Lies, damned lies and statistics
Now I’m not looking to completely discredit all statistics here, because sometimes they can be useful. But when it comes to measuring football sometimes statistics can be a load of bollocks.
I only mention this because earlier on today it was brought to my attention that Jack Wilshire is only the 6th Englishman to attempt over 100 passes in a Premier League match since 2008. One of the most obscure stats ever used to back up hype about a player. Now Jack Wilshire is has all the attributes to be a fantastic player, and is already a very good one. But I don’t think that stat really needs mentioning. He attempted over 100 passes. Great. Let’s leave it at that. Making it about English players is a little silly because it doesn’t give us a great comparison – are the English worse than other nationalities at making over 100 passes in the Premiership? Or better? Making it since 2008 possibly excludes huge numbers of players who have achieved the feat, but then again maybe it doesn’t? What is for certain is that when you find out the other 5 players who have done likewise, the feat takes a clusterfuck of a nosedive off the bullshit tree, hitting every branch of anomaly. Ok not every branch. 3 of them are the kinds of names you’d expect, character wise there’s not much prestige being associated with Rooney but he is at least a very good footballer, Danny Murphy is a talented distributor of the ball, orchestrating much of Fulham’s best play and also makes the list along with the absolute metronomic pass master Paul Scholes.
So who are the final two? Gerrard? Lampard perhaps? Not quite. In fact one is Lampard’s Chelsea colleague John Terry. Having sought clarification this was attempted passes to team mates, and not passes at team mate’s spouses. The scary thing is that this isn’t even the worst part. Making up the quintuplet of pass mastery is none other than Titus Bramble. Titus Bramble. Titus Bramble. Titus Bramble. So inept as a footballer that he somehow caused me to have a stutter, typing. You can’t get stutters for typing. According to Opta Titus Bramble attempted 113 passes for Wigan Athletic away at Hull City last season.
Now this isn’t a dig at OptaJoe on twitter because frankly I think it’s fantastic what the Opta guys come out with on there and I follow the international variations as well. Usually they come up with some corkers and their Q&A sessions are great so please don’t think this is aimed at them, it’s statistics in general I promise.
But, and I’m going to say it again – TITUS BRAMBLE!
If there is a stat that involves Titus Bramble, it should also include Phil Babb, Frank Sinclair and Michael Dubery. Oh and instead of it being a stat, it should be a time capsule and a digger. We could bury them for future generations, who by then will be able to pre-program a child’s DNA in the womb, and can avoid any of their offspring ever having the “shit centre back” gene. I don’t have a name for it yet but Y-Y-Bramble is one suggestion.
The problem with stats is that they fail to tell the whole picture. Now when they are used properly they can back up a point and give examples. But they can also be abused and manipulated. Like the Silver Surfer. He doesn’t want to destroy Worlds for Galactus, but he’s forced into it. Well just like Norrin Radd numbers have a noble past – numbers as we know them today go back thousands of years with the ancient Egyptians starting the ball rolling. Numbers aren’t living, breathing things, but if they were, then I have no doubt that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Numbers would have something to say about any kind of statistic that makes Titus Bramble seem like some kind of a Xavi.
Statistics have of course got a place in the modern game, but they can’t ever replace watching it. Getting your own analysis from the game is always going to give you a better feel for it than statistics ever could. They say that Possession is nine tenths of the law. It’s also one of the stats that irks me the most. Because it says nothing of penetration, or threat posed to the opposition. Sure that team kept the ball for 20 minutes, but it was in their own half, passed between their back four and the ‘keeper with the opposition camped out on the half way line and 3-0 up. Arsenal have recently done to Barcelona what teams seem to do to Arsenal – let them tippy tappy it about as much as they want and then smash them on the break. Possession is a bonus. It’s a nice little figure to look at sometimes but without objectivity it can be nonsense. Titus Bramble may have attempted 113 passes but for all I know he could have misplaced 113 passes as well. I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised. In fact if I had to bet on it I would say that he completes the majority of his passes to his mates in the crowd, unused substitutes sitting on the bench and sometimes his own face. Not necessarily in that order but that would be my top 3. That’s the problem with using the attempted stat. Over 100 passes completed in a game, now that I’d be impressed by. I’ve tried to seduce thousands of women in my lifetime, but my seduction completion is definitely not up there with the all time greats. In fact if it weren’t for alcohol my seduction completion ratio would be worse than Bramble’s pass completion, although it could be argued that there have been times when drunkenly slurring at girls hasn’t helped my cause. So again, a statistic muddler. Anyway, whilst there are all sorts of mini stats to be drawn up to analyse my pursuit of the fairer sex – shirt colour, hair cut, deoderant used, cockyness at time of approach etc that isn’t the issue.
Obscure stats can be fun in their own little way, and this particular stat has caused a bit of “banter” and amusement when we learnt that Titus Bramble was the 5th musketeers because quite frankly if we’d had a list of every English player registered in the Premiership over that time period he may well have been last on the guess list. But my concern is that people use stats, not to illustrate a point, but to whole heartedly fabricate nonsense and use numbers to support something that doesn’t deserve backing up, and not only that, they state a stat in such a way that it puts out an invisible assertion. Jack Wilshire was only the 6th English player to attempt 100 or more passes in a match since 2008 is worded in such a way that you are meant to be impressed. Just as I could tell you “Emile Heskey has scored more international goals against Malta than any Brazilian, including Pele”. Never mind that Brazil have never played Malta, and even then the big lump only scored 1, you cannot help but subconsciously get a positive impression from that stat and nobody who’s ever seen Titus Bramble play should have a positive impression of his passing ability. Ever.
If you have any comments on this, please dive on in, as always you can follow me on twitter @elhaydo