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What I Wrote, Week of 5/27 (and Beyond)
I’m back to tell you to buy my book. Father’s Day is just around the corner, but hell, why not buy it as a Memorial Day gift? Memorial Day gifts aren’t a thing, as far as I’m aware; you could be the one to change that — create a new societal ritual amidst the ongoing atomization of our culture— by clicking this link and then either selecting “PRE-ORDER” or heading to your bookseller of choice.
As for the other stuff:
-You may have heard: The Champions League final is tomorrow. Liverpool and Real Madrid. I previewed the final with my guys at the Managing Madrid podcast.
-I talked to an evolutionary biologist who studies collective computation in nature … about Real Madrid’s improbable Champions League performances:
"We see that some individuals in other domains are very responsive to positive reinforcement or negative punishment and change their behavior in response to that kind of reinforcement," she said. "And so it just could be that when this group of guys get a little positive feedback, they really ratchet it up."
This jibes with the "Real Madrid DNA" that all of the players talk about -- and also with the management style of Carlo Ancelotti, who is the ultimate "players' coach," as shown by Mark Ogden this week. There's clearly some positive reinforcement that the players get purely from playing for Real Madrid. If you keep telling yourself that your team is special and all your teammates are telling you that your team is special, you eventually start to believe it.
-Along with Bill Connelly, I handed out some awards for the 21-22 Premier League season:
In fact, it was Bergwijn's second goal after the 95th minute, which combined to take Tottenham from 2-1 losers to 3-2 winners. The second goal, per Twenty First Group, increased Tottenham's Champions League odds by about 10% and that, to me, captures the beauty of the 2021-22 Premier League season better than anything else.
Sunday was utter madness because the races at every level of the table were so close, for so long. But for that same reason, we can look back on anything and find legitimate meaning behind it. Liverpool finished one point back of City; how many little, bizarre things could've shifted them a point higher or City a point lower? Arsenal were only two points back of Tottenham; Bergwijn's two goals were quite literally the difference between fifth and fourth. The same goes for the relegation battle, where 18th was three points back of 17th and four back of 16th.
It might be recency bias, sure, but I think the 2021-22 Premier League campaign is the best one we've ever had. After 1 1/2 years without fans, we got a season where everything mattered.
-I wrote about Kylian Mbappe’s decision to stay with PSG:
Now, contrast this to the Harry Kane situation with Tottenham last summer. He signed a six-year deal with Spurs in 2018. By the summer of 2021, he wanted to leave, but his only recourse was to refuse to go to training and hope that the club would just, I don't know, do him a solid and let him move to Manchester City for around £100 million. Had Kane signed a three-year deal like the one Mbappe just signed, he could have left Spurs last summer on his own volition and made a ton of money in the process. Who would you rather be? It's easy; expect more players to follow the Mbappe playbook in the coming years, including Mbappe himself.
-With Mark Ogden, I analyzed up the Paul Pogba Era at Manchester United:
Now, I'm judging Pogba on an impossible curve here thanks to a transfer fee that essentially required him to be the greatest midfielder of all time. The Pogba at Juventus suggested the possibility of a player who could score and create goals at the rate of an attacker -- Pogba's output of 0.44 NPG+A/90 is the same as the average forward in the Premier League this season -- while also functioning as an elite midfielder, winning the ball back and pushing it up field. With him in your team, you would basically get an extra attacker on the field without sacrificing anything defensively.
Given his age and potential to improve into something even better, you can understand why United -- and frankly, everyone else in the world -- wanted him so badly. Instead, they simply got one of the best midfielders in the world, not the best ever.
-I wrote about Manchester City’s move for Erling Haaland:
This past season, City's uninterrupted possessions (sequences) that lead to shots have moved the ball up the field 1.47 at meters per second -- slowest in Europe. Those possessions have an average of 4.19 passes -- most in Europe. And they last for 13.14 seconds -- longest in Europe. At Dortmund, they move faster (2.23 m/s, 55th percentile), pass less (2.89, 70th percentile) and don't hold the ball for as long (8.74 seconds, 66th percentile) when they create shots. Across those three numbers, Dortmund's profile is almost identical to ... Aston Villa's.
So can Haaland adapt? Or should Manchester City start playing more like a mid-table team?
Enjoy the game tomorrow, all. Be well.