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Statistics – The nemesis of modern day football

The Boot Room




Andy Donley wrote a piece on this site entitled “Why Phillipe Coutinho Is The Most Overrated Player In The Premier League“. The piece does what it says on the tin as Andy explains (very well I might add) why he thinks Coutinho is overrated and uses statistics as his point of contention. And this is where we run into a problem.

For all of Andy’s excellent writing and clear viewpoint, I couldn’t help but take issue with his point that the best players (the ones who “take the game by the scruff of the neck”) will show up statistically as well as on the pitch.

The scourge of the statistic has developed over the years and has become a sore point for many football fans. It has also become the barometer within which many fans formulate opinions on potential signings and a stick with which to beat underperforming rivals.

The number of Twitter conversations I have seen that involve two rival fans arguing over the value of two defenders based on their tackles per game or number of clearances last season has made me sick and, for me, is no way to tell if a player is any good.

Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho has undoubtedly fallen victim to a lack of goals and assists.

Sure they might make a high number of tackles per game, but that is just a number. If the player came from a struggling side that spent most games on the back foot then of course the number is going to be high. That doesn’t mean he’s a good player but instead has to make lots of tackles because his team are under the kosh the majority of the time.

The age old ability of sight is a far more reliable indicator of quality in my book.

More importantly, statistics are very sterile, very much focused on the numbers and production than the little nuances that make football such an art form. Data is able to tell you how far a player has run but it doesn’t tell you if those runs where of any use. If football was all stats based, do you think Matt Le Tissier would have got very far?

Le Tiss has regularly admitted to not running a lot but he would always find himself in the right spot, difficult to pick up or plan for. He wouldn’t have covered the most ground nor would he have the best pass completion or dribble success rate but he is still regarded as a wonderful player.

Le Tissier’s game was based on nuances, intuition and skill rather than shot ratios, heat maps and pass rates and that is how it should be. As someone said to me on Twitter, “people forget football is art not science“.

Coutinho is a more modern example of the Le Tissier problem. As a Liverpool fan, I’d love it if he scored more regularly. It would be great if he got his name higher up the assist list. But at the end of the day, he was still our player of the season for the nuances, intuition and his ability to change a game whether you can quantify it or not.

Liverpool’s season has been like their play – long, laborious and frustrating – but Coutinho was always different class throughout. The way he was able to suck in two or three players around him and find an out ball, his ability to lift the crowd with a little touch or run and the way he is able to carve open a defence with just one pass.

Was he the best and most consistent midfielder in the Premier League? No (Nemanja Matic), but he was close. In fact, he’s so good Ronaldinho said he would be a “perfect fit” for Barcelona and compared him to none other than Andres Iniesta.

Would anyone discredit Barca’s Andres Iniesta based on statistics?

Now Iniesta is actually the other reason I decided to go on and on about this. See Andy’s point was that Coutinho’s lack of goals and assists showed he was overrated, but Andres Iniesta has only scored three times all season and those have all come in the Copa del Rey.

That’s definitely less than Coutinho while Iniesta is also lacking on the assists front as well with just 6 in all competitions (taken from the official Barcelona website, no less). Would anyone dare say Iniesta is overrated? Not if they valued peace and quiet because the uproar you would cause would be monumental.

Iniesta is one of football’s artisans, a man that glides around the pitch and doesn’t look all that busy but is actually a vital component to what his side do. Iniesta’s role in midfield is to cause confusion, pop up in unusual spaces and offer options to people on the ball. There are very few in football as effective in that role and Iniesta is still the world class player of the last few years even if his stats don’t show it.

To drive home my opinion one last time I must ask you a question – who was the best full back in Premier League this past season? Either side, plays for any side. Choose one? Chances most reading this said Clyne or Azpilicueta, while that one delusional Arsenal fan said Kieron Gibbs.

Well according to the people at StatZone it’s neither of them, but instead Everton‘s Leighton Baines. A good player certainly, but one who did not have his best season, nor was close to being the best full back in the league this season, as an Everton fan pointed out.

Was Leighton Baines’ latest turnout for Everton as good as the stats suggest?

See for me (and this is a purely personal view), stats represent why I watch less football now. It’s all a bit sterile now to me which is why I gravitate to players like Coutinho, Iniesta, Le Tissier etc.

Statistics screams robotics and it’s filtered from playing level to the terraces as people debate which striker is better with shots on target ratios and heat maps and it kills me inside. I remember watching the Champions League final in 2005 as a wide eyed child and being bewitched by this ruthless Milan side that drew my beloved underdogs out and slit their throat with one killer Kaka ball after another.

I still get chills and smile like a loon when Jerzy Dudek stops Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty. That’s not something that can be quantified. You can’t turn art into data. I will always judge players using something so simple yet older – the age old gift of sight.

