After being told his team had more shots on goal and possession than Southampton in their last Premier League outing, Roy Hodgson has urged supporters to look beyond statistics to analyse a team’s performance.
Hodgson graciously admitted that his team deserved to fall to defeat against the Saints a fortnight ago, despite the stats showing Palace had more of the ball, more shots (including on target) and more corners than opponents, but watching from the sidelines with over 40 years of coaching experience behind him, Hodgson is well-placed to judge who should be winning the contest without needing the numbers.
Discussing the ever-increasing deluge of statistics in the game now, he said: “We rely more and more upon statistics in football – it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t know how many shots a team had or how many were on target, it’s quite a recent thing.
“I’m not sure who coined the quote about ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ but I definitely have a lot of sympathy for them because I think a lot of noise can be made around a statistic, and then when you analyse what has gone on turns out to be less than proof.
“You do look at statistical evidence such as the data we get from our training sessions, but the things I don’t pay any attention to are shots on goal or shots on target. Quite often, I’m happy for a team to have a shot at goal because it doesn’t worry me at all that it’s going to go into the back of the net, whereas there are a lot of situations in the game where I’m on tenterhooks thinking ‘this is a going to be a goal against us’ and we get away with it.”
Palace head into Saturday’s game against Huddersfield Town with the stats showing that so far this season the Eagles have mustered 20 more shots, average 5% more possession, have played nearly 250 more passes and faced less shots than David Wagner’s team, but Hodgson doesn’t believe in their relevance ahead of the game.
Continuing his point, he said: “We don’t count a shot that hits the post as a shot on target, or a ball that wizzes across the six-yard box where the guy is a millimetre away from putting his foot on it, so if I was really going to want a detailed statistical analysis of our performance, I’d have someone looking at all of those things and not just putting up 60% v 40%.
“Where was the possession? Who is making the passes – the centre-back or the central midfield player? It’s just ‘we had 60% and they had 40% so we must be better’, it’s just naïve and lacking in nuance.”