By Tony Attwood
Over the years I have become increasingly bemused by the stats that are put out after each game, either because I just don’t believe they relate to the match I have just seen, or because I don’t understand what the hell is going on (which is of course my normal state of life).
The latter (not understanding) is especially the case with the web sites that evaluate players’ performances on a whole raft of issues. The figures awarded seem utterly arbitrary and so give results that mean next to nothing.
There’s one, for example, that has 19 different measurements ranging from scoring (plus 40) to five for a shot blocked, and then on to minus 1 for a failed pass, minus 3 for a foul, minus 10 for a yellow, and so on.
If you accept the basis of all of this (ie that a goal is worth plus 40 and not plus 50 or plus 30), and the fact that the ref got things right and so the yellow was a yellow and not a red, and the fact that they saw the same game as you (according to the site I have seen today the only person who had a shot on target for Arsenal was Cesc), then I suppose it means something.
And just in case it does mean something then you might like to know our best players last night were
- Cesc – 138
- Bendtner – 106
- Denilson – 103
- Arshavin – 87.
Our worst players were those who were on the pitch for a limited amount of time, but leaving those aside the full-time worst was Szczsczsczny who got six for “goalkeeper action” and 15 for completed passes. Obviously we need a new goalkeeper.
And so suddenly having thought, “what a load of twaddle” I find that this is actually gives me a moment of reflection. Not because I believe in the maths, but because the result leads me to rethink who were the best players. Jack was 7th in this analysis – was that really true? I’m with Walter on this one – I thought he was brilliant.
And this in turn makes me recognise the obvious: that the players are working with different functions in different areas, and having different effects on the opposition.
If you were there last night you will know about the groans that went round the ground at every pass that failed. There was an expectation of perfection in the air, which of course was never delivered most of the time. But there were moments of perfection, and I’d include the first goal in this.
Bendtner, in the second match against Leeds and here last night is back to delivering what we saw him deliver in the past before the long set of injuries before and during the world cup. The pass that led to Robin’s goal at Leeds, and the goal itself against Ipswich were superb – perfect even. Nanometre perfect.
Which then made me think, if I were doing a table scoring individual players for things, I would want to be able to give extras for brilliance. OK we were playing a second division side, but Bendtner’s goal would have worked in all matches – as would his pass for the goal against Leeds. 30 point bonus.
Which then leads to this thought – why do people demand perfection all the time, and make such a lot of groans when a pass goes astray?
I think the answer is because they’ve all got copies of the Henry/Pires era in which you get 90 minutes of football reduced to one or two minutes on a DVD. Those two guys were of course utter masters of the game, and the way they could draw players out of position, and then fill in the gaps, was just beyond anything I have seen in a lifetime of watching football.
But, they didn’t do it all the time. Henry hit shots that missed by miles. Pires played passes from midfield that went to the opposition. But we forget them because they are not on the DVD, and because after a couple of weeks (let alone a couple of years) the memory fades.
Last night I was trying to explain to Stuart, the son of my regular jive partner, who came with me to the game last night, how this works. (He being a charming and respectful young man listened dutifully to the ramblings of an old timer, not least because at that stage he didn’t know which seats we were in, and I had the tickets in my pocket, and so telling me to shut up really wasn’t a good option at that time).
My example was taken from the final game of the unbeaten season, a game I can remember more than most. But in relating my thesis to him (that there were dodgy moments even when the unbeaten team played) I found that in reality I can now remember little more than being 1-0 down at half time, the two Arsenal goals, and the post match celebration.
Which leads me to this thought. This is a very different team from the teams that won the doubles and the team that went unbeaten, but it has its own qualities and special features which are comparable with the great teams of the past. OK, If you have recordings of complete matches from ordinary run of the mill games in those earlier eras, then fine, compare our games now with those. But don’t imagine that in the past every pass was perfect, every match won at a stroll. It wasn’t.
I think my point a few weeks ago was valid when I mentioned the cup game against Port Vale early on in the Wengerian era. We drew 0-0, and then won the replay on penalties. I can still hear the comments of the time – “I told you that Wenger was a complete waste of space. Can’t even beat Port Vale in normal time. This is what you get from employing a foreigner who doesn’t understand the English game”. We went on to win the double.
Anyway, back to Ipswich. I don’t know what the score was when measured in shots, but I think my total in the headline is as good a record as anyone. It felt like that anyway.
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