Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

We have that within which passes show

Posted by hakanrylander on February 9, 2009

On the face of it the game against West Ham yesterday was decided by a piece of individual brilliance by Ryan Giggs, while at the other end Carlton Cole failed to take a couple of chances. But as I was curious to find some underlying factor that made the difference between the teams I crunched the numbers in The Guardian’s excellent chalkboards. For what it’s worth, this is what I came up with:

In general there was very little, if anything, too chose between the sides except for one area; the completion rate of passes. United’s six midfielders and attackers hit 270 passes and missed 13,3% of them, while the West Ham front six hit 261 passes and missed 15,7%. Maybe not a big difference, but even more interesting was that three players stood out. Carrick missed only 3 passes out of 49, Scholes missed only 2 out of 58 and Tevez didn’t mishit a single of his 28 passes. The other United players, as well as all WH players were significantly more wasteful. I was surprised because I thought Scholes had a good game but that both Carrick and Tevez were below par.

So does this numbercrunching has any relevance as an explanation for the outcome of the game? Remember the build-up to the goal. WH loose the ball in midfield to Scholes who finds Giggs in space with a long cross-field pass. A coincidence?

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3 Responses to “We have that within which passes show”

  1. Increadible “tool” or feature or pasttime, whatever you use it for. It gives a lot of food for thought and can certainly backup some arguments. Fortunately it does not take several varables into account. The missed an successful passes for instance is obviously dependent on other stuff like the amount of time you get with the ball before you have to deliver it and how eager your teammates are to get the ball and also what kind of passes the player tries to pull off.

    But that is the beauty of the game isn’t it? The shortcoming of stats to fully explain the game.
    Could also be why the Americans fail to appreciate it šŸ™‚

  2. Hakan said

    By picking and choosing among all the numbers you could, as often with statistics, prove almost anything. After a second look at the chalkboards I still find it interesting that WH’s central midfield, Parker and Noble, missed a lot more passes (14) than Scholes and Carrick (5). Each of those misses is an opportunity for the opposition to create something. It’s stretching it too far to claim that this decided the game, but maybe it hints at a factor with some relevance.
    Then again, if I look at the numbers from a slightly different angle I can see no significant difference in the excellence of passing of the two sides. Anyway, it’s great fun!
    You’re absolutely right that different players try different kinds of passes. Ronaldo missed 12 and Berbatov 9, which isn’t surprising as both of them often try the difficult pass.

  3. Hakan said

    Rob Smyth of the Guardian takes a chalkboard look at Scholes against WH here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2009/feb/08/rob-smyth-weekend-chalkboards
    “At Upton Park he had his obligatory pass-completion rate in excess of 90 per cent, but while that is mainly a consequence of his obvious technical excellence, it’s also because he plays it increasingly safe.”

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