Stats can flatter to deceive football

Published Add your comment

Football News

Football is suffocated by statistics. The modern day game is incomparable to anything that ever preceded it, certainly in terms of the involvement in science.

Be it in nutrition, analysis - both individual and collective - or tactical awareness, the saber-metric revolution is in full swing, with varying levels of success, it must be said.

The list of numbers is endless. What's most important is how those numbers can be best translated to football - essentially, which statistics actually matter.

From physical (and mental) preparation, right through to the most effective recovery methods, we are in a period where every available fact and figure is assessed with a fine-tooth comb, as clubs up and down the country strive for that extra per cent, that extra advantage.

But, what is the ultimate stat? That vital piece of information that can determine how important a player is from a pile of collated data. It's something of fantasy, surely.

In vogue now is the pass completion percentage, both team and player specific. Recent results have Premier League newcomers Swansea City - who play an expansive brand of exciting, easy-on-the-eye, possession-based football - on a par with Barcelona in terms of how well they can pass a football.

The reality is that Brendan Rodgers' side are poles apart from the reigning La Liga champions, and current Champions League holders, who played Manchester United off the park in last year's Wembley final. On paper it looks good, at least.

And, that's not a slant on the Swans' style - they have impressed all season with their fearless approach in their debut campaign in the English top-flight, and are in the process of changing the game for the better.

In terms of pre-match preparation, and a study of your opponents, statistics can be utilised more effectively. At a time where the Premier League consists of a dozen teams who are so evenly matched that many of their games are settled on set pieces or carefully choreographed training-ground routines, meticulous planning and analysis can be the difference.

Manchester City currently lead the way in player analysis, both for their own players and in terms of checking up on potential signings, and Chelsea are not far behind.

Liverpool are another club who, under the former guidance of recently departed Director of Football Damien Comolli, made a number of high-profile signings on the basis of superb metrics collated from previous performances.

Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll were both recruited in January 2011 with their striking statistics at the forefront of the Reds' plans moving forward, while midfield trio Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, and Jordan Henderson were presumably brought in to provide the service for the forward line, having all been credited in the top 12 players last season for creating goalscoring opportunities.

One problem that the individual analysis of each player failed to highlight, was the fact that all three took corners and free-kicks for their respective club sides last season. So, something would have to give when they played together at Liverpool.

Even with the assistance of statistics, few, if anyone at all, could have predicted it would be their form and confidence in such spectacular fashion, less than 12 months after arriving at Anfield.

There has never been a suggestion that Comolli bought players for Liverpool on his own, and Kenny Dalglish reaffirmed his position as the man who made the final decisions on prospective signings in the aftermath of his departure. But, it's clear that the Frenchman has been made the fall-guy for the club's failings in the transfer market over the past 18 months.

The increased emphasis on science, statistics and contemporary analysis is, ultimately, all about finding the next 'new' way to gain an advantage, both on and off the pitch.

To coin a familiar football term, it's how to find the ‘POMO’ or, the ‘position of maximum opportunity'. You can't blame any club for trying.

Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE:

Premier League

Article Comments

Read more

Report author of article

Please let us know if you believe this article is in violation of our editorial policy, please only report articles for one of the following reasons.

Report author


This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

Want more content like this?

Like our GiveMeSport Facebook Page and you will get this directly to you.

Already Subscribed to Facebook, don't ask me again

Follow GiveMeSport on Twitter and you will get this directly to you.

Already Following, don't ask me again

Like our GiveMeSport Page and you will get this directly to you.

Already Subscribed to G+, don't ask me again