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On Skill, Laws of Probability and Why I'm Still #PardewOut

In spite of two famous wins on the trot, my fundamental feelings on Alan Scott Pardew, Esq. have not changed. Here's why.

Is this sustainable?
Is this sustainable?
Jamie McDonald
ROS: Heads.
     (He picks it up and puts it in his money bag. The process is repeated.)
     ROS: Heads.
     GUIL (flipping a coin): There is an art to the building up of suspense.
     ROS: Heads.
     GUIL (flipping another): Though it can be done by luck alone.
     ROS: Heads.
     GUIL: If that's the word I'm after.
     ROS (raises his head at GUIL): Seventy-six love.
     (GUIL  gets up but has nowhere  to go. He  spins another  coin over his
shoulder  without  looking  at  it,  his  attention being  directed  at  his
environment or lack of it.)
     GUIL: A  weaker  man  might  be  moved  to re-examine  his faith, if in
nothing else at least in the law of probability.
The opening scene of Tom Stoppard's stage play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead involves a coin flip.  A series of coin flips, actually.  By the end of the flipping 92 consecutive coins (confirmed to be struck with both heads and tails), flipped independently of each other, have come up heads.  Speaking purely in terms of probability, this very same situation could well express itself - each independent flip is a 50/50 chance to express itself heads or tails.  Of course by the time 92 coins are considered, the cumulative odds that each of the coins comes up heads is miniscule.

Syllogism  the  second: one: probability  is  a factor which  operates
within natural forces. Two, probability is not operating as a factor. Three,
we  are  now within  un-,  sub-  or  supernatural forces.


Keep tight hold and continue while there's time. Now - counter to the previous syllogism: tricky one, follow me carefully, it may prove a comfort. If we postulate, and we just have, that within un-, sub- or supernatural forces the probability is that the law of probability will not operate as a factor, then we must accept that the probability of the first part will not operate as a factor, in which case the law of probability will operate as a factor within un-, sub- or supernatural forces. And since it obviously hasn't been doing so, we can take it that we are not held within un-, sub- or supernatural forces after all; in all probability, that is.
Things can happen - even within the constraints of the laws of probability.  A slight departure - I'm not much of a gambler.  I don't bet on sports and don't frequent casinos.  Neither "the loosest slots in town" nor the allure of table gaming have ever spoken to me very much.  Perhaps it's because money has always been an object.  Regardless - I don't often gamble.  On one particular occasion, however, I did play table blackjack.  As a mathematician or statistician, I'm about as far from the MIT Blackjack Team as you can get.  This night, however, I sat at the table and within a short amount of time had quadrupled my initial stake.  I had drawn the attention of the pit boss who was conspicuously observing from over my right shoulder.  (Exactly why, I'll never know... my initial stake was $20.)  In his song The Gambler, Kenny Rogers sang "You got to know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em" - I didn't know when to fold them.  I could have walked away from the table with a tidy $80 and gone to the bar to lose it all honestly.  Instead, I lost all $80, chucked a further $20 at getting it back and ended up with a total loss of $100 for the night.

What, you are likely asking yourselves, does any of this have to do with Newcastle United - and rightly so as this is a Newcastle United blog, not cutting room floor clips from Taxi Cab Confessions.  Following the derby loss non-performance, the heat underneath Alan Pardew's seat must've felt uncomfortable.  He had stated heading into the stretch of matches including the makems, Chelsea and Tottenham that two of them were winnable - and starting with a loss to the team rooted to the bottom of the table was not the way to start.  Fast forward and Newcastle have beaten Chelsa 2-0 and Tottenham 1-0 in consecutive weekends and proved the Prophecy of Pardew correct.  In turn, of course, the fire under Pardew's seat is completely and utterly extinguished because Sky6 and suddenly we can compete, yes yes?  It's really not that easy.

What we have just done in these past weeks is the Premier League equivalent of having quadrupled our initial stake.  Much of what has happened has not been of our own creation.  I am not saying that there is no credit to be given to our beleaguered manager - since reverting to his 4-4-2 comfort zone, the results speak for themselves.  On paper.  A certain amount of credit has to go to Pardew and the players for getting results against Sky6 clubs (don't forget - "We can't compete wiv the likes ov them")... you still have to manage the match and perform on the day.  Here is the thing... our spectacular 2-match winning streak - which will surely be germinal in our ultimate mid-table finishing position - is at least if not more down to the lack of performance by our opponents.

Chelsea's performance was so poor that Jose Mourinho said after the match that he felt like he had made "11 selection mistakes".  We can accept that this is a little bit of hyperbole from The Happy One - I don't think that there's any doubt that Petr Cech is an automatic choice when healthy, so at best there were 10 selection mistakes.  The fact remains, while we did enough on the day to earn the result we did... Chelsea were in fact THAT bad.  Add in to the conversation a healthy dose of we still only played 45 minutes (another incomplete match...) and you've got a decent amount of evidence for reasonable doubt.  If Chelsea are playing anywhere on the + side of average, they take us apart as we sit trying to weather a storm that never arrived in the first half.  Again - credit to Pardew for actually playing the match in the second half... but...

Spurs presents a little bit of a different proposition.  For a second consecutive week, we did just about enough to earn the victory.  For a second consecutive week, we relied upon an underachieving opponent to create our opportunity for the result.  From Andres VIllas Boas' post match interview:

We didn't play well in the first half.  We didn't recognize our game.  They were on top of us.  Still, we had a couple of chances that could have gone in in the first half.  Probably giving them that advantage was bad for us.  Either way, I think that we came out really really strong in the second half... really up to tempo.  Played a different game.
Typically for Alan Pardew Newcastle, the arrival of Tottenham's "different game" coincided with the arrival of the 45 Minute Conundrum on Newcastle's side.  But for a super-human effort from Tim Krul, the day could have turned out so, so different.  In a way, the Spurs match was a glimpse of 11-12 Newcastle United... score early and ride your luck from that point.  If you get a second goal, more's the better... if not... fling your bodies around and hope for en epic performance from one or more of your back 5.  Glimpses of 2011-12 Newcastle are always going to be encouraging.  We finished 5th that season... and it was awesome.  We were pushing for a return to the Champions League.  History has shown us, however, that the 11-12 model of success was not sustainable.  Nor will this be.  We are riding a streak that is demonstrably leaning onto the luck side more than skill... betting that we will be able to sustain an unsustainable model for success.  Mr. Kenny Rogers:

"Every Gambler knows
that the secret to survivin'
is knowing what to throw away,
knowing what to keep.
'Cause every hand's a winner
and every hand's a loser

We're gambling.  Gambling on the team to play 45 good minutes that coincide with 45 poor minutes from our opponents.  Gambling is going to get us a Chelsea or Tottenham result.  Gambling is going to get us a Hull City or Makem result just as often under Alan Pardew.  While the Law of Probability may suspend itself and allow for this gamble to be a success (2011-12), recent history has shown us that there will be a Newtonian equal and opposite reaction if it does so.  The facts remain these:  Alan Pardew can still not get this team of internationals to perform for 90 good minutes.  Alan Pardew cannot get this team of internationals to perform with pride and heart on a weekly basis.  Alan Pardew can still not manage to deploy his players to maximum effect with regards to formation and tactics.  We must be careful that we do not let ourselves be deceived by our recent results.  They are flattering - but in the end just that.