MEHSTG Vol. 2  Issue 29  -  November 2002

We have all heard of the Carling Opta statistics, but what are they ?? Well, the people who work for Carling Opta Ltd. are locked in small rooms every day after a Premiership match and they are not allowed out until they have recorded every shot, pass, tackle, cross, foul, handball, cough, spit and blade of grass covered by every player who takes part in the particular match they have to watch the recording of. Many of these statistics are compiled for form charts, fantasy league purposes, but mostly they are drawn up to help coaches explain away the reasons why their side lost.

But many managers seem to set great store by these facts and figures. For example, we all wondered why Glenn Hoddle was so determined to bring in Dean Richards as centre half to fill a gap there, but when you look at the Opta stats, it is not hard to see why. For long periods of 2000-01, he was second only to the man he replaced, but that was probably only because he played more games, made more tackles, played more passes and therefore, conversely had the opportunity to fail at more of each category. That is the wonder of Opta statistics … the more you do, the less successful you can be. So, when Hoddle was held to ransom by SCBC, he had to pay the £8 million demanded, but looking at the ratings, he was the second best defender in the Premiership and having worked with him, probably regarded the stats to tell a truer picture than they might have for other players.

When you look at the details for the club at the moment (just prior to the Sunderland match), the numbers tell an interesting story. Would you have thought that the top Tottenham tackler was Jamie Redknapp with an 83% success rate. Did Hoddle know about his ball-winning abilities when he signed him ?? We all thought he was a silky ball player !! Even more surprising is the second placed player with Bunjy coming in with 72% of tackles won. He doesn’t seem to be happy in the left back role, nor would you regard him as the tackler in the midfield, but it just goes to show what the figures reveal.

Simon Davies comes out as the Tottenham hot shot with 4 goals from 12 shots and despite his off day at Burnley, Robbie Keane is second in the shots to goal ratio with 21%. Jamie has a success rate of only 11.11% despite having 18 shots, the most of all the team, but then he appears to have brought the legacy of his time at Anfield with him to White Hart Lane, as he has made the greatest number of passes of all the players – 439, with a tad under 80% finding their intended recipient. Perhaps he is trying the “pass them to death” theory that Liverpool were labelled with in the days of the “Spice Boys” side. Teddy is second, but his passing has been a bit off lately, so he might drop down the table. According to the figures, we should be going well as Bunjy (75%) and Deano (65%) have both made lots of passes out of defence to their team-mates which should start off the forward momentum.

As investigated elsewhere in this issue (see “Cross Purposes”), the crossing by the team has left a lot to be desired. Hoddle might want to cross reference this area of information to that of the midfield, as the top crosser is not Etherington or Ziege, but Jamie Redknapp again. His 51% rating is not great, but at least half of his balls in from wide are finding their target. Second in the list is Milenko Acimovic, which is strange considering he hasn’t featured in the team that much, but then again, that is what we said earlier about doing well, even if you haven’t played much. At 36%, he tops Ziege (26%), Davies (21%) and Matty (19%). It is this figure that Ethers needs to improve to be a truly effective winger. Of course, the fact that is revealed by these stats is how many times he has had the opportunity to get the ball in from the flank, which is more than anyone else at 68. That means that just 13 crosses have found a white shirt. Perhaps it lets Hoddle know where to target his training ground routines to improve the players.

Of course, all this is only of any use if the raw data is correct and who checks those taking down the information ?? Ever fancied working for Carling Opta and making the Arse’s stats a whole lot worse ?? I understand that Wenger swears by them, so it could cause all nature of comings and goings if you started to mess with his mathematical mind !!

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