A few thoughts after just two games of the Premier League season

Early season expectations, advance of the stats and the time wasting rip-off.

1      Two games do not a season make

Lots of football followers are getting a bit carried away with how their team will fare this season, even though we are just two games into the Premier League campaign.

Huddersfield are only the second team to keep clean sheets in their opening two Premier League games following promotion from the Championship. The first team to do so were Charlton in 1998-99. And what happened to Charlton that season? Yes, they were relegated.

Hull City had six points after their first two Premier League games last season after promotion. They had beaten champions Leicester in their first game, and then won away at Swansea in their second. Of course, they were relegated at the end of last season.

2      Expected Goals (xG)

We continue to be bombarded with ever-increasing volumes of statistics in football these days, which may be of some interest, but what do they actually prove? Arsenal had 77% possession of the ball at Stoke last weekend and lost the game 1-0. Does that mean it is better not to have the ball too much?

And the latest statistic to come to prominence this season, although it has been around for a while is “expected goals”. I have been reading about this in some detail, and despite quite a liking for statistical analysis (out of interest only), I wonder if this one has been thought through properly. The concept is that they now measure the probability that any given shot will result in a goal. The purpose is to quantify the quality of each chance created, by analysing historical shots (up to one million of them) to assess how the probability of a goal being scored is affected by various factors, such as the distance and angle from the goal, whether the shot was hit by the stronger or weaker foot, or head, the type of assist, and passage of play.

Expected goals (given the shorthand xG) for each individual shot can then be added together to arrive at the expected goals for individual players and for teams. So, for example, in the Arsenal game at Stoke last weekend, the Gunners won the “xG” by 1.48 to 0.67. What does this prove? That they were the better team? Just like possession statistics does it really matter? Stoke won the game 1-0.

And what about potential flaws in the data? What other factors are not taken into account? The quality of the defenders, does the chance occur at the beginning or end of the game, what is the score at the time, are you under greater or less pressure because of league position, the beginning or end of the season, tiredness. These are just some of the factors that have occurred to me, and I’m sure there are many others. There are so many “human dimensional” factors that will influence what will happen in a game of football, and you have to include “luck” too.

Just for interest, in expected goals terms (xG) we lost our opening fixture at Old Trafford 1.93-0.48. Our game at St. Mary’s was a close run thing but we lost that, too, by 2.08-1.96. I’m sure that there are data analysts out there who would prefer the results of matches, and the subsequent league tables to be based on expected goals rather than actual goals! On a lesser scale, instead of extra-time and penalty shoot-outs, perhaps they would like to use xG to determine the result of drawn (actual goals!) cup games? It would be almost impossible to have a drawn xG game, so we would always have a winner.

What nonsense! Let’s not take this all too far! An interesting insight into performance? Perhaps, yes. Am I missing the point? Perhaps, yes. But let’s not get too carried away. Although if it was based on xG we wouldn’t actually be bottom of the league after two games!

3      Time-Wasting

In June I wrote a series of articles based upon the International Football Association Board (IFAB) rule change proposals. Part 3 of my series looked at their ideas for increasing playing time, which revealed how they were considering dispensing with 45 minute halves in a game of football, and replacing it with two periods of thirty minutes, with the clock being stopped every time the ball went out of play. The purpose was to make the concept of time-wasting a thing of the past, as the clock would not be running unless the ball was in play.

In my article I made reference to Tony Pulis bringing his Stoke City side to play at Upton Park in years gone by and how much time-wasting went on. And in an article I wrote for the much missed fanzine, Over Land and Sea, in November 2015, and also in my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford, my review of West Ham v West Brom (managed by Tony Pulis!) on 29 November 2015 referred to my own timekeeping of the game when I watched it back in replay on Sky Plus. I timed the second half as around 25 minutes of actual playing time.

So I had to smile when I read a piece on the BBC Sport website which referred to last weekend’s Burnley v West Brom match (you know the manager of the away side here!) which timed that the ball was in play for 47 minutes and 40 seconds in total! No game in the premier League has seen less action than this one. The fans are most definitely being short-changed in this respect. Apparently all the games in the Premier League this season have been timed and the ball was in play for more than an hour in just two of them. It’s about time the lawmakers took action and introduced this rule change immediately. It would be so simple. It would totally eliminate the whole concept of time-wasting. What is stopping it from happening?

A Poll of Player Ratings from the Southampton Game

Rating the Ratings. How different people viewed individual West Ham performances at the weekend.

