Cause and Effect – How City Scabbed Three Points Against Southampton

Now, I’m no physicist – clearly, because I’ve had sex in my lifetime – but I am, as it happens, an expert on the matter of causality, since you were asking. And when I say “an expert on causality” what I actually mean is “I’ve watched a fair bit of Red Dwarf and Doctor Who in my time.” Anyway, the point… because there is a point.

In one of the best episodes of Doctor Who – you know, the one where the villains are those statues that can only move when nobody’s looking at them – David Tennant, as the Doctor, explains that people mistake time as a “strict linear progression of cause to effect”. He then says it’s not, but he’s wrong – it is. It’s just a TV show, after all.

But this is what I’m getting at, even if remarkably clumsily. The way the universe works is cause to effect – one thing happens and it results in something else happening: a driver reads a text message and takes their eyes off the road, crashing into the car in front; an abusive email is accidentally sent to the person it’s about and the sender loses their job; the points on the line fail and so the train is late. Again. Cause and effect.

Which is where I have a problem with some arguments that have come up with regards to football, recently – and it may seem like I’m giving City fans a beating around the backside at this point, but it’s just the easiest example I can think of with a City context for a City website right now. ALL teams’ fans do it.

Former Premier League referee and occasional Sky Sports pundit Jeff Winter kept a blog where he would correct the weekend’s decisions and update the top-flight table based on how the results should have gone. But the huge flaw in the system would work as follows: City’s second goal against Southampton should have been flagged offside, so their 4-1 win would have become a 3-1 win. That seems fair, right?

Wrong.

At the most basic level of causality, the game cannot pan out in the same way it did… Had Samir Nasri’s strike been disallowed, Edin Dzeko would not have been in a position to head in the Blues’ third (which would have been their second) and the entire second half would have played out differently. Logically, it has to.

Had the offside flag been raised against David Silva, Southampton would have restarted play with a free kick on the edge of their own box rather than on the halfway line. They would have been allowed to have players in City’s half, instead of having everybody behind the ball. How ever that free-kick was played, the home side’s very next attack would not have panned out the way it did, because the events of the match were directly influenced by what had gone before it.

The argument that City scored three other, perfectly legitimate goals doesn’t hold water – because, by the time the dubious strike was awarded, only one had been netted. The two that came after it would not have happened (at least in the manner they did, any road). Southampton might have gone on to win. City might have gone on to score five more. There could have been a red card. There could have been so many other things happen, simply because the game restarted in a different place and a different manner.

So, essentially, what I’m saying here, is that I’m very much in support of using video technology. The concept of re-refereeing games (which has been the main argument against retrospective action when the officials have ‘dealt with’ an incident) is a dangerous one and one that doesn’t sit right with me when, for instance, rescinding red cards. Decisions need to be correct in the first place, so referees need all the help they can get at the time.

What good is rescinding a red card that was incorrectly shown in the 15th minute? That red card might have cost the ten-men the game, but that’s ok because the player won’t serve a suspension. Had he not been sent off, the game would have followed a different pattern.

It’s all cause and effect.

Matija Nastasic conceded a free kick at Aston Villa that wasn’t a foul and the home side equalised directly from it. It even had the effect that the Blues were caught on the break looking for a third goal to go back in front, when they should have been comfortably seeing the game out. Seb Larsson wasn’t sent off for a horrible challenge on Javi Garcia at Sunderland – and the home side went on to score shortly after, when they should have been playing with a man reduced. Newcastle’s equaliser at St. James’ Park should have stood – and had it, City may not have lost Nasri to injury from a rash challenge borne out of frustration.

So when we’re told that, if all the decisions had gone the way they should, Team Doodum would have had seven more points and would have been top of the league, while Team Thing would have had three fewer and wouldn’t have qualified for Europe, I have to take it with a very big pinch of salt. Because it’s not true – you can’t just assume goals chalked off would have had no effect on the result if there were a margin of more than a one goal. Hell, you can’t even assume a penalty would have been scored.

