Arsene Wenger has become renowned in the English and indeed world football for his methodical and considered approach to training and team selection. Early in his tenure, experienced players were both bemused and intrigued by his dietary initiatives (steamed fish and room-temperature water) and coaching innovations (incessant stretching every five minutes). However, once they realised they were fitter than the opposition, and were likely to have longer careers if they had rubberised hamstrings and the ankles of a yoga expert, they bought in to these changes and embraced them. Arsene also justified the selection of individual players by recourse to detailed statistical analysis, which although it may have strengthened his case in press conferences, had the effect of thoroughly confusing and irritating supporters on numerous occasions (e.g. Denilson).
Given our recent travails it is tempting to suggest that a calculated and scientific re-evaluation of our methods of preparation might be in order once again. It is an approach that has also worked elsewhere, at least in name. Younger readers may not remember the Everton “School of Science”, particularly as Fellaini’s recent attempt (as laudable as it was) at rearranging the face of Ryan Shawcross serves only to banish such a memory further into the mists of the distant past. It is time, I suggest, to expand on the notion of “Academies” and “Scholars” and focus the energies of both playing and coaching staff at the Grove on a more scientific approach.
It seems to me that our lack of success this season has had less to do with our form and more to do with the ability of opposition teams to prevent us from playing the game as we wish. It is one of the great clichés of the modern game that the really good sides can still be successful and pick up points even when they play badly. While watching The Arsenal this season I’ve often been left with the feeling that it matters less whether we play well or not – if the opposition play well to a certain plan they will defeat us, regardless of our form going in to the game, the attitude of individual players, or the level of preparation for the game.
What I propose, therefore, is the development and application of a highly sophisticated scientific formula for ensuring success. A suitable set of scientific parameters should be devised which can then be used to generate a range of formulae to apply to the preparation of the squad for individual matches. These parameters would include statistical, tactical, medical and meteorological data and values. Statistical values, for example, might be expressed as:
p = the value representing the efficiency of our passing game e.g. percentage of completed passes in key areas
g = the effectiveness of our goalkeeping e.g. % of shots saved, aerial balls claimed/cleared, long kicks to teammates and so on
a = the accuracy of attempts on goal
s = the total number of attempts on goal per game
d = the efficiency of defending e.g. success rate as a percentage of attempted tackles
e = the number of individual errors committed per game
Combining such values with certain other functions representing individual players, condition of the playing surface, home or away game, weather conditions etc. allows for the development of sophisticated predictive formulae which may be utilised for team selection, and the refinement of a suitable tactical approach.
Let us provide an example. A simple descriptive formula may look something like this:
3 = p(RA) + s(ÇΡW³) x a + d - e
where 3 = win, R = Rosicky, A =Arteta, Ç = Cazorla, Ρ = Podolski, and W³ = an on-form Walcott who controls the ball properly with his first touch and doesn’t overtake it when trying to beat a defender.
Of course the formula may be inverted for predictive purposes, particularly when other variables are introduced:
p(RA) + s(ÇΡW³) x a + d - e + ω = 0
where ω = Chamakh and 0 = loss. In this instance ω could be substituted for λ (Arshavin) or ? (Park) with no difference in the outcome.
As alluded to above, external factors can be included as in this example:
p(RxA) + s(ÇxΡxW³) x a + d + ≈ + Š = Ø
where ≈ = the pitch at the Stadium of Light, Š = Martin O’Neill’s unpleasant shower of Mackems and Ø = a no score draw.
There is scope to broaden this approach by the inclusion of other formulae from different branches of scientific endeavour. Perhaps the most famous formula of them all – e = mc² – could thus be interpreted in radically different terms:
errors = mental lapses x casual defending of a highly irresponsible nature (it follows that c³ would be of a heinously irresponsible nature, but c would merely be irresponsible).
I realise, of course, that this proposal is not going to put me on the shortlist for the Fields Medal, nor is it likely that Arsène and Bouldy will pay any heed to my suggestion. But if we don’t get a decent result against Martinez and Wigan this afternoon, I’ll compose a detailed paper on the subject and send it to Colney anyway.
Up the Arse.