I was thinking about how important “direction of travel” is. If someone starts out looking terrible but shows signs of improvement, people begin to rally around him. If someone starts out great and hits a rough patch, the critics swoop.
The Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was dismissed as a complete no-hoper by almost everyone (including me). He then did far better than anyone expected in the 2017 general election and the recent party conference in Brighton looked like a victory rally for a prime minister-in-waiting. Yet, he lost the election to Theresa May’s Conservative Party.
Somehow, she is seen as a dead man walking because she underperformed. He is the coming force.
Similarly, the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is talked about as yesterday’s man because he used to deliver stunning results (over a prolonged period). Arsenal were variously champions, runners-up, contenders… before slipping back a bit over the last several years. Meanwhile Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, is hailed as a genius despite having won nothing in England after two years in charge. His team finished one point ahead of Arsenal last season, and sit one point behind Arsenal this season (after seven games).
Any normal analysis would say there is little to choose between the two at the moment but Wenger has the superior track record. But Klopp has delivered improvement over the previous period and people put huge emphasis on that.
It’s nonsense from an empirical point of view but it seems to be in human nature to prioritise improvement over achievement.
As Pompey said to Sulla: More people worship the rising than the setting sun.