The Leaping Tower of Pisa (Pt. 9) - Nerd Nonsense
Does everything in life even out in the end? No, certainly not for Pisa SC anyway. We’re 5th in the xG table after nine games, but the real table? Rock bottom. Essentially, we are throwing a banjo at a barn door and missing the barn entirely. We’re creating chances that don’t lead to goals and we’re conceding very, very easy goals, the kind of goals that gets a manager sacked after long. Alternatively, we can look at the expected goals and dismiss it as nerd nonsense, just another thing to make us miserable at the football. Yeah, that’ll do.
A quarter of the way into a season that started with a win but has descended into madness with six straight losses, each one more infuriating than the last, so I’ve included the xG figure, in brackets, just to infuriate myself even more. Below are a selection of some of my favourite laptop throw inducing games a run of eight games without a win:
Pisa (2.78) 2–3 (1.00) Empoli
Conceding from a corner, a screamer and a simple through ball, the first defeat of the season is a peculiar one. Lucca scored both our goals, one from a corner and the other from a cross, neither particularly high on the xG scale. The other 21 shots we had? I’d rather not get into it. Irritated and confused.
Pisa (1.71) 0–1 (0.36) Atalanta
22 shots, no goals. 10 corners, no goals. Why do you hate me, oh powerful Football God? Hit on the counter with 13 minutes to go, Luis Muriel scoring with one of Atalanta’s six shots. At this point, I’m wondering what I’ve done wrong. I say wondering because I haven’t a clue.
Lecce (1.04) 2–1 (2.00) Pisa
We started well, big Buongiorno giving us the lead after only three minutes. Half an hour later, we’re behind. Two hands round the laptop and let fly, it’s time. A free kick and another simple through ball, I think this might be my fault. I’m not Frank Lampard, I know I’m an idiot. I spend the rest of the game trying to work out how to stop us from doing this again.
Pisa (2.67) 2–4 (0.73) Napoli
Right, what is going on here? I’m having to be talked out of ringing Sports Interactive customer service and screaming profanity until I’m blue in the face. We took the lead, then levelled to make it 2–2 but Napoli were able to score from four of seven shots in this one. I’m starting to think our new goalkeeper, Gollini, might be the problem. With biscuits for wrists and the positional awareness of a plastic bag in a tornado, this was his tragedy as we hit nine games with just four points in our pockets.
As this horrendous run comes to an end in a Raspadori fuelled rampage against Torino, a brief moment of clarity in this video game allowed me to realise one thing. Gollini has got to go. Even as we win for the first time since the opening day, he contrives to make two head scratching mistakes and force me to question why I’ve given him £25k a week when our loanee backup is quite capable. Manuel Gasparini, come on down. Plucked from the depths of Udinese’s scrap pile, Gasparini has just enough about him to make me roll the dice.
A 3–1 loss against Milan and a 3–3 come-from-behind draw at Sampdoria follow the Torino win, but it’s not much to worry about, other than being 18th after 12 games and all that. I produce a Gallic shrug in the knowledge that Luccaball remains somewhat viable. Sure, we’ll be torn to shreds by good teams who can overload us out wide and we’ll miss a bucketload of chances against Lecce and Empoli, but we’ll be fine. I think. Eventually, the xG nerds will forgive me for trying to break the system with near post corners and crosses to the big man, then some of the chances will start to land and we’ll win games. That’s how it works. Again, I think.
Just a week later, they do it all again. Fiorentina come to Pisa and catch the Raspa-Lucca wrath, with both scoring a brace. A 4–0 win made all the sweeter by Raspadori scoring two volleys but, once again, no corners. A 4–3 win over Verona follows, which sounds very exciting but really wasn’t. 4–2 up and cruising, we concede a late goal and make it seem like a real game. Silly stuff, but seven points in three games means we’re starting to move clear of the relegation zone, leaving all that nonsense in the rear view mirror until Lucca inevitably gets injured or Raspadori’s loan gets terminated. If we can keep in scoring and not let Gollini anywhere near the pitch, there might be something in this season.