Football StatsWhen I was young (I’m talking about between the ages of around 8 to 11, so over 50 years ago) I used to badger my dad to buy the People newspaper every Sunday. Apart from liking their match reports, they were the only paper (to my limited knowledge at the time) who gave the players ratings out of 10 for the game played the day before. You have to remember that all games were 3pm kick offs on a Saturday at that time, so apart from midweek games, I was able to collate the figures for most of the West Ham games throughout the season. I used to painstakingly write out on a schedule the subjective scores of the reporter at the game, and then as the season progressed I would calculate the averages. In this way I believed I was working out which players were the best. I didn’t keep my schedules, although I can recall that Bobby Moore and Johnny Byrne always figured highly at the time.

Now I haven’t really taken too much notice of player ratings since that time all those years ago, but it did occur to me that more and more publications, both newspapers and websites, seem to be giving players scores for their performances. Some of this is done for the purposes of fantasy leagues, dream leagues etc, and some for the purposes of the supposedly ever increasing demand for football statistics. Understanding the subjectivity involved, I decided to analyse some ratings that I researched when looking at the performances of individual West Ham players in our win on Saturday at Southampton. I looked at eight sets of scores, including those by my fellow web co-blogger Geoff, to see how much correlation there was in the figures. I was surprised by the consistency of what I found. I was expecting greater variation knowing how people tend to see games differently.

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

A

B

C

Randolph

6

7

7

7.5

6

6

7

7

53.5

40.0

6.67

Kouyate

6

7

7

6.5

5

2

5

7

45.5

36.5

6.08

Reid

7

6

7

6.5

6

5

6

7

50.5

38.5

6.42

Fonte

7

6

7

5

6

5

6

7

49.0

37.0

6.17

Cresswell

6

6

6

6

7

7

7

7

52.0

39.0

6.50

Antonio

6

7

6

6.5

5

6

6

7

49.5

37.5

6.25

Noble

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

8

57.0

42.0

7.00

Obiang

9

9

9

8

8

8

8

9

68.0

51.0

8.50

Feghouli

6

6

5

6

6

6

6

6

47.0

36.0

6.00

Snodgrass

7

6

6

7

7

7

7

7

54.0

41.0

6.83

Carroll

8

7

8

7

7

7

7

8

59.0

44.0

7.33

 

75

74

75

73

70

66

72

80

585

442.5

6.70

1 – Geoff Hopkins, Under The Hammers
2 – The Sun
3 – ReadWestHam
4 – The Mail on Sunday
5 – ESPN
6 – Football Insider
7 – Sky
8 – Outside 90

The eight sets of scores are listed above. I have only used the scores awarded to the eleven starting players. Of course, when I used to look at the data fifty years ago, there were only eleven players in each game as no substitutes were allowed at the time.

Column A is the total of the eight scores. Using standard statistical analysis to remove some element of bias / unusual scoring, Column B is Column A minus the highest and lowest score awarded to each individual player. For example, the Football Insider score for Kouyate is way out of line compared to the rest of the scores, so this “unusual” score is eliminated from the calculations. Column C is the average score for each player based upon the six “middle” scores, i.e Column B divided by 6.

The resulting table below is the final score for each player in descending order:

1

Obiang

8.50

2

Carroll

7.33

3

Noble

7.00

4

Snodgrass

6.83

5

Randolph

6.67

6

Cresswell

6.50

7

Reid

6.42

8

Antonio

6.25

9

Fonte

6.17

10

Kouyate

6.08

11

Feghouli

6.00

Unsurprisingly, Obiang was considered our player of the match as he was the top scorer in each of the eight sets of scores. His average was well ahead of Carroll who was second, and Noble in third. Feghouli finished at the bottom, although he still scored an average of 6.00. The average for the team using this calculation was 6.70.

It was just a bit of fun, but does give the thoughts of eight individuals subjectively analysing player performances in the game. Pedro Obiang is my player of the season to date, and his performance in this game reinforces my belief. I think, but I am not 100% certain, that he is the only West Ham player to score a goal and create an assist in the same game in the whole of this season. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong!

More Statistics!

Crunching the numbers to unravel football’s cause and effect.

Football statistics

At the beginning of the season we questioned the use of statistics in football, and challenged their increasing use. Is there any meaningful relationship between the plethora of statistics available these days and the actual outcome of games? Or are they just an interesting addition to our football watching experience?

