So what’s annoyed me this week?

16 01 2014

.k.a…….So why exactly are you against That Modern Football? Part 25

92. Fans are not dissicated counting machines

Better men than me have complained our unquenchable need to analyse football matches on a statistical basis –  @Regista_Michael wrote a lovely article about the issue for this month’s When Saturday Comes and @the_itch1980 once said “Assists aren’t a real thing. They’re made up by Fantasy Football to amuse nerds” – but they say great minds think alike so here’s my twopennorth worth

There are two good reasons why stats and football shouldn’t really mix.

Firstly, as my esteemed examples have pointed out, football is an experience to be felt rather than an equation to be solved, even cynical managers and players have feelings about the spirit of football.

Number crunching divorces football from emotion. You can see this in the final two paragraphs of this article from Wired;

Wilson missed the last game of that season, when City played Queens Park Rangers. City were level on points with Manchester United, but had a superior goal difference. “I had a flight but it was delayed, so I ended up only watching the first half on TV,” recalls Wilson. “By then when we were winning 1-0, so I was confident.” In the second half, QPR scored twice. Two minutes after stoppage time, City’s striker Edin DŽeko equalised. By then, United were winning their match and, if nothing changed, would be the champions

Two minutes later, City’s attacker Sergio Aguero received the ball on the edge of the box, in a position to shoot. According to Prozone’s goal-expectation model, he had a 12 percent chance of scoring. Instead of shooting, he went around a defender to a corner of the penalty area and, from a spot where he had a 19 percent chance of scoring, slotted the ball past the keeper. By the time Wilson landed at Gatwick, the news ticker running across the TV screens was saying that Manchester City were the new champions.”

The nail biting circumstances of one of the closest league seasons in British football and the emotion the Man City fans felt is lost in the bone dry certainty of the scientific method. This;

Has been replaced by this;

angles

Secondly, while data analysis might seem to be a useful tool for managers and coaches the work of the boffins is unnecessary.

Look again at the last two paragraphs of the article. The article’s author is actually amazed that a footballer moved the ball into position that he was more likely to score from. I’m sorry to tell you this boffins but Aguero probably didn’t weigh up the scientifically proven goal producing efficacies of the different positions before he moved, he naturally moved from one position to another because that’s what he’d been coached to do all his life.  I’m really sorry boffins but child footballers were told to do that in my dim and distant day.

The article also tells us above the breakthrough made by Sam Allardyce and his boffins. Sam and the boys managed to figure out that…..

“…..they would have an 80 percent chance of not losing if the players outworked their opposition by covering more distance at speeds above 5.5m/s.”

Yes Sam’s boffins discovered that team has a higher chance of winning if their players are fitter and quicker than the other team. They won 2004’s Nobel Prize for stating the bleeding obvious with that pearler.

The Wired article also covers the latest thing in twitter based analysis, heat mapping;

Heat Mapping

Heat Mapping: the red shows Everton left-back Leighton Baines’s territory during the game (both halves are superimposed here). Baines’s corner-kicks are shown at the lower-right. (More Here)

Call me a luddite but what is the point in this?  Anybody with a knowledge of football and a pair of eyes would be able to spot that Leighton Baines covers a lot of ground would be able to make that deduction, never mind a seasoned coach with years of football experience.

We can see the unnecessary sheen of scientific buzz words in this bit of the article;

“Analysts now know that it is the distance run by a player when sprinting that indicates good performance, and that it is ball possession within the last third of the pitch that correlates with success. Better metrics imply a more refined understanding of the game. “Sometimes we look only at the individuals and forget the context,” says Blake Wooster, a former director at Prozone, who now runs a sports startup called 21st Club. “For instance, Barcelona’s [Lionel] Messi is one of the best players ever, but what would happen if you took him out of that context and put him in another team? You can’t assess talent in a vacuum.” An example of that type of contextual statistics is a model recently developed by Prozone called “goal expectation”.”

They could have reduced this sentence;

“Analysts now know that it is the distance run by a player when sprinting that indicates good performance, and that it is ball possession within the last third of the pitch that correlates with success.”

To this;

“It doesn’t matter how pretty a side looks if their final pass is crap”

They could have reduced this passage;

“Better metrics imply a more refined understanding of the game. “Sometimes we look only at the individuals and forget the context,” says Blake Wooster, a former director at Prozone, who now runs a sports startup called 21st Club. “For instance, Barcelona’s [Lionel] Messi is one of the best players ever, but what would happen if you took him out of that context and put him in another team? You can’t assess talent in a vacuum.” An example of that type of contextual statistics is a model recently developed by Prozone called “goal expectation”.

To this sentence; 

“He might look good in Madrid but could he do that on a wet November Tuesday in Hartlepool?”

A lot of fans might act like wankers but a lot of us know something about football, we don’t need to a boffin and his laptop to understand the sport. We can see if someone’s not happy, or not running as much they used to. We can see the players that appear to be everywhere, we even notice the players that go unnoticed. Fuck off Boffins.

93. More tweeting

The Mirror tweeted this last night.

SUB: Emyr Huws (yeah, we know) comes on as City and DOESN’T score after 15 seconds: http://mirr.im/1eDTXqp

It’s lovely to see that the Mirror realise that some Welsh people might spell their names differently beacuse they speak a language other than English.

In all seriousness I hadn’t realised that Murdoch had bought the Mirror.

94. Not enough fans view things like this

An esteemed user of the WSC, and an Anti-Tan refusnik, message board wrote this about challenging autocratic club owners;

Of course my preference for a first course of action is withdrawing your financial & physical support of a regime by boycotting, that’s what I’ve already done.

The problem is there is far too much of this perverse “support the team, it’s not their fault” attitude from too many supporters, as if 25 paid employees (none of whom will be at a club in 5 years time) are of any importance.

If club owners like Tan and Allam attempt (and succeed in the former’s case) in driving through their autocratic whims using their own brand of threats and a climate of fear then I think it’s perfectly legitimate to respond in kind.

It’s not one-way, I’ve had threats of violence made about me from a former owner of my club simply for questioning his plans. A clique of supporters loyal to that former owner (now life president and beneficiary of £22m from Tan recently, all of which was further loaded on to the club as debt) including his convicted hooligan personal bodyguard gatecrashed a protest meeting I chaired saying they would “bury” anyone protesting inside the ground. It worked, opposition was scared away.

These people aren’t poor, weak old men, they’re ruthless, powerful venal bastards and you have to at least make some threat that you’ll fight back.

It won’t happen of course, far too many supporters focus on a league position and enjoy their PL “success” over every other aspect of a club. They’re enabling cunts like Tan and Allam and care too much about an entity in Companies House rather than the football club. It’s worth dropping to D4 like Portsmouth or starting again in non-league to drive these egomaniacs and speculators out.

Nail on the head.

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