WhoScored: It's Out-Dated To Ignore Stats

An article in the Guardian on Monday criticised the ubiquitous use of stats in football analysis, but WhoScored's Ali Tweedale explains why this approach is both popular and important...

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Comments 1 - 10 of (21)

cozens says...

I give you Mr Sam Allardyce. A man who it is said has created his whole management style around stats. (prozone ?) Just look how beautiful and successful his sides are !? Not the poster child the stat based (football wise) community would really like to have. On a serious note. Stats can of course assist a team in locating certain weaknesses and can identify areas players could improve but, I think people place far too much emphasis on them, for when analysing performances of both teams and individuals. I find the human eyes are just as good, if not better !

Posted 7:45am 6th February 2014

tonyv25 (Manchester United) says...

just echoing what some people have already posted- people blindly quote stats to suit their arguments. Stats are very easily manipulated eg form - is it over 5 games? 6? 7? 10? You can literally pick your reference frame to choose which way you are arguing.

Posted 10:12pm 5th February 2014

briman51 (Chelsea) says...

As stats are used as evidence to support arguments and test hypotheses, it would have been useful to include a stat, or set of stats, that provide meaningful insights in the article to support your argument that statistics tell us meaningful things about football.

Posted 5:45pm 5th February 2014

badwolf (Manchester United) says...

"Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable." Mark Twain

Posted 4:26pm 5th February 2014

Geddy76 (Arsenal) says...

Coaching staff and managers need stats to see which players are pulling their weight. In this context it is essential. Why shouldn't Joe Public be interested in this stuff? For those that are not, just keep seeing the sport as just a knock about between a bunch of blokes, and be done with it.

Posted 3:44pm 5th February 2014

Ezy_Rider says...

This is rubbish. Of course stats shouldn't be ignored; at one end of the scale goals, wins, points, etc. are statistics. But how many times do you see someone saying 'only 1 win in 8!' or something. Why is 'wins in 8 games' significant? Why not in 10 or in 5? Because it suits the writer's argument to frame the stats like that; once stats get spun they're meaningless, and this site does it as much as anywhere else. If you want to know who scored the most goals in the 90s, stats can help. If you want to know who the best striker was in the 90s, that's an opinion and stats don't shape those

Posted 3:18pm 5th February 2014

tom33 (Manchester United) says...

Statistics can be interesting and even useful, but far too often they are abused, overemphasized or relied upon. That is why there is such a backlash against them. They are a lazy way to analyse football and far too many people use them to try and conclude an argument in their favour (i.e "I have statistics that back me up, so I must be right") rather than simply to support their viewpoint.

Posted 2:51pm 5th February 2014

ajsr1982 (Liverpool) says...

First and foremost. I'm completely on board. I love stats more than any man really should. However, like pretty much anything, it's a case of all things in moderation. I would argue that there are too many statistics around today actually, and people have lost sight of the important ones. There is also too much ambiguity around certain stats (with the acknowledgement that there simply isn't room to publish explanations of all of them). My biggest bugbears are things like 'long passes' and 'dribbles'. What constitutes a long pass? Do you actually have to go round someone to complete a dribble, or do you just have to run with the ball for x yards? That's not a problem in itself. The problem comes when people latch on to these stats and use them as 'evidence'. A football match is a chaotic system (much like the weather, for example) and therefore it's extremely hard to isolate things in a meaningful way, and I think there is sometimes a tendency to try a little bit too hard to do so. What people need to remember about something like the WhoScored algorithm is that it attempts to be a catch-all, and in systems like this, you are going to get the odd freak result. Sadly, the only people who realise that are those who know stats!

Posted 1:28pm 5th February 2014

onceupon says...

@Frew: You are right in saying the use of stats to "explain" results retrospectively is a flawed concept. This is not what the exponents of stats in football are trying to do though. The goal is to discover performance indicators in statistics. These are metrics which if analysed and used properly can lead to a better understanding of the level of performance of teams and players in the past and then hopefully, the future. One which is rapidly emerging as the most tangible of these is the shot location matrix. It basically use the probability of scoring a goal depending on where the shot at goal as been taken. So if two team have the same amount of shot taken per game but one has these shots in locations where the goal expectancy is higher then you can foresee this team scoring more goals in the future regardless of its actual goal per game ratio. Vice versa with the shots conceded by a team. Another interesting area where distinctions are being made is in the chance created (passes that lead to shooting opportunities) statistics. Deeper analysis show what all football fan know instinctively; All chances are not created equal. Two shot coming from the same location but from different type of passes do not have the same "goal expectancy". A chance created from a cross as lower chance of creating a goal than one from a through ball. This is why most people don't see the relevance in most stats used in football. Because they only scratch the surface and do not yet quantify properly what most can explain instinctively. This, however, is going to change in the future as better, more in-depth stats and analysis are developed.

Posted 1:06pm 5th February 2014

badwolf (Manchester United) says...

More often than not all fans are only interested in a particular statistic. Who scored the most goals. And that is a very good way of showing that stats are both meaningful and meaningless. You can lose a game you've dominated, you can win 20 tackles in a game, but be beaten in one and concede a goal. Stats have their place. They can help you identify issues (too many stray passes), problems (not enough crosses, or not to the right area), opportunities (defender is rubbish at clearing a ball with his head more than 5 yards)... they don't tell the story, but they give your views and perception some weight.

Posted 12:18pm 5th February 2014

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