“Mikel Arteta was basically using statistics as a drunken man uses a lamppost – for support, not illumination.”
Earlier in the week, Mikel Arteta used a number of stats to back up his point that Arsenal have been playing well in recent weeks. The Arsenal manager feels his team have not been getting the rub of the green, even using basketball as a comparison.
Mikel Arteta stats.
Arteta was speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of Arsenal’s Carabao Cup quarter final with Manchester City. Subsequently, Arsenal lost the game 4-1.
Arteta revealed that Arsenal’s percentage chance of losing their last three games were nine per cent against Everton, three per cent against Burnley and seven per cent against Tottenham.
He also compared football to basketball saying: “Football is not like basketball, you shoot 50 times and the opponent does it once and you win every single game. It doesn’t work in football like that. You can do it the opposite way around and lose 1-0.”
Mikel Arteta says football is not like basketball 🏀 pic.twitter.com/o5BD2obHgW
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) December 22, 2020
However, Opta’s head of editorial, Rob Bateman, claims Arteta is purposely taking statistics out of context and compared it to the way “a drunken man uses a lamppost.”
Speaking to Talksport, Bateman said: “Mikel Arteta was basically using statistics as a drunken man uses a lamppost – for support, not illumination.”
“He was clutching at straws, looking at some numbers which if you average them out probably suggested they wouldn’t have lost those games.
“But he’s not really using them with the right context. The numbers he is using are probably based on data from his analysts. (It’s) an algorithm they’ve come up with that tells you how the team is actually doing.”
The Opta chief has an issue with certain aspects of expected goals. He feels they don’t take into account if a team is winning or losing. This means a losing team’s expected goals can often be inflated, particularly if the winning team is sitting back.
“Expected goals tells us the likelihood of any particular shot resulting in a goal. It takes into account whether it’s a header or a shot, the type of build-up play, the position on the pitch, the pressure a player is under and how clear their view is to the goal.
“The problem is that doesn’t really allow for the state of the game.”
Bateman continued, using the Tottenham and Arsenal game as the perfect illustration of where this happens.
“Against Spurs, for example, Tottenham scored from only their second shot of the game. That strike from Heung-min Son had an expected goal tally of about 2.5 per cent chance of scoring.
“It allowed them to sit back. Arsenal huffed and puffed and created a lot of difficult chances, and the number of those add up.
“On the face of it the number would have been higher for Arsenal in that game and lower for Spurs. But, the reality is sometimes the ball just flies into the back of the net and you can’t do anything about it.”