Crazy Stats Are Crazy

[note: just moved this back to the top because of the discussion it’s generated – Rich]

Crazy stat alert: we out-passed Manchester City on Saturday.

No, I’m not grasping at straws. And yes, one can easily nuance that point away (weather stunk so the passes were short and ‘easy’, we were chasing the game, City was more than willing to play 10 men behind the ball), but still, the stat remains: we out-passed City, the team that almost attempted 1000 passes in a game. At the Etihad. Wow!

Just compare the stats of Saturday’s match to City’s victory over Stoke in December. May be comparing apples and zebras, but both matches ended 3-0 with City scoring two goals in the first half.

The passing breakdown is as so:

Stoke: 316/223/93 70%
City: 968/871/96 89%

Fulham: 618/532/86 86%
City: 547/466/80 85%

City attempted about 57% (313) of their passes in the first half, so it’s not like they just parked the bus in the second half and let us run rampant in the middle of the field. We only attempted about 50% (311) in the second half.

[ed. note: sorry, forgot to include the art!]

Also, for what its worth, keep in mind that last season at City we completed about 73% of our passes (while attempting less passes, 472). In 2009-10 it was 72% (412 attempted). Hmm.

What I glean from this is that Jol’s workings are, well, clearly in the works. If we had any degree of an end product (perhaps in the form of a recognized striker?) they’ll actually be working.

So it may be easy to look at the 3-0 result with lamentation and disdain. But there’s much, much more to it than meets the score sheet.

Saturday against Stoke should be interesting.

27 thoughts on “Crazy Stats Are Crazy

  1. I think Stoke are the team with the least number of successful passes in the premier league, so I have no doubt we will out pass them.

    The question is whether or not we will win. Foy loves dishing out the cards, so hopefully he helps us out. The players HAVE to turn up though, no excuses.

  2. Nice piece. Look at all those red arrows into the box from the wings. Based solely on youtube footage of Pogrebnyak — which seemed to show a striker who likes to make late runs into the box to score with his head or scrappily on the ground — I’m gaining in confidence.

  3. I admire your players for gving it their ultimate best and the same cannot be said for clubs like Everton and Liverpool, don’t get carried away for we allowed you way to much space in the second half and on any other day we would have humiliated you almost as much as we did United by 6 goals.

    Our players were tired and that is no excuse, Silva and Aguero have played almost every single game this season, as have Barry, Hart, Richards, Nasri and Dzeko.

    We were also missing one of our best passers in the game aka Yaya Toure, being in our top three.

    Best of luck for the rest of the season.

  4. Means f-all if all those passes can’t lead to goals. Look at all the clusters of passes, they are in the wrong areas of the pitch.

    Against West Brom we made 718 passes (!) with only 3 shots on target created as a result. All the clusters were in our own half of the pitch.

    Compare with Newcastle – 399 passes – 5 goals
    QPR – 487 passes – 6 goals.

    Think I know what system better suits our current squad..

    1. Well, it’s probably no secret we’re building toward something. So, at this stage, I would very much like to see us making 718 passes or outpassing the future title winners at their park. Rather than playing a style that does nothing long term for the club but gets results here and now.

      I think that will be Hughes’ legacy. Yes, he was only here for 11 or so months, but are any of us going to remember him in a few years time? Will he have left *any* impact?

  5. You can’t seriously say we’re a counter attacking team, Alex. Newcastle wasn’t a masterclass in anythign other than being battered; I’d have been far happier had we had the ball in the first half rather than them.

    Sometimes you do the right things but don’t get the right outcomes, but only by trusting in doing those right things will you prevail in the end.

    True, City had early goals and were happy enough to let us play in front of them but this isn’t some random possession fluke, we are a good team with the ball, we just (usually) lack the means to create space and attack with pace. These are the missing links that are currently stopping us from being quite good, and with Ruiz’s creativity and Dembele’s all around attacking game I think we’re on the verge of something.

  6. Of course this was possibly because they are missing their midfield maestro Yaya toutre but it’s all about being clinical look at the liverpool match city had 30 % possession but won by 3 nil.

