Ronny Deila Will Beat Warburton Because He Understands The Art Of War

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“What is it they say? That war’s a moral contest and they’re won in the temples before they’re ever fought?” – John F Kennedy, 13 Days.

So speaks a smart man.

In the case above, whether apocryphal or not, the President of the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis when preparing to send Adlai Stephenson, his UN Ambassador, into an emergency meeting with the evidence that proved, as Stephenson was famously to say, “the Soviets have lied to the world.”

So it was that this moral contest, at least, was over before it had properly started.

There was a time when Sun Tzu’s classic treatise on conflict was read only in war colleges and in those other temples where violent men planned the campaigns which crushed others just like them.

Now it’s a standard text as part of any political degree and, most crucially perhaps, it’s become a must-read tome in business schools from Berkeley to Beijing.

It’s one of those books I try to read a couple of times a year, and as coincidence would have it The Art of War just happens to be what I’ve got the Kindle set to right now. It’s because of this that I was reading it last night when I heard that Falkirk had over-turned a two goal deficit to beat Warburton’s swaggering Sevco team, which for the last few weeks have been telling us they’re world beaters.

Even then I’d probably not have connected the two but for reading that Ronny Deila had attended the game. I remembered that Mark Warburton had been asked about going to see Celtic shortly after the cup draw had been made, and he had replied that he wouldn’t because it wasn’t necessary. Even then it seemed a stupid statement. Today it seems almost suicidal.

Applying the Art of War to the coming game reveals, already, any number of glaring deficiencies between their side and ours. Are both sides “evenly matched”?

Of course not. One is clearly superior to the other, and those are the circumstances where the Chinese general advised that battle not be joined but that the weaker side retreat.

The problem for Warburton is that a football pitch is just no place to hide. As battlefields go, it’s the worst a general playing with a weak hand could wish for; no natural advantages to be gained from certain parts of the terrain; no cover and no easily defensible positions. I wonder how a guy who’s allegedly so smart (he has business qualifications up the whazoo; one would think he has to have read The Art of War at some point) could have decided that it’s not worth his while to actually watch how the opposition performs in a similar arena.

How many games have we all watched on TV and thought we got a complete picture, only to find out later, from people who were at the game, that there were a thousand things we missed on the day, which you could only see from being there? The very nature of television is that it follows only “the action”; that leaves the rest of the pitch completely unwatched, and it’s in those areas where you can actually see the real meat of tactical dispositions and strategies unfold. Everything from defensive positioning to movement off the ball can be inferred from watching those things that the cameras don’t bother to keep an eye on.

Warburton clearly doesn’t think that stuff is important; like many a general before him he seems to be obsessed with graphs and statistics and all that technical detail. Those things are valuable to know, up to a point. Those numbers are made up of a million little individual moments and mistakes, and subject to wild variations. Really knowledge of the enemy comes from seeing him in the flesh, and watching how he copes in good times and bad.

The more I watch the conduct of Warburton and his backroom team the more I see a guy who’s actually possessed of no strategic skills at all.

The best thing for him to have done in the run-up to the game would have been to have disguised his arrogance and apparent belief that his side can win it on the day, and played those chances down, as Sun Tzu recommends, all the better to make our own side lose their focus and assume it’ll be easy.

He’s made other mistakes too; he loses his temper regularly, moaning about everything that goes wrong for him, always seeking someone else to blame.

Irritating him is easy, and nothing makes a man lose focus more quickly or completely. We can’t change the size of the Hampden pitch, unfortunately (the act itself is what got Alloa the point; the actual difference in pitch size probably made little, or no, difference to proceedings) but we can mix it up in other ways.

There are so many, many ways …

“He will win” says Sun Tzu, “who’s army is animated by the same spirit throughout its ranks.” I’ve already written on why, and how, this draw is bringing the Celtic Family together like nothing else would have. The important lessons are already being learned.

It’s now time to put them into practice.

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