I am indebted to the website WhoScored.com, plus other resources, when considering the statistics widely available in respect of football these days. I have looked at a variety of statistical data whilst we are in the third international break after eleven games of the season, some of which is reproduced below.

League (Points)

 

League (Home Pts)

 

League  (Away Pts)

1

Liverpool

26

 

1

Chelsea

15

 

1

Arsenal

13

2

Chelsea

25

 

2

Liverpool

13

 

2

Liverpool

13

3

Man City

24

 

3

Burnley

13

 

3

Man City

12

4

Arsenal

24

 

4

Man City

12

 

4

Tottenham

10

5

Tottenham

21

 

5

Leicester

11

 

5

Chelsea

10

6

Man Utd

18

 

6

Everton

11

 

6

Man Utd

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17

West Ham

11

 

12

West Ham

8

 

17

West Ham

3

Shots per game

 

Goals Scored

 

Possession %

1

Liverpool

19.1

 

1

Liverpool

30

 

1

Man City

61.1

2

Man City

17.9

 

2

Chelsea

26

 

2

Liverpool

57.9

3

Tottenham

17.7

 

3

Man City

25

 

3

Arsenal

56.4

4

Man Utd

17.4

 

4

Arsenal

24

 

4

Tottenham

56.0

5

Chelsea

16.9

 

5

Man Utd

16

 

5

Man Utd

55.0

6

Southampton

16.5

 

6

Crystal Palace

16

 

6

Southampton

54.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

West Ham

14.5

 

15=

West Ham

11

 

11

West Ham

50.7

Pass Success %

 

Yellow Cards

1

Man Utd

86.0

 

1

West Ham

30

2

Man City

85.3

 

2

West Brom

29

3

Chelsea

85.2

 

3

Watford

28

4

Arsenal

84.0

 

4

Man Utd

24

5

Liverpool

83.2

 

5

Sunderland

24

6

Southampton

82.6

 

6=

Several Clubs

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

West Ham

81.0

 

 

 

 

A Few Observations

  1. Only one of the statistical tables is really important, and that is the total points attained at the end of the season. When we went into the third international break last season we were sixth, and eventually ended up seventh.
  2. The same six teams appear (though not in the same order) in respect of points attained away from home, compared to total points, so far this season.
  3. Five of the six teams at the top of the league have also had the most shots per game so far. The missing team is Arsenal, who, as we all know, tend not to shoot as often as some other teams, preferring to try to walk the ball into the goal. The team who have crept into the top six in this table is Southampton, although they only occupy eleventh place in the league at the moment.
  4. Once again, five of the six top teams in the league also appear at the top in the goals scored table. Tottenham are the missing team, but whilst they are just outside the top six in terms of goals scored, they have conceded fewer goals than any other team in the Premier League this season. Incidentally, there have also been the least number of goals scored (by both sides) in games involving Tottenham this season. So, statistically at least, we shouldn’t expect many goals on Saturday.
  5. The possession percentage also shows five of the six teams at the top of the league table, the missing team this time being Chelsea. Southampton, once again, creep into this table.
  6. The passing success percentage figures for the season to date also has five of the six teams in the league, Tottenham missing out once again, and Southampton appearing.
  7. I have added the West Ham data in the tables, and in virtually all respects, the statistical data suggests that we should perhaps be higher in the league? The fact that we are not is mainly due to our failure to turn shots into goals, and our defensive record, where only three clubs have conceded more goals than we have.
  8. The three teams who have scored the least goals, are the same teams who have conceded the most goals, and are also the same three teams that occupy the relegation positions at the moment, namely Hull, Swansea and Sunderland.
  9. I was determined to find a statistic where we appeared at the top of the league and found one. Yes, we have picked up more yellow cards (30) than any other team in the league after eleven games. There is very little correlation between yellow cards and league position, unlike most of the other statistical data.
  10. Whilst not claiming any meaningful relationship between the statistics in a particular match (after all Liverpool had 81% possession against Burnley and still lost the game), there would appear to be distinct similarities between a number of the statistical tables and league position over the course of several games. The amount of possession that a team has, how accurate it passes the ball, the number of shots and goals scored, all bear a striking similarity to the league position. Like all statistical data, there are exceptions to the rule, but these days it is big business, employing many people.
  11. I have only included a small selection of the statistics that are available. One that always makes me smile (that I haven’t included) is the distance covered by every player on the pitch. Quite how this is calculated cannot be an easy task, and you wonder how much relation it bears to the league table. But the last one I saw had Liverpool at the top for covering the furthest distance. Co-incidence?

