Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Power of Goals' 2011 Best Sellers.

Although this blog has only seen the light of day since August 2011 the majority of the postings are based on research and an unhealthy infatuation with football/soccer statistics stretching back over a decade.Indeed some of the musing here have been floating around the more obscure nooks and crannies that make up the football usenet/internet/forums for some considerable time,usually under one of my many assumed aliases.Much of the credit for the recent explosion in statistically based football blogs must go across the pond to the US,where stats and sport have gone hand in hand for a considerable time,most notably in the areas of baseball and latterly the NFL.Indeed had the rich,millionaire sportsmen of the NFL not threatened strike action unless they were made even richer,I would still be churning out NFL stats and predictions and this site would still be a fragmented mess in cyberspace.The NFL's continued procrastination led directly to me diverting my efforts from American Football to just plain Football.

The internet is a marvellous way to get ideas out to masses of diverse audiences,so hopefully this blog goes some way to nailing the oft repeated mantra that "The Brits" aren't interested in/don't want to see/don't understand football with a statistical twist.We've actually been beavering away at the subject for some considerable time.

Anyway,here's a round up of the most read posts that have appeared on this site in it's short life.

Number One.
Stoke City.An Extraordinary Premiership Team.
Although this blog isn't specifically about Stoke City,it's fairly obvious that the author is a Stoke fan and has been for 30+ years,so quite naturally many of the posts do revolve around The Potters,although I do try to remain scrupulously print at least.This is the post that really launched the blog.The site was being visited by the odd spambot and very little else until this link was posted to the popular Stoke fanzine website The Oatcake ,where upon visitor numbers suddenly shot to 100+ an hour.It was picked up on Twitter,ESPN,various daily newspapers and radio and return visitors has been steady and very welcome.The post outlines how Stoke have remained comfortably midtable throughout their 3 and a half season in the EPL despite,initially at least a hugely inferior squad compared to virtually every other established EPL team.The media caricature of The Potters as seven foot bullies who welly the ball into orbit at every opportunity was clearly wrong.Indeed it would be absolutely astonishing if a team could continually survive the EPL year on  year through that tactic alone.If you actually delve into the statistics it becomes obvious that Stoke are extremely adept at topping the statistical indicators that give them an excellent chance to maximise their points total.Few EPL managers can be describe as tactically astute,but like it or not Tony Pulis is one.

Number Two.
Penalty Kicks in the EPL.
For dramatic set pieces football has no equal and a penalty kick is as dramatic as it gets.Despite the widely held view that the bigger teams are disproportionately rewarded with more penalties than they deserve....they're not.As this post illustrates.

Number Three.
Predicting and Explaining.How to use Statistics in Soccer.
The popularity of this inconsequential little post indicates the heightened popularity of the subject of statistical analysis in football.Overturning one ingrained and largely fallacious orthodoxy is a laudable aim,but replacing it with a random pattern of events contained in a minute sample size and presenting it as the new truth is just as bad.

Number Four.
Chelsea's Fool's Errand.Clean Sheets in the EPL Part Two.
The internet has given anyone a voice on any subject and Mike Forde gave a tantalising insight into how stats are being used by EPL teams such as Chelsea with this nugget of information that clean sheets are more important than goals scored in determining league position.But does that slightly counter intuitive conclusion hold for all teams from cash rich Chelsea all the way down to lowly Bolton.This post begs to differ.If you can afford all the best weapons shouldn't you be using them more,not less? Part one is here.

Number Five.
Shot Conversion Rates.
One of the challenges of analysing sporting statistics is to differentiate between short term,non repeating random sequences and longer term,much more consistent attributes that are league wide and persist in larger sample sizes.Match statistics can be skewed by the situations that arise in those matches and as with shot conversion rates,teams can produce seemingly abnormal figures simply because random chance has presented them with an unusual set of circumstances to play under.

Number Six.
Tottenham 1 PAOK Salonika 2 or Does Football Really Want/Need Six Officials?
One of the mainstays of the site are the Expected Points Graphs which track the win and draw probabilities of each team throughout the course of a match.The graphs are team specific and aren't simply the average conglomeration of match positions taken from historical data.Hopefully it's obvious that Stoke's chances of holding onto a 70th minute one goal lead is different away to Blackburn compared to away at Manchester United (should this scenario ever need to be charted) and the EP Graphs fully reflect this difference.

Number Seven and Eight.
EPL Referees Appear To Show Disproportionately More Red Cards To the Away Side.
and Red Cards and the Big Four.
Red cards are the second great piece of theatre as well as being a potentially massive game changer and the expected points graphs again account for their occurrence.For once the widely held view that referees tend to try to please the home fans is partly borne out by the numbers and the next post shows how badly behaved the top sides would be if they weren't quite as good as they are.

Number Nine.
How Well Do Team Statistics Persist Over a Season.
Another post whose popularity reflects the interest in statistical analysis of football with the danger of identifying random patterns as persistent trends again to the fore.

Number Ten.
The Continued Stoke/Tottenham Fallout or why Spurs are still in "Sir" Chris Foy's Debt.
Another post that made it to the national press and an illustration of how the Expected Points Graphs can be utilised to investigate different scenarios for controversial decisions that are made during a game.

Feel free to browse/agree with/disagree with any or all of the posts or suggest any reciprocal links.Here's to stirring the analytical pot in 2012!!

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