Friday, 20 September 2013

One Love - The Art Of War

The performance of the Celtic team on Wednesday night at the Giuseppe Meazza was immensely inspiring.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, numerous individual players achieved way beyond their expected levels - Ambrose, Mulgrew, Matthews, Lustig...

Yet the outcome was a defeat and the probability of qualifying for the Champions League 2nd Phase has already all but disappeared after just one game.
In this post, which is intended as constructive criticism, we suggest that the chances of such qualification were already zero prior to a ball being kicked.

One aside before launching into this assessment...
... we have a consultancy arrangement with another Champions League club and are prevented both by contract and by our isolationist thresholds from detailing some of the strategic errors relating to the match and the qualifying group. These aspects of the post are available in the Addenda only for our partners. Please accept and understand these limitations.

                                              Lord Nimmo Smith In His Masonic Garb

Peter Lawwell and Neil Lennon via their sabermetric strategies in the transfer market, match performance strategies on the pitch and, particularly, the creative destruction of the criminalised entity formerly known as Rangers have moved Celtic on to new levels of achievement. Celtic are now placed in a very strong position with regard to Champions League qualification and, sometimes, advancement and will be able to take their place in the second tier of the UEFA Super League once this becomes reality within the next decade. Additionally, even though Nimmo Smith enjoys funny handshakes and the historically stolen titles will not be returned, there will be a whole batch of Scottish trophies in the period where #Rangers are developing. All Celtic fans must be appreciative of these outcomes.

Yet, via self-harming brinksmanship the club have missed a real opportunity to reach the 2nd Phase of Champions League this season and the £3.5 million that goes with such success.
And this brinksmanship is identical in style to that which handed the 2008/09 SPL title to Rangers.

This brinksmanship first reared its head in the Champions League Qualifying stage where a reluctance to make signings until the Group Stage was guaranteed almost led to an ignominious defeat to Shakhtar Karagandy, plus the refusal to take the challenge of the Kazakhstani team seriously and putting out a full team on the Saturday match away to Aberdeen prior to the 1st Leg, the corresponding inability to acclimatise that resulted in a bunch of sheep slaughterers covering 5.2km more than Celtic during the game and, with UEFA banning the likes of Fenerbache and Metalist Kharkiv from their flagship competition for match-fixing, not utilising private information about insider gambling by Shakhtar Karagandy in their previous match against Skenderbeu Korce of Albania.
Furthermore, the delay in signing Boerritger, Pukki and Biton meant that these talented players did not have the time to become parts of the Celtic team prior to the Milan game.

In total, there were seven pre-match strategic inputs that the club failed to take into consideration in Italy. If these inputs had been utilised then a draw would have been guaranteed in Milan, and with such a draw, game theoretic analyses suggest that Celtic would now be 80% probable to reach the last 16. Six of these strategies cannot be revealed publicly due to isolationism. But it should be noted that these six aspects cover both the specifics of the event and meta-analyses. It should also be noted that it is forensic analysis and intelligence that provide the foundation of success in these tight tournaments.

But we will focus on one input.
Last season, Undiano Mallenco mugged Celtic in the 1st Leg versus Juventus.
We could have informed the club beforehand about Sr Mallenco.
Even when it became clear as the match began that Mallenco was on a mission, there was no adjustment of strategy - every corner was lumped into the box only for Juve's defenders to employ WWE tactics to nullify any attacking threat. Such an in-running readjustment could have yielded a 0-0 draw as opposed to the eliminating 0-3 defeat.

Wolfgang Stark was selected for the Milan match. Psychological profiling of this individual reveals valuable data regarding how to play a match where he is officiating. It was evident throughout the game in Milan that no such analysis had been undertaken by Celtic and the free kicks given away on the edge of the area were ultimately the difference between the teams. Stark has always demonstrated a leaning in favour of the G14(18) grouping of European power clubs (obviously not deliberate) and, once one is aware that the referee is not necessarily an entirely neutral arbiter (even if unwittingly), defensive strategies must be activated.
And, incidentally, questions should also be asked of UEFA for allowing a German referee to officiate G14(18) Tier 1 side Milan and an Italian referee to take control of G14(18) Tier 1 side FC Bayern resulting in two home victories and no bookings for either host despite 24 fouls in total (step forward Mr Balotelli!).

We now turn firstly to the specifics of the match and, secondly, to those of the group.

A 0-0 draw, as already intimated, would most likely have engendered qualification to the latter stages.
A 1-0 defeat would have left approximately a 30% probability of qualification. This percentage reduces to nigh on nothing with the second goal.
The alteration in strategy at half-time where Celtic deluded themselves that victory was achievable was a major own goal. The extra effort required to attempt to take control of the game resulted in the onset of tiredness that aided the two late goals. This was an immensely high risk strategic adjustment.

