Counter intuitive thinking is great.
Done well and it can be intellectually interesting, entertaining and also make us consider the world in a new way.
In Yuval Noah Harari’s eminently readable book “Sapiens” for example he devotes one chapter to contending that human beings didn’t domesticate wheat but that wheat domesticated us; a once free roaming people were suddenly forced to stay in one spot and devote almost all of their time, energy and ingenuity towards keeping this single crop alive and plentiful.
But sometimes counter intuitiveness is just contrariness in a new set of clothes and that’s often the case when a sports team is in the midst of a poor run of form because, once the initial visceral emotion of defeat recedes, it becomes almost obligatory to offer reasons as to why everything is fine really and that all will ultimately be well.
That’s probably three parts a very human reaction and at least two parts simply the need for something new to say.
But rest easy dear reader, because there will be no glimpse of humanity or new things to say here as we continue to wallow in the misery of what has gone before and take a cold, uncaring look at the reasons why everything is so terrible for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Sounds like fun!
Well, first there are the injuries.
David Edgar was obviously earmarked to be both the new captain and the man to organize the defence until an errant golf cart put paid to that plan. Would Carl Robinson be so obsessed with defensive midfielders if he had the experienced Canadian at the centre of his defence?
Almost certainly he would be but so let’s throw that idea out of the window.
The loss of Yordy Reyna until the Summer was probably the bigger blow however as the Peruvian offered the possibility of genuine pace and flair and the thought of he and Fredy Montero linking up and switching positions at least gives hope that things could turn around from a purely entertainment perspective given the right metaphorical weather.
But what those injuries really do is cover up the cracks at the heart of the issue.
Back in the days when the local newspaper industry employed more people than a Beatle’s tribute band Marc Weber detailed Martyn Pert’s off season sojourn to meet and talk with various top level coaches (Pert is Robinson’s assistant coach).
Marco Bielsa, Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers were just three of those he consulted and at the time I thought “That’s interesting, hopefully he will bring back a fresh way of playing for a team that looked bereft of ideas for much of 2016.”
From what we’ve seen so far it’s safe to say that those ideas have either not been forthcoming or, if they have, they’ve not been acknowledged by the head coach because it’s hard to believe that some of the world’s finest footballing minds were all quite so set on the style of play we’ve seen from the team of late.
It would be disheartening to watch a veteran and grizzled manager in the twilight of his career send out a side with such limited attacking intent as the Whitecaps have, but to see a young coach be so conservative disses the heart even more.
It’s easy to sit and carp from sidelines of course (As Robinson himself can testify) and it’s probably too much to hope that the current two week break will produce fresh ideas and a bolder way of playing but it’s hard to imagine that many of the squad enjoy playing in a system that limits their talents so severely.
Robinson likes to think of himself as a “player’s coach” but that doesn’t just mean defending them no matter what the merits of the case. It also means making them better players as individuals and making the team better than the sum of those individuals.
And that hasn’t happened in Vancouver for a long, long while.