Leicester’s Rise and Fall

Even 5 years ago, if you had mentioned Leicester as a club in serious contention for the Premier League title, you would have been laughed out of the pub in disgrace. Yet, here we are. They won the title last year, thanks in no small part to Claudio Ranieri’s management, and some spectacular playing from Silva and the rest of the squad.

I’m a Manchester City fan, as anyone following this site well knows. But as an outside observer, I’ve been rooting for Leicester all season. Sometimes, I think it’s important for us to remember that half of watching football is just about having fun. They’ve been an underdog squad, who’s played well and with a fiery spirit, come out on top last season, and that’s all I really need to be on their side. Frankly, they’ve been more interesting to watch than City for most of the year.

 

So, I found it really disheartening that less than a year after he somehow turned Leicester into a winning squad, Ranieri got the sack after one key loss this year. It’s also frankly sad that the squad, the players, and even the club owners didn’t have the backbone to express any of it publicly or directly before the man was already out the door. That’s got more to do why a lot of fans are angry, more than the business of getting Ranieri out in the first place. There’s a great column in the Guardian talking about how the money gum has made everything so risky that clubs are making rash decisions like this more and more often.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/feb/25/claudio-ranieris-leicester-exit-a-tale-of-deceit-and-discourtesy

 

There’s an interesting column in FiveThirtyEight which essentially proves that statistically, managers don’t have much of an effect on teams. It’s mainly about money, which I suppose anyone could tell you. But the point is that on average managers leave league teams after a year or less, which is an insanely short amount of time compared to coaches in other sports. One season is realistically not enough to make a significant difference in a team dynamic or in the club’s strategy. I think it’s why so many clubs are so static year to year–they don’t change anything structural, just the person at the top. The column argues that the results this season, with some missed opportunities and general bad luck were exactly that, and that the general trend of the up-and-coming squad, like focusing on recruitment, analytics, and new techniques on the field, were mostly there before Ranieri and will be there now that he’s gone.

It’s a hard one to argue because according to that logic, the team won’t be any worse off after Ranieri’s gone, but this logic that firing is the answer to every problem is really tedious and I find it’s just a cheap distraction from the real dynamics that matter in a club’s corporate strategy and long game.

 

My point is that football becomes a lot less fun to watch and get involved in when these sort of back-room corporate deals take precedence over the spirit and camaraderie that drew us all in in the first place. Thoughts?

 

How great footballers train

Another fitness inspiration post for you all today!

 

If you read this site regularly, you’ll probably have noticed I’ve been writing a lot about fitness and football recently. That’s because I’m on a bit of a workout bender myself, and I think it’s something that’s exciting to learn about even if you’re permanently consigned to being an amateur goalie like me.

 

Something that’s been really cool for me to read about is the kind of training younger players are doing these days, which is miles beyond what I was doing in 6th form. According to a Guardian piece I read the other day, one benchmark that’s set in Dutch football academies is that players should make contact with a ball at least 10,000 times a day. That’s insane! They work on endless repetitions of the same movement patterns, instead of just working out, which is what we used to do.

It definitely makes sense that these new training techniques make better players. I think a lot of us went through until college working as hard as anyone else but without the coordination or finesse that you actually needed to be good at the game. A lot of people who study things like different training techniques between England and Europe say that it’s probably conservative to get to 10,000 contacts a day, and that the way we plan our practices and training sessions around coaching isn’t really the point. It’s all about repetition, so it doesn’t really matter if a coach is there at all, since muscle memory is all internal. The great players are great because they have muscle memory that’s so fast that it’s the same thing to make a pass as it is to shift slightly to one side to avoid bumping shoulders on the tube. It’s all second nature to them.

 

Anyway, I know me and most of you are all past the days when we’re going to make 10,000 contacts in a day. But, I’m taking it as a point of inspiration this week, because I think it makes sense that if you do the same thing enough times, it becomes body memory. One writer who was talking about this was Malcolm Gladwell, who was saying that football as a skill requires a bare minimum of 10,000 practice hours to learn. It’s no wonder that less and less of us are making the League these days.

 

Point is, I’ve decided to be inspired by the 10K number, and try to get to 10,000 calories burned a week. I’ve got a long way to go, but I like ambitious goals. I encourage you all to join me on your treadmill or out on the streets running. You don’t have to go too crazy, though. The key to any fitness routine is consistency, according to researchers. They actually day that training multiple times a day can be unhelpful in certain cases. If you’re going to try and do more than one thing in a day, make sure they’re very different activities, like running and yoga, and things with different goals, like strength vs. flexibility.