Ok, so I’m going to start with the idea of evolutionary convergence. I know, I know, but bear with me, it was on a Channel 5 programme about aliens and I’m pretty sure it explains everything that’s going on in the league. Ok? Ok. So here it goes:
Evolutionary convergence is the phenomenon whereby different animals end up looking the same. Basically, even though they start from entirely different points, because they’re faced with the same problems they work out the same solution. So, as Channel 5 will testify, you have a hedgehog and a tenrec, completely unrelated, but almost indistinguishable. What’s the message? The message is that nature knows there’s a way to win, and ultimately everything works out what that way is.
So by now you probably think I’m talking about the convergence of football evolution to ‘parking the bus’. That ‘boring’, ‘19th century’, ‘Spurs’ way of playing that rolls out whenever a team plays away against an attacking outfit. Have the laws of nature worked out that defence and counter-attack are the best options in that environment, and will churn it out no matter what the ‘impartials’ might want?
Possibly, but I don’t really care about that. Anyone who’s watched more than one game of football knows there are times to attack and times to defend. Both are equally difficult and both can be equally aesthetically pleasing. (Except if you’re Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final where notching up 40 fouls in 90 minutes somehow gets reported as ‘samba’ football back here…) (Still bitter).
So I’m not fussed about double deckers. No, for me evolutionary convergence was more visible when hearing Brendan Rodgers’s post match interview. You know the one, the one where he claimed that Liverpool always “aim to win the game in a sporting manner”…
Wait, what? You mean the same Liverpool who, in the exact same fixture last year saw their centre forward bite (chomp) our centre back’s arm (poor, innocent Branis-coleslaw Ivanovic)? The very same fixture? He couldn’t be serious, could he? … But somewhere, in the back of my mind, I recognised evolutionary convergence in action: beautiful. You know who that sounds a lot like? That sounds a lot like Jose. Brendan might not quite yet have figured it out on the pitch, but in the press box he’s on it: there are certain Darwinian (Channel5ian) rules of football management survival of the fittest, namely if the players perform poorly, draw attention to the manager, but if the manager performs poorly, question the footballing integrity of the opposition. Dodo Moyes was just too slow in adapting…
But we learnt more from the Anfield showdown than that, not least from Demba Ba’s window into the ways of a striker: “I didn’t think, that’s why I score.” If ever there was an illustration of Fernando Torres yips, that was it. Be honest, when Demba was one-on-one what did your gut tell you? And when Nando was? For all our hopefulness, you just know Nando can no longer come good at Chelsea. He made the right decision of course, passed the ball to Willian and saw the victory home, but there’s no way he’ll still be here next year.
But he might be at Atletico… tonight’s game is the Godzilla tie: both teams battling it out in their domestic leagues; both teams outperforming; both teams desperate to meet Real in the final. The question is, what tactics to use? Simeone is no stranger to defending, nor to counter-attacking. Meanwhile Jose knows that, with our strikeforce, to concede a goal at home is practically suicide. By rights it should be a 0-0 Hammersmith bus depot at 4am on a Tuesday. So obviously I predict a 5 goal thriller. (Evolutionary convergence works for people talking shit about football too you know, always predict all outcomes equally, just listen to Andy Townsend.)
Lastly, for all the outstanding recent history between Chelsea and Liverpool, especially with Jose at the helm, you can’t help but feel sorry for Gerrard. Chin up mate, it only took JT four years to get over it. Tell you what, there’s a World Cup in a month’s time – win that and you’re done in four weeks, innit?
Speaking of the World Cup, I recently read that FIFA have made two new rulings on footballers’ kit. On the one hand, Saudi footballing women are now allowed to wear the hijab when they play. Whoop whoop for FIFA’s tolerance and libertarianism, open-mindedly embracing cultural expression and diversity, right? Right. So in the same announcement they’ve declared that players can no longer write messages on their undershirts. No more “I love you mama” or “This one’s for my baby” Because… well because… Actually they haven’t given a proper reason. Could it be because the undershirt might have a message? A political message? Or maybe even a religious message? One thing you can’t accuse FIFA of is evolution. Let’s just stick with sending the World Cup to Russia and Qatar, the two most libertarian and tolerant countries out there. FIFA, why always you?