Any football enthusiast associated with any football club will tell you that it’s always nice to get off to an ideal start in a new season. Most of the time, this means a win; occasionally, if it’s a difficult away match, this means a draw but, ultimately, recording your first points of the campaign is the luxury teams strive for.
The reality, however, is sometimes contradictory to the dream as logic suggests that some teams will have to lose their opening encounters and suffer the despondency of no points with a negative goal difference.
Nobody enjoys losing – it’s obviously a terrible feeling no matter how competitive you are – and, depending on the circumstances of the result, some defeats can be harder to swallow than others.
This Premier League weekend, 8 teams were beaten including three of the big boys in Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester United. As bad as the losses are, none of the clubs need feel overly downhearted after the first game.
Heavy defeats were always going to draw the occasional ridiculous notion of sacking from pockets of fickle fans. Liverpool, Norwich and QPR each shipped more than 3 goals with no reply. What everybody connected with their respective teams need to realise is that it is still early in the season; way too early for even a 10-0 loss to be telling of what one can expect from its recipient.
Naturally, fans expect so much from their team and it needs to happen instantly or they won’t be happy. Remember Tottenham began their season last year with heavy defeats to the two Manchester clubs. Arsenal’s first five games began with 3 losses, a draw and 14 goals conceded yet they still managed to finish in third position after many predicted mid-table embarrassment.
In many respects, what teams gain from a loss is more valuable than what they learn from a win; they gauge what needs to be changed – what are the general strengths and weaknesses not yet identified during the preseason.
The thing about winning is that there are so many factors leading to the result – be it a terrible display by the opposition in a comfortable victory – as was the case when Arsenal faced United at Old Trafford – or a game filled with fortunate incidents that go in the favour of the lucky victor. Subsequently, this can paper over the cracks within a team, duping everybody into thinking that nothing need be fixed.
Losing, on the other hand, allows the club to quickly identify the imperfections; the earlier, the better too as it can be quickly rectified with more options to do so (squad numbers still up for grabs, transfer window still open etc), possibly leading to a more prosperous remainder of the season.
Bouncing back, from defeats and poor league positions into wins, builds character amongst players. Ideally, every club wants to start and end the season with long sustained success periods but fate rarely allows it. There’s something to be said of poor starts gradually improving due to the changes made whereas the contrary ideology seldom works favourably – just ask United or Spurs.
So you see, whilst a win is a coveted privilege not to be taken lightly, the importance of losing, particularly at this early stage, must not be taken for granted. However, I don’t expect teams to strive for it – that would just be pure madness.
image: © pittaya