Free Friday: A Guide to Being a Studio Pundit, the Best Horse in the Race & Fighting Confirmation Bias

Free Friday: A Guide to Being a Studio Pundit, the Best Horse in the Race & Fighting Confirmation Bias
February 23, 2018 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday


This week’s posts selected by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.

This gives you some idea of the range of debate on the site and the type of articles published. If you’d like to be part of it, there’s a ‘Subscribe’ tab at the top of the page. 

1 – Thundyr’s Guide to Being a Studio Pundit.

1. Look smart, but don’t wear a tie – no one likes ties. When I say “smart” I mean that both in the “well-dressed” and the “clever” senses. After all, it was JF Kennedy (or maybe it was Eddie Izzard) who said, “People respond 70% to how you look, 20% to how you sound, and 10% to what you say”. So get the look sorted and they can’t fire you because you’re already more than halfway to being a great pundit.

2. Prior to the game flip a coin with your co-pundit on which team you “support” for the game, unless either of you already played for one (or both) of the clubs on display. Pretend it’s like a debate in school, where any shit you say is better than not speaking and so the teacher can’t fail you.

3. If you’ve played for either (or both) of the teams on display spend as much time as possible telling everyone what it was like playing for the club(s), who you met etc. Everyone wants to hear about your story, so tell it as often as possible. BONUS section: If you can, make sure you get to host as many games played by your former clubs as you can, so you can tell your story each week to fill up the time that would otherwise necessitate actual analysis on the part of either you or your co-pundit, and neither of you want that.  PRO-Tip: It should be noted that if you played for a great many clubs as a player you’ll be in the studio all the time for your amazing insights into the clubs, so playing for as many clubs as possible guarantees a long career as a pundit even if you suck as a player (see: Jermaine Jenas, Robbie Savage).

4. Keep it simple. If your co-pundit is a genius (unlikely) or exceptionally talkative or opinionated (likely if he played for United or Liverpool) then let him do all the talking.  Don’t forget to smile and nod often.  Every now and again ask a controversial question so that he can use up more time on prattle than analysis, and you’ll look even more smart for raising such an “interesting topic” (see point 1). Make up words and acronyms to help – people remember “The SAS” (pronounced: “sass”) and you will look smart (see point 1).  RULE #1: you’re there to use up minutes, not be insightful, so anything that uses up minutes without throwing doubt on your “insightfulness” is perfect. See what I did there?

5. Prior to the game:  Say how you’re expecting the good players to do well “in this sort of game”, even if you don’t know what “sort of game” it will be. Viewers lap that up – they love hearing how the players they like are sure to do well in this game. Smile and nod if your co-pundit uses technology to show diagrams or replays, even if none of it makes sense to you or is completely opposite to what you would have said. If you have to control the pen on the formation diagrams, randomly drag players around, talk fast about versatility and then stop suddenly so that it seems like the other members of the broadcast team have to take a moment to think about what you just said, making you look smart (see point 1).

6.  Half-time: When inevitably asked what the managers’ instructions should be, do the following. If the team is winning or is a lower quality side vs a top side and is only 1 goal down at most, say “More of the same”. Praise the much weaker side for not getting thrashed and don’t forget to say this is the “beauty of the <insert competition name>” because only in England are the shit teams not completely shit. If the good team isn’t winning say “The manager really needs to think about bringing on <name of star player on the bench>” (there is always a star player on the bench with a top club – if there isn’t one say this is the kind of game where the lack of squad depth can be exposed and criticise the manager for not buying better/more players or criticise the owners for not making the funds available). Don’t forget to criticise the good players you praised at the start of the show for having an off day, or praise the other team for “wanting it more”.

7. End of game: Repeat what you said at half time if the managers somehow made the changes you suggested and got the result they wanted. This will make you look smart for the next show (see Point 1). If the manager tried what you said but the result was bad, criticise the players who changed for not trying hard enough “at this level”.  If the manager didn’t follow your advice and got a bad result, criticise him for not taking your advice that was “obviously good and would have guaranteed the win”. If they won happily agree that the manager did the right thing but remind everyone that it was a “bit of a gamble”. Don’t forget to remind people how so-and-so getting injured forced the manager to change the system (even if he didn’t change anything – the average viewer doesn’t know how to analyse the game anyway). Stand by whatever the referee did, right or otherwise, replays or otherwise, unless he helped a club you hate (or the club was Liverpool) in which case say he changed the game for the worse and the result was not a “true reflection of the game”. If a bad team gets hammered by a top side that isn’t Liverpool or a club you hate, say how good the winners were otherwise say how bad the losers were or how the referee was “swayed by the crowd” on the big decisions.

