Monthly Archives: April 2016

Sensible Stats round-up 30/04/16

This column aims to look at use of football statistics in the more mainstream areas of the online world, good or bad, and explain why they’re good or how they could be improved.

Sky Sports News HQ, Man City vs Real Madrid preview stats

This is an interesting mix of basic (raw goals) and slightly more advanced (shot conversion) stats. Using more advanced stats, looking for insight, over just a 10 game sample in a cup competition runs risks with sample size and quality so really I don’t mind that they’re using the basic stats. Their job here is to be able to tell a story rather than to make any significant claims with the numbers. Continue reading


Huth and Morgan are a story, but concentrating on them alone misses the point

Over the past couple of weeks or so I’ve seen a few articles written about Huth and Morgan, how they’re old-school defenders, defying a trend towards centre-backs who ‘play’ first and ‘defend’ second.

The first part of this is true. They are old-school defenders, in that you can imagine them battering some upstart peacock of a forward before celebrating the victory with a pint or four, booting away anything that comes within kicking range.

They’re not fancy, but it should be said that they’re competent, Morgan particularly. While neither would get into your average title-winning side, both could probably be utilised in the mid-table team of your choice. This sentence gets to the heart of the so-called ‘bucking the trend’ issue though. Continue reading

EPL Draft Day 2016

Right now, across the pond in America, the NFL Draft 2016 process is going on. For those unfamiliar (although this article kind of guesses you are familiar), the NFL teams take their pick of the best young bucks coming out of the college system, worst team of the previous season going first (although teams trade for picks, but this muddles things).

The draft process doesn’t exist in the Premier League. You will have noticed this. But what if it DID?

Inspired by the Leicester success story, the Premier League bigwigs decided to implement the process. Players aged 23 and below who played between 500-2000 minutes this year will be put into a field, ready to be plucked by the Premier League teams of the 2016/17 season. Continue reading

NWSL – Portland vs Orlando: A hero rises, the vanquished falling with pride

Portland Thorns vs Orlando Pride, 17/04/16

Shooting oneself in the foot, whether through hubris or incompetence, is a well-worn narrative device, its path through human existence winding widely from Ancient Greece to the Portland Thorns.

It began early, both ball-in-the-face obviously and also in a more subtle way, a character trait that the audience doesn’t realise is destructive until the hero is careering off the cliff top, in need of drastic change to be saved.

The obvious first; Continue reading

A (Sensible) Stats Team of the Year

It’s PFA Team of the Year time (well, the actual day as of writing), and team of the year type awards and articles will be two a penny. There will undoubtedly be a few stats-based awards too, but most of these will probably be bad (no offence), although probably no worse than the non-stats award pieces too.

I’m aiming to put together a Team of the Year, based on stats. But it also needs to be a collection of players that will work as a team (I’m not Garth Crooksing it). This, as well as common sense, means that I don’t have to just pick players at the top of the list of ‘tackles made on a Thursday’ or ‘headed clearances in the middle third’. The stats have also got to be public stuff, that anyone can find, otherwise things turn into a cabal of evil number wizardry. Anyway, here it is.

(The entire team is at the bottom if you just want to skip to the end without reading my reasons). Continue reading

Crosses for Nought? Xs and Os: Traditional crosses, are they ‘good’, and how to improve them.

Believe it or not, I had this idea before Stan Collymore started his own brand in ‘goal scored by a cross’ alerts. I was wondering whether the stats community’s general disdain for crosses, built up as a reaction against the ‘chuck it in the mixer’ cliché, was a little unfair. That doesn’t mean ‘we’ think you should never cross, just that there can often be better options and maybe, y’know, we should be thinking about what we’re doing a bit on the ball.

Collymore in his tweets on the subject mentioned things like cut-backs, which stats guys (I use the term as a loose generalisation) like, but I particularly wanted to look at what I called ‘traditional crosses’. These would be balls into the box from wide areas, the kind of thing that generally comes to mind when people think of crosses.

The way I see it, crosses are statistically ineffective because they can often the result of frustration or boredom at not breaking down a defence. Whereas with most passes you weigh up the possibility of completing it, ‘traditional crosses’ are often basically thoughtless, purely hopeful that someone will get on the end of it. Continue reading

Quality shows: Tottenham vs Manchester United analysis

Louis van Gaal may have said that the two sides were quite even until Tottenham’s first goal, and in some ways he may be correct, in that 3 goals probably flatters Spurs. However, United themselves created virtually nothing, and very much deserved to lose, whatever van Gaal may think or say (Michael Caley’s expected goals map gives an indication of the quality of the chances)


Intensity and narrowness

A lot of Spurs’ efficacy in defence, particularly in the first half, came through their intensive pressuring of United, which was in evidence straight from kick-off and in the early minutes of the game.

Continue reading