Denglischer Fussball is a comment blog on German and English football written and edited by Kit Holden. It was born in January 2011.
The excellent Vampy Archer is our fourth guest writer this month. With another titular homage to a great record from the late seventies, he takes a look at how stats can change some immediate perceptions, and how some highly rated players suffer as a result.
The big-bang explosion of the sport, mainly football, blogosphere in recent past gave the number of platforms where one could read about their favorite leagues, teams, and players. It didn’t just stop there, as some creative minds weaved a web of statistics and completely revolutionized this football universe like never before. With the help of those stats, we started looking at things from completely different angles .
This paved a way for a school of thought to emerge which, when asked about differentiating ‘good players’ from ‘bad players’, would give you a comprehensive break-down of the strengths and weaknesses of the players with the help of mind-numbingly precise figures.
Nowadays, the tracking of players throughout the matches to gain information like which player made the most clearances and which player performed the most of the dribbles in a match offers a completely different dimension to judge a player before giving a final opinion about him. A certain player could be a ‘not worth it’ for an average Joe just because he doesn’t like that player but, for some in-the-know statistician, that very player might be a gem because of what he offers on the pitch throughout ninety minutes
It is through the evolution of stats in sports — and the approval of the very doctrine — that a keeper like Sven Ulreich gains plaudits every now and then despite the common belief that Neuer, ter-Stegen, and Leno are the top goalies - even in the presence of Bundesliga veterans like Tim Wiese, Roman Weidenfeller and to some extent Diego Benaglio. If you ask me, then on his day, Sven Ulreich frequently batters them all.
Immanent conception around some players plays a crucial role when it comes to rating them. The only downfall or probable conclusion to that unanimous perception is this: either those players are highly-rated, or they are just over-rated. A few years back, we had some players coming out of youth-systems in the Bundesliga who we thought would be ‘next big thing’. Take Marko Marin. He was next big thing then and he is the next big thing now. Intriguingly, he is also still 22 years old — a curious object for Gerontology because he isn’t aging at all. It’s like he’s been here forever. He is to the Bundesliga what Lady Galadriel was to Lothlorien.
No stats backed him up, then; no stats back him up, now. In fact, it was the subjective analysis of the people who, in awe of his Messi-esque abilities and glimpses of techniques tagged him as an upcoming star. People saw him play and fell victim to the very common trap that those people who praised him right were probably kind of right, so let’s big him up together. And here we are: Marko Marin, in coming 3-4 years, would be a player to watch — right where we started a few years ago. He hasn’t hit his “potential” yet. He can but it’s like his “potential” has got stuck somewhere. Maybe it’s in Middle Earth. For now. No one knows for sure about whether he really could be a star in future or not. For now. He is over-rated. For now.
On the other hand, we also had a player in Bundesliga named Özil, who came from the very same youth set-ups of our previously discussed usual suspect. If there are players whose learning-curves have exponentially been moving with 45 degrees angle then Özil is one of them. His stats backed him up then and his stats back him up now. Only a year in Madrid and he is a completely different player and one of Europe’s most improved players. Evolved. Rest is history, etc.
When judging a player, we often use at bizarre criteria to really judge them; with some factors like: How cool or hot is his girlfriend? How cool or hot is he himself? Does he sport the coolest hairdo around? Does he dribble like Messi or does he moan like Ronaldo? Bullshit this and bullshit that. The thing is; you have to draw the parallel lines. You have to have balance. As humans, we have embraced every other advancement and equation that has come our way so here’s for hoping that we would all add a bit of balance to the old subjective formula, and accept the following one instead:
Immanent conception + bullshit this + bullshit that + STATS = judging the players.
This formula doesn’t apply if you’re Sepp Blatter.
I also do hope that you the reader will read between the lines in the paragraph above the formula, as I don’t necessarily want to elaborate on it. I mean, I am not cleaning your plate after all, am I?