Learning from defeat – Vanarama National League column

Luke Coulson of the FWA, and Ebbsfleet United, gives an insight into post-match analysis.


Patrick Vieira’s long legs took him through the Leicester City defence, around the keeper and allowed him to pass the ball into an open net and cement Arsenal’s place in history.

The Frenchman’s winning goal at Highbury meant the Arsenal team of 2003/04 went undefeated throughout the whole Premier League season. Yet, in the game of football, losing is inevitable. Even the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ of 2003/04 lost in domestic cup competitions along the way, suffering defeats in the FA Cup, Football League Cup and Champions League. As a player, you have to accept that there will be times when the team underperforms or the opposition execute the perfect tactical game plan to get the win. However, the important aspect about a loss isn’t the result itself but the reaction that comes afterwards.

The professionalism of Ebbsfleet United means each fixture is recorded and analysed which gives us the opportunity to watch the match from a different perspective. For me, it is an important element in my development as it allows me to understand what areas of my game need improvement, but also what areas of my game are strengths.

After our breakfast on a Monday morning, which usually consists of bagels, boiled eggs, fruit, cereals and a copious amount of coffee, a team meeting gives the squad a chance to discuss the positives and negatives of the previous game. In these meetings, the manager creates an open and positive environment in which he is keen to hear our opinions and encourages us to give constructive criticism to each other.

Nevertheless, despite being able to learn from previous mistakes, defeats will happen. A poor team performance, fatigue from the previous fixture or a misjudged refereeing decision can cost you a game.

Last week, we suffered our first back-to-back league defeats of the season. A gruelling six hour journey to Wrexham resulted in a 2-0 loss and was followed three days later by another away defeat to Woking. However, as the saying goes: ‘you learn more from losing than winning’, which is why we worked even harder on the training pitch to correct our mistakes and on Saturday, Hartlepool felt the full force of our frustration. We dominated the game from start to finish and moved ahead of them in the league after our 3-0 victory.

Reading and listening to comments since the match, it seems that most people agree that Saturday was our best performance of the season so far. However, with the quality of teams in the National League, we have to accept that defeats will happen moving forward. Yet, if we were able to recover and improve like we did this past weekend, we have a great platform to build upon moving into the tough Christmas period and our ambitions will certainly remain in reach.

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