’ should not be construed as the absolute pinnacle in a player’s career. Instead it should be looked at as the period during which a player has been the most productive as compared to the rest of his career. How high the peak goes is largely left to the player and his inherent talent, guidance and work ethic. Its timing and how long the peak lasts for is usually a function of the player’s position. For strikers, the peak period usually lasts between the ages of 25 and 31. For attacking midfielders, that range holds true as well with perhaps a couple of years thrown in there to widen that range in some cases. Central midfielders and defenders have the largest peak period with a generally observed age range of 23 to 32. Needless to say, an argument can be made that within that large range, a central midfielder or defender has an even higher peak period generally found between the ages of 26 and 31. Goalkeepers on the other hand can last forever. You can really take any example: Buffon, Van der Saar, Valdes, Howard, etc.

There are of course exceptions with early bloomers and some exceptional talents. Pep Guardiola (player), Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Wayne Rooney, are good examples for early bloomers and exceptional talents. You only need to look at Paul Scholes, Andrea Pirlo or Claude Makelele for examples of players with exceptional talent who were/are practically still playing in their prime even past the age of 33 or so.

So if a striker is playing during his peak period and banging in goals regularly, what the manager wants is a set of attacking mid-fielders who are also playing in their peak period feeding him the ball and creating chances. Behind them, he wants the central mid-fielders also playing at their peak, holding up play, dictating the pace and distributing the balls as needed. And finally behind them, he wants the defenders and the goal keeper to also be playing at their peaks.

Now imagine if the manager gets his wish. Imagine a team that has been playing with the same set of players for 2-3 years and all the players have started or just about to start their peak periods in their careers. Imagine all the players in the team have been playing a single style of football under one single manager who has created a specific role for each player to play in the team. Imagine this manager stays on for a few more years. And now, finally, imagine this team playing under these set of circumstances for the next 3-5 years.

What do you think is going to happen?

Now it becomes obvious. Every single team I mentioned at the beginning went through such a phase that resulted – not just coincided – in their most successful periods – winning consistently and amassing trophies all the while. Maybe there was one or two factors missing such as a constant manager. But for the most part, a consistently winning team essentially consists of a set of players – most, if not all, of whom are playing at their peaks and have played with each other for a while.

This is the pattern that is there among all the successful ‘teams’ during their most illustrious periods. In the next post, I will be discussing the current situation with respect to most of the big clubs and what is happening with them as it concerns the ‘peak period production’ of their players.

And as far as this year’s World Cup goes, there is mostly one team (and perhaps two) that is playing in such a set of circumstances and it is also the team I would bet on to win the tournament.

It starts with a ‘G’.

Advertisements
Fake Football News, Fake News, Football, My sense of Humour, Satire

Breaking News: Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets reveals being Bullied as a Child

In an emotional interview to a local TV channel, Sergio Busquets confessed that he was constantly bullied when he was a kid and that the bullying hadn’t stopped even to this day. Speaking a few hours after helping Barcelona secure passage to the semi finals of the UEFA champions league, Busquets appeared to be well in control of his interview until the host asked him for his thoughts on the criticism he gets for allegedly diving at the slightest contact.

Busquets throwing himself to the ground

Busquets’ immediate response was to go silent for a couple of minutes on live television. And when the host asked him the question again, Busquets simply broke down and cried in front of the cameras, much to the astonishment of the gathered audience. Eventually he composed himself and confessed in detail about how he was bullied since the time he was a small kid and how that had affected his life.

The only things people see are me diving and falling to the ground easily, and holding my face or some other part of my body in pain. What they don’t know is what makes me do all that.

You see, ever since I was a small kid, I have been bullied, beaten up and pushed around every single day. So much so, I had to come up with something creative to solve my problems. So when I was about 11 years old, as soon as I saw my classmates or anyone else coming near me, I began to automatically throw myself to the ground, start rolling all over the floor pretending to be in agonizing pain! I was essentially victimizing myself for others to see, with the hope that they would show some pity and go away feeling that they had achieved what they wanted without having put in much effort!

And thankfully for me, it worked! So every time I saw someone approach me, I made it a habit to simply throw myself to the ground, hold my face and scream out in agony! And they usually walked away, pitying me, and without bothering me much.

After watching me do this for a few years, my mentor told me that I could make a living out of doing that. In other words, he said that I could play football for Barcelona! He said he had been doing it for a while now and that there was room for more. His name is Dani Alves.

Dani Alves has been the single most influential figure in my life. He taught me how to make all the throwing-myself-to-the-ground act to actually amount to yellow and red cards for the opposing team and penalties for Barcelona. He really makes it look so easy! I am completely indebted to him for everything I have today. He has been the perfect role model for me!

But in all seriousness, every time I see an opposing team player come near me,  I get scared and I feel that the bullying is inevitably going to follow. THAT is why I throw myself on to the ground and pretend to be in so much pain. And if, as a consequence, it means that my team – Barcelona – get an advantage, so be it. I mean…did you see what happened today? The ball wasn’t even in play when I went to the ground. Puyol simply shouted that someone was behind me and I was so scared, that I automatically fell over! The rest, they say, is history!

Following this emotional confession from Sergio Busquets, the TV host went on to shake Busquets’ hand to offer him some comfort. But as soon as the host reached out his hand, Sergio Busquests did a back flip and threw himself to the ground clutching his ankle! It later turned out that Busquets had actually injured himself while doing the back flip.

Following this emotional interview, Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona head coach, admitted that he was aware of the situation with Busquets and that he had given Dani Alves full freedom to train and mould Busquets into becoming another Alves. He also shed light on why Busquets could never do the same at a different club.

Barcelona is in a very unique position to develop and nurture such talent. We have so many things going our way for us. For instance, we play the most attractive football in the world, we have the best player on the planet and we have the best youth system in our club. Not only that, we also sport UNICEF logos on our shirts. I am not sure what it is but I have been told it helps us to get a soft corner from UEFA officials.

So what this means is that we can hide Busquets’ style of play amidst this big facade of beautiful football and UNICEF logos. And we still get the officials to help us out every now and then! No other team can boast of  having the ability to do this! Players like Busquets and Alves would be red carded every single game they played for diving, if they played for any other team! But that will never happen in Barcelona!

But seriously….what IS this UNICEF and why is it on our shirts?

It remains to be seen who will be the next person to come through the ranks of Barcelona with the ability to get the opposition teams the most yellow cards.