2 – Tony Mckenna (macattack) responding to Daniel Rhodes’ article How Accurate Are Referees? The PR v The Research

Daniel, I think that this is an important contribution to the whole debate about refereeing decisions. For that reason, wholly relevant outside these TTT walls.

After all, you have eloquently enlightened the PGMOL, (if they can be bothered to read), advising them about their lack of an evidence base; and where they do provide an evidence base, just how absolutely flawed they prove themselves to be.

In the latter sense, it is disconcerting just how amateurish they have portrayed themselves. The reference to obvious events, such as a player kicking a ball out of play, smacks of availability bias. Of course, those easy scenarios confirm the accuracy of match officials decision making. The problem is that it smacks of having the outcome in mind, from the outset; looking for information that will bolster that preconceived conclusion. A terribly dangerous practice.

It is dangerous because it can obscure debates, and the truth, for years.  Often, we never may get to the truth at all. The material becomes too big, mixed with falsehoods and red herrings; to the point that it can even preponderate where exactitude has been delivered. Throw in a grassy knoll, on top of a Book Depository; add a ‘magic’ bullet; the mob; the C.I.A. and the F.B.I; etcetera; and the literature mushrooms beyond conclusive human appraisal. It is too complex.

There is then an infinite cycle of opinion, and counter opinion set in motion.  People will actively seek out available information that fits their own personal theories.

But what you have done here is given the PGMOL a massive opportunity to revise their confirmation biases and start out again. They ought take notes from your article. Rolf Dobelli, (The Art of Thinking Clearly), puts it far better than I could:

“It pays to listen to Charles Darwin: from his youth, he set out systematically to fight the confirmation bias. Whenever observations contradicted his theory, he took them very seriously and noted them down immediately. He knew that the brain actively forgets disconfirming evidence after a short time.  The more correct he judged his theory to be, the more actively he looked for contradictions.”

Daniel, I doff my cap.  An astonishing piece of research and writing.

3 – John on recent and future transfer business:

As I go through “Bring the Noise” I just get such a sense of the importance of the collective and group dynamic about Klopp. He is the polar opposite to the “grate” Roy Hodgson.

Of “great” relevance is the impact of Götze going to Munich on Klopp. I am therefore inclined to agree with cvt123 and thundyr above, that there was an element of buying, ahead of selling. Great strategy in an inflationary market.  I think that VvD was the critical deal in that Klopp saw himself and more in VvD and the key attraction was his ability to bring the entire defensive unit together and understand the importance of quick go forward.

When I think back to the end of last season and the rumours of deals for Keita and VvD I really wonder how good we could be now if we had landed these targets in time for pre season. It was the time to buy. Buying in time would have given Klopp a good run at preseason and embed his approach.

The reality now is that if we are thinking about who we might buy this summer we must bargain shop to an extent. The world cup means a late return at best for players from the “lesser performing” nations.  Klopp needs time to integrate acquisitions. So, we either buy early or we buy ready made. If we buy early I suspect we will buy potential, 20-23 year olds, talents that will learn from and more dynamically cover the “titillating three”

It will be interesting to see the financial results for 2017. Having redeveloped the main stand match day revenue is set for now. Broadcasting revenues will plateau or perhaps decline if the EPL international rights don’t sell well. Growth in this area will therefore be entirely performance based. If we don’t finish in a CL position this season it will have a significant financial impact.  When you then consider the clubs relatively poor performance in growing commercial revenues you have the capacity for a choke point. I looked recently at a Swiss Ramble revenue analysis and what was most disturbing was the rate of growth of the distance between Utd’s and our commercial revenues. When I reflected on this I understood it as the compounding effect of success. Almost every commercial agreement has a performance clause so if on average over 10 years we finish 6th and Utd finish 2.5th the bonus element of their commercial agreements will put them out of sight in terms of revenue generated.

So what does all of this mean? Well, I think we have to look at the Sanchez deal and its impact. What’s critical is the awareness of the financial risk and consequences of entering a deal like this. City said no in the bidding war indicating that they understand where things are going in the EPL. City have the equivalent of no match day revenue. So with no broadcasting revenue growth what options have they to finance a Sanchez type deal. The answer is none. They cannot afford pay claims from 2-5 players looking to match the Sanchez terms.  I have heard it said that Wenger has an intuitive understanding of the danger of wage inflation. Did he take a disposal hit on Sanchez and Giroud to cover his bets on Özil, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang. Levy has been the master at implementing wage control but now finds himself in a bind. His only option is to sell Kane as he is the wage inflator. They have a stadium to pay for – which their owners are not paying for.

