Statistics and Perspective

One of the lead stories on The Independent’s website is currently “Steve Gerrard: Everton are like Stoke, all they do is play the ball long”. The piece has the sub heading of “We were only team in derby trying to play, says Liverpool captain, but stats suggest otherwise”.

The writer then goes on to show why Gerrard is wrong, and at the bottom includes selected match stats under the title of “Dubious Derby Claim”. Amongst these are the figures for ‘Long Passes Attempted’, which they have as 47 by each side.

So Liverpool’s captain must be wrong in his assertion that the Blues are a long-ball side. Or so I thought until I checked the match numbers with EPLIndex.

Their figures show that the number of long balls attempted was 55 by Everton and 46 by Liverpool. Whilst this is not a huge difference, considering that The Independent are trying to say that Gerrard was talking rubbish about Everton being a long-ball side, it’s a pretty important one. It also clearly calls into question where The Independent get their stats from, as EPLIndex obtain theirs directly from Opta.

In their efforts to prove Gerrard wrong, the article goes on to state:

“Everton…also had more possession, more chances and committed fewer fouls”.

Er, Everton were also at home! I have reviewed the stats from last season via WhoScored, so that they represent an equal number of home and away matches where every team has played each other, and every single team averaged more possession and more shots at home than they did away, and only eight sides committed more fouls on their own patch, so it’s hardly that much of a surprise that Everton were better on the above three metrics on Sunday.

It’s also hugely important to remember that the Toffees have an average age of 25.92 in the league this season (so approaching 27, which is recognised as a player’s peak) and have had the same manager for over a decade, whilst the Reds (who have the youngest average age in the division at 23.5, and fielded three teenage derby debutants at the weekend) have a new manager who is trying to mould a new team together. Is there any surprise that Everton dominated the match in view of these figures?

A classic case of ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ from The Independent there, then. Though looking at their long ball stats, it maybe could be described simply as ‘lies’.

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2 thoughts on “Statistics and Perspective

  1. You compare the total number of long passes attempted, but don’t compare how many passes each team made. Everton might have attempted more long passes, but they also made more passes, which results in them actually attempted fewer long passes percentage-wise.

    • You’re quite correct. I’ve checked, and Everton played 13.8% of their passes long compared to Liverpool’s 14.6%. Interesting!
      The fact remains though that The Independent didn’t mention this, and used inaccurate numbers to state their claim.
      Thanks for reading.

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