Just two games ago, Chelsea walloped Swansea City to the tune of 5-0. Everything went the Blues' way, but Mourinho warned that while it was a perfect game, it was just one game. One game does not a season make.
On Saturday, Chelsea lost at home to League One Bradford City, conceding four or more for the second time since the turn of new year. It was an historic occasion, an historic result for all the wrong reasons. But surely, one game does not a season unmake.
Perhaps I'm underrating the impact of this result by virtue of being unable to witness it first-hand. Without tickets and without a live television broadcast, I, like most of us, was reduced to radio coverage. And when combined with the several in-person accounts in the comments and on Twitter, the impression I got was one of a decent Chelsea performance. Not great by any means, but also not one like the 1-0 home loss to QPR a couple years ago. But how could we concede four goals then? To a League One side at that!? Surely, something horribly specific, deeply unsettling must've happened. There must be a serious flaw in the system, right? The sound and the fury, the disgrace and the shame. Heads must roll!
Back in the early 2000s, with the dot-com bubble burst, a new concept called Black Swan got plenty of airplay. It was the brainchild of Nassim Taleb, which he introduced to the world in his book Fooled By Randomness. While he later expanded his theory to include all manner of things, at first, it was concerned mostly with financial events, the overriding theme being that people underestimate the role that chance plays in the markets and how we're absolutely unprepared to deal with (unpredictable) massive outliers.
To be considered a true Black Swan, an event has to have the following three characteristics.
- To the people observing, the event must be a surprise (which might depend on just who exactly are the observers).
- The event must have a major follow-on effect (emphasis on major).
- The event must be rationalized later by hindsight as if it were something that we should've known would happen based on data that we may or may not actually have had.
Bradford scoring four at Stamford Bridge (after being down 2-0) and eliminating Chelsea from the FA Cup certainly qualifies as a surprise. Who's observing probably doesn't even make a difference here. I daresay nobody expected this.
But as disgraceful as it turned out for us, the vast majority of reactions seem to be overrating the value of individual results in knockout competitions. We all should know how crazy things can get in such competition formats, no? After all, who can forget that night in Barcelona? Who can forget the final, the extra time, and the penalty kick shootout in Munich? Those hardly were expected outcomes. That's why they play the games, as the old cliché goes.
Bradford scoring four is not a normal outcome. It's not anywhere near a normal outcome. It's a shocking event -- though made less shocking by the similarly shocking results elsewhere on a rather shocking (some might say magical) FA Cup Saturday -- but it's just an outlier. We should not pretend that we saw this coming. Even if we take into account the Spurs loss, the fair bit of difference in starting lineups eliminates most of the immediately causative parallels. We should not use the Bradford loss as a jump-off point to sell half the team, make massive, long-lasting changes, and send Mourinho to remedial motivating, tacticking, and squad rotating classes. As hard as it may be to accept (for fans, players, and even the manager), it may just be one of those "things" not within the bounds of rational thought, reasonable tactics, or explainable variance.
FA Cup fate of Premier League clubs. pic.twitter.com/jmPME3YK2Y— Purely Football (@PurelyFootball) January 24, 2015
Bradford's win is almost as amazing as it is disappointing. It's certainly restored full mana to the FA Cup's reservoirs of magic, and then some. But for us, it's just one game. And while it's incredibly sad to lose this year's FA Cup dreams this way, there are plenty of other things to look forward to still. We move on. There's a League Cup semifinal to win on Tuesday and a Premier League title to salt away on Saturday.