Du Malone writes: Once the 2021-22 season had closed, manager Grigor Pasha decided that he needed to make some changes in the goalkeeping department.

The problem

He wasn’t happy with the no.1 choice, Vlad Mutiu. It wasn’t that he made glaring errors. It was just that every now and then a goal would go in and you’d find yourself thinking ‘Hmm, could the goalie have done better there?’

25 mar 20 Mutiu

Now that the club was moving up to Liga 1, dealing with this problem had become more pressing.

And his understudy, Ciobanu, was even less suited to playing in the top tier.

25 mar 20 Ciobanu

So Pasha decided that he needed to recruit two goalies.

The field

The good news was that his scouts had recruited no fewer than half a dozen genuine candidates.

The bad news was that they differed from each other in myriad ways and there were no stand-out candidates, so choosing between them was complex.

When Pasha started to analyse the candidates, here are some of the variables that emerged: attributes (of various kinds), personality, career record, injury record, qualities identified by the scouts (for example, attitude towards big matches), cost/availability, wage demands, and nationality.

Choosing two out of six, when so many types of data were involved is not the kind of thing the human brain evolved to do. Or, at least, it certainly wasn’t the kind of thing that Grigor’s brain had evolved to do.


So he decided to simplify the decision-making process by reducing it to a series of binary choice, as follows.

Compare goalie A to goalie B. Decide which you prefer. Award that goalie a point.

Now compare goalie A to goalie C. Repeat the process.

Ditto, goalie A and D.

Because Pasha had six candidates, comparing goalie A to each of the others in turn yields a total of 5 points.

Now start with goalie B: compare him to C and award a point. Then compare B with D. And so on, until all pairs are exhausted.

When you’ve finished the process, add up the points and select the candidate (or in this case, the two candidates) with the most points.


You might argue that there is some redundancy in the process. For example, if you’ve decided A is better than B and C is better than A, why bother to compare C with B? By logical inference, C must better.

Logically, that is a fair point. But against that, Grigor and I would argue:

  • what harm is done by taking the extra step (in this case, comparing C and B)? It only tkles a while
  • the extra step provides what we might call triangulation: it acts as a checking process so that the effect of occasional misjudgements are minimised.

Our initial judgements, after all, might not be as reliable as we’d like to think.


As a result of the process, Pasha paid money for two players — Cosmin Dur-Bozoanca and Robert Popa. Both proceeded to perform well in the club’s first season in the top flight.

In the case of Dur-Bozoanca, Pasha paid £135k, equalling the club’s record fee. Had Pasha not been through the clarifying — and mentally rather relaxing — binary-based decision-making process that I’ve outlined I suspect he might not have had the confidence to do so.

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