Essential reading

Since I started this site an underlying ethos (!) has been that we really shouldn’t be half as certain about things we see on a football pitch as we are.  I’d get into message board arguments over this kind of thing, people taking positions that I felt couldn’t really be justified with any great certainty.   It’s quite hard to have a discussion along these lines and in retrospect probably fairly pointless (but then isn’t all of this?). In any case, football isn’t nearly as obvious as we like to think it is; people make sense of patterns they see but in reality 99% of us are watching the ball 99% of the time and generally see what they want to see anyway.

This article about Mesut Ozil is a great example of the kinds of things I’ve tried to say.

I really recommend it.

One thought on “Essential reading

  1. It is a good piece, albeit the video has been pulled. Even the best players spend over 90% of the time without the ball, some more fruitfully than others, but not always appreciated for it.

    A player will be noticed most for being a vigorous dasher about and closer down when the other side has possession, and (next most likely) a conscientious shower for the ball when possession is regained. And these things do indeed matter. But if he’s been quietly moving to occupy a potentially dangerous space, making a decoy run, or motoring forward and then dropping back suddenly to gain a crucial yard — that’s less blatant. And for heaven sake…a blind-side run may go unnoticed by opponents, teammates and spectators alike! If they are TV viewers it’s probably out of shot anyway.

    The lower the level, the less there of this kind of action to notice (or miss), but at Ozil’s level, there is a bucketload indeed. And all statistically captured by just the single metric of ‘distance travelled.’ That really won’t do.

    You have indeed tried to say this Rich, but ironically have also found yourself tangling with those who allege that you are over-obsessed with stats. Because you look at stats too. A harsh world.

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