98% of statistics are made up. Whilst I believe you can find football statistics to support pretty much any argument, I do have a definite interest in them. I like the seemingly pointless facts commentators make us aware of during the dull part of the game and I enjoy looking at percentages and averages to see who the most effective players are.
It will never give you the full picture and I can’t abide by people who haven’t even seen a game but declare that it was a fair result due to one team’s shots on target/possession/passing success etc. However, statistics do give you some kind of indication of what a particular player or team is doing, whether that be good or bad, and the more interesting or surprising statistic, the better.
So, I’ve taken time to take a look at a broad range of statistics from the 2007-2008 season, looking at the most effective players in the league, the dirtiest players, the luckiest players, the best passers, and the best ball winners.
Unsurprisingly, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who had more shots than any other player last season, an incredible 131 in total (with a shot every 21 minutes he was on the pitch). Next was Emanuel Adebayor with 104 (a shot every 28.2 minutes), then Fernando Torres with 96 (a shot every 26.5 minutes), Steven Gerrard with 89, Wayne Rooney with 85, Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez both with 82.
Ronaldo scored a goal for every 88.6 minutes he was on the pitch (scoring 0.91 goals per game), followed by Torres every 105.9 minutes (0.73 goals per game), Adebayor every 122.2 minutes (0.67 goals per game), Yakubu every 144.4 minutes, and Benjamin Mwaruwari every 153.3 minutes (0.52 goals per game).
Ronaldo was the highest scorer with a total of 31 goals, followed by Adebayor and Torres with 24 goals, Roque Santa Cruz with 19 goals, then Berbatov, Robbie Keane, Benjani and Yukubu all on 15. Carlos Tevez and John Carew crept in the top 10 with 14 and 13 goals respectively, as well as Wayne Rooney and Jermaine Defoe being the highest scoring English players with 12 goals each.
Whilst the goalscorer tends to get all the praise, the players providing the goals, with their assists and balls in the box, are often overlooked. Team mates will run over to the man who’s just put the ball in the back of the net, whilst the fella who created it stands on his lonesome. So here’s a bit of recognition for the players that provide the goals.
Cesc Fabregas had more assists than anyone else last season, creating an impressive 17 goals. He was followed by Ashley Young with 14, whilst Wayne Rooney, Gareth Barry and Salomon Kalou were all on 10. Dimitar Berbatov, Nani, David Bentley, Nicky Shorey, David Bentley and Elano had 9 assists to their name.
Then comes the players who are crossing the ball in, from open play or corners, which can often lead to goals, or at the least, goalscoring opportunities. The most accurate crosser of the ball last season was Steven Gerrard, with a surprisingly low 27.4% accuracy. Doesn’t say much for players’ ability to put a good ball in the area! However, Ryan Giggs, Stilian Petrov, El Hadji Diouf, Shorey, Mikel Arteta, Stuart Downing and Bentley all had more crosses to their name, the latter of these players with the most.
On average, Fabregas created a chance for his team every 25.5 minutes he was on the pitch (3.5 chances per game), followed by Gerrard every 27.3 minutes (3.06 per game), then Giggs every 30.6 minutes (2.35 per game), followed by team mate Nani every 30.7 minutes, and then Kalou every 31.8 minutes.
The players who created the most goals for their team were Cesc Fabregas, who provided 23% of Arsenal’s assists, Simon Davies had 22% of Fulham’s assists and Shorey 21% of Reading’s.
Statistics on passing are never as accurate as you’d like them to be, as there’s no indication of the range of passing a player is capable of when looking at their accuracy rates. Some players may include inch perfect 50-yard balls in their game, whilst others might be really good at passing it along the back line, however, we’ll work with what we’ve got.
Paul Scholes was the most accurate passer last season, with an impressive 89.7% success rate. The next most accurate passer in the league was former Arsenal man, Mathieu Flamini, with 86.55% completion, then Rio Ferdinand with 84.8% (which can fall in to the category I was talking about earlier, with 912 of his passes taking place in his own half!), Michael Carrick with 83.22% then Gael Clichy with 83.19%.
