Back at the turn of the century a Business Professor and a Psychology Professor conducted an experiment in a California supermarket.
On one day they set up a stand with twenty-four gourmet jams on display and on another day they set up the stand with just six.
What they discovered was that while more people stopped to peruse the larger selection only 3% of those who did so actually purchased any jam.
Of the fewer who stopped at the smaller selection the number who shelled out some cash was 30%.
Too much choice, it seems, can be a disincentive when it comes to making a decision.
And too much choice is one of the defining factors of the world most of us now inhabit, be it household goods, insurance options, streaming services or restaurant menus that traverse the globe and back again in just the appetizer section.
No matter what we ultimately attain we can’t help but feel the pull of what was left behind.
Somewhat ironically, studies on the psychology of choice are now so prevalent that selecting just one to use as an illustration at the start of this piece simply left me thinking things like “I should have used the one that examined the difference between hedonic and utilitarian goods!”
You can see where I’m going with this right?
Seriously, can somebody tell me where I’m going with this please?
Oh yeah. The Vancouver Whitecaps.
Before we get to the choices facing Carl Robinson in the coming weeks let’s first think about whether the 4-2-3-1 system he employed in the 2-1 win against Montreal worked.
“Yes and no” is the right answer to that I think.
In the first half the visitors bunkered down and the only chances the Whitecaps created came from unforced Impact errors. We’ve seen that movie before of course, where Vancouver’s best option is to hope that the ball over the top hits the one in fifty chance of landing in the right stop.
To be fair it did at least feel as though they were passing those long balls rather than simply hitting them, but even so it’s a low percentage strategy for a team playing at home.
In the second half Montreal were far more confident and thus far more open and Alphonso Davies and Cristian Techera both found the kinds of space they never got close to in the first forty-five minutes and two goals ensued.
So perhaps it’s fair to say that the 4-2-3-1 remains an option for road games and games where we know the opposition are willing to play more open football and that, given the arrival of Kei Kamara and the initial promise of Davies, it will at least be a better option than it was last season.
But sooner or later Carl Robinson is going to have to switch things up if he wants to find a starting spot for newcomers Jordon Mutch and Felipe Martins.
On Sunday he switched Felipe with Reyna but let’s hope we don’t get into the situation where a box to box midfielder is being shoehorned into the number ten role simply for the sake of formational orthodoxy.
And that would mean the coach being faced with what could well prove to be a paralyzing plethora of choices.
Sacrifice one of his wide players to accommodate one more central midfielder while simultaneously reducing the number of crosses delivered to the head of Kamara?
Experiment with three at the back and nullify some of Davies’ attacking threat by using him as a wing back?
Go to a traditional 4-4-2 which would mean two of Juarez, Ghazal, Felipe and Mutch not making the starting eleven?
Employ a 4-3-3 that keeps the wide players in the side and allows a true holding midfielder to play with either Felipe or Mutch as the more attacking option and Juarez as the conduit between the two but only allows a place for Reyna in the more disciplined wide role?
Right now it’s the latter option that probably makes the most sense but Robinson will indeed be faced with the thoroughly modern dilemma of an abundance of choice as well as something akin to that aformentioned decision between the hedonic and the utilitarian when to comes to the type of teams he selects.
And of course there are far too many studies in that particular area to enable us to make any kind of prediction as to which one he will ultimately opt for although, if I were going to switch disciplines for a moment and be the other person in his hell, I’d say he’ll go for the utilitarian option.