I just wish others would do the same.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.


The never-ending thrill of sports

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Today, the world of sports is not just limited to the real ground and fields, but have moved on to the virtual world. One can enjoy watching their favourite sports such as football, cricket, rugby, tennis, cycling, and horse racing online. They can book their tickets for their favourite sports or watch them online right from within the comforts of their home. It is no surprise to see the mix of sports betting and casinos.

After all, it is hard to keep one segregated from the other. Browse NJ online casino to learn more about those popular sports and online betting. Many sports lovers love to make bets on sports to show their passion for the game.

The sports media

Sports journalists paly an essential role of maintaining the of press provision at the famous venues of the sports. The idea is to spread awareness regarding the high standards of sports and keep the buzz alive around them. Ever since the advent of the internet, the websites and now the smartphones, the sports media has taken off in a big way.

Now fans can enjoy their favorite games with just a few clicks or use social media apps to keep a tap on the current scores, almost anywhere at any time. There are Sports apps that provide updates, game schedules and much more. Sports fans can enjoy real-time results right when it happens. They need not be at the game or at home in front of their television to see how their favorite sports star is doing.

This is a good scenario for all the sports fans as they can now get regular updates on their favorite games and teams anytime. Online sports betting is not far behind and is fast gaining popularity. There are plenty of websites such as NJ online casino where one can enjoy casino games and bet on their favorite sports.

The experience takes their thrill to a whole new level. The gambling opportunities are quite abundant and comprise betting online sports and loads of others games. The software used for online sports and gambling are very easy to install. This is good news for all the novice gamblers out there.

Basketball and football have always enjoyed immense popularity across the world, and their total revenues are already breaking records. Football leagues around the world are raking in more money than ever before. N.B.A., the American sports league, is still one of the most popular brands in China and has more than 70 million followers. Spain’s biggest basketball teams are getting affiliated with their football counterparts.

However, it is the football that is the most heavily financed and dominant one. Popular sportsmen and international athletes get followed on social media. Cristiano Ronaldo leads with more than 127 million followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Do not miss out on any of those best sporting events happening across the world. Indulge your sporting passion and make sure that you get the best experience.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by kangkang300402

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The biggest fixing scandals in the history of football

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Of all the sports played across the globe, football has had some of the most spectacular match-fixing scandals ever seen.

Of course, football isn’t the only sport that is prone to fixing scandals. History’s top fixing incidents have occurred in horse racing, cricket, and even tennis, showing just how widespread the issue really is. FIFA’s Chris Eaton has described fixing as a crisis that threatens the entire integrity of the game, and when you take a look at history’s 7 most notorious football-fixing cases, you’ll see why.

Calciopoli (2006)

In May 2006, the Italian police cracked open the massive scandal that involved many of Italy’s top teams. Juventus, AC Milan, Reginna and Fiorentina were all involved, with the teams’ managers and referees having been caught conspiring to fix major league matches. Juve was relegated to Serie B and lost several league titles, while other team presidents were banned and fined.

Marseille (1993)

This French FC inspired outrage with its fixing involvement. The team apparently approached members of other local teams and asked them to throw games away, with former manager of Monaco Arsene Wenger dropping a big hint that uncovered the ordeal after losing to Marseille in the two years prior.

The Referee Robert Hoyzer Scandal (2005)

Referee Robert Hoyzer was banned and sentenced to two years in jail after he was caught accepting bribes to fix football matches for Croatian bar owner Ante Sapina. Hoyzer was convicted of fixing numerous matches in the 2nd and 3rd German tiers along with Bundesliga cup matches, in which he also awarded many controversial red cards and penalties to further his cause.

Plateau United Scores Too Many Goals (2013)

To earn a spot in Nigeria’s professional ranks, two teams fixed their matches, but their winning totals cast a spotlight on their plan and the Nigerian FA banned all 4 clubs involved for 10 years. The Plateau United Feeders scored an unbelievable 79-0 win, and the Police Machine FC won their match 67-0.

Belarusian Ghost Match (2015)

Two major betting agencies were caught offering bets and paying out on the results of a ‘ghost match’ in Belarus that never actually took place. The 2-1 result of FC Slutsk and Shakhter Soligorsk was confirmed by an official from the former team, only to have the story unravel later on. A former data collection company employee was found to be the brains behind the con.

SEA Games Fixing (2015)

Singaporean player Rajendran R. Kurusamny received the highest-ever prison term given to a fixer on a single charge when he was caught conspiring to fix 2015 SEA Games matches. The player received a 4-year sentence after his plot was ousted, having made over eight payments to Malaysian players to ensure they lost.

