Sensible Stats round-up 07/05/16

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. (headings for articles may not be exactly the correct headline but are summaries, and anyway headlines have been known to be like hospital passes for some articles).

Sky Sports, Leicester vs previous champions

This is quite fun, showing how different Leicester’s style is to the norm. I think, as a collection of statistics, this is one of the more easily understandable lists that Sky Sports has put out. The stats are all focussed around a single story/point, rather than what sometimes happens with a couple of stats looking more like hopeful plunges in the grab-bag.

Squawka, Can showed why he’s important vs Villarreal

The graphical elements of the article play into my “WhoSquawked’s popularity is the popularity of trivia, not the popularity of analytical stats” take on things somewhat, the first example being one of their tweets.

While tweets aren’t the best medium for a nuanced discussion on statistics, due to the lack of opportunity for adequate explanation (as demonstrated in a different example here), I suspect that a web between these 5 bullet points was unlikely to be woven. It’s a grab bag of stuff he’s done, aimed to show that he did a lot that match. Fair enough, although, for example, Kanté has 5 total tackles and 4.7 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Premier League, so maybe Can’s effort wasn’t as mythical Gerrard-esque as might be being hinted at.

The stats paragraph though is a different matter.

Squawka Can do stats

These stats are relevant to the story of the game, understandable, and the writer (Felix Keith) has put context around them. Perhaps a season average pass success rate for Villarreal could have been put in; [Squawka’s stats say their season pass accuracy is 76%, so perhaps their pass success from the match against Liverpool wasn’t quite an indicator of the difficulty in playing out, but at least the writer has explained what the statistic may mean]. The 29 clearances, I suppose, could also use a similar bit of context – but I know from experience that that is a lot of clearances, and the explanatory note is good too.

WhoScored, Has Benitez’s appointment come too late?

I think, generally, there should be more interaction between writers and editors when graphics are created.

WhoScored Rafa stats Newcastle

Lists of statistics always need explaining, but generally these type of things are dumped into the article. The writer, Jonathan Wilson, has referenced a few of them in a following paragraph:

WhoScored Rafa stats para

Presumably if the writer knew what graphics were going to be in the article, or were asked what might be useful in a graphic, the (otherwise fairly odd) presence of the number of dribbles could have been added to evidence that Newcastle haven’t radically changed their style of play.

I quite like the paragraph, although the extreme jump in conversion rate as seen in the graphic is probably not just down to a better quality of chance. Again, I’m guessing that with a bit more cohesion between article writing and graphic making, Wilson would have explained this in half a sentence.

The defensive stats are probably misleading; I wrote about some problems with defensive stats last week but I think basically they’re more likely to be taken as evidence of something without being understood (because they’re harder to find meaning in). In the graphic, the relationship between more tackles and interceptions and more points is probably likely to be overestimated by readers.

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