Modern Bloody Football – Part 3
So, another car crash start to the season and it’s a write off already before we’ve even got the car off the drive. It’s never a low impact collision with us either is it, always a full blown, full speed ahead, man sized pile up.
Steve keeps telling us he is learning, although up until the Chelsea game that wasn’t evident. Maybe the penny has finally dropped. Time will tell.
Stats The Way I Like It?
Statistics, I bloody hate them. I get sick to death of stats somehow signifying how a game has gone or how a team or individual has performed.
While some stats can be useful, it’s the way that many stats are used to show what is on the media’s agenda, or prove a point that doesn’t really have any basis, that annoys me.
Come on Horsey give us some examples then!! Ok, I will and then I’ll just talk about stats in general terms if that’s ok? It is, brilliant.
Before you all go off on one at me, I’m not a journalist, just a fan, and this is just my opinion, my evidence base is largely from memory, occasionally catching SKY sports news, Wikipedia, watching MOTD and seeing snippets on the football news or hearing stuff on the radio phone ins when I’m not blasting my ears with AC/DC or Neil Diamond in the car.
I don’t have time for in-depth forensic investigation as my almost one year old won’t let me, “son put that screwdriver down man there’s a good lad, I’m trying to write an article for The Mag…and what’s that smell?”
Example Number 1
This is one of those stats that has stuck in my mind for a while and I’m sure everyone will have their own personal favourite.
Lomana Lua Lua scores the winner for Newcastle away at Derby and the commentator points out it is his first Premier League goal in 30 odd games, like he’s been some kind of failure prior to this.
The thing is that of those games prior to his first goal he’s probably only started a couple of games and largely been used as a sub coming on for the last 10 minutes or so.
For the record he started 21 games and came on as sub 67 times during his time at St James’. Does that offer some perspective?
Example Number 2
For something more up to date, I give you West Ham versus Newcastle United.
NUFC had over 60% possession. We had 14 shots and 7 corners yet I’ve spoken to numerous people who thought it was one of the worst performances they had seen for a long time.
I even overheard someone say it was worse than the league cup game against Sheff Wed, blimey!!
Then you have the recent Chelsea game – 35% possession, 11 shots and 4 corners. The two performances were worlds apart but if you relied on the stats for your match analysis you could be easily misled.
Example Number 3
Liverpool had 47 shots against Carlisle in the league cup last week. They got absolutely hammered for only going through on penalties and Brendan Rodgers is the subject of speculation that he’s going to be out on his ear. I wish we had those sort of problems.
In the modern game there are stats for absolutely everything. Possession, corners, tackles, how far a player has ran during a game, how many times he passed the ball forwards.
Maybe there would be some use in counting how many times Johnny Evans spits in a match to see if it is habitual or premeditated.
Or maybe how many times an Arsenal player dives or waves an imaginary card before he gets booked.
Not that I’m bitter of course but for the record, the guy who counts that stat has ran out of fingers and toes and he’s also used the fingers and toes of the centipede running around under his seat too!!
When I was a kid there was no league table printed for at least the first 3 games and even then there wasn’t the hysterical levels of scrutiny when it was. This season, after one and then two games the Mackems are rock bottom and favourite for the drop.
Is this not their worst start since, well, last season, or the season before that, or the season before that one? (For the purpose of balance and clarity they are only marginally worse than us yet significantly better on Derby day).
If the stats are so accurate then why should they be worrying as we all know how that scenario has panned out for the last few years, so why should this one be any different?
Sack the manager mid-October, win a couple of Derby games, late flurry and it’ll be, “The Great Escape…Again.” Shearer suggested a cricket score against them in their third game at home to Swansea, so no surprise then when it ends 1-1.
After the first few weeks of the season the media were tripping over themselves, “John Terry subbed at half-time so he must be finished (I’d take him)…Wayne Rooney hasn’t had a shot on target in the first 2 games shock (but then scores Euro hat-trick)…Chelsea are finished because they’ve only got one point and it’s their worst start since 1986 (but they played Man City away)…” blah blah effing blah.
