Giving Context To Those Attacking Stats...

They might have crossed the ball too many times but Man United's accuracy was above average, say WhoScored, who try to give you some idea what to expect...

Last Updated: 13/02/14 at 09:36 Post Comment

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Manchester United: Attempted 81 crosses

Manchester United: Attempted 81 crosses

Football is often a frustrating fixation. Everyone has their pet hates in the game, the things that rile them the most, and some unite the fans more than others.

In this piece WhoScored.com look to add context to certain assumed 'failings' of players, from an attacking sense in particular, shedding light on some statistical averages that may make you rethink what is successful and what is not.

We start with crossing. It seems only right in the wake of a Manchester United display against Fulham that heralded 81 deliveries into the box from the hosts. With 18 of those having found a teammate, you could be forgiven for thinking that they were wasteful, but that wasn't entirely the case. One-dimensional, perhaps, but as a percentage that wasn't too bad.

The inability to beat the first man is the most glaring irritant where crossing is concerned, but where stats exist there must be context. People that aren't readily exposed to the numbers of the game may hear of a winger completing two out of ten cross attempts and come to the conclusion that that was an awful return. In truth, however, a 20% accuracy is around about average.

In fact, of all starting wingers or full-backs this season the average cross accuracy when excluding corners in the Premier League sits at 19.9%. In terms of a combined team effort, United's cross accuracy in the 2-2 draw with Fulham was 21.9% when not taking corners into account.

Again, it's easy to take the numbers on face value but there is more to it. Not all accurate crosses are good crosses and equally not all inaccurate crosses bad. Indeed, a winger, particularly when delivering a ball into the box first time, will often aim for an area rather than a man. How often do we see those balls that glide agonisingly out of the reach of those in the box, for example?

The next time your winger fails to find a target with seven balls into the box but picks out a teammate with three, remember, in general, that's a pretty impressive accuracy.

Next up, the aimless dribbler. Every team has that one player that embarks on dribbles when and where they really shouldn't. Even some of the very best wingers actually have unimpressive success rates when it comes to dribbling though, attempting to beat an opponent all too often when a pass would suffice.

Again, when a player is dispossessed as often as they actually round an opponent it can lead to misconceptions. Of all starting Premier League midfielders this season the average dribble success rate is just 55.6%, which generally drops as far as wingers are concerned as they often have less space to run into.

Many would consider a player such as Eden Hazard to be among the very best dribblers in Europe and while his success rate of 62.8% may not immediately come across as as noteworthy, it's a considerable improvement on the average. In effect, if a player is tackled when attempting a dribble more often than they successfully complete one then there is due reason to feel frustrated.

We end on the wasteful striker. The moans and groans that ring out from stadiums when chances are squandered are often the loudest, with many struggling to conceive how a top-flight player can miss the target with such regularity.

Shot accuracy is another statistic that may seem shockingly low to those that aren't given the context of an average figure. From all starting forwards in the Premier League this season there have been a combined total of 652 shots on target from 1689 attempts in total. That leaves the league's average shot accuracy from forwards in the starting XI at a rather modest 38.6%.

Often strikers will be lambasted by the fans for not testing the keeper more often than not but any that are reaching a shot accuracy of around 50% are actually performing well above the average. Of course, the quality of chance is a major contributing factor but if your centre-forward is hitting the target as often as he's missing it, chances are he's not doing too badly. After all, the league's leading scorer Luis Suarez has a shot accuracy just shy of one in two on target.

Follow Martin Laurence on Twitter

Visit WhoScored.com for more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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