The phrase “Lies, damn lies and statistics” was originally coined by Benjamin Disraeli and later popularised by Mark Twain. Last season, more than ever before, statistics were being quoted to reinforce a view on players.
The simple rule by which most bloggers operate is that if a statistic supports your argument, it is relevant, if one is produced that disproves your argument, then those who oppose your view are fools for believing in statistics.
It is said that statistics can’t lie. They are pure mathematics – but are they relevant? There is a whole science dedicated to the study of statistics. Some statistics such as goals scored against goals conceded generally stand alone as something unequivocal. They do not have to be judged against any other criteria and are therefore relevant. Other statistics such as ‘successful tackles’ are only relevant when other criteria are taken into consideration. They are often produced to enforce a belief and may be of no significance at all – statistics that lie!
To create a balanced side, every player has to do his job, and of equal importance, complement and integrate with the rest of the team. This means that the contribution of a player like Gilberto could sometimes be overlooked. He seldom produced stand out performances, but he was a vital cog in the machine. Can statistics reveal something that the observer is unaware of?
Denilson’s stats have been the subject of most analysis this season. He has polarised opinions more than any other player. He’s the highest ranked Arsenal player in the OPTA stats showing him to be the best interceptor in the Premier League, the most accurate passer, fifth best tackler and the fourth most fouled player – yet a lot of supporters don’t think he’s good enough – see paragraph 2. We’ve all heard the ”OK he is the most accurate passer, but they’re all sideways” argument – and that is a relevant point.
Arsene himself used the goals scored against conceded stat to illustrate that our major weakness was in the defence last season and he has signed Vermaelen accordingly. He takes notice of statistics but I’m sure he only considers those he believes to be relevant. For many statistics that can be quoted there will be another which will prove the opposite case.
One stat that can’t be argued with is that Adebayor was offside 43 times last season which is nearly 4 times as many as the next player – RVP with 11. The ‘justification’ for this high figure could be that he often plays up front alone in a 4:5:1, but that doesn’t stand when compared to other premiership players who play in that position. The infuriating thing about that is that there is something that the player can do to improve on this (with the help of the coaching staff). If Ade even halved the number of times he was offside, we would have had 2 more whole games worth of attacking opportunities.
Just for the record, here are some stats from last season taken from Arsenal.com’s season’s review. I have taken a slightly different view of the figures and expressed them all in relation to minutes on the pitch – this throws up some unexpected names!
Goalkeepers: Fewest goals per game – Almunia
Most saves per game – Fabianski
Distribution success – Mannone
Defenders : Gallas and Toure did well in every category but were not top in any….
Blocks – Sylvestre
Assists – Eboue
Bookings – Clichy
Clearances – Djourou
Interceptions – Gibbs
Pass success – Djourou
Tackles won – Djourou
Midfielders: strangely Denilson has the highest scores in many categories but not when divided by his minutes on the pitch.
Assists – Cesc
Successful dribbles – Theo
Goals – Arshavin
Completed passes – Nasri
Pass success rate – Ramsey
Shots on target – Nasri
Tackles success rate – Song
Strikers: – this excludes Arshavin who would have come top in pretty much every category.
Goals – RVP
Minutes per goal – Bendtner
Assists – RVP
Successful dribbles – Ade
Offsides – Ade
Completed passes – Bendtner
Pass success – Ade
Shots on target – Bendtner tied with Ade
So make what you will of those – have they reinforced your beliefs or are they just further proof that statistics are meaningless?
My favourite set of statistics at the moment is the new premiership table where we are in our rightful position…