Tonight was a very emotional night in Lille. The Champions managed to see off Rennes 3-2 – Moussa Sow with his third hat-trick of the season which saw the Senegalese striker pick up the Trophee du Meilleur Buteur for Ligue 1’s top scorer. Near the end of the game midfielder Yohan Cabaye was replaced by Stephane Dumont. This wasn’t due to a bad performance or a tactical decision it was a chance for Cabaye to say his goodbyes.

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How many times have we all watched a sports match be it Football, Basketball, Golf, and surveying the statistics you can usually put your finger on where the winning team has held the advantage, Basketball matches are usually determined on the highest field goal percentage, In Golf accuracy usually leads to success GIR and FIR (Greens and Fairways in regulation) are very important.

Between myself and some friends the phrase “There’s only one stat that counts, and that’s the one in the top left of the screen!” has become somewhat of a joke statement, somewhat of a put down when trying to defend the losing team. Jose Mourinho’s Inter only had 41% possession in their 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in this year’s Champions League final, Louis van Gaal would have surely swapped the result for the majority of possession; For Inter the 2 goals scored was the only stat that mattered.

Football analysts are obsessed with stats, goals per game ratio, minutes without a goal, possession, shots on target, these all go someway to explain the story of a match, however sometimes no matter how many stats are consulted, they just don’t mirror what has occurred.

Team A and Team B played a match this weekend, one of the teams was on the end of a 4-0 defeat, with such a margin of victory, the stats must surely show the dominance of the winning team.

Both teams were very successful with their passing, Team A attempted 369 passes, only 58 of those did not reach their target, that’s an impressive 84% accuracy, compared to Team B with a similar 47 passes not reaching the intended player however they only attempted 277, that’s equates to 79% on target still a very accurate amount but 5% less than Team A.

Taking 3 players from each team you can see how well Team A passed the ball, their Centre Back did not put a pass out of place, all 42 passes were successful, further up the field their Central Midfielder tried 30 passes, only 2 of them were wayward, and the Striker playing up top, a position that can sometimes become isolated and hard to link up with the rest of the team well he made 11 successful passes, only 1 wasn’t. A very good passing display.

Team B’s individual passing does not look as impressive, the Centre Back only attempted 12 passes, the Central Midfielder only failed to find his man on 5 occasions, and upfront it was a poor day for the forward, nearly half of the passes he attempted failed to link up with anyone, only 10 out of 18 were on target.

With the game giving both teams time and space on the ball, two more areas need to be studied to find where the 4 goal difference was created, defensively the losing team must have been very weak, Team A won 39 tackles and lost 21, compared to Team B who only won 26 tackles but losing 25, Team A also did a very good job of closing the ball down making 14 interceptions, Team B only intercepted 8 balls.

The final stats to look over to determine the result of the game is the “shooting” no matter how good or bad you play or how good your tactics are, the result more often than not comes down to shooting accuracy.

Team A had 12 shots in the match, 5 on target, 4 off target and 3 shots were blocked, Team B on the other hand had 10 shots, 6 on target, 3 off target and had one blocked.

So what team scored the four goals, surely it was Team A with the higher amount of passes, better individual passing, more tackles won, and of course more shots on goal……eh no, if you hadn’t guessed already the game being analysed was the Premier League clash between Wigan and Blackpool in all the stats above Blackpool are Team B, four of those shots on target hit the back of the net.

One analysis you can make from the team passing image, Wigan (Team A) struggle to connect with passes in the final third, there is very little blue in and around the box, whereas Blackpool have slightly more blue than red in the final third, there is nothing wrong with passing the ball around the back or in the middle, however to win footbal matches you need to provided the final product, something Wigan just didn’t do on Saturday.

This is a fantastic example of how stats can sometimes be misleading, Blackpool won this game for a number of reason, they had a willingness and a desire to work hard and would not be beaten, some clubs would be scared on their first game at the top level for over 40 years, not Blackpool they ran every ball down, threw caution to the wind, and basically just had a go, now they were helped by some very poor Wigan defending and the fourth goal was an absolute howler from Chris Kirkland, in these footballing times, you do not need to tick all the boxes when it comes to dominating the play, stats cannot measure heart and a never say die attitude.

The stats never lie, but sometimes they are just wrong!

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