Strategic analysis of Champions League groups should utilise Sun Tzu and Clausewitz and the six matches be regarded as the equivalent of a military campaign.
If only Lawwell had planned strategically, the advantage of playing Barcelona in the last match when their qualification will be assured would have presented Celtic with a wormhole to the 2nd Phase.

But all is not lost. Third place is still very achievable.
Furthermore, in the 21 years of the Champions League only one winner and only four finalists have not come from the G14(18) grouping of teams (and Chelsea would not have won if Arjen Robben had exhibited the required levels of professionalism).
The Europa League, on the other hand, in the four years since its inception has been shown to be a far more meritocratic event with only four of the semi-finalists being from the G14(18) grouping.

Also, the group in which Celtic find themselves is not as strong as it looks on paper - all three competitor teams would be advised as a "sell" if they were stocks or shares.

Barcelona are having to adapt to entirely new tactical strategies under Gerardo Martino and do not appear to be quite so energised since the outing of Eufemiano Fuentes (obviously entirely coincidental), Milan are no great shakes either (particularly without Boateng and with El Shaarawy injured) and Ajax are very poor indeed being the least fit team in the top six sides of the Dutch Eredivisie. Ajax have additionally sold their best three players (Eriksen, Alderwereild and Boerritger) and are left with a sparse grouping of individuals whose three primary international players feature for Iceland, Finland and Denmark.
Additionally, Ajax meet one of their main domestic competitors Twente Enschede just prior to the first game at Celtic Park and, unless very poor decisions are taken, Celtic can easily achieve third place despite Ajax's G14(18) status.

It is our assessment that the club should establish a cutting edge analytics section to enable this self-harming to cease. Unfortunately, we are no longer in a position to offer this service as our lawyers will not allow us to work with the club due to the proximity to Celtic of inappropriate individuals who do not have the best interests of the team at heart, the existence of other individuals who struggle with economies of truth and the club's inability to plan strategically AND radically.

What do we mean by radical?
Well, Mourinho, Guardiola, Ferguson, Klopp, Laudrup are/were radical.
These people push strategies to the limit, dare to think the allegedly unthinkable, laterally analyse as a matter of course and realistically determine structures.

Take the transfer market.
One player (who shall remain nameless) was worth £400,000 in 2011. It is alleged that this player's agent facilitated the enrolment of the man in England's Euro2012 squad via inappropriate transfers of money. His value increased to £6 million. Once more sober assessments were made of the player, the value reduced to £4.5 million. We believe that this individual is problematical in the department labelled "Ethical" and that he performs in relation to betting strategies activated by his agents.
Our assessment of the player's value is consequently negative, worse than worthless as his professionalism is to be questioned.
That is radical.

Or, to take another example in another area...

Football betting markets are mature i.e. the sector is dominated by a fragmented cartel of primary market makers and dark pools that compete directly but that also work together to ensure the continuation of their shared corrupting power in the mature sector.
So, take a market where the market makers suggest the probability of Team A winning is 50%. All prices across the planet gravitate around this 50% likelihood.
If, as an analyst, I felt that the "real" market probability on Team A is 75% as there were corrupting influences on the game only known to a very few insiders and a few top analysts, I might suggest to a market maker outside of the loop that they price up the market to this "real" value and, in effect, take on all the other market makers and dark pools.
This would be a foolhardy tactic.
In mature markets, all outcomes can, in effect, be anything.
If the operators "in control" of this market wish to alter the outcome via their influence over key operators on the field of play, they are able to do so.
And, indeed, they would do so and, moreover, they would be most likely to do so when the market maker who went out on a limb with the 75% probability price had the most exposure to the rest of the marketplace - it is feasible to wipe out a competitor financially.
So the outcome here is that no market maker will exhibit the true price in a mature market as it would be financially disadvantageous to do so.
Hence, the vast majority of corrupt mature markets are inefficient and skilled analysts take their slice of this market inefficiency.
This too is radical.

Yet most evaluation within the game is incremental and the true value is never perceived.

And this is the constructive criticism aimed at parts of the Celtic hierarchy.
Neil Lennon achieves beyond expectations with the quality of the squad and the tools provided.

But parallel radical strategies are required in both the Champions League Group and the individual games.
Without a holographic holistic many inputs become useless or counter-productive.
An example here would be the much-lauded Manchester City Analytics who put inappropriate data into invalid software producing valueless analyses...
... all that data and yet MCFC Analytics failed to spot the 24 consecutive match-changing refereeing decisions in favour of Manchester United over an 18 month period where City merely experienced a mere 14/11 tilt in sendings off and penalties!

Similar analyses may be made across the markets and strategic inputs that affect football and only the leading strategic clubs like FC Bayern, Basle, Porto, Dortmund, Swansea City etc will maximise their opportunities by utilising such skills.

Celtic do, however, have one advantage that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the European game...
... the fans,
Lionel Messi's comments about the Parkhead atmosphere are worthy of note as only Boca Juniors worldwide can tilt match outcomes to the same extent.


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