5 Signs The Team You Bet On Will Perform
Today on the blog, former Arsenal midfielder turned journalist Adrian Clarke studies the secret signs that tell you success is (probably) just around the corner.
Football never offers any victory guarantees, but there are certain tell-tale clues which can help you spot whether a team is more likely to be celebrating three precious points at the final whistle, or trudging off the pitch on the back of a sorry defeat.
Today I give you five.
#1 - Continuity Of Selection
Freshening up a starting XI is all well and good if the team isn’t firing on all cylinders – and it often does the trick – but most players thrive on that warm, snuggly feeling you get when you know the manager is unlikely to throw in a selection curve ball.
Keeping the same side not only breeds confidence among the 11 lucky picks, it also helps them to strike up better relationships with one another. A winning team is full of players that gel, and the only way to forge that kind of chemistry is to enjoy as much match practice as you can with one another.
Those players outside the first XI won’t necessarily like it, but at least they know that they’ll be kept in the team if they do the business. Believe me, if a manager names an unchanged line-up, it’s usually good news.
#2 - Watch The Warm-Up
Not every gaffer watches his players being put through their paces prior to kick-off, but they should. You can always tell a great deal about the vibe of a team, from the pre-match warm-up. It’s hard to gauge why teams seem more ‘up for it’ one day compared to the next, but you’ll usually find useful indicators by studying the body language of the players as they take part in exercises and keep-ball sessions 30 minutes before the start of a game.
If the attitude is sloppy and sluggish it really doesn’t bode well. In turn, if the players are zipping the ball around with intent, focussed on the work and not each other, and taking it all very seriously, it could be the right time to stick a few quid on them to win.
#3 – Positive Vibe
Every team loses; it’s how you react that matters most. In my experience the managers and players who are able to shrug off defeat with cool-headed assurance are best equipped to bounce back next time around. It’s always a good idea to listen to your manager’s post-match and pre-match quotes. If you sense a degree of panic, or a lack of clarity in what they’re saying, that’s not great. The players will absorb that confusion too, and it will unsettle them ahead of kick-off.
A panicky manager is rarely a manager that stays in his job for long. As long as mistakes aren’t ignored, those that speak positively about their team – even after a disappointment – are most likely to get back to winning ways.
#4 - Strikers Not Shirking
Most managers will tell you that a team is only as good as its strikers, and they have a point. You can have the greatest back four and goalkeeper on the planet, but if your centre forward has a touch like a rhino, or can’t be bothered to get a sweat on, you won’t win the game.
When I played, our results often depended on the sharpness and work rate of the forwards. When the front men close down defenders with a sense of purpose it ensures everyone else behind them does the same; when they make themselves available to receive the ball to feet or in behind it gives everyone behind them an option.
On the flip side, when they have a lazy attitude, you’re absolutely stuffed and the frustration quickly rubs off. A hard working, quality striker is well worth paying the big bucks for…
#5 – Talking Tactics
A quiet dressing room is very rarely a successful dressing room. Communication is vital in football, so keep a close eye on how much and how your players are interacting with one another.
I don’t like to see team-mates bury one another with fist-waving fury (that’s a negative) but I do think it’s crucial for players to converse with one another during the 90 minutes. If there’s a break in play, you should see groups of players discussing ideas; if someone produces a fine piece of play, you should see his pals telling him ‘well done’; if a bad goal is conceded, you should see a post mortem taking place.
Football’s a team game, and success in it depends almost entirely on the unity of the group. Talking’s good.
Follow Adrian on Twitter: @adrianjclarke
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