Are sports overrated

Statistics in sportsCorners are completely overrated

There are soccer games and you just can't explain what happened. Played well. Still lost. And a look at the statistics produces zero findings:

"26 to seven shots on goal, 60 percent possession, 57 percent won duels, 18-0 crosses. Now you could think the game turned out differently. From that point on it didn't. We lost 4-1."

This is how Armin Veh once summed it up at a press conference after a defeat with Eintracht Frankfurt. Incidentally, he looked comparatively relaxed.

Perhaps yes, because he secretly knows that these statistics, which in international football now consist of a flood of data, may in the end really be very little usable.

Chris Anderson has been thinking that for a long time. The son of an American occupation soldier. Grew up in the Eifel. And rose through a successful academic career to professor at prestigious Cornell University on the east coast of the United States. Area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise: the interface between political science, economics and sociology. And there, above all, the analysis of numbers, especially survey results.

He used to be a footballer too: goalkeeper in a regional league club. Now he has written a book with David Sally, an economist. "The truth is in the field". The subtitle is provocative, but also trend-setting: "Why (almost) everything we know about football is wrong".

"The danger is that you really believe your statistics. There is no truth in that sense. In football and other sports, the truth is more dependent on the situation and on the team. Those who are successful are the ones understand how you can combine the numbers with other ways of observation. The trick is simply to combine things in such a way that you can optimize at the moment, on Saturday afternoon. "

Anderson knows and likes to name them - the misjudgments that have been circulating more and more since the statistical information is also served to the football consumer. Be it during the live television broadcast or during the analysis afterwards.

"For example, the possession of the ball. Possession of the ball is relatively useless. Possession of the ball has relatively little informative value on how successful a team is. And strangely, although the goal is of course the most important thing in the game. Whether a team is good or bad Wonderful example. Corners are relatively harmless. Only when you ask coaches or players, regardless of the country, they all say: We have to practice corners. These are very dangerous situations. Statistically speaking, they are relatively harmless. "

There are many old myths that can be trashed when evaluating extensive statistical information. For example: that teams sink into euphoria immediately after scoring a goal and are particularly careless and run the risk of conceding a goal: statistically, this is clearly wrong.

All the money for threaders and strikers: comparatively poorly invested. Decisive for winning titles are the often somewhat wooden figures in defense, who usually earn a lot less. No wonder, in a game in which the countable successes almost always have something to do with someone being played on the defensive or being outwitted or reacting a tad too slowly. Today's jumble of numbers reinforces the misjudgment of the importance of a team's attacking performance, says Chris Anderson and can explain it:

"The offensive is easier to find in the statistics: goals that you have scored, important passes, possession, duels that you win and things like that. What the statistics have problems with is to understand the defensive, because the defensive is about it is about preventing things. Fending off moments of danger. That means goals that you don't catch are the most important of all. But they are not reflected in the statistics anywhere. "

But it is also advisable to take a closer look when evaluating the goals scored. Because they all count just as much. But they're not worth that much. Anderson and his co-writer Sally have developed a system that allows them to rank game-winning hits - the first and second hits a team scores - higher. Why? This is the only way to find out for which players you should really spend a lot of money and for which maybe not.

Because of course there are those strikers with the frequently quoted nose who score an important goal more often than others. You just have to filter out their names from the mountain of numbers. And trust that there will continue to be a residue of inexplicable magic and mystery in football. The reason we and Anderson are watching in the first place.