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Statistics and Soccer: Moving Beyond Trivia

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With Opta now getting advanced statistics for MLS, things are hopeful, but relatively inactive at this time. Sure, we get an occasional tweet from they or MLS_Analyst with stats. Many of these though are trivia, not analysis, and certainly not predictive.

Certainly this may be due to the nature of twitter. But does this carry meaning yet?

39.9% - Toronto FC have had the highest proportion of attacks on the left side of the pitch in MLS this season (39.9%). Lefty.

Two games? That last statement shouldn't be "Lefty" it should be "#SampleSize" unless there is something more that we aren't seeing.

We see number of passes, number of shots, and more, but for the most part this is not indicative of who should be winning. Instead it is a representation of what has actually happened, regardless of results. Basically, what we've been seeing so far are statistics without meaning.

Thing is the American soccer community has some amazing talent, and can do great things. OnFooty, The Numbers Game, SoccerMetrics, Soccer by the Numbers are doing good stuff, without the fancy component data. We do some decent stuff around these parts too, with Win Probability Added from Graham, sidereal's insight, with Jeremiah and I stumbling through what we do.

But let's be clear about something:

None of us are trying to use these numbers to supplant what we see, but instead to be like HD was to TV, we want to provide more clarity. We want to go beyond the trivial. There is a desire to capture the game in more meaningful manners, and ideally to look forward and see what is likely to happen.

While many in the greater soccer community get into the blogosphere by being culturists, or interviewers, or tactical analysts, the world of the soccer statistical analyst is still raw in the public sphere. Howard Hamilton wrote many weeks ago about the proprietary nature of advance statistics in soccer. That isn't the core of the problem though.

The core of the issue is that too many soccer fans think the sport is beyond analysis. Which it clearly is not. It is a game operating under certain rules where players have specific abilities and skills. All other games of this sort can be judged analytically.

Soccer can too.

Let's get beyond the trivial, and look at the meaningful.

While the score-line is a great way to show who actually won. It will never tell us WHY they won. Here, and else where, we will continue to look deeper, to explain more fully, hopefully with greater access to the Opta/MLS partnership, but that isn't necessary to do so.

We'll also do interviews, tactical analysis and some creative pose.