Granit Xhaka and the misleading statistics

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.

Soccernomics and The Numbers Game are two of my favourite books, highlighting how important statistics are in football.

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.



6 thoughts on “Granit Xhaka and the misleading statistics

  1. Tikpo

    What This Then Means Is That The Defender With The Most Clearances & Interceptions AS WELL AS The Least Tackles, Is The Better Defender!
    Good Reasoning Sir!
    It Will Be Interesting To Rate ALL Our Defenders & DMs Using Your Statistical Indices From The 4 League Matches Played Thus Far. Will You?


    1. keenosafc Post author

      I would actually like to first investigate what “clearances” means. Is it hoofing or heading the ball clear? Or interception well and playing a 10 yard pass into a team mate in space?


  2. Mike

    “It usually means the defender has been beaten, by pace or skill, or was out of position.” Really? I would suggest it could just as easily mean that the player is covering well for somebody else’s mistake.

    “,,,,,,those statistics do not show how often he miss places a pass”. I think you can probably work that out from the pass completion figures……….which you later go on to do when it suits the slant you are trying to put on this story!

    “……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.” Are you for real??? Of course you don’t want to give away chances to the opposition but are you really telling me that if you had a player that gave away a clear cut chance and scored a hat-trick every game, you bench him?
    You clearly have a bee in your bonnet about Xhaka and no, he’s not perfect, but this article does more to prove how inconsistent your arguement is than his football.


  3. Farkov

    I was at Sunday’s game ,sitting next to my Xhakaphobic nephew. He sees what you see .
    I must have dug him in the ribs a dozen times to make sure he realised it was Xhakas ping forward , fizzed corner to the danger area etc. Otherwise he would have subconsciously attributed them to a more favoured player.
    I did have to hang my head. Twice. The crossfield misplace, which looked even worse from where we were than appeared after. And one sloppy dispossession in the second half.
    He’s not that strong in the tackle area , that’s pretty universally accepted, but he’s no Ramsey , or Wilshire either. Have torriera there to win 50s, I think Xhaka still is a huge asset.



    It’s interesting this…. How you’re now resorting to defending a player who isn’t that good. I mean, we paid more money for Granite Xhaka when N’Golo Kante was pretty much on our lap twice (when playing in France and at Leicester) and most recently for £28M a player who was proven in the EPL and a League Champion…. We overlook that guy and sign Granite Xhaka who had ONE GOOD SEASON in the Bundesliga which was the season we bought him. He offered Borussia Monchengladbach nothing in his early seasons yet seemed to have an “X-FACTOR” brighter than Kante….

    Anyhoo, back to the topic at hand, Maldini did in fact quote that but what he doesn’t realise is that players like him, Costacurta, Baresi and Desailly were World renound for their tackling, reading the game and the pinpoint accuracy of their interception without hardly giving away a foul in a league that was well known for players diving and assimilating! So you’re taking a point completely out of context to justify the proven flawed Xhaka. The fact is that he doesn’t tackle because he’s not good at it and gets stupid yellow cards as a consequence. His positioning is even worse that our back line is exposed every time! It’s quite apparent that he’s simply not good enough to play for Arsenal but why would you, a fan who still pines for Arsene Wenger and I wouldn’t be half surprised if you hope Unai Emery fails so you can be proved right in another one of your one sided blogs??….

    Only a fool would think Xhaka is just one of those misunderstood players who is just unlucky. If you believe that, then the 5 or so years of daft blogging was nothing more than the opinion of a blind & deaf man who went to sports direct and bought the wrong football shirt from a untrained new staff member!! In two years he’s gone backwards and under a new manager with better ideas, strategy and work ethic, he still is shit! So if you can’t get that Keenos then we really have a shit fanbase!!



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