Lies, damn lies and football…

…statistics.

When did football become a stats game? I suppose it was with the dawn of the Premier League and the all out way Sky covers games now, look back at the reruns of The Big Match from 1983 on ITV4 and it would be hard to collate much from the three cameras they had at the grounds.

But with every angle covered and teh interweb, football stats have become almost American sports like.

Possession. Possession is king. It’s all Barcelona’s fault, all those games where the other side barely gets a touch the stats fiends are drooling. Only problem is if the possession comes with nothing else, what is the point? Look at Swansea the last couple of games, they had most of the ball against Spurs and completely dominated against Newcastle and came away from the games with nowt but plaudits.

Now I’m not saying they should revert to Sam Allardyce football or airball is it should probably be called – of course this really was the start of football stats dictating play as Charles Reep came up with the long ball idea after studying all the goal stats and found a maximum of three touches was best – but I wouldn’t say they should applaud themselves on just keeping the ball.

In their favour though at least in the those two games they lost they had attempts, it’s just they lack a cutting edge of a decent striker, the complete opposite of Spurs against Sunderland on Saturday. They should have a cutting edge, Adebayor, van der Vaart, Saha and Defoe, it’s just they didn’t create any chances. What really is the point of having 71% of the ball when all you can muster is one attempt on target.

Yes things were made difficult by the hosts as they lined up in their flat back 10 formation. Things also made awkward by the pitch, Martin O’Neill probably thinking of Bale, Lennon, Walker, Modric charging with the ball at their feet might have just told the ground staff to lay off the mower. Bit of longer grass, that’ll slow ‘em down, oh and isn’t there a hosepipe ban. Not conducive to dribbling.

All that being said Spurs didn’t exactly help themselves. With a completely crowded centre of the park what did we find? Gareth Bale hugging the left touchline? I’ll give you three guesses.

Is it ‘Arry or is it the boy himself who is doing this? Either way someone deserves a slap. Last couple of games we’ve seen Bale play more out wide and it’s worked and it’s helped him when he’s decided to come inside. But when he just plays centrally all the time it’s failed and yet while others are shouted at nobody is screaming Gareth… width. So caution ‘Arry tactical genius at work? This game was crying out for it even if conditions for dribbling weren’t the best.

With no width there was also no zip, no life from Spurs – does seem to be a regular occurrence in the early kickoffs – barely seemed interested, bar a couple of players, van der Vaart, Benny and Sandro.

Anyway back to stats and what goes hand in hand with possessions percentage? Passing percentage. Again it’s all that Barcelona lots fault. Xavi and Iniesta keep piling up those 95% games, now with them it leads to greatness in other situations it leads to the worship of mediocrity. And who is the main beneficiary of this worship? Parker.

While Sandro was being slated left right and centre for some poor passing and losing the ball – some saying poor challenges, but only one of them which ultimately say him substituted – Parker was lauded. Oh my god 101 passes out of 108 attempted. But how many of that 101 were of any consequence, how many of any meaning. None. How many of those missed 7 were forward, pretty much all of them. A memorable one in the first half as he performed one of those stupid pirouettes and then just aimlessly humped the ball away. No online slating.

Sandro may have misplaced passes, he may have lost possession but when doing so he was attempting to do something. He was going forward by trying to dribble or pass. He wasn’t just stat padding with 2 yard passes straight back to the player he got the ball from. And when he went off after 65 minutes he had over twice as many tackles as anyone else on the pitch, over three times as many as his central partner, the so called shield. Not bad considering the opposition were defending.

One of those 101 successful passes by Parker summed him up perfectly. The dying seconds everybody is up in the Sunderland half, bar Friedel and one defender, time is ticking down there’s only going to be one more chance, Parker gets the ball on the halfway line, it just needs a lump into the box and a bit of luck but no lets break the hundred mark and pass it back to the ‘keeper. Some will vote him player of the season for that.

So not much of a game report but then with everything, flat back ten, long grass, early kickoff, no life, no goals, no entertainment, that’s your lot.

Sunderland 0 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur

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