This week the stat was Man United haven’t lost a home game since 1984 when they’ve been leading at half time. They didn’t win their first league title until 1993 though so they must be crap still, right?
Are West Ham going to qualify for the Champions League this season? Palace and Leicester for the Europa? Nigel Pearson got so much sh*t last year but kept his job against the odds and actually they won the games they needed to.
From the highlights I saw before they went on their late run, I wasn’t that surprised as they seemed to be playing quite well but just weren’t playing the opposition around their part of the league until late in the season, i.e. us!!
Apparently this is our worst start for ten years. Completely overlooking the fact that our start to last season was an absolute shocker too. But I guess that would show Pardew in a bad light and not make us look so fickle.
After the same number of games last season we’d amassed a massive 4 points. If you take our points tally so far (3) and compare it against the same teams (substituting Watford for QPR to give the worst outcome) played last year (6) then we are 3 points worse off but we had beaten Chelsea then. So that amounts to a win or managing to draw a few more games than just get stuffed every week?
Not a huge amount of disparity then, see I told you some stats can be useful, or be manipulated to prove whatever you want.
Although I’m by no means confident we will avoid a bottom 3 finish, if you look at the same results last season against the 5 teams we have lined up this December we’ll take a maximum 15 in those games, so why panic, easy peasy, NOT!!!
The media will no doubt drag out stats such as “Newcastle have never beaten Bournemouth away” but totally ignore the fact they’ve only met three times and only one of those games was in the league. Hardly a scandal surely?
Obviously the main stat for any Newcastle Fan is the number of years we’ve gone without a trophy. Or actually maybe it is not. I have certainly been brought up in an era where failure or abject performances have heavily outweighed the glory of challenging for anything which has been scarce, but hugely enjoyable when it did happen.
That is usually conveniently forgotten when assessing our loyalty and more so patience!! What I would give to be a struggling Arsenal or Liverpool team, poor bairns starved of success for far too long now.
No, surely the main stat for any fan is the one about scoring more than the opposition. Honestly, Newcastle have played badly and won you know, as has every other team, but I bet nobody gives a monkey’s chuff about that if your team has scored more than the other lot. Man United and Liverpool started this season doing exactly that apparently.
While stats can give an indication of certain things, in my view there is no substitute for what my eyes tell me and what my brain and independent thinking can interpret.
MOTD or SKY can show us a nice pie chart of how many games Pardew won compared to Carver and McClaren to prove that Pardew was somehow a genius (which stat wise he currently is) but completely failing to report the terrible football on offer and mostly near relegation experiences.
Not that much has changed yet of course. I’d challenge anyone to show me Pardew was moving the club in the right direction (and force them to sit through a re-run of each and every game, not just 10 minute snapshots) given the players he had at his disposal.
Tactics, team selection, players out of position, defending rather than attacking (which he is now claiming is what he likes to do), motivating the team etc the list is endless. Maybe he just fits better at Palace and the media certainly are portraying him as hard done to at Newcastle.
I’ve seen enough poor Newcastle teams over the last 35 plus years to know that I’m not a delusional Geordie because I know that crap has been the norm.
That does not stop me hoping I might see my team make an effort to actually win the odd game or two does it? But I certainly don’t attach any relevance to some ex-pro or journo fed by a statistician trying to claim they have a more expert version of reality.
So the next time some media expert tries to offer you a stat as if it is the only explanation of what is going on, ask yourself, could I explain or interpret this another way? I’d argue that if you can engage your own knowledge, experiences and opinions it’s more than likely you can.
Stats All Folks!!!
PS I’d wrote this before these other articles appeared on The Mag on Tuesday which kind of link in.
Neville making statements based on hearsay, myths and generalisations rather than watching every 90 minutes of NUFC. I can make my own mind up cheers Gary and your version is well wide of the truth.
And the stats relating to results, which are essentially the only stats that matter. You need some explanation to qualify it all though really don’t you? I’d like to see the same stats stretching back 3 seasons mind.
(To feature like Horsey, send in your articles for our website to [email protected] – all views those of the author etc etc)
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]