Football and maths don’t mix
This past week I watched matches that can be truly described as bizarre in their unexpected and almost incomprehensible results.
Wigan, a team struggling to survive the drop to the relegation zone, took on Newcastle United, a solid team that was chasing a place in the Uefa Champions League, and did them in.
Newcastle United did not know what hit them. They were rattled by an unbelievable four goals, with Wigan putting up one of their best displays of the entire season. Nigeria's Victor Moses led the Wigan attack in a bewildering display of speed, skills and shooting power.
One week later, the same Newcastle United had to play against a resurgent Chelsea team that had only a week earlier made nonsense of all mathematical calculations by playing inspired but 'negatively' defensive football to humble the best team in the world. What happened? It was like a resurrection from the dead.
With their hopes of ending up in the Uefa Champions league qualifying zone hanging on a thread after the Wigan defeat, Newcastle United went to Stamford Bridge and performed a football miracle.
Chelsea were brimming with confidence. Even Torres walked onto the lush green turf of Stamford Bridge with a swagger for the first time since he became a member of the 'Blues' XI. He had failed to impress all season but had suddenly woken up and scored a hat-trick only a week before the Newcastle United match.
Stamford Bridge is usually not a place where opponents get points. Chelsea, even in their worst form, do not have a history of surrendering cheap points on their hallowed ground.
Even with their fast ageing 'gladiators' they qualified ahead of teams like Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur for the final of the English FA Cup, which they are favourites to win this weekend.
Last Tuesday night football turned an anticipated script on its head. In 100 minutes of pulsating action, Newcastle United did to Chelsea exactly what Chelsea did to eliminate Barcelona from the Uefa League championship.
Chelsea attacked for most of the game but Newcastle United carried the day, absorbing everything thrown at them and replying with two of the best goals of the Premiership this season, courtesy of Papiss Demba Cisse.
Earlier this season Arsenal lost to Manchester United in their first meeting. Scoring eight goals for any team in the world against Arsenal FC was unheard of. I do not know how they recovered from the shock of that woeful performance but they did.
They shook off the humiliation, started playing well again, and are now comfortably placed at third position on the Premiership table.
At the top of the Premier League table are Manchester United. How they got to that position is still an incomprehensible development for purists of football.
How can a team that parades it oldest and weakest in decades be atop the Premiership? Earlier in the season this same team was beaten black and blue by their city rivals at Old Trafford by six goals to one. Even with that defeat they maintained an eight-point gap ahead of their closest rival.
This season Man United have had no real depth in terms of exceptional talent and performance yet at the end of the season they could be declared champions again. Alex Ferguson himself has said that winning the Premiership again depends on Manchester City floundering against unpredictable Newcastle this weekend.
I believe Manchester United's achievements have all been down to the ingenuity of Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been carefully guiding his average team through the minefields of the Premiership.
The trend of unpredictability in matches has been very common this season across Europe. Results of matches have been totally against the grain of ordinary analysis. No one is certain what will happen. Results have oscillated from the obvious to the bizarre, to the extent that an ordinary-looking, averagely-performing, ageing Chelsea are in the final of the English FA Cup and the Uefa Champions League and could win both.
Manchester United, at their weakest and putting up some of their most ordinary performances in decades, are in a position to win the English Premiership. Barcelona, the best team in the world with some of the best players, playing some of the best football, could end the season without any silverware.
These are some of the things football in 2012 is offering the world. Indeed, football and maths do not mix.