It’s similar to the Grandfather Paradox – should I go back in time and kill my grandfather before my father was conceived, I would never have been born. So I’d never have been able to go back in time to kill my grandfather, meaning both everything and nothing would have changed. Removing a goal or a red card after the game has ended has a similar effect – it changes both everything and nothing.

City got lucky against Southampton because of this. They also got remarkably unlucky earlier in the season.

I’m not convinced good/bad decisions balance out over the course of a season – City, for instance, should get more dubious goals awarded simply because they will have more shots on target and spend more time in the opposition’s box. Maybe it will balance on a proportional level, though it’d need someone better qualified than this Doctor-Who-watching moron.

My maths isn’t good enough to sort that out.

 

Written by David Mooney

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4 comments on “Cause and Effect – How City Scabbed Three Points Against Southampton
  1. I really like your argument for video technology. It seems a bit ridiculous to not use some sort of video technology in the year 2014 to decide wether a player has to be sent off or some other major gamechanging situation. I never heard an argument against it that wasn’t build around some type of slipery slope fallacy.

    Also, whenever I hear a phrase like “it all equals out over a season” I die a little inside. Even if it were true that by some sort of magical “invisible whistle” wrong decisions would even out it does not mean that everything is in the balance. Phrases like that are just stupid pundit talk.

    And to the other commenters: It just is 100% pointless to talk about what ifs and then speculate until you find an outcome that does satisfy you.
    I think we were incredibly unlucky to have Nasris goal allowed. Because otherwise Dzeko would not have scored the third right before halftime. That way we were not hungry enough and were not forced to play to our full potential. So if we lose the title by goaldifference I know I will blame the linesman.

  2. By the way on the diving front I think City are too nice and don’t dive, scream at refs and role around like they’ve been shot enough, something others at the top have done for years, it’s all very well being nice but it gets you nothing and yes Yaya did dive but that isn’t like him or the others, it’s the business end of the season and I guess they’re getting a bit desperate. Kompany said it how it is on match of the day, it’s his team mate but he doesn’t agree or like what Yaya did one bit

  3. So let me get this straight, City if Nasri hadn’t scored City wouldn’t have had any of the shots on target they had and like every game this season at home they would of magically been outplayed? Of course Southampton would of also have more than the single shot on target they managed in not just the first half but the entire game, and that was from a penalty!You rightly point out Nastasic didn’t foul against Villa but they also got a clear offside goal in fact for all the rubbish talked about mistakes for City the fact is that more points have been dropped by city for mistakes against, most don’t wish to see that though.
    The Southampton fan above your team played very well in the first half with possession and closing City down effectively stopping them playing but to keep that kind of effort up is practically impossible. Possession is pointless with out attempts at goal and that’s what happened, no shots on. As for the City penalty you gotta be joking right? Dzeko plays the ball past the defender on the floor he then lifts his leg behind him well above the ball in a deliberate foul it was clear what he was trying to do! 100% penalty

  4. What a brilliant article, I’ve had these thoughts for many years and not been able to put them in writing, so well done.
    I am a Southampton supporter and have mixed feelings about Man City at the moment.
    Firstly, I’m not sure about the Dzeko penalty incident.Yes, Fonte was a fool for cocking his leg up, but was there really enough contact for Dzeko to hit the floor like his legs had been swept away. I don’t think so. Then the question has to be asked, did he dive. Yaya made a couple of outstanding dives in that game, but I’m not just having a dig at Man City players, there are plenty of others that do it too.
    On the odd occasion when I’ve seen a Southampton player do something similar, I’ve been quite embarrassed about it.
    These players are world class and shouldn’t need to “con” the officials into gaining an advantage, it’s not sportsmanlike.
    If Dzeko had not got his penalty then, in our thoughts, Southampton would not have got theirs.
    On a positive but sad note, when Jay Rodriguez hurt himself it was brilliant the way the Man City players reacted but knocking the ball out of play and then having a word and a handshake with Rodriguez..
    The way your fans applauded as Jay was carried off the pitch was amazing too, credit to them.
    I hope you go on to win the title and best of luck for the rest of the season

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