Ponchos For Goalposts: Part deux!

There’ll always be an England (as long as we can find eleven players).

England TeamA few weeks back I used the tedium of the international break to take a look at the composition of the squads in the Premier League in relation to nationality. Overall it showed that only 35% of Premier League players were English although this increased to 40% if you included the other home nations. I wondered at the time whether if you looked at those actually making it onto the pitch the situation would be even worse and so have used this recent break to undertake further research in the context of the continued underwhelming performance of the England national team.

England appear to be in a Groundhog Day cycle where they generally qualify with some ease (usually from a group where even a mid-table Championship would hope to do well) and then disappoint when it comes to the finals. We then replace the manager and start the cycle again. In truth this has been going on for almost 50 years (well before the Premier League and the foreign invasion) but it does remain a conundrum whereby England has the most famous and cosmopolitan league in the world but a extremely ordinary and uninspiring national team. Are the two related in anyway?

So far this season we have had seven rounds of Premier League matches; a total of 70 games in total which have featured 414 different players of which 342 have started at least one game. Bournemouth and Burnley have been the most frugal with fewest different starters (14) while Sunderland have had the most different starters (22). Chelsea have used fewest players if you included substitute players (18) while Sunderland have been the most lavish with 25.  (It is an interesting contrast with Aston Villa winning the First Division in 1981 using only 14 players all season; how the game has changed.)

Of those starting and featuring (i.e. including substitute appearances) in a Premier League the proportion that are eligible to represent England is 34% and 33% respectively; this is consistent with the overall squad make-ups and so my assumption that it would be lower was not correct.

Bournemouth are the most English team with 72% of starters while Watford have had the least at 9% (just Troy Deeney). Only 3 clubs achieved over 50% of English starters (Bournemouth, Burnley and Palace) while Watford, Arsenal and Chelsea were all below 15%. The equivalent figure for West Ham is 25%.  Collectively, the ‘so-called’ Big 4 (two Manchester Clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal) managed to scrape together 18% of Englishmen.

The average Premier League side then has less than 4 players eligible to represent England in any given lineup. In total that is somewhere over 70 playing Premier League football on a regular basis (allowing for injuries) giving them a 1 in 3 chance of being selected for an England squad.  To my knowledge, Joe Hart is the only English player of note performing overseas.

The big ‘chicken and egg’ question that this raises is: Does the lack of quality English players lead to the recruitment of so many overseas players or does the number of foreign players restrict the development of good young home grown talent?  Whatever way it is difficult not to conclude that the the declining number of English players in the Premier League must have had an adverse effect on the national side.  How to fix this without impacting the ‘brand’?

Far be it from me to defend the largely clueless England manager’s that we have seen over the years but there has not really been the depth of talent for them to work with. All the more reason, in my opinion, to find someone (like Sir Alf) who has a system and will then find the players to fit it; rather than the other way around.

No wonder my interest in the England team is going down quicker than sterling (the currency not the Man City player that is)!

WBA v WHU: The Numbers Game

The numbers are in and they just don’t add up.

NumbersA few numbers from the game at the Hawthorns:

“0” or zero = The number of points we’ve picked up in our last three games. It is also the number of our drawn games in the league this season (last season we drew 14 – no team in the Premier League drew more games than us)

1 = our position in the running order on Match of the Day, though not for the reasons we would like. It is also the number of times WBA have previously beaten us 4-2 in a league game (on 19 April 1965 – Ronnie Boyce and Geoff Hurst scored our goals in front of 13,713 at the Hawthorns). It is also the number of league games we have won this season. It is also the number of times in the whole of last season where there were exactly six goals in a league game we played in.

2 = The number of times in the past week where there were exactly six goals in a league game we played in.

3 = the position Slaven Bilic occupies in the betting for Premier League managers to lose their jobs.

195 = the number of days since WBA last won a league game at the Hawthorns.

581 = the number of days since WBA last scored four goals in any competition (it was in the FA Cup on Valentines Day 2015 v us!)

5 = the number of league goals scored by Michail Antonio this season. All five goals have been headers.

11 = the number of headed goals scored by Michail Antonio since the beginning of last season – more than any other Premier League player

20 = the number of total goals scored in our five matches this season (more than any other club). Incidentally, 116 = the number of total goals scored in West Ham Premier League games last season (more than any other club). So we’ve started this season as we were last season, the favourite of the “neutral spectator” (whoever he is!), but not a team for the “purists”)

40 = the number of times in history we have beaten WBA. After this weekend it is also the number of times WBA have beaten us.

