Football

Dismantling The Increasingly Infuriating Rise Of 'Stat Porn'

Dismantling The Increasingly Infuriating Rise Of 'Stat Porn'

Stats, stats and more stats. With the flourishing of football as a global phenomenon, as well as social media, we have, over the past few years, become inundated with every type of statistic under the sun. The worst things about these snippets of information is that they are usually just that, snippets. There is no big picture with statistics, they float in cyberspace pushing one narrative or another without the required context to make them meaningful.

An example of how misleading stats can be happened on Reddit Soccer last Monday. A stat that climbed the lofty heights of the front page of the subreddit went as follows:

Pochettino has managed 33 games this season (all comps) and has made 99 substitutions - only one goal and one assist came from the substitutions (per football365.com)

A statistic that would make you go, "...well Pochettino obviously has a terrible bench". What you might not have pondered though,  is how many matches have Tottenham played where they've been winning when the first substitute was introduced. Of the last ten games they have played Spurs have made 30 substitutions and been in a winning position when they have made their first substitution in eight of those matches. It also doesn't reveal how many of those substitutions were defensive.

So you can say that logically, Pochettino's subs worked for the most part, because they maintained a winning result eight of those ten games. Again I'm framing the stats to suit my argument, but still you can clearly see how these glib statements, though factual, bear more scrutiny.

It happens with football coverage too. Pundits and analysts come up with arbitrary numbers of matches which a team has played in order to frame a positive or negative opinion. When a football expert says  'So and so' has won five of their last six games', what this fails to take into account is that 'so and so' lost the three games in a row before that, and the one game of the six they lost, they were dismantled 5-0. Again the bigger picture is ignored in favour of stats formed from a deceptively small sample size.

OptaJoe has carved its niche in the footballing public's consciousness as the go-to company for football statistics and a quick glance at their tweets will show you that for the most part their stats are fine. But the sheer output of their posts, coupled with the slick little one word summaries begin to grate and the constant need for content leads to wholly trivial tidbits:

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Who was the poor creature that had to sift through a history of Pep Guardiola's birthdays?

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Again, why do I need to know this?

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In researching this article I came across a stat from a couple of seasons back. It read: "Sunderland spent 92.6 per cent of the season in the relegation zone and 67 per cent bottom of the league". Basically Sunderland were shite, they were a bad team, they didn't play the game of association football particularly well... why can't we leave it at that?! Do we have to dress everything up with percentages and figures?

How long before the over analysis of football falls into the realm of absurd, or has it already happened? How long before we start seeing stats like these:

Shane Duffy leads the charts for headed clearances from 5.30pm kick-offs during a harvest moon. Dusk.

Cristiano Ronaldo has never won a La Liga match when he has tucked his shirt in with his left hand. Ciotóg.

Of José Mourinho's last 59 substitutions only 3 have ever had a creme egg. Confectionary.

Probably never, but my point still stands, the statistic epidemic that has gripped the football world needs to stop. Period.

See Also: 7 Players Whose Chant Is Better Than They Are

Eoin Lyons

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