BYRON: Stats are oversimplifying our game

I just had someone tell me that no matter who you are it is universal, no opinion is allowed on this matter, that Messi is the best player (would I agree, yes but that is not the point, I enjoy him because I like watching him play rather than Ronaldo) my point is that it takes away from the game. And that everything is about opinion in football, anyway – and stats are just trying to simplify it.

As he tried to simplify Messi v Ronaldo: too is a chicken, a chicken, or a steak, a steak, like what???

It is a sport taken its self too seriously, now. Without context statistics are worth nothing. It would be just as interesting to find out how many goals were scored by people with green boots or how many long-haired players have been caught offside.

Football fans that care about stats are, really, nothing more than pseudo-intellectuals. That don’t care about the fun of the game, there is so much that stats don’t cover. People may see that a player has run over 14km in a match which is great, but was he doing it for a purpose? Or as a headless chicken?

Like is interceptions a good sign of player? Whether that be a defensive midfielder or a defender? No, interceptions could easily be a terrible pass straight to the interceptor or it could reflect someone that could actually anticipate the oppositions play. Van Dijk makes 0.76 tackles a match, but would you make the case that he is a poor defender? That’s just one example of why context is needed.

Who is the better midfielder you can’t trust passing accuracy, they might be playing safe passes (and thus have a higher passing accuracy). Manchester City’s playstyle is mostly short and sometimes depending on where they are on the pitch not under much pressure – due to this their players will enjoy higher passing accuracy. Others are told to hit it long, these types of passes are less likely to be accurate. And it is not a descriptive view on the player as an individual, this brings it back to context.

Assists for a midfielder? From the stats you can’t tell wherever it’s genius or just a lucky pass. Did he run down the wing, take it past a few players and then cut it back – or did he intended the pass to go elsewhere but it took bounce? Either way it goes down as an assist.

Another issue i have is judging players who fail a lot, an obvious one the Golden Boot winner in every league will miss more than he scores. Cavani works a lot creating chances for his team, taking almost all of them into a shot no matter the circumstance a

The truth is fans have started to take themselves too seriously, momentum can change within a switch of a light, but stats don’t reflect that, do they?

A match against Tottenham and Man United saw a match report go up on Squawka’s website, what did it find? It found that United won the midfield battle by Phil Jones and Tom Cleverly winning all their tackles (three out of three for Jones and two out of two for Cleverly) If anyone had watched the match, however, they would have seen a fundamental issue. The issue was Cleverly was at fault for the first goal, but there wasn’t a stat for that so Cleverly had a good game, according to the stats but did he really? Which brings me back to the point of context matters.

What Celtic side was better Rodgers invincible or Lennon’s side now? The stats say Neil Lennon’s side, but I’d much rather have an invincible season.

So, let’s reiterate stats when they are used need to always be in context – there will never be a conclusive universal answer to who is the best player. And really the only number that matters at the end of the day is what team outscored the other in the match. I prefer to use my own eyes when judging a player, not out of context stats. What is the point of pointing out individualism in a team sport?


Benjamin Disraeli