  7. We were a direct, counter-attacking team and this was the style the majority of our current squad were used to playing under Roy and Mark. A style that brought us success. This style of play can be highly effective against certain teams. It works when you have a limited squad of players – see Stoke, Sunderland, Norwich. But as you’ve both pointed out its not a long term solution for the club. I agree with this.

    My point is we’re still playing with Roy and Mark’s squad and I believe they’re more likely to score goals in a 4-4-2 than they are in Jol’s set up as they still haven’t come to terms with how Jol wants them to play.

    718 passes means nothing unless at least a small percentage of them create decent goal scoring opportunities. At the moment they don’t. Yes it looks good to have out passed City but bear in mind we have been out-passed by Norwich, Swansea, Wigan and Wolves this season.

    If you want an example of how Jol’s system should be played – go watch Swansea play football. They play from the back, out pass teams like Arsenal and put 3 goals in against them.

    If it weren’t for the results against QPR and Newcastle our goal difference would be the 5th worst in the league…

    I do agree with the right additions to the squad we are better going forward under Jol’s system. But at the moment we’re still playing with last years team. I guess I’m just worried none of Jol’s signings appear to be competing for places with our old squad at the moment. Dembele and Dempsey are currently our two best players and they are from past regimes. Bryan is getting there but still short of making the different at the moment (his only match winning performance to date is Bolton at home, goal and assist). Kasami hasn’t played in heck knows how long. Frei (old regime but I see him as Jols) – has been benched since Blackburn away. Gecov (24 years of age) hasn’t played 90mins yet. Grygera – injured. Riise – getting better, but still v disappointing.

    1. Hughes made us more direct, but under Hodgson we were anything but. We out passed Arsenal home and away under Roy and our home performances were built upon careful buildup.

      When Hughes came in, he wanted us to play a more direct, pressing game and our players could not cope, especially without Zamora. At xmas we were looking like a decent bet to go down but the team changed to play more like Hodgsons side and we were better. By the end of the season, Hughes had started to implement his more direct style but his input last season has been wiped away now.

      This season has not been exciting, but I still think we are building something, based on passing football. Our lack of cutting edge has been in part down to having forwards who are not suited to the passing game – Zamora was great for holding up the ball, but severely lacked the movement that a striker at the top of a passing 4-2-3-1 requires. Andy Johnson is not good enough at holding up the ball and passing, even if his movement is better. I think Sa has looked the best up front in our new system, and would like to see him play there more.

      1. as usual I quite agree. I might stop bothering with football and just read what you write. Save me a few hundred quid a year. But yes, Roy Hodgson counter attacking? Nah. Roy believed in a compressed team shape so we attacked as a team and defended as a team, everyone quite close together. Roy couldn’t have played on the counter as it’d have messed up defensive transitions being that stretched.

      2. Great post. We were not counter-attacking under either of our last two managers. We simply did not have the pace to pull that off. And you are right about Hughes reverting to Hodgson’s style the previous year.

        You are also right about Zamora and his movement. As I wrote above, based solely on youtube videos, I am a quietly confident that Pogrebnyak (while slow) may provide what we need up top. With a ridiculously talented attacking trio of Dempsey, Dembele and Ruiz behind him, I think goals will come, though I’m concerned that we don’t have fullbacks truly capable of overlapping on either flank, which makes us rather predictable, irrespective of those three.

        1. The fullback problem is a good point. Under Hodgson they gave us the width we lacked with two inverted wingers, but we have struggled this season to get them involved.

          I still think Riise is good enough, and Kelly has his moments, but these are obvious areas for improvement. Young, pacy full-backs brought in the summer could make a huge difference.

            1. Yep. I think we’d see a massive improvement. I think we’re almost there as a side. But we need that extra spark down the wings that the full backs can provide when Dempsey, Dembele and Ruiz are weaving their magic. Otherwise we are too predictable and susceptible to being squeezed into the middle of the pitch.

              This is the one area I really want us to concentrate on this summer (well, in addition to retaining Dempsey and Dembele).

