In this week’s football language podcast we look at words and phrases that describe a team suffering from a bad run of results: the language of poor form. Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here, and visit our site to access all the previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions, contact us at

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Football Language Podcast: Poor Form

DF: Hello everyone, this is Damian from the Learning English Through Football team. I hope we are all doing well and staying safe wherever we are in the world. Now on this short football language podcast we take a look at some language associated with poor form – when teams play badly over a period of time.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Italian).

DF: Yes, you are listening to and that message was in Italian. Don’t forget that there’s a transcript to this podcast which you can access by coming along to our site. And you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or you can drop us a line at: Right, let’s take a look at some of the words and phrases used to describe a player or a team not playing very well.

What is the worse run of defeats in Premier League history?

Good Form

The meaning of form in football refers to how well or not a team is playing over a certain period of time. So, if a team is in good form it means they are playing well and winning games or maybe going undefeated for a few matches. A player can also be described as being in good form when they are consistently playing well and if a team or a player hits form then it means they have started to play well – they are playing like they should be playing, while to be in a rich vein of form refers to when a team is playing really, really well.

Bad Form

Of course, the phrase bad form is used to describe the opposite to this – so when a player or a team is playing badly we can say they are in bad form. If a team is playing poorly and cannot win a game we might hear the expression ‘can’t buy a win‘ which is a suggestion that no matter what they do, the team is unable to win. If a team is in bad form, on a run of poor form or out of form it means that they are not playing well and will not have much chance against a side that is in good form.

A dip in form, or sometimes known as a blip in form, is not as bad as a poor run of form as it refers to something temporary; so maybe a team has lost or drawn a couple of games but then returns to winning ways soon after. The problem for some clubs is when a dip in form goes on longer than a couple of games and becomes a poor run of form. One other expression around the idea of bad form is the well-known football cliche ‘form is temporary but class is permanent‘ which suggests that a good team or player will eventually return to form  even though they may not be playing so well at the moment. 

When a team is in bad form confidence tends to be hit making it more difficult to emerge from a poor run of form – it becomes a vicious cycle as bad results lead to more bad results. Now, in the current 2020-21 season, Sheffield United are rooted to the foot of the table after losing 23 of their first 28 games and at one stage in the season the Blades had not won for 17 matches – a really bad run of form. The record for the worst start to a Premier League season belongs to both Crystal Palace and Portsmouth who both lost their first seven games – a terrible run of form – but the worst run has to be Sunderland’s as they lost 20 consecutive games over two different seasons (2002-03 and 2005-06).

Here’s an example from the BT Sport website  (Feb 2021): ‘Jurgen Klopp refusing to blame his Liverpool players for poor run of form‘ – here the manager suggests that it’s not the players’ fault for playing badly – although he doesn’t say what was the reason.

Here’s another example, this time from The Independent about a player suffering a bad run of form in front of goal. The Chelsea striker Timo Werner had not been playing well at his new club but his manager suggested that he should not worry too much about it. (Independent, January 18, 2021). Here’s the title: ‘Timo Werner being ‘hard on himself’ amid poor run of form, says Chelsea manager Frank Lampard’

Stinger: You’re listening to (in Dutch).

Good Bye

DF: OK, that’s it for this short podcast – we hope you have enjoyed our look at some of the language used to describe bad form, including a dip in form, a poor run of form and of course form is temporary but class is permanant‘. Let us know if you hear any of these phrases or maybe if you know how to say them in another language – drop us a line at: And we’ll have more football phrases to talk about in our next podcast. Enjoy all the football this week and we’ll see you again soon. Bye bye.

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

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