The ‘Football Manager’ footy fans obsessed with change

As the festive period approaches fast, there are many football fans up and down the country not wishing to find a new pair of socks or a Christmas jumper in their stocking, but instead, a decent defender, a quality striker or new manager to be delivered to their clubs.

As the fallout of another weekend of action drew to a close, much of the musings broadcast over the phone-in’s and message boards are from disgruntled fans who have self-diagnosed problems with their side. Patience is a virtue, but a virtue which is sadly lacking from the hyper-critical who wish for immediate remedy.

What fans do not appear to understand is that there is no quick-fix to solve the failings of a football team. It’s not like putting new batteries into a remote control or a working pair of spark plugs into a car. Simply removing one component of a side and replacing it with a perceived working part does not necessarily guarantee an end product, yet continually fans yearn for change in the hope that change for change’s sake will improve fortunes.

This is a common and age old criticism of football fans, and one which is unlikely to appease any time soon. All across the football spectrum from park sides to those competing at the highest level, there is a demand for constant improvement, and more often than not, that improvement is perceived to only come about through an altering of personnel.

Following their insipid midweek draw to Benfica, Manchester United fans rained in to express their dissatisfaction about the champions current midfield pool and a whole host of names were launched forward as finite examples of who would make the Reds better. Similarly, Chelsea fans reeling from their loss in Leverkusen felt Andre Villas-Boas needed to recruit in several areas, whilst Manchester City fans were bemoaning the lack of quality cover in the Citizens full-back berths.

Of course, the desire to chop and change runs much deeper than simply team affairs. Ask the natives of Blackburn and Sunderland whether they should keep faith with their managers and you will be hit with a resounding response, and even an Everton fan spoke at pains about the need for Bill Kenwright’s regime to be usurped by somebody, anybody, for the supposed better of the club.

Similar discussions rage all across the footballing pyramid and still the attitude remains the same despite absolutely no evidence that change represents an unequivocal chance of things actually improving. It seems that in an age where results speak volumes, there is increasingly little tolerance to indifferent form or fortune with no chance of redemption. If somebody isn’t doing their job, get ‘em out.

In reality, the mechanics of engineering a successful side run far deeper than knee-jerk amendments and little forethought is given to stability of keeping a settled side and the potential instability of unsettling it. For all of the stats which chart pass completion, shots on target ratio’s and win-lose percentages, it is virtually impossible to compile figures which would suggest a pattern of improvement or decline in relation to new signings or managerial appointments.

A pertinent reference that change is not always needed is in the upturn in form that Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal have overseen since the middle of September. After limited incomings and key outgoings over the summer, the Gunners faithful were baying for new blood and although a deadline day flurry saw fresh faces enter the Emirates, Arsenal have gone about reconstructing their season by righting the on-field wrongs which were costing them points earlier in the campaign.

Arsenal’s catastrophic collapse at Blackburn – arguably the lowest ebb’s of Wenger’s Arsenal career – fielded nine of the same players who little over a month later featured in the stunning 5-3 defeat of Chelsea, yet the two performances were poles apart in terms of an understanding and coherence bred from gradual progression on the training ground and implementation in games.

The notion of procuring better players to make a better side is borne from a computer generated Football Manager style fan involvement which caters little for the harmony and equilibrium needed for any team concept to flourish and instead presumes an upgrading of attributes will be the solution to any given problem.

There is a saying in politics that the man on the street can vote for who runs the country but should never be allowed to run the country himself, and with football fans constantly striving for the simplest solution, perhaps those sentiments should be extended to the nations favourite sport.

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