On the Increasing Frequency of Champions League Humpings
Wellgreen looks at the high score drubbings in the champions League, and actually manages to make us feel a little better..
In football terms it is quite difficult to actually define what constitutes a humping (other writers on different kinds of website will have to explore any other possible meanings of the term).
We’ve all seen games in which one side has been totally dominant for the entire match but only get a 1-0 or a draw – control of the play doesn’t always necessarily translate into goals.
I’ve even heard it said “we humped them 0-1”.
However, in the last few years it seemed to me that in the Champions League there has been many more matches finishing with one team on the bad end of a big score, your actual, definite, no-shadow-of-a-doubt, humping (for non-Scottish readers you may substitute “humping” with “thrashing” and all this will make more sense).
Eager to see if this was just a mistaken impression or if it was real, I spent a fair amount of time trawling through results from the Champions League over the last 25 years.
You can see all the results at this link.
I put what I found into a couple of graphs. The first shows how many victories were by 4 clear goals in each season since the beginning of the Champions League, but only in the group stages.
I excluded the qualifying matches, as it is much more likely you get mismatches with teams from Andorra and so on in those.
Whatever way you want to look at it, heavy defeats are going up.
There are a number of possible reasons for this and I don’t know which one is correct, but I’d like to run through a few of them.
Firstly, if I left you with just this graph, you might be tempted to think it is the money factor. The story goes that the big teams that play in the smaller leagues like Celtic, Ajax, Anderlecht and so on just can’t compete.
This is definitely true up to a point. We all know we can’t attract the biggest players to come and play in Scotland or in the Dutch league, and even if a player might be attracted by the history of clubs like ourselves, we could only pay them probably less than a third of what they would get somewhere else, so they are never going to come.
Another factor could simply be Messi and Ronaldo. Between them those two have dished out 4 goal humpings to teams almost single-handedly, and on a regular basis.
However, as I said, the first graph above only shows the group stages. If I include the knockout stages and go all the way up to the final, something interesting happens…or rather doesn’t happen.
You would expect that there wouldn’t be many more heavy results in the knockout part of the tournament as all the weaker teams have been eliminated and we are left with strong, reasonably well-matched teams.
But that isn’t really the case. You can see in the graph below, which takes in from the group stages up to the final, the numbers increase a little, but the ratio is still more or less the same.
That would mean that heavy defeats between the biggest and better teams are also increasing, like when PSG beat Barcelona 4-0 last year, and the Barcelona responded by beating PSG 6-1 in the return (or if you want to look at other tournaments, the 7-0 in the semi-final of the World cup last time round, Man City beating Liverpool 5-0 this year in the P*****r L****e©, and then losing heavily to them the other night).
This makes me think that it is possible that as well as the money gap, there is something in the modern game that is making it more likely that this kind of result comes up.
To repeat, I do not have the answers here, though I do have some suggestions.
It could be the case that the speed at which the game is played nowadays doesn’t allow teams to settle so once you have them rattled you can keep punishing them before they have time to sort it out.
It’s possible that tactical sophistication has reached a level at which, if a team or even a couple of players on that team are getting it wrong, the opposition will be on it so quickly that you are 3-0 down before you know it.
A final idea that I don’t really buy, but you hear often from older supporters, is that players these days are spoiled and don’t have any fight, therefore once they start losing they don’t have the heart to fight themselves back into the game.
Whatever the reason may be, for Celtic fans, it doesn’t make it any more fun to suffer through these defeats. However, it does put it in a better light when you see that this year there have been 15 such results and the tournament isn’t finished yet. We were on the end of two of them. So were Arsenal last year. So were Borussia Mönchengladbach last year. Legia Warsaw got horsed THREE times last year. PSG and Barcelona both got horsed in one game last year, it’s also happened to Bayern, and others.
It isn’t just us.