So, there is lots to chew on. I think we are on the best horse in the race.

4 – Anthony Stanley in optimistic and appreciative form:

Late to this party Paul, as usual recently due to work, but that is an exceptional piece and yet more proof that you’re probably the best Liverpool writer plying his trade at the moment. And the article on Red Men was an absolute triumph and I was delighted to hear the praise the lads gave your work on their podcast. They pretty much echoed exactly how I feel, from the days I logged into LFC’s official site, just to read your work, to the years that followed when you’ve shown impeccable research coupled with witty and memorable writing style.
I listened to The Anfield Wrap on Monday night and they were asked to judge Jurgen Klopp’s tenure thus far. I was genuinely amazed at some of the negativity and levels of borderline indifference at the job that the German has done. Some of the contributors, I’d have a great deal of respect for, some, to me, are still mired in that weird Liverpool twilight zone of entitlement.
We’re Liverpool, we should be winning trophies, we should be getting the best, was a thread that was spun throughout the conversation. Now, personally, I don’t get the charge levelled at Klopp – or his predecessor for that matter – that they have to win a trophy to be considered a success. I find it archaic, verging on anachronistic. But I can, to a degree, understand where people are coming from. However, like many on this site, and buoyed by knowledge that I have learned here (like negativity bias and the hedonic treadmill), the biggest thing I want to see is progress, a sense of improvement, a tangible feeling that things are getting better. Of course I want trophies, and I doubt if there’s many fans that want that Premier League trophy more than me, but I refuse to be blinded by a sense of entitlement based on our history and culture. A sense of entitlement that all too often turns septic. I get it, I get the passion inherent in the majority of fans. But allowing a football result to completely crush my world? Are you kidding? When Swansea beat us recently, a guy turned to me and said, with predictive relish, ‘how typical of Liverpool is that?’
Well, it’s not. Not any more. Thanks to Beez brilliant snippets of information (which is one of the few reasons I haven’t banished Twitter – and so delighted to see you getting the credit you deserve Andrew), we can all see the staggering progress. We tend to beat the likes of Swansea, even if they decide that buses must be parked. Most sides will do that and we tend to find a way through massed ranks of defence. Sometimes we struggle, just like Spurs or United or Chelsea. Or Man City for that matter. The best footballer of all time, coupled with one of the best Liverpool players of all time, struggled to break down a mass defence last night. When a team is well drilled by a talented manager and possesses fine players (and I’d argue that’s the case for most Premier League sides, with the possible exception of Big Sam’s hilariously floundering and toothless Blue shite and maybe Pardew getting shown for what he is) it can be damn hard to find a chink in their armour. Shit happens. Sometimes we won’t be able to break them down, sometimes two of our front three won’t be on it. Shit happens, move on.
But, for me, what can’t be denied is that tangible sense of progress. I’d argue we’re at least the third best side in the Premier League, and probably have been for the past 18 months. Maybe that’s a tad optimistic but that’s what I do. After we obliterated Porto, I didn’t think we could win the Champions League but I refused to discount the real possibility that it might happen. If you do anything else, you’re in the wrong sport – or at least following the wrong team. Many times I’ve said this, but there are 92 professional clubs in England alone and a maximum of three will win any of the big domestic trophies. Three.  When we’re dealing with the likes of Man City and the other shower – not to mention the fabulously progressive Spurs and the oddly opposite Chelsea – we should be guarded in our optimism. But equally we should be alive to the possibility of sniffing a victorious cup run. And, conversely, we should not say it’s the be all and end all. We might have existed to win trophies in the sixties when Shankly coined the phrase – and make no mistake, I still want a trophy, but things have changed hugely. I don’t think you can measure the success of a manager by counting silverware in this current climate.
LIke I stated, to me, it’s all about progress and that has been thrillingly tangible since Klopp walked in the door. In the past two years, this Liverpool has added to a lifetime of cherished memories; in the past week alone they gave me a moment I will never forget as my six year old son and I danced to the effervescent beat of those Reds in Iberia. People may disagree with me, but the hollow disappointment of that bitter night in Basle when Sevilla took what I thought was our trophy away from us was tampered to a huge extent by the thrilling reality of Coutinho’s impish strike past de Gea or the faces on the Dortmund players at a scarcely believing and smouldering Anfield. The journey: usually up there with the destination.
But to get back to my previous point (and apologies for the snowballing nature of this post), I remember back in the early stages of the 2013/14 season, there was a debate that if Rodgers secured a top four finish, it would be up there with one of the finest achievements in the Premier League. We’re now extremely well placed for a second successive year in the Champions League, we’re all but in the last eight of that competition, we’re playing football that has caused my Manc supporting family and friends to splutter and howl with envy, we have a gorgeous front three that possibly deserve to be on Pornhub. We possess the most expensive defender in the history of football who is demonstrably transforming a previously leaky rearguard, as his confidence and communication bleed into all around him.
We’ve a song about an Egyptian King that is sung to the tune of an obscure indy nineties band.
Sure, there have been frustrations. That Rooney penalty still rankles with me. I still can’t really watch Salah’s majestic winner [sic] against Spurs without cursing that knobhead of a ref and his limelight hogging assistant.