Spiked Water Bottles in Italy (2010)

Players in an Italian 3rd division match began to feel very lethargic and disorientated – only to find out goalkeeper Marco Paolini had spiked his team’s water bottles to fix the match in an attempt to pay off gambling debts. Paolini was banned for 5 years, and some believe the scam was linked to notorious fixing mogul Dan Tan.

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Four international football tournaments you’ve probably never heard of…

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We all know the big boys get all the glory in football – well, nine times out of ten they do. Tournaments like the World Cup, Premier League, Champions League and Euros may be the most lucrative and widely broadcast tournaments, but that doesn’t mean they’re the “biggest”.

There’s no shortage of other international tournaments to tickle your fancy! And they’re well worth watching – with thousands of players and thousands of goals – they can be some of the most entertaining football tournaments to watch. Here are four to get you started:

1) The Norway Cup

Running every year bar one since 1972, the Norway Cup is more like a football festival – and the whole world is invited.

Held on the green expanse of Ekebergsletta in Oslo, the week-long 2016 tournament broke new ground with 2,199 teams competing over the course of 6,000 games – all aimed at crowning the best youth outfits in the world.

From hosting 10-19-year-old footballers, the cup has expanded to include three-a-side football so those from the age of six can join in the fun.

So not only is it the world’s largest youth football tournament, it’s already got more than three decades of history behind it. In fact, the only reason it probably doesn’t get more coverage is the work it would take to cover the 6,000 games taking place in one week!

It’s certainly not because it doesn’t deserve it. There are great stories of success and even the occasional bit of controversy to keep things interesting during the brief interludes between games: this year, the Russian team were thrown out after its players were said to have “gone berserk” on the field, violently attacking their rivals.

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2) The Gothia Cup – otherwise known as The World Youth Cup

So Norway has the biggest youth football tournament but did you know it has a neighbourly rival called the World Youth Cup?

The Gothia Cup in Sweden runs every July and caps its entry at 1,600 teams – be them school teams based either locally or abroad. It started back in 1975 – yet that first tournament included girls’ teams; a huge success and far from the norm.

Over the years, more than a million – yes, a million! – players from 141 countries have participated. It’s well worth watching too: in an “average” year more than 22,000 goals are scored, more than five per match!

As if the goal bonanza wasn’t enough, it’s heritage is first class. It’s featured some of the world’s most famous players who played at the 2006 World Cup including: Xabi Alonso (Spain), Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Ze Roberto (Brazil), José Montiel (Paraguay), Kim Källström and Teddy Lucic (Sweden).

If you didn’t catch it this year on TV, head over to the website. It carries its own live coverage for a subscription charge – but you can’t help feel it deserves a bit more. Especially that opening ceremony.

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3) The Conifa World Football Cup

Conifa – the acronym – sounds like one of the fir trees you might expect to see in Sweden – where its first “world football cup” was held in June 2014, in Ostersund. But it stands for the Confederation of Independent Football Associations – also known as a different world for the beautiful game to thrive, and the result is something quite remarkable.

Conifa puts on its tournament for a veritable feast of states and stateless people, regions and minorities unaffiliated with Fifa such as Greenland, Tibet and Western Armenia – Conifa gives them a chance to show the world exactly what they can do.

“Our main goal is to give football outsiders overseen by Fifa or left behind by their mother country’s FA the chance to win their place on a global stage and advance, football-wise and personally,” said Conifa general secretary Sascha Düerkop.

It’s more than a noble cause. It’s essential. And it’s competitive. Occitania top the current rankings from Panjab and Northern Cyprus – yet it was hosts Abkhazia who won the 2016 tournament in June. The Conifa World Football Cup feels like it’s about something more than just glory hunting – a stark contrast to Fifa’s World Cup.

It’s growing in popularity too with four new members joining in 2016. Two from Africa: Western Sahara and Matabeleland, and two from Europe, Délvidék and Karpatalya.

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4) The Gulf Cup of Nations

Sure, the Euros and Copa America fire up football imaginations across the world – the best nations in Europe and South American respectively doing football battle on an epic stage. But there is something captivating about a little-covered equivalent in the Gulf.

Also known as the Arabian Gulf Cup, the four-yearly tournament is not sanctioned by Fifa – which probably adds to the charm, as some of the world’s wealthiest states thrash it out on the pitch.

On the calendar since 1970, Kuwait is by some way the most successful nation with 10 titles – not bad for a country with a population of approaching 4,000,000. Saudi Arabia, for contrast, is second place with three titles to their name.

It’s Qatar’s turn in 2017 – five years before the state will host the Fifa World Cup. The eyes of the world should be on how they perform and with improving TV coverage in recent years, it may be the world is about to experience more of the Arabian Gulf Cup.

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