Gone fishing: Fulham looking for chance creators

There’s a story, in his first autobiography I think, how Sir Alex Ferguson sold Jaap Stam in part because his tackling stats were declining. Then someone pointed out that Paulo Maldini’s tackling stats were non-existent. The lesson learned here is that using tackling numbers to evaluate defenders doesn’t really tell you much. It feels like it should, but the best defenders rarely have to tackle. Defending is about so much more.

Then remember when Liverpool were taken over by the owners of the Boston Red Sox. They had a director of football who had read Moneyball and proceeded to buy Andy Carroll (£35m), the most dominant aerial presence in the Premier League, but also Jordan Henderson (£16m), Charlie Adam (£7m) and Stewart Downing (£20m), who between them had created 239 chances the season before, a dominant number that suggested Liverpool would probably go bananas the next season. They didn’t, and the signings were widely regarded as a letdown. Sure, Henderson has come good, but was actually made available to Fulham soon after signing.


Fulham have signed one of these players, been strongly linked with another, and are rumoured to have ‘done dealed’ a third.

Is this what Fulham mean by taking an analytical approach to recruitment?  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, just observing.

10 thoughts on “Gone fishing: Fulham looking for chance creators

  1. Implication taken, but there’s also the “observation” you get by watching matches. I was at Birmingham in the autumn and after a few minutes my neighbour and I were agreeing that their right winger stood out. A few minutes later he scored a peach. He continued to look best player on pitch for an hour, then faded. For the return I told my Fulham neighbour to watch out for Cotterill. He soon scored and continued to shine, putting in quality ball after quality ball. Pritchard also looked hot stuff when we played them. So did Pringle, whose service ought (ask anyone present) to have seen Rotherham well in the lead by half-time, ludicrous that they weren’t.

    We can’t attract players at the level we could before, but had we gone for proven Championship performers this time last year (as so many of us — not all — were advocating) we’d surely have done better for ourselves. Not a policy I’m about to fault now.

      1. Appreciated. What it may come down to actually is that it is easier to identify targets at Championship level. Anyone super stellar gets snapped up by a prem club, but of the rest, the same ones that impress the naked eye generally shine in the stats too and are straightforwardly desirable.

        The one we went for last year, at the most expensive end of the scale, could hardly have done better, and it’s a crying shame it was just the one. The kinds of Championship proven centre-halves we have been rumoured to be going for now would have been much keener to come here then.

        1. it’s an interesting point. I always think of this as Robert Earnshaw territory, and might post on this later actually. Essentially players who are very good in the Championship but who aren’t quite there for the Premiership, unless they play for a promoted club and get a chance to further that journey without having to move. But not many clubs would look at a Ben Pringle and decide he’s the answer, even if they’ll happily spend £7.5m on a Uruguayan equivalent.

          And as for the stats, that may well be the case, doubly so if you’re buying players who are notionally in their primes. It feels quite low risk when you think of things that way.

          1. Just so, all of that (Uruguay included!). Buying players in their prime was something else we weren’t doing enough of last summer — again not said in hindsight.

  2. Minutes per goal or assist in The Champtionship last season for leading midfielders:
    117 Ritchie, 171 LVC, 176 Leadbitter, 194 Pritchard, 218 Cotterill, 235 O’Hara, 276 Ruiz, 285 Cairney, 311 Arter, 326 Pringle

    All the most notable for those among them in lesser teams — of whom, if Cairney finalises, we will have three. Or four if Bryan stays, but you can see how we are trying our best to replace him. And among forwards, McCormack also ranks highly in these stakes (148).

    No guarantees, but at least it’s recruitment that makes sense. For defenders, as you say, stats are less easy to equate with reality. In particular, there was many a Fulham defeat in which whoscored.com assured us that our centre-halves were among the best players on the pitch, since they’d made lots of defensive clearances etc.

    1. yes, exactly. That’s why I think you need to look at a team level then filter accordingly. Why Preston etc look so inviting. You still need to untangle who does what and what’s systemic and what’s individual talent, but this feels like the way to go.

      I wonder if these players will cannibalise one another’s creativity? Presumably there are only so many final balls to be played.

  3. I read, every chance I get, all of your comments…. But the one fundamental thing that unites us is what we hopefully believe in. We are FFC. We are always better than the rest…!

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