Form is temporary, class is permanent.
That phrase might have some truth to it, but it’s also caused a lot of soccer fans to lose a lot of money.
It might be true that a slip-up one week doesn’t mean anything for future weeks, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. After all, a loss of form can be pretty permanent as well. If that wasn’t the case, Nottingham Forest would still be one of the best teams in England; Blackburn Rovers would have gone on to dominate the world after its 1994 EPL win, and Aberdeen would be as unstoppable as Real Madrid.
If a team that’s dominating at the top of the league suddenly has a lapse, it might suggest that it just had an off day and will be fine the following week. But it could also indicate that the rot has begun, and it’ll lose its lead before long.
That’s why team form means more than current standings.
Not convinced? Let’s look at a couple of examples.
One of the best-known examples in English Premier League history occurred during the 1995/96 season, when Newcastle United seemed to have the title signed and sealed by Christmas. Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle team were 10 points clear at the top of the table and seemed unbeatable after extending this to 12 points in January.
In March, there were some signs of disorder within the team. If you were betting based on league position, you would have put your house on Newcastle to keep going. If you paid attention to form, you would have thought twice.
Between 21st February and 8th April, Newcastle took just 7 points from a possible 24 and ultimately lost the title to Manchester United. It was one of the biggest slips in EPL history, and it proved that standings don’t matter as much as team form.
As further proof, we can look to Italy. Crotone looked like a sure-thing for relegation in 2016/17. The team that recently found its name in Italian Serie B standings after relegation in 2017/18, seemed destined for an earlier drop. But it took an impressive 20 points from a possible 27 to finish the season in 17th.
As the current Italian Serie A standings prove, it’s a pretty unforgiving league, and yet the doomed Crotone tore through it like champions, leading to a lot of dismay for anyone who backed the team based on league standings.
When is Form Just Temporary?
Newcastle United’s performance in 1995/96 is a great example of why table position doesn’t mean anything and of how quickly things can go wrong. But it’s also somewhat of an outlier.
If you go to the city of Newcastle and enjoy a few drinks with the locals, they will inevitably start talking about soccer. After bemoaning the form of the current team, they’ll eventually start reminiscing about the NUFC of old, and before long, the 95/96 season will be mentioned.
Everyone will have their theories of why the team fell apart. Maybe there was an issue in the dressing room. Maybe their confidence took a knock after the first defeat. Maybe other teams just began to understand how Newcastle played.
No one knows.
Thankfully, these catastrophic dips in form are usually easier to read and if you pay attention to team form and league standings, and look out for injury news, you can predict them for yourself.
Confidence often plays a big role. If a team is surpassing expectations, the players will be confident, happy, and ready to take on the world. But as soon as things start to go against them, the doubts will creep in and they’ll adopt a defeatist attitude.
We saw this happen with Liverpool in 2013/14. Liverpool was 5 points clear with just 3 games to play. It seemed like the league would be painted red and LFC would get a long-awaited title.
Going into a game against title contenders Chelsea, Liverpool needed just 1 point. A draw to secure the title. But then the famous “slip” came from Steven Gerrard, Chelsea scored, and the points went to the Londoners.
That slip filled the city of Liverpool with doubt. The title was theirs, but because they had experienced this hard-luck outcome, they had already given up hope, even though the team was still topping the table with a couple of games left.
A week later, Liverpool took a 3-0 lead against Crystal Palace and then blew it. As soon as Crystal Palace pulled a single goal back, the heads dropped, the doubts returned, and the 3-3 scoreline was all but inevitable.
After all, soccer is not played on paper. It’s not a game of algorithms played by machines. It’s a game of 11 against 11, and in many cases, those 11 are young men desperate to get their hands on a trophy. They might be inexperienced, anxious, and naïve, and when you’re in that mindset, it’s easy for the media or the opposition to upset you and get into your head. That is ultimately why team form matters more than standings, because you’re betting on a team that is good right now, a team that has found their form and is playing without fear, without anxiety, and with their confidence turned up to 11.
How do I Read Soccer Form?
Most modern form listings use a tick to indicate a win, an “x” to show a loss, and a line for a draw. They also tend to be colored, with green for a win, red for a loss, and grey for a draw. At BetzCenter.com, we have an algorithm that understands team results and calculates team form accordingly. You can always have a general impression of a team’s form status before each match, in a matter of seconds. Make sure to check it out!
Does League Form Always Matter?
League form is key for league games but might not tell you much when that team plays outside of their country. In such cases, you’ll need to look at non-domestic form and try to judge how the two compare.
Is Form the Only Thing That Matters?
Form is certainly a major factor, but you also need to consider whether the team actually needs the win. If a table-topping team has already won the league and is playing a bottom team fighting for relegation, the former may field a weakened side while the latter goes all-out.