Du Malone writes: Knowledge on FM receives a predominantly postmodern treatment. Any number of stakeholders are on hand to inform you of the truth, which they often do with great confidence and certainty: yet their views conflict. You don’t know who to believe.

Shifting sands

Your assistant manager tells you you’re being over-run in midfield. But it doesn’t look that way to you: you’re 3-0 up and bossing the game.

The match commentator tells you that ‘that would have been a majestic goal’. But the shot was terrible and the player should have past: so in which universe does that majestic goal exist.

Your coach tells you that your strikers don’t work well together: they have a poor understanding. Never mind, then, that their tally of goals and assists has been steadily rising.

The local reporter informs you that fans are disappointed with a recent signing. Will he ever make the grade? Which is news to you, because you’ve been watching the same matches and you were under the impression he’d been performing rather well.

Whom to believe?

An outpost of modernism

But amidst the shifting sands is one point of stability, one rock to rely on: match ratings.

Ratings seem to me to be so much taken for granted that the phenomenon is rarely discussed. There has been some discussion of the unreliability of goalkeeper ratings. A Yashin-style performance will be judged no more a 6.8; a series of Gary Sprake-style blunders will get a 6.6. (Perhaps I exaggerate a little and perhaps too the latest edition of FM has remedied the problem a little.)

But the conclusion that is usually drawn from this is that there’s a specific problem concerning the accuracy of goalie ratings — not that the system of the ratings as a whole is unreliable.

Contrast with star ratings

A distinction should be made between match ratings and star ratings. The clarity and simplicity of star ratings sometimes leads FMers to treat such ratings as objective. But most FMers learn pretty quickly that they’re not. They’re merely the expression of some scout or coach’s perception.

Ask a different scout or coach and you might uncover a different rating.

In contrast, that never happens with match ratings. Nobody ever says, ‘It wasn’t a 7.0, it was a 7.4’.

Problem

It seems to me that there’s something unsatisfactory about all this. The status of ratings appears to conflict with all the other knowledge-claims in the game. The postmodern world of unreliable information seems to me one of the attractions of FM: we’re constantly having to test news against our perceptions in case it turns out to be fake. Which makes the game realistic: football managers can’t simply place their trust in other people’s judgements – they need always to be drawing their own inferences, testing their own hunches. Yet, like a granite intrusion, ratings seem to stand apart, as if part of another world.

Where do they come from? How are they calculated?

When a player receives a 6.4, how is that calculated? According to whom? So far as I can see, there’s no way of knowing. The ratings just arrive.

Even Moses had to make the effort to go up the mountain.

When you goalkeeper makes an error and you concede a goal, how is it that the ratings of each and every player drop? And how does that happen instantly? Something to do with 5G?

Conclusion

I suggest that ratings have become so familiar, so much part of what we take FM to be, that we have forgotten to challenge them.

We need either to know what they represent or to dispense with them.

 

Image credit: Boulders (taken in Matobo National park) by Richard Pluck, generously made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.

 

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