  8. I think the Man City stats exemplify our greatest failure this season. We are too ponderous with the ball, and by the time we’ve arrived outside the oppositions box they have 10 men behind the ball, and we are forced to pass it around the box or even pass it backwards.

    I want us to play like Swansea, but if you watch Swansea the key difference between them and us is not pace, it is movement. In going forward we are far too static, there aren’t enough runs being made. I think having Zamora as a striker didn’t help as he just didn’t make runs.
    I think Kelly has done okay going forward but Riise has been poor. It’s a rarity that he actually gets a cross in, to often he delays too long and has to pass backwards.

  9. Yes, Swansea are better at this style than us. Wanna know why though?

    Brendan Rogers’ tenure at Swansea: 1 year 7 months.

    Jol’s tenure at Fulham: 8 months.

    1. I would add to that – Previous two managers: Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa.

      Both managers who like to play pass and move football.

      Building a passing team takes way more time than building a team that plays direct. With pass and move football, players have to think much more. Fluid, quick, passing football does not happen overnight, and it does not happen when a team has a high average age and new players are being brought in.

      Swansea have had a consistent style since Martinez joined them in 2007. That is 5 years of the same type of football, with many of the same key personnel (Britton). In that time, Fulham have had 4 managers – Sanchez (direct and awful), Hodgson (defensive and structured), Hughes (more direct and more attacking), Jol (pass and move, albeit not yet very well).

  10. I was just about to make the comment about Martinez and Sousa. Certainly it’s taken Swansea time to refine that passing game. It’s also partly down to the right player being purchased.
    However, I feel both that we have the players to play the passing game better than we have been – perhaps with less success than Swansea due to our lack of place – and I also feel that the pass and move game is something we could’ve improved on by this point. We have seen glimpses of this game working well, against Spurs in particular.
    I think that player power is a problem, with more senior players unwilling to change the way they play.
    There’s some very simple and certainly enactable changes to our tactics that would help.
    (1) sticking to one touch football when possible, (2) players playing closer together so we can play with little triangles to keep possession, (3) avoiding playing the long ball unless there’s no other option. Hangeland and Senderos are particularly guilty of looking for the long ball whenever they have possession, this only really works when you have pacy players on the wing. These are all things we can work on in training.

  11. When I saw that Swansea had picked up Sigurdsson I was gutted, but since then have realised that he worked with Rodgers at Reading. Lovely pickup and I think they’re going to thrive. When they establish themselves and bring in some money they can only get better.

    1. Glad you bumped this post up. It’s a very interesting discussion.

      Sigurdsson was an absolutely brilliant signing. Amazing that there wasn’t major competition for his signature, judging by the lack of press about the move. Very clever move on his part as well. Clearly recognizes that his manager and the style can get the best out of him.

      I just don’t know where our Murphy replacement is coming from. Would love to see more of Gecov and Kasami to get a sense of their qualities. Would also love to see more of Baird in central midfield.

      1. Sigurosson is only on loan atm, because Hoffenheim want him to ‘regain some form’. So will be back off there in the summer.

        However, it looks as though Hoffenheim want to sell him, so he may be available on the open market. He will no doubt end up back at Swansea but there might just be a chance to grab him.. lets hope so.

      2. Gecov was only on for a few minutes, but didn’t misplace a single pass (11-for-11), so, there’s that!

        Another CRAZY STAT BEING CRAZY*: Both Marcel Gecov and Steven Davis share the same birth day. Yet, Davis is 3 years older, and was 22 when signed and starting.

        Yet, we think of Gecov as this young blue chip that’s still raw. Did we ever of Davis as being too young or inexperienced? Don’t fully remember, but don’t believe so.

        *wanted to make this a post but never got around to it. crazy though!

        1. I like Gecov but want some evidence that he can contribute in the attacking third. Looks like a nice neat footballer though.

          (I think a lot of people saw the promise in Davis but realised that we didn’t play to his strengths. I’m surprised Hodgson let him go though).

          1. Agree. The whole situation was strange. He was not designed to play in a Sanchez team but seemed to me to be designed for a Hodgson one. My sense is that Hodgson Just doesn’t trust youth.

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