More on the LRB/Runciman/Mourinho debate!

1. What Runciman misses out is the connection – especially long-term – between discrete results in football. This may well be subject to other statistical laws – or maybe there are other scientific ways to model it – but his view is too simplistic. When you toss a coin repeatedly, the result of each coin toss is entirely unlinked to the previous ones. Shooting a basket is similar, though of course the fatigue created by continuing shooting attempts will play a part.

But a team playing football? The results are very much linked over time. Most basically, a long winning or losing run may well mean a team plays different opponents in subsequent seasons. This will in turn impact on the quality of players the team can attract or retail. And even for clubs which stay in one division, ‘runs’ can impact on attendances and merchandising support, which again may well affect the team’s composition. So while individual games may have nothing to do with each other, a ‘run’ is significant in that it can make subsequent ‘runs’ more likely.

2. Runciman’s article is really valuable though for its comments on Mourinho’s good looks, which make a clear point that I simply haven’t seen articulated (or at least not so clearly) in football commentary. Not so much about Jose’s fanciability, though I think Runciman’s right in identifying it as a helpful factor. But the simple idea that a team will play better when there’s someone on the pitch (or touchline) that they want to impress/have a crush on is an intriguing one.