As an American I’m drawn to statistics to evaluate players and teams. The mainstream American sports of Baseball and Football are often viewed through the stats of the players. They are evaluated and ranked based on batting averages, yards per carry, quarterback rating and earned run averages.
Soccer enthusiasts used to decry the use of stats to describe, ‘The Beautiful Game’. They felt that there was more to the sport than could be evaluated through statistics. Even soccer commentators have been slow to embrace statistical analysis. Only in the last 10 years have we started to see soccer games being broken down by time of possession, number of corners and shots on goal.
The four Premier League games that were played on November 10 are all examples of how there’s more to winning soccer than stats.
In three out of the four games on this day the team with more shots, time of possession and corner kicks LOST. In the fourth game Stoke City was second in every category but was able to tie Swansea City with a penalty in the 96th minute.
So is it more important to, ‘Play the soccer’ or ‘Score the goals’?
There is an artistic element that is prized in soccer that makes it unlike any other sport. American Football fans don’t care if their team wins by passing or running, playing smash-mouth football or running the west coast offense…as long as they win. But in soccer it’s important to a lot of fans that their team, ‘Plays Soccer’ and wins. Most would probably choose winning if they were forced to choose but it wouldn’t be as rewarding as playing with style and getting the result.
Brazil is a great example of this attitude. They have had successful managers that were criticized by the public and the press for the line-up of their team or the way that they played much more than the results of the team.
I think there will always be a battle between the desire to play attractive, skillful soccer and the desire to find a way to win. At the youth level it’s a bit easier. For me personally, the satisfaction of playing, ‘Good Soccer’ and winning is far greater than playing pragmatically just to win. If that means there will be times that my teams play well and don’t get the result, then so be it.
How do you look at the difference between the stats and the results in these recent games?
Have a great day!