In this football language post for learners of English we look at the football expression ‘play down their title chances‘ which is often heard at the start of the season. You can also read the transcript for this post below, while you can also check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and visit our site to access all our previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Football Language: Plays down title chances
The 2022-23 Premier League season kicks off this weekend and fans of all 20 teams are hoping for a good season: winning the title, qualifying for the top 4 or for a European place or simply avoiding relegation. The favourites for the title this season are Manchester City though closely followed by Liverpool and based on recent history it doesn’t appear as if any other side can challenge these two teams for the title. Both Chelsea and Arsenal have brought in some strong players and will hope to improve on last season’s performances, while Manchester United have a new manager and will definitely be better than last season but no one is really tipping any of these sides to win the title. There is one other side that some feel will do well this season after their summer transfers. Tottenham have made very good signings – and of course have a manager with experience of winning the Premier League in Antonio Conte although he is quick to point out that his squad is not yet ready to challenge for top spot this season – he is playing down their title hopes.
To play down something or to play something down means that a situation is not as serious or important as many people think it might be. For example, in a previous languagecaster post we described how a manager played down the reports of an injury or a fight between some of their players – the managers played down the fight as being nothing more than an argument which is much less serious than a physical fight. Managers (and players) can also play down their side’s title hopes (or chances) which means they do not think they have as much chance as others feel they have. If a team is tipped to do well then a manager may want to reduce the expectation around their team so that the players may not be under too much pressure.
So, for example, the Tottenham manager Antonio Conte is said to be happy with his new signings and the fact that his team have worked hard in pre-season but he does not think Spurs will win the title so we can say that he is playing down his team’s chances of winning the title; he is playing down their title hopes.
- Example: Antonio Conte happy with Tottenham signings but plays down title chances (Guardian.co.uk, August 4 2022)
- Example: Klopp plays down EPL title race hopes after Leicester win (February 10 2022, Eurosport.com)
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