Everyone knows it’s harder to win away from home.
Which is why it’s harder to win away from home.
In other words, part of the home advantage (and the away disadvantage) comes from the belief in its existence. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
There is more to it than that, of course. Premier League player Liam Rosenoir describes some of the challenges for the away team in an enlightening article in the Guardian:
Specifically, he mentions that players…
- Miss the reassuring domestic (family) environment
- Cannot follow traditional match day routines or rituals
- Miss the comforts and routine of the home dressing room
- Take a more cautious, restrictive playing approach, as instructed by the coach/manager
He also cites the influence of the home crowd on the players, the opposition and the referee.
Should teams simply accept this as an inevitability of football life? Or could they make more effort to manage these reactions and impacts?
Rosenoir cites two examples where teams set out to disrupt the traditional pattern of the away game experience:
- A coach advising the team to take the sting out of a game to quieten a home crowd
- Teams decorating the away dressing room to make it look more like the one back home
But are clubs doing enough?
Are they helping players replicate home routines and rituals when playing away? Are they even aware of what these routines and rituals may be (particularly the ones relating to individuals, not the team as a whole)?
Is there more that might be done in terms of managing the home supporters? An example might be putting early pressure on an unpopular home player to get the crowd on his back.
Can psychological exercises weaken the negative reactions to a loss of routine and ritual?
Might managers change their tactics and team talk to undermine the assumption of an away disadvantage? (Unusual “away team” tactics might also take the opposition by surprise.)
As always, the value of many such approaches depends on the manager’s ability to subvert ingrained patterns of behaviour and belief among the players. As Rosenoir himself says:
“I’ve been mentally conditioned to buy into the belief that a match
at home is somehow more beneficial than playing away.“
Oh, and all this applies in reverse if you’re the home team…