Fabregas attempted more passes than any other player, 2318, and still had a very respectable 81.06% completion rate.
Scholes passed the ball, on average, every 1.16 minutes that he played, with Fabregas every 1.23 minutes, followed by Frank Lampard every 1.42 minutes, and John Obi Mikel every 1.44 minutes. This certainly suggests the great speed at which the top 4 clubs are playing their game.
Obviously, there’s no passing, assisting or scoring if the ball isn’t in your team’s possession, and it is typically the central midfielders in each team who take the ball from the opposition.
Nigel Reo-Coker attempted more tackles than any other player, 178, and had an impressive 79.78% success rate. He was followed by Javier Mascherno with 165 attempted tackles and a 75.76% success, then Steed Malbranque with 158 tackles and 75.95% success.
Gael Clichy had the best tackle completion rate, winning 80.67% of the tackles he went in to, 150.
On average, Mascherano attempted a tackle every 13.1 minutes (6.6 tackles per game), Gavin McCann every 17.2 minutes, Reo-Coker every 17.5 minutes (4.94 per game), Wilson Palacios every 17.6 minutes and Steed Malbranque 18 minutes (4.27 per game).
For all the skill and pace we see in the Premiership these days, offered largely by the foreigners we have in the league, there will always be the tougher, more physical, (more dirty), aspect of the game.
Surprisingly, Carlton Cole picked up a disciplinary point, on average, every 16.9 minutes he played last season (an average of 3.61 per game). Less surprisingly, Alan Smith and Kevin Davies picked up a disciplinary point every 21.2 minutes, John Carew every 22.3 minutes (an average of 3.59 points per game), and André Stéphane Bikey every 22.4 minutes.
Tim Cahill picked up 3.91 disciplinary points per game and Papa Bouba Diop every 3.48 per game.
Carew was guilty of fouling, on average, 3.13 times per game played, Cahill 3 times, Kevin Davies 2.97 times, Carlton Cole 2.74 times and Papa Bouba Diop 2.64 times.
The player who fouled the most last season was Carew, with 100 fouls in total. Kevin Davies followed him with 86, Michael Brown with 80 and Smith with 76.
Nicky Butt picked up the most yellow cards, 13, followed by Brown and Diouf with 11. Richard Dunne, Sulley Ali Muntari, Ryan Nelsen had the most red cards to their name, all being sent off twice.
If your team has finished with a draw or a loss, in a game where you thought you were the better side, they’ll be grumbles of “…and we hit the woodwork twice!” Of course, efforts that come back off the posts or crossbar aren’t counted as on shot targets, but there’s something about them which seems so unlucky. If the player had just angled in an inch in one direction, he would have been celebrating a goal.
You might also look to the shots your team had in a game, obviously ruing the missed opportunities, but also using it as a mark of your superiority. Some would call it bad luck (if it’s your team), others would say those players needed to be more clinical (if you’re the ‘lucky’ opposition).
Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, David Bentley and Steven Gerrard might then rightly be called the ‘unluckiest’ players in 2007-2008, all hitting the woodwork four times, more than any other players. Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dean Ashton, Steven Hunt, Robbie Keane, Cesc Fabregas and Steward Downing hit the woodwork three times.
Then there’s the players who were trying to earn their team the points, but failed far too often. Papa Bouba Diop had 46 shots from which he didn’t score, followed by John Arne Riise with 36 shots, then Gary O’Neil with 31.
Some players can get away with murder on the pitch at times, either because of (subconscious?) bias from referees or simply because they aren’t a player that carries a reputation.
In 07-08, Dean Ashton escaped the season without a single yellow card, despite committing 55 fouls (an average of 1.77 fouls a match). Mikael Forssell’s only yellow card of the season whilst on international duty, as in the Premiership, he committed 33 without punishment. Lucas committed 32 fouls without being booked, Mark Viduka got away with 27 fouls and now yellow card, and Peter Crouch with 23.
But what does it all matter, stats prove nothing, right?