Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

Archive for December, 2008

Scientists worried by Vidic’s post-scoring behaviour

Posted by hakanrylander on December 7, 2008

Yesterday’s game against Sunderland became a lot more thrilling than necessary, and accordingly the joy and celebration was all the more ecstatic after Nemanja Vidic’s extra-time winner. But maybe we should have been worried rather than overjoyed as Vidic saluted the crowd and then ran to embrace assistant manager Mike Phelan (who only moments earlier had ordered Vidic to move upfield). Scientific research seem to indicate that this kind of celebration could signal hard times ahead for Manchester United.

Gary Bornstein and Chanan Goldschmidt at the Department of Psychology at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem have studied the correlation between post-scoring behaviour and team success in football. The hypothesis is that strong team cohesion leads to success. They constructed a model to measure team cohesion by the way players behave after scoring. In this model it’s a sign of weak team cohesion if the player turns his attention to the crowd and runs towards the crowd and/or the coach (a la Vidic). If team cohesion is strong the player is expected to focus mainly on his team-mates.

They then went on to study 125 videotaped goals scored in the Israeli premier league and categorize them according to the nature of the celebration. The next step was to compare this with the final standings in the league table at the end of the season. Their conclusion was that post-scoring behaviour was indeed a fairly good predictor of team success. To put it bluntly; teams that celebrated in the style of Vidic finished at the bottom of the league. Further details of the study (and others) can be found in “Myths and Facts About Football”.

Luckily, the study cannot be seen as the final word on this issue. One obvious objection is the difficulty involved in measuring team cohesion in this way, involving e.g the weighting that should be given to different aspects of the celebration such as focus of attention, direction of running, number of team-mates touched etc. Furthermore, there is a question mark as to the direction of causality. The scientists themselves admit that it’s quite possible that players become more team-oriented as the team becomes more successful rather than the other way around.

With these reservations in mind I feel that both my own and Vidic’s celebrations of his goal were fully justified.

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Wembley, here we come!

Posted by hakanrylander on December 6, 2008

This kind of headline might seem a stupid way of tempting fate, but I really cannot see us loosing a two-leg Carling Cup semi-final against Derby County. Holders Spurs play giant-killers Burnley in the other semi-final. Even though Spurs is a completely different side compared to a couple of months ago, I still feel that Dimitar Berbatov has a great chance of picking up the trophy for the second year running.

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Preview: United – Sunderland

Posted by hakanrylander on December 6, 2008

The big question here is of course whether Carlos Tevez will start, after his hat-trick and impressive performance against Blackburn in mid-week. I certainly think he should. A home game against Sunderland might be a good time to give Rooney a rest. As frequent visitors to this blog might have realised I regard Berbatov as virtually untouchable.

"Welcome home, Keano!"

"Welcome home, Keano!"

Ricky Sbragia will be in temporary charge of Sunderland as Roy Keane has gone to the dogs. Sometimes the departure of a manager can have strange psychological effects, and Sunderland might raise their game tonight.

My line-up: Foster (yes, it’s time to give him a run of games); Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Anderson; Park, Tevez, Ronaldo; Berbatov.

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Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore

Posted by hakanrylander on December 4, 2008

Last night against Blackburn Rovers it finally became obvious that Gary Neville’s career hastens to its end. He was at fault for two of Blackburn’s goals. The signs have been there to see all season, but I’ve thought that maybe he needed time to get back to full fitness and therefore I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt. Until now. He is now just third, after Rafael da Silva and Wes Brown, in my right-back pecking order, and unlikely to be asked to play in central defence again unless there is an emergency. Jonny Evans has been sensational this season and John O’Shea often plays in this position for Ireland. I expect this to be Gary’s last season.

On a more positive note, it was of course an absolute delight to see Carlos Tevez score three (or was it four?). Hopefully this confidence boost will make him return to his high performance levels of last season.

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