Anyone who has read my blogs for the 5 years I have been (badly) writing them will know that I am a bit of a stiatistics man.
It highlights that wage bill, rather than transfer expenditure, is the most important factor in building a successful side. Statistics also show that Arsenal going unbeaten or a Leicester City winning the title is always something that over the course of time will happen. It will just not happen often (when was the last time someone like Leicester won the title? Perhaps Derby Country 50 years ago?)
Understanding the statistics of the game is also important when it comes to analysing a players performance.
Soccernomics using the slide tackle as a brilliant example of how statistics can be interpreted correctly and poorly.
We can all agree that a player sliding in his a last ditch attempt to stop an opponent. It usually means the defender has been beaten, by pace or skill, or was out of position.
Paolo Maldini once said “If I have to tackle then I have already made a mistake.” Yet we routinely praise hard-tackling midfielders and defenders.
That means a player who makes a lot of slide tackles in a game is not actually a good defender, he is a player who probably finds himself out of position or behind play.
What is perhaps a more important statistics is how many interceptions a defender makes. As this shows he was reading the play and interception the pass.
Rarely did Gilberto Silva make a full-bloodied tackle to stop an opponent. Instead he would quietly go about his work intercepting the ball.
Compare that to Mathieu Flamini who would run around the pitch like a headless chicken diving into tackles.
We all know who the better defensive midfielder was, yet tackles and KM covered would have Flamini as superior.
Recently with Granit Xhaka, some fans have been bringing up statistics to highlight how good he is. but these stats just mask the truth.
Granit Xhaka looks great on Squawka statistics (passes made, completed, tackles, etc), but those statistics do not show how often he miss places a pass or misses a tackle that leads to a chance for the opponent.
Against Cardiff City, Xhaka attempted 99 passes, of which 85 found a team mate. A 85% completion rate. Not too shabby when not every one of his passes is short and safe (like Jorginho of Chelsea).
The problem for Xhaka – and someone that the stats do not highlight without looking deeply – is how many of his miss placed passes or missed tackles lead to an opposition chance.
Anyone that watches the game rather than relies on just statistics to judge a player will see that Xhaka gives the opposition chances with sloppy passes, slow play causing him to be dispossessed and missed tackles.
There is no point completing 85 out of 99 tackles if 1 or 2 of those missed 14 lead the opposition to have a chance, or in the case against Cardiff – score a goal.
Xhaka is a good player, and I would like to see him play with Lucas Torreira behind him which will provide us with further protection. But let’s stop defending in using statistics whilst ignoring the chances he gives to opponents.
The ultimate statistic is that one in the top left hand corner. The score. And if you are giving away the ball which leads to the opponent scoring a goal, you have had a poor game regardless of how many other passes you have completed.