If you missed part 1 it's here.
Growing up I wasn't very good with the ladies. I'd spend the winter pining after some beautiful classmate, wishing I had the guts to talk to her but never actually gathering up the nerve. "By Spring," I'd tell myself, "I'll talk to her in the spring."
And you know what? At some point the object of my attention, the fine fair maiden, would be so worn down by my puppy dog eyes and quiet longing that she'd finally agree to be my girlfriend. We'd have a great, romantic ten days, and then I'd promptly lose interest and wait for her to break up with me. A tactic that always worked.
Which is all to say: take what is about to come below with a grain of salt. It's completely possible that, like the Aaron of yore, I am simply jumping the emotional gun and girding my loins against the inevitable. But then I again, maybe I'm right.
It doesn't matter if Gareth Bale stays or goes. Just as it doesn't matter if Suarez stays or goes, nor does it certainly not matter whether or not Rooney leaves (though in his case it's actually a bit different story of to where he's going).
In their brilliant book The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer is Wrong , Chris Anderson and David Sally use statistical & economic analysis to uncover the "hidden" truths about the world's game. In other words, it's the Money Ball of soccer. This excellent read is illuminating on multiple levels. Not least of all, the reason that Stoke City is so damned resilient despite having the least interesting side in the league (spoiler alert: it's because of how much goddam time they waste whenever they set up for a long throw in!).
In the chapter titled "O! Why a Soccer Team is Like the Space Shuttle," Anderson and Sally describe how the Challenger (whose replacement cost was $1.7 Billion) was destroyed by the failure of a simple rubber O-ring (which cost roughly MUCH less than $1.7 Billion). In economics, they explain, the "O-ring process" describes a situation in which "errors multiply rather than add up... When the O-ring on the Challenger failed to perform its task, it zeroed out the entire shuttle."
Anderson and Sally believe (as do I) that Soccer is an O-ring process. That because goals are SO rare a single error can lead to an opposition goal which can lead to total and utter disaster. They give, as an example, the story of Zurab Khizanishvili who aside from having the most improbable last name, lost Reading the Championship Playoff game against Swansea and therefor promotion and a net gain of "around £90 million."
The story goes Khizanishvili, one of Reading's central defenders on the night, first gives up a penalty to Swansea, then immediately bungles a cross allowing them to score again, and then goes and does it all over again. A single player costs his team 3 incredibly valuable goals and £90M.
So what's the point? How does this relate to Bale, Suarez, and Mr. Rooney?
It's simple. But, let me let Anderson and Sally take it away:
It is not the best players on the pitch or the strongest area of a team that decides who wins; teams that spend their summers lavishing millions on recruiting the latest superstar may have it all wrong... It is less the result of Lionel Messi's majesty, of Paul Schole's passing, of Christiano Ronaldo's strength of speed, and of Xavi and Iniesta's telepathic anticipation, than of the leaden boots and dull minds of Khizanishvili and his ilk, or their poor linkages with teammates.
Tottenham have been very busy during the transfer window. But more importantly they've improved in all the places that there were "Khizanishvilis" on the team. If last season was all about a lack of striking potential, if missed goals were the types of errors that cost the most, then just take one look at Soldado 's signing and know that there lies the solution to that particular O-ring fault.
Slowness and lack of depth in the midfield? Well, just look at how Huddlestone, Livermore, and probably Parker, have been replaced by the likes of Chadli, Capoue, and Paulinho. All three are MASSIVE upgrades that will join Dembele, Lennon, Siggurdson, and a returning Sandro. Another O-ring fixed. (Not to mention Townsend, Carrol, Holtby, and your pick of whatever other Serbian wunderkinds Daniel Levy plans to buy in the next two weeks).
And then there's the most valuable O-ring: the defense. There problems still abide, but Kaboul's return from injury partnered with Super Jan and Dawson will be solid. Walker should have a much better year, and BAE will be joined by Rose to bolster that wing. Still a little flimsy but you see where I'm getting.
If Bale stays Tottenham will be a wonderful side to watch. That much is true. They may even challenge for the title, taking advantage of three new Managers above them and an aimless Arsenal side.
But if he goes there's every indication that the squad that has been assembled will perform BETTER than the team did last year, regardless of Bale's presence.
Again, according to Anderson and Sally:
If you want to build a team for success, you need to look less at your strongest links and more at your weakest ones. Its there that team's destiny is determined, whether it will go down in history or be forever considered a failure.
Seriously, read the book. It's amazing, and solves my biggest question of the summer: "Are all goals created equal?" (spoiler: they're not and that 30 goal striker you lust over may be just window dressing!)
Which leads me to Suarez and Rooney. It's easy to see these players as having played important roles in their sides, and it's also understandable for any team to not want a killer player to go... after all the fans will moan and the other players will start looking around nervously wondering if Pa's gonna sell the ol' farm.
But, in truth, Liverpool would do well to take £40,000,001 and invest it in the rest of their side. As would Manchester United who could use a little O-ring work themselves. Now, with Rooney it's a little interesting because if he were to go to Chelsea it wouldn't hurt ManU that badly but it would actually be solving Chelsea's one real weakness: their strikeforce, thus not selling Rooney can be seen as a good defensive move.
Now I know you don't want to be perceived as the kind of team that is a selling team, and I know that Tottenham is much stronger WITH Bale than without. And of course, I want Tottenham to be the kind of team that a Gareth Bale doesn't want to leave, but in a world in which Oil Tycoons fund teams made up of Supermen that's a tough ask.
Eventually I found a girl that I married. She's great, we're great we get a long, etc. But before we got married we broke up for seven freaking years . And not "on again/off again." Straight up, no contact for seven years.
My O-ring was that I was sure girls would get bored of me eventually and so I'd get bored of them first. I've fixed that, and I'm much better for it. Bale hasn't said he wants to leave, but he hasn't said he wants to stay.
If Tottenham's not careful, and he really does want to leave then the team may find themselves with a new problem: a superstar who's dissatisfaction will turn him into one giant O-ring.
There. I think I've flogged Anderson and Sally's metaphor quite enough.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.