Sunday, December 12, 2010

Outcome Bias

A cognitive bias known as 'outcome bias' focuses on the tendency to judge a decision by its eventual outcome, instead of judging it based on the information available at the time it was made.

In a footballing intepretation, there is a tendency to judge managerial prowess solely in terms of results (especially in the short-term), rather than the process that preceded those results.

Seen in this context, the decision to sack Chris Hughton might be justified if the Board concluded his relative success was unlikely to be sustainable.

'Process' would encompass all of the normal tasks that football management encompasses, eg. coaching, motivation, scouting, tactical nous etc..

Managers with a robust process will be more successful in the long-term, even if short-term results are largely at the whim of random factors out of their immediate control.

I bring this concept up because at least until today's inept defeat to Walsall, every time I've seen Charlton this season (admittedly only about 8 times) we have looked technically deficient compared to the opposition.

Yet somehow we have eked out enough points to sit 4th in the League One table with nine wins, as well as successfully negotiating five Cup ties.

Football is about winning after all, so surely the above is irrelevant as long as the outcome is positive?

Yet delve a little deeper, and it is not hard to see how narrow the margins are between success and failure; 10 of those 14 wins this season have been by just a single goal.

Our League position allied with the lack of quality I observe every time we play had been a paradox, but now I think it's solved. We have simply been lucky.

It is not for nothing that I argued in my Walsall preview that we are in a false position, because we cannot be outpassed and outplayed technically week-in and week-out without the injustices eventually catching up with us.

This is of course without even drawing attention to the gulf in resources between Charlton and the likes of Walsall.

Charlton were absolutely woeful today, but frankly not materially worse than almost every other time I've seen them this season (perhaps only Bristol Rovers notwithstanding). The only difference was the outcome.

There is absolutely no discernible game plan other than an attempt to hit the ball long, and somehow retain possession deep in the opposition half.

It's not dissimilar to the type of tactics suitable for rugby, but it is football for neanderthals. If it wasn't for Gary Doherty's defensive interventions, it could have been Brighton all over again.

I'm not a passing purist. Indeed, I would not mind if we adopted an all-out physical direct approach, but instead we fall into the grey twilight between the two and it's pitiful to watch. No wonder the crowds are falling.

The gap between the midfield and attack is so great, that you can count on one hand the number of times we retain quality possession facing the goal inside the final third.

Jose Semedo does his blocking role to good effect, but he is so woefully limited otherwise that there is no prospect of playing the ball forward through midfield.

Therry Racon is overburdened alongside him as a result, and enthusiastic as he is, I continue to conclude that he is a quite dreadful techinical footballer.

The pint-sized Walsall pair of Matt Richards and Steve Jones were made to look like Xavi and Iniesta at times, so controlled and efficient were they on the ball throughout.

It really does beg the question what the managerial trio are doing on the training ground each week? Where is the innovation, the evidence of individual improvement and the consistency (in performance, not results)?

Surely they're not setting the team up to play like this. Youngsters learn how to 'pass and move' when they're 7 years old, yet Charlton stand around like statues forcing those endless pointless balls forward played solely in hope.

In October I argued that there was no point climing aboard the 'Parky Out' bandwagon because, "..I'm far from convinced that there is any realistic alternative that is both financially viable, and where the likelihood of success (ie. promotion within two seasons say) is virtually guaranteed to be higher."

However the news of the pending takeover potentially alters both of these caveats quite substantially.

Indeed for new owners to merely observe the League One table, and conclude that all was well on the pitch would be the ultimate form of 'outcome bias' in my view.

I can merely hope for Parky's sake that they weren't at The Valley today.


At 9:00 PM, Blogger Hungry Ted said...

Excellent post.

At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

If CAFC and whomever it is that now owns it, have the type of ambition one would hope they have, then serious changes must be made on the pitch or at the helm or both.

At 11:09 PM, Blogger Kings Hill Addick said...

I know it seems silly right now, but I was hoping that our luck would hold out until, say, the end of the season.

At 6:00 AM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

If the new owners do arrive and they change the manager, we shall then see whether these are talented players held back by an inept manager. The style of play strikes me as very similar to what I have seen in League 1 in the past watching other teams. It is a mediocre division. What I would emphasise is that while the new owners may have the money to keep the club going, they apparently do not have a lot of cash to splash. And even if there is some money, which positions would you spend it on?

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Kap said...

Good post, although one I disagreed with even in the light of yesterdays abject performance.

We are in context with the division, parky continues to achieve results despite the hand he has been dealt. I have been of the view that racon and the millwall hater are not the answer in midfield for sometime now, although when on top of their game they are class, it does not happen that often, but these were inherited resources that no one else wanted to buy. I would like to see January brijng us a big hairy central midfielder who will hold his position and counter our players being bullied and I would like to see Akpo given a chance where Benson is beoing too lightweigth

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

Wyn, Kap

I'm not sure I understand the implication that Parky has been dealt a tough hand, or that he is doing well given the poor quality of players he can choose from.

We have one of the largest payrolls in the division (payroll is the main determinant of success at any level of professional football), and the team is almost entirely of his creation now. Of the 14 players on show yesterday, he only inherited four of them (Wagstaff, Elliott, Racon, Semedo).

We should not only be competing at the very top of League One, but should be doing so in style with the resources at his disposal.

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Valley Ant said...

I agree entirely with your assessment. The team play without ambition. At home we should take the game to our opponents.
Instead we play in a "disciplined" rigid formation that stifles excitement.
No wonder crowds are dwindling in number. The season ticket holders in both the rows in front and behind me were all absent yesterday.
I love the FA Cup but couldn't get the enthusiasm to attend the Luton game.
The fun has definitely gone out of attending home games at the moment.

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're spot on NYA. The games i've seen this season ( i didn't see Peterborough) have all been much the same. eg. we have looked disjointed and almost bereft of skill. Yet we we've won a good percentage!!!
I think our luck has just run out. I fear a spanking at Brentford and i'm not even thinking about Spurs..!

At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several elements are common across a lot of charlton teams, including the later Curbishley ones. The two dominant factors are fear and a 'have what we hold' mentality. The obvious scenario is at corners or free kicks. We defended a few yesterday with Wagstaff on the post, and no one within 30yds of the halfway line. I wouldn't agree with this against Barcelona, but at least it would be understandable, but at this level it is absurd.


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