After his side climbed the table from 22nd to 6th in 2004, then-Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie famously coined the term ‘bouncebackability’ to praise his side’s impressive rebound. The term has stuck – it even entered the Oxford English Dictionary the following year – and is now attached to any team who comes back from a bad position.
It’s not hard to believe that certain teams have more resilience than others. In the Bundesliga last season, Freiburg and Hamburg both went behind in 22 matches, but Freiburg salvaged 14 points from these games compared to Hamburg’s 5. Freiburg finished 15th and safe; Hamburg five points back and relegated. The team from the south had shown more bouncebackability than the men from the north.
But the evidence suggests that Freiburg shouldn’t believe that their team has a special ability to come from behind. Teams that have won many points from losing positions don’t tend to repeat the trick the following season, and their overall results tend to decline. Bouncebackability just isn’t sustainable, and actually points to an underlying weakness in the team: that they are constantly falling behind.
Freiburg, who won 39% of points from losing positions, aren’t alone. Bournemouth (48%), Chievo (40%), Angers (37%) and Celta Vigo (33%) are the ‘leaders’ in the other big 5 leagues, and should also be conscious of how they won their points last season. Relying on comebacks will be a tough act to continue.
Team resilience is a bit like momentum, or a winning culture – you have it until you don’t. While it may exist, it isn’t something that can be relied on to power future results, and therefore shouldn’t be used as information to make decisions that impact the future. As we set our expectations for the new season, it’s important to know what strengths we are truly carrying over from the last. Just like the word itself, bouncebackability is mostly made up.