Barry Glendenning

User offline. Last seen 4 years 9 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 31/07/2017
Posts: 411
Points: 0

As debate not so much raged but gently percolated over the merits of “expected goals” as a useful metric for analysing football last week, it was difficult to shake off the feeling that the battle for survival and relevance between old-school pundits and the growing army of stats buffs had reached a somewhat pivotal phase.

The sound may have been drowned out by the white noise generated by quarrelling over other, far more important global concerns, but the latest volley was fired by Jeff Stelling. The Sky Sports presenter went viral after footage of him denouncing expected goals in the strongest possible terms spread to a wider audience after being posted on social media. While other, even more boring articles than this one have been written about the value and definition of the statistic in question, for the purposes of brevity all that uninitiated readers need know is that the metric would be far less contentious if it was called something less geeky and more luddite-friendly such as “chances missed”.
Never a man to let a bee buzz around rent-free in his bonnet, Stelling had used his Soccer Saturday platform to clamber aboard his high horse and criticise Arsène Wenger for citing the expected goals in a defeat at the hands of Manchester City that Arsenal had suffered to point out the outcome was not quite the mauling suggested by actual goals. “He’s the first person I’ve ever heard take any notice of expected goals, which must be the most Authentic Pierre Turgeon Jersey useless stat in the history of football!” he declared in exasperation to his rapt panel of former pros-turned-pundits. “What does it tell you? The game’s finished 3-1. Why do you show expected goals afterwards?”
In the subsequent clamour no end of stats boffins chimed in with informative explanations of what exactly expected goals can tell us and how useful that information can be for football club managers, scouting departments, bookmakers and their customers, among others. Many of them were quick to denounce all who sail in the good ship Soccer Saturday as flat-earthers that the increasingly byzantine industry of football analysis has left behind, apparently oblivious to the irony that Stelling’s stock in trade is in fact football statistics, which he is able to machine gun down the barrel of a camera under the pressure of live television for hours at a time in an enlightening, entertaining and often very amusing way. While a cheap shot, it is of course also worth noting that Stelling hails from Hartlepool, a town so progressive its citizens once hung a ship’s monkey that washed up on the local shore because they thought it was a French spy.
The central theme of the Terminator movie franchise is the battle for survival between a near-extinct human race and a machine-based military that is trying to wipe them out after becoming self-aware. As luck would have it, many are the parallels that can be drawn with the battle for survival between the dwindling army of Proper Football Men represented by Stelling and the relentless army of sentient stat-borgs apparently determined to render them obsolete. A body of old pros and broadcasters whose collective title was coined by a couple of writers on the excellent Football 365 website, Proper Football Men have a deep mistrust of anything they do not understand and are deeply suspicious of innovation. Household names such as Phil Thompson, Paul Merson and Graeme Souness are often cited as the archetypal Proper Football Men but in truth they could be any clubhouse alickadoo. They have played the game, understand it and many have the medals to show for it. There is unquestionably a place for them in the serious but ultimately frothy business of football analysis.
For Womens Tyrell Williams Jersey all that, they view the recent rise of the machines with scepticism and are scarcely able to disguise their sneering contempt for a new generation of pundits armed with well-thumbed copies of Moneyball and the magic light boxes and witch portals which they use to judge player and team performance through heat maps, possession stats and expected goals rather than the evidence of their own eyes. There is unquestionably a place for them in the serious but ultimately frothy business of football analysis too, but the borderline zealotry with which some of them thump their cyber-pulpits while spreading the sabermetric news occasionally smacks of fundamentalism. Only total acceptance is allowed. Anything else is heresy and anyone who does not fully embrace football analysis by spreadsheet is apparently too dimwitted to “understand” football. Perhaps that’s why so many of the Proper Football Men just ain’t ’avin it.
With both communities here to stay, Proper Football Men and stat-spewing sabermetric and spreadsheet enthusiasts will inevitably learn to coexist in Authentic Mats Sundin Jersey peace and harmony but in the meantime the deep mistrust harboured by the minority of hardliners of each community for the other will continue to provide a rich seam of entertainment for those of us who can see that both have their merits. In a famous, particularly heated debate about Pep Guardiola’s undeniable talents as a manager, the highly regarded ESPN pundit Gabriele Marcotti brought up the contentious topic of expected goals in defence of the then Bayern Munich manager, only to be shot down by his exasperated colleague Craig Burley, the former Scotland international footballer. “It’s results that matter, Gabriele!” he shouted. “Don’t give me any of this nerd nonsense!” It could be argued that both men were right but that is kind of beside the point. Their audience was entertained, which is ultimately all that matters.


  • Visitor Count: 88,495