But if you can’t be excited right now by this Liverpool side, you’re supporting the wrong club. You’re also probably following the wrong sport.

5 – Jeff on hearing Klopp analyse matches way back in 2006!

In 2006 I watched the World Cup from a German feed and listened to analysis of matches by this German guy named Jurgen Klopp. I had no idea who Jurgen Klopp was which meant I had to look him up online to find out who the hell he was. At the time he was the manager of Mainz. I am certain that everyone here knows that Rafa Benitez has one of the best minds in football and I believe what I have just written is widely acknowledged in the world of football. In the case of Jurgen Klopp, for reasons that escape me the quality of Klopp as a thinker about football and how to win football matches is missed.

We can all agree that the object of Liverpool is each and every match is to win and the job of the manager and his staff is to put Liverpool in the best position to win. Anyone who reads Andrew’s piece will come away with an appreciation of the fact that the way Liverpool play gives them an advantage in each and every match and in modern football you need every advantage you can get to win matches.

When you think about how Liverpool play and how the efforts of players such as Firmino and others to follow Klopp’s game plan and win matches, please think about how this will impact the transfer market in terms of comings and goings. In the world of Jurgen Klopp, you will be a hard working player and if you are not a hard working player, you are not welcome.

I want to thank Andrew for all of his hard work and his first class article.

6 – Hesbighesred on ‘fighting for every ball’:

Another thing that occurs to me is that, aside from the obviously systematic drilling and tactical work that goes into this, there is a simple change of mindset required too:

“We will fight for every fucking ball”

Of course we won’t – that would be impossible to sustain, but that mindset is really important. I play football at the most amateur of levels, but I know what an effect this can have – I used to see my self as a kind of (shit) fancy dan, I liked dribbling and that’s what I’d do. But when I got back into playing football in my 30s I got into the physical side of it. I found, to my surprise, that not only could I compete in terms of stamina and aggression, but actually I really enjoyed it. More than that, there were certain players in certain situations that I knew  I would have a very high chance of winning the ball off in a dangerous place if I pressured them in a certain way at a certain time – for example that I could give a little space, but close down as soon as the ball was passed to them knowing that they would struggle to instantly control it. I won a lot of possession that way.

But – then I got into a nasty collision with someone, and I couldn’t press as aggressively after that, because I didn’t want to hurt someone in a collision again. It was also much harder to do when tired or just having a bad game. Conversely, if I was too angry/too het up, I’d press too often or against players too far away, and leave myself exhausted. Obviously I’m about a trillion miles away from even being semi-pro, let alone a professional footballer, but I think some of that mindset applies here.

It’s not just that Klopp’s got our players drilled in the when and the how, it’s that he’s made them hungry for the ball. As someone said above – we’re predators. Our prey is the ball. We track it, stalk it, follow its every move. We don’t just run after it constantly, that would be stupid. No, we lie in wait, advancing into the right positions. But as soon as there’s a trigger – as soon as we see that ball isolated, away from the pack, vulnerable – we pounce. And not alone, we hunt for it in a slavering pack of co-ordinated, controlled aggression, like wolves after a lamb.

There’s a reason why people tell scary stories about wolves.

And there’s a reason why defenders tell scary stories about Liverpool Football Club.

Articles published on The Tomkins Times this week:

Monday February 19th:

How Accurate Are Referees? The PR v The Research, by Daniel Rhodes.

Tuesday February 20th:

Unity vs Philippe Coutinho – And Proof That Transfer Windows Cause Disruption?, by Paul Tomkins.

Wednesday February 21st:

The Secret Pundit Takes on the Commentators, Part 15: ‘He Can’t Have Too Many Complaints’, by P.Dantic.

Thursday February 22nd:

Analysing Defensive Errors: Who Makes You Make Mistakes? By Andrew Beasley