18 = our position in the league table following this weekend’s games.

12 = the number of times in our last 15 league matches where we have conceded at least two goals.

53 = the number of goals we will score this season if we continue at the same rate (last season we scored 65).

99 = the number of goals we will concede this season if we continue at the same rate (last season we conceded 51)

152 = the total goals that will be scored in games involving West Ham if we continue at this rate (last season 116 which was the highest in the Premier League)

West Ham figures first in the following section:

71%-29% – our dominance in possession of the ball in the game
23-8 – our dominance in shots
5-6 – slight advantage to WBA in shots on target – very important if you want to score goals!
613-253 total passes; 552-185 completed passes; 90%-73% pass success – so once again we had far more of the ball, and were better at finding a team mate with it, but what these figures don’t tell us is the area of the field where the passes were made! In fact our pass success percentage was only bettered by one side in the whole Premier League on Saturday, Arsenal at Hull. So it is really nonsense as an indicator for success in the game.
14-12 tackles; 86%-75% percentage of tackles won.
5-9 corners; 13-25 crosses – the crosses were the complete opposite of last week against Watford but we still managed to lose the game.
9-10 fouls conceded – we committed one fewer than our opponents.

The really important statistic is that at one stage we were 4-0 down and lost the game 4-2.

Four of our next six matches are at home against Southampton, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Stoke. On paper not the most difficult of fixtures, facing four teams who are currently in the bottom half of the table like ourselves. Two away games in the period are at Palace and Everton.

If we really are to kick-start the season then I’d like to see at least 13 points from those six games, making 16 from 11 games. This would probably just move us into the top half of the table. Win all six and we would be on 21 points after 11 games, 1 point ahead of the same period last year. Not very likely on current form! 8 points from the six games would put us on 11 from 11, averaging just one point a game which is relegation form.

Bearing in mind that the next four games after this batch of six are against Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool (three of them away from home), then a poor return from the highlighted six games would almost certainly leave us in a relegation dogfight, not what was expected after last season.

West Ham v Watford in Numbers

Know all there is to know about the numbers game.

 

NumbersGeoff Hopkins has written some excellent interesting articles about the use of statistics in football. I’ll add a few numbers of my own in an analysis of the Watford debacle. Like Geoff I’ve made use of the very good whoscored.com website, whilst also checking other statistical databases, newspapers, and the internet, as well as using my brain to recall other bits of data I’ve read or seen or thought of.

I’ll start with “0” or zero. This is the tolerance that the club say they will show to fans deemed to have offended in violence or standing issues within the stadium. This is also the number of times Watford have scored four goals away from home in a Premier League game.

56,974 – yesterday’s attendance at the start of the game. I wonder if the club have read a previous article of mine where I mentioned how co-incidental it is that our attendance is frequently x thousand, 977. Three fewer this time!

25,000 (estimated) – the number still in the stadium when the final whistle blew.

38 – the number of times Watford have found themselves two goals behind in a Premier League game, including this weekend.

37 – the number of times Watford have lost the game after falling two goals behind in a Premier League game.

33 – the number of minutes required to establish a two goal lead. This is also, roughly, the amount of playing time in minutes needed to turn a two goal lead into a two goal deficit.

4 – the number of Watford players that I read we were linked with in the last transfer window – Janmaat, Pereyra, Deeney and Ighalo were all on our “radar” according to one source or another. But like a lot of these rumours – probably just made-up stories to fill column inches. Nonetheless, Pereyra looked some player, and Deeney took his goal splendidly.

4 again – the number of league goals scored by Michail Antonio from inside the penalty area this season (I won’t call it a penalty box as a box is three–dimensional, and the area is not) – more than any other Premier League player

10 – the number of headed goals scored by Michail Antonio since the beginning of last season – more than any other Premier League player – not bad for a “winger” who has played often at right back! Keep him up front Slav! Trust the stats!

11,085 – the number of days since Watford last scored at least four goals away from home in the top division. On the same day (5 May 1986) we were losing 3-1 at Everton in the last game of the momentous season (1985-86) which saw us finish in third place.

“Any number you want to one” – the odds you could have got on a Watford victory if you had gone on the betting exchanges at around 3.35pm on Saturday afternoon.

