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find a way to win

November 24, 2019

I was watching Final Score on BBC1 yesterday and noticed that, in the report and discussion of Liverpool’s 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace, the phrase they found a way to win was used no fewer than four times; in each case, offered as if it was a most penetrating insight.

To find a way to win has in the last few years become the cliché of choice to explain a victory by a successful club when they’ve had a hard game and still, against the run of play, come away with three points. I dislike it in general and even more on this specific occasion. I dislike it in general because it is too familiar, too often-heard, and seems to me to get the causal arrow the wrong way round: it’s not that the top teams are good at finding a way to win, but that those who do find a way to win tend, for obvious reasons, to be the top teams.

The more specific reason is that in this particular case Liverpool did not ‘find a way’ to win; that is to say, they did not alter their strategy in order to get the win. They did not change their structure, throwing more players forward; or their tactics, by sending up more long balls; or their personnel, by making substitutions; or their style, by becoming more physical and committing professional fouls. No, they simply rode their luck, in particular when a Palace goal, which should have stood, was disallowed by VAR. They got away with it. They didn’t find a way to win. They just happened to win, with a slice of good fortune.

‘Find a way to win’, indeed. God. If I were a TV football pundit I’d never use such an over-employed phrase. But that, of course, is the reason (or rather one of the multiple reasons) why I am not a TV football pundit.

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5 Comments
  1. phwatisyernam permalink

    You’re so f***ing right. Pundits of all persuasion. Why do people on tv talk such obvious crap?

  2. Mark Brafield permalink

    Agree – particularly where Liverpool are concerned. The other phrase that really annoys me is when a player ‘wins a free kick’ or ‘wins a penalty’, implying that by skill and craft, they achieved the desired outcome of making the opposing player commit a foul. That is surely the exact opposite of what the game is meant to be about, and the exact opposite (in my book) of sportsmanship.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    As a Palace supporter I endorse that message!
    Another that annoys me is offered after a goal has been scored – “the goal keeper could have done better”. Well, yes.
    Oh, and referring to “the likes of the Liverpools, the Man Uniteds and the Tottenhams” as though there were dozens of them.

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