How Statistics Are Blinding Spectators

Many components have contributed to the beautification of the game of football, increasing level of participation, creating a cordial rapport between spectators and the sport. However, there have been constant dents to the authenticity of examining these beauties which has raised questions regarding how much players and fans get from the game.

One of these dents include the use of statistics in defining the attributes of players. Many footballers today are judged based on figures rather than the traditional system of on-field contributions. Today, we examine how much impacts this method of analysis has on how players are seen.

Why some players are getting the boot even when it seems like they have been unfairly criticized and what has contributed to the newly adopted player evaluation system.

The Essence of Statistics

Statistics became a fundamental part of match, team-play and player analysis since its emergence in the early 2000s. Going forward, it was successfully adopted as a system of quantifying individual contributions, squad performances and team comparisons.

However, since its introduction, statistics has only increased the pressurizing atmosphere players and managers find themselves in. Spectators excessive use of technological devices like smart phones to track a player’s progress or potential traits, analyzing his or her adaptability to team temperatures often times feel like it is a step forward in understanding the game.

As much as it sounds like a positive step towards achieving a complete understanding of the sport, it is not. According to Pep Guardiola, the use of analytically generated figures to judge a player’s performance is harming the beautification of the sport.

“There are players that make the team play good, but they are not in the statistics, statistics never existed before. It is a problem in the real world, not just in football. The players are just [concerned about] ‘how many goals did I score? How many assists?”

In his defence, Pep believes the game is now rigid due to the enormous pressure on players to ensure they have a perfect rating score after the full-time whistle. This is reducing the level of excitements generated from the game and limiting players creativity, forcing on them the impression of a perfect rating.

Fans and Media Use of Stats in Defining Players

After 90 minutes, the modern footballer has to undergo strenuous processes of assessments. Fans analyzing and rating player performances based on how many goals a player scores, how many assists provided, passes completed, shots stopped, clean sheets and lots more may also be affecting how majority watch the game.

Believing that if a striker from my team does not average a certain number of goals per season, then he has flopped and must immediately be replaced is an inaccurate way to see it. Even though some players come into a team with high expectations and a huge transfer fee, it is still is essential to analyze their contributions to the success of a team – which goes beyond their primary assignment – before criticizing.

Sadly, many pundits today analyze players by their figures rather than how they enhance the situation of their team. This is not only restricting players improvement but also distracting them from essentials which is encompassed by a team’s collective objective and in some cases, steering selfishness among teammates.

After a 3-1 Manchester derby defeat for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in 2018, he reiterated to the media the need to see the game from a “pitch” perspective.

“…when I analyze the game today, I think the difference was, you can go for stats. That’s the way people that don’t understand football analyze football, with stats.”

“I don’t go for stats. I go for what I felt and I watch in the game and the game was there until minute 80-something. So, I consider the performance of my team a performance with mistakes. It’s different than a bad performance. One thing is a bad performance another thing is a performance with mistakes.”

“We made mistakes, we were punished by these mistakes, but the performance, the mentality, the togetherness, the belief, the fight until the end was something that we are building and we are not going to lose that because of a defeat.”

The Future of Player Ratings

Football is sadly approaching an age where a player does not have to play well to win awards or trophies. The mentality of a good number of modern spectators is based on the need for their team to play with accuracy, thereby eliminating the presence of flair in the game.

Player ratings have extremely corroborated the idea many have about a good player today. An average performer in a top club is poised to hold a better match rating than the star of smaller club when his team comes out victorious.

However, what many fail to notice is the performance of a top player from the small club, since he is on the losing side. The 2022 Ballon d’Or winner, Karim Benzema believes football is approaching an age where players are no longer faulted for their mistakes appropriately. Speaking about eventually winning the Ballon d’Or:

“Apart from the statistics, besides scoring more goals, I don’t see what has changed in my football. I’m still the same player, we no longer bother to look at what a guy does on the pitch, just who has scored. And the next day, we consider him the best.”

“It’s happened to me: If I don’t play a good game but I score, then they see me as the best. I don’t really like this type of football, but it will be more and more like that. It has become a sport in which you look at the statistics.”

“When I play, I try to respect football. For example, I can’t shoot if I don’t have an angle when there is an unmarked teammate. I’m going to pass the ball to him. I don’t think: ‘Ah, but possibly I’m going to score.’ Everyone has their way to watch football, but I try to go in the right direction.. I try to make others better”.

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  1. Wow, this is an eye-opening piece. I personally believe that the playing environment is getting too stiff and stats are boring the game.

  2. Very interesting take and I think you’ve made some intriguing points. As someone who enjoys data in football, I think that it is still has a place in the game. You’ve rightly pointed out the negatives, but there are some great positives too when providing context to statistics.
    Neverthless great piece, David. I enjoyed that.
    I’m looking forward to your next one.


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