1 – the number of times Watford have previously beaten us 4-2 at our ground in a league game (on 21 February 1984 – Bobby Barnes and Dave Swindlehurst scored our goals in front of 21,263 at Upton Park).

35,711 – the increase in the attendance between the two times Watford have beaten us 4-2 on our ground (the increase is greater than the “all-seating” Upton Park capacity – well you know what I mean)

West Ham figures first in the following section:

58%-42% – our dominance in possession of the ball in the game

19-13 – our dominance in shots

7-0 – our dominance in shots from set-pieces

12-13 – slight advantage to Watford in shots “in open play”

4-8 – now we’re getting to the more important stuff – Watford had twice as many shots on target as we did. You are very unlikely to score unless you have shots on target. Yes I know it is possible if you want to be pedantic – deflections and open goals.

441-322 total passes; 381-231 completed passes; 86%-72% pass success – so we had more of the ball, and were better at finding a team mate with it, but what these figures don’t tell us is the area of the field where the passes were made! I’d like to see the statistic of successful passes in the final third of the pitch – but we never see this one – it would be a better indicator. In fact our pass success percentage was not bettered by any side in the whole Premier League on Saturday. Hull equalled us on 86%, and Middlesbrough were next on 85%. Neither of those teams won either! So what does it prove?

12-25 tackles; 50%-92% percentage of tackles won – perhaps gives an indication of Watford defensively compared to ourselves?

4-4 corners; 25-13 crosses – our goals came directly from a corner and a cross.

10-15 fouls conceded – we committed fewer than our opponents.

The really important statistic is that we threw away a two goal lead and lost the game 4-2. David Sullivan said he wasn’t going to consider a new contract for Slaven Bilic until he’d proved himself in the second season. Now is the time for him to show us his management capabilities.

More Damned Statistics

Studies have shown that accurate numbers aren’t any more useful that the ones you make up!

stats

For a while as a young boy I collected London bus numbers; not route numbers but the fleet number that was painted next to the driver’s cab. It was the budget version of train spotting because you didn’t need to buy a platform ticket. I would carefully write the numbers down in a small notebook but I didn’t stick at it very long before realising the whole exercise was a complete waste of time.

Nowadays any millennial geek fascinated by collecting and recording pointless information can ‘monetise’ their proclivity through gainful employment with an organisation such as Opta, the sport’s data specialists. Football, like most sports, is now awash with data that provides a minute by minute analysis of every action and incident so that at any time we can know how far Mark Noble has run today. My assertion, however, is that while the resulting statistics might be interesting they are nothing more and there is no cause and effect between the data presented and the actual outcome of a game i.e. that the stats are basically meaningless. I have written about this previously and undertook to keep a watchful eye as the season progresses to see if I could be proved wrong.

For the purposes of my study I am using the data presented on the Whoscored website, which despite my scepticism over the usefulness of the stats is an excellent resource. The Whoscored data is, I understand, sourced from Opta and fed real-time to a large number of media companies . For each game, the website provides a match report showing summary details for possession, passes completed, shots on goal, aerial duels won, tackles made and dribbles won. I am making an assumption here that having selected these categories the folks at Whoscored consider them to be the most pertinent to the outcome of a game.

Of the 30 Premier League matches played to date there have been 22 which have had a positive outcome (with 8 drawn games). Of these, the winning team had the advantage in possession, passes completed, shots and dribbles won while the losing side more often came out on top for aerial duels won and tackles made. In only 1 of 30 games (Burnley v Swansea) did the winning side dominate every category while there was also 1 game (Palace v WBA) where the losing side was on top across the board.

So are there any conclusions that we can make? Should managers tell their players that losing aerial duels and tackles is the best way to win the game? Or is it obvious that more shots on goal increase the chance of winning? Or that if you are forced to defend it is likely that you will need to make more tackles?

There was a school of thought last year that conceding possession bore some relation to winning the game; probably because it was a prevalent feature of Leicester’s season (and our own to some extent). This has not been reflected in the games so far this season although I am still not convinced as to how possession is actually measured; the only time I have seen it explained (a few years back) it was suggested that possession is, in fact, derived from passes completed. That in all 30 games the team with most possession also completed most passes may confirm this.

Maybe the only purpose for the stats is the fun of collecting them in a similar vein to the bus numbers and I am over-thinking them.  But I don’t believe that is how they are used by TV producers and pundits who present them as if they define the game. For now it remains case unproven as far as I am concerned but I will keep on tracking developments.