Soccer Statistics: Unsexy, But Invaluable

Soccer Statistics

Soccer is the number one sport in the world. It is the number one sport in participation. It is also the number one sport in viewership. However, one category where soccer is not the king is when it comes to statistics. Baseball rules the roost when it comes to sports statistics. Baseball has long been the go-to sport of the mathematically minded. However, even though soccer stats might not be as exciting as baseball stats, they are just as important.

Baseball Vs. Soccer: The Numbers

Baseball is a game made for numbers. You can easily track dozens of sports for every player. Fans can even fill out their own scorecards when they go to the game. Soccer, though, is all about action. Aside from halftime, the game is pretty much constantly flowing for 90 minutes.

Simple Stats

Baseball has the perfect mix of downtime, and easily quantifiable accomplishments, to attract the casual statistician. There is plenty of time that needs to be filled between innings, between batters, and even between pitches. Numbers do a good job of plugging those gaps.

With soccer, on the other hand, things are always happening. Trying to follow along with both the game itself and the statistics of the game can be quite difficult. It is easy to follow a player’s goals or assists in a match. However, it gets challenging when you get far beyond that.

When setting up a corner kick or the ball is drifting around in the backfield, they can throw a stat on the screen, or the commentators mention how a player has had seven shots in the game, and three of them were shots on goal. Without these little moments, you are unlikely to be able to follow those stats during gameplay.

Complex Stats

While baseball has far more simple stats than soccer, they are much closer to even when it comes to complex stats. For the most part, these are the numbers that really matter. It is in the complex numbers where the most beneficial analytics are often found.

The distance a player travels during the course of a game may not be a stat that anyone accurately follows without advanced technology. However, it is certainly important when trying to truly evaluate a player. The same is true of determining the range of a fielder in baseball.

Simpler statistics do have their importance. Without looking at the more complex statistics as well, though, you are missing at least half the picture.

Misleading Statistics

Don’t misunderstand. Goals, assists, and saves are very important statistics, but they certainly don’t tell the whole story. You can’t judge a defensive midfielder on any of these stats. They may get a few goals or assists, but that is not their primary job on the pitch. The defensive mid is focused on spreading the ball around, maintaining control of the ball, pushing the action downfield, and keeping the pressure off of the goalkeeper.

Some of the important stats for a defensive midfielder are the number of times they touch the ball in the game, the effectiveness of their first touch, the ground they cover, and passing accuracy.

Scoring goals is how you win games, and the assists that set those goals up are often key. However, without the opportunities that are set up by the players in the backfield, even a great forward is going to have very few goals on a season. The forward with the most goals is not necessarily the best forward. They might just have the best pieces around them.

The Rise of Analytics

While businesses have been using analytics for several decades to evaluate the importance of different features and guide the way they operate, sports came to the table only recently. However, even in the short time that analytics have been given serious consideration in sports, they have changed the games drastically.

There are many old-school minds in sports who refuse to acknowledge the usefulness of analytics. However, they are starting to shift into the minority as people see analytics helping to boost franchises putting them to use.

Sports analytics has become a booming business, and many companies are compiling enormous amounts of data. In order to properly evaluate what factors make a player truly valuable, soccer clubs need to consult a soccer player statistics database so that they can see how a player’s individual performance in each category compares to other players in the same position.

They also need to use this information to assess how much of a player’s success is due to their individual performance and how much is a result of the players around them, both teammates and opponents.

Evaluating the statistical worth of a player is much more difficult in soccer than it is in baseball. Individual matchups don’t mean nearly as much in soccer as they do in baseball. The primary battle in a game of baseball is a pitcher versus a batter. Sometimes the batter deserves to win the matchup but loses due to an incredible play by a defender. Similarly, sometimes a pitcher deserves to win but falls short due to a defensive blunder.

For the most part, though, the battle is between pitcher and batter.

With soccer, it is a completely different story. While some players are in direct conflict with certain other players more often, every player is much more drastically impacted by the play of every one of the other 21 players on the pitch.

You aren’t likely to see a ton of pretty numbers on the sports page when looking at a soccer result. However, the numbers are there. Behind every word. Their importance can not be overstated. Every day they are being evaluated, and informed decisions are being made by clubs based on these numbers. Numbers that could mean a championship.




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