Here’s a thing you don’t read very often in the press or on a blog: I was wrong.
For example, Jonathan Liew penned a piece the other day claiming that referee Lee Mason was “relegated” to 4th official because he failed to send off Coquelin in the match against Crystal Palace. It’s a strange article from an otherwise fantastic writer. Liew knows that being 4th official is not at all like being dropped. And even a casual glance at the Premier League’s Referee Appointments list shows the reader that Mason has been doing 4th official duties on a week on, week off basis this season. One week he’s 1st official, the next week he’s 4th official, this week he is due to be 4th official.
The article also makes a huge assumption that Coquelin should have been sent off, which I don’t know if I agree with, before making the guess that failure to send him off was the reason why Mason was “dropped.” I almost think that the article gives more evidence that Coquelin shouldn’t have been sent off. The logic of the article is that Mason was dropped, which proves Coquelin should have been sent off. But Mason wasn’t dropped, he was just on his normal rotation, therefore by the logic of the article, Mason was right to not send Coquelin off. Coquelin therefore should not have been sent off.
I pointed these facts out to Jonathan Liew via twitter, he didn’t respond. I doubt we will ever hear him say he was wrong about that article.
But I don’t mind being wrong. As Jake the Dog once said, “Dude, sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.”
This is especially true with stats. I’ve had to learn to be much more circumspect about stats than I was when I first started.
Perhaps my most embarrassing use of stats was when I declared that Luis Suarez wouldn’t fit in with the Arsenal system. My logic was sound, the data shows that Suarez had been, up to that point in his career, a ball hog. He not only demanded the ball constantly, but he was horribly profligate when he got the ball. And my argument was very specific in regard to that: he would drive Arsenal fans nuts with his wastefulness.
And you can see that Arsenal fans do get driven to the brink by wasteful players. Look at Alexis. Whenever he turns the ball over (usually trying to do something in attack) people groan. But Alexis is not a bad dribbler! He completed 115 of 196 dribbles last season, that’s 59% dribbling. That’s very good. Suarez, in contrast, was a 37% dribbler going 95/255 dribbles in the season I analyzed his stats. In pure number of turnovers, Alexis had 81 and Suarez had 160. Twice as many.
And shooting is another problem. Look at Giroud’s wastefulness. People pounce on Giroud whenever he misses as proof that Arsenal need another forward. Suarez, in his first three years (really 2.5 years) at Liverpool scored just 38 goals on 370 shots! It’s absurd. No top team lets a player get that many wasted chances.
And assists as well. Suarez only had 16 assists in his first three years at Liverpool. Alexis had 12 assists for Arsenal last season alone.
Combining the stats with the biting, the committing racisms, refusing to shake hands afterwards, the public circus around everything he did, it looked to me like Suarez was a guy who couldn’t put his ego aside for the betterment of the team.
But that’s exactly what Suarez has done at Barcelona. He’s still a 43% dribbler (best in his career) but if you combine all of his stats from La Liga and the Champions League, he only attempted 123 dribbles. In his last season at Anfield he attempted 237 in League play alone. He only took 113 shots for Barcelona, at Liverpool he took 181. And he has contributed roughly the same number of goals for Barcelona, in roughly the same number of minutes, as he did in his breakout season at Liverpool; 40 for Barcelona (combining Liga and Champions League goals and assists) and 43 for Liverpool (all Suarez/Liverpool stats are league play only).
In his last two seasons, at Liverpool and then at Barcelona, Suarez has become much more efficient, contributed much more to the team and less to himself, and has in turn won a well deserved treble at Barcelona, including the Holy Grail, the Champions League.
The evidence points to the fact that Suarez takes his time to warm up to a new situation: at Ajax he wasn’t a scoring beast until his last full season, at Liverpool it was also his last full season, and even at Barcelona he took 7 games to get his first goal, a fact which had the Spanish press declaring him a failure.
But apparently, Suarez did have the right attitude when it came to football and because of his work ethic, combined with his raw talent, he has fashioned himself into possibly the best teammate, and thus the best center forward in the game.
So, I guess I got that wrong. Maybe Suarez would have been great for Arsenal.
*The reason is that the companies like WhoScored, Squawka, and 442 just haven’t figured out how to display that data. I bet if I dig around that data will be there in some sub text of some popout window that happens on a mouse-over of the event. In other words, the data is there, I just don’t know where to look yet.