Archive. Football. Statistic & History
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Column #67

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2023-01-14 21:43:17

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
In this column, I'll explain why I couldn't care less about stats, in a direct comparison with players, using my own example: the time when I compared players by stats. These explanations are very simple, however, for me, it took a long time to shape the perception that I currently have about what football is, about what man's greatest sporting invention is.
In the beginning, when I had the idea of creating a website where people could see historical statistics of footballers, I created ARFTS, which was an exceptional website for statistical information, as I had planned earlier. I, however, based my opinion a lot on statistics, mainly statistics on goals scored in just one season — a completely poor view of what is football.
I remember very well the first time I read about Dr. György Sárosi, and I automatically neglected him, as I was conducting research on top scorers in just one year — over 55 goals scored. I didn't think that Dr. Sárosi was a spectacular goalscorer, because, in my old view, he didn't have the great scoring marks of other Hungarians, as was the case with Ferenc Puskás, Ferenc Deák, Gyula Zsengellér, etc. However, even though I was completely unwilling to read about the player, I counted every one of his goals, therefore I realized that he had two impressive marks: 1935 and 1937.
After this player, the leader of Ferencváros, showed me that he had very high goalscoring capacity, I started to read more about him; thus opening my mind to a much greater scope. I got a different view of football, a much less statistical view, much more comprehensive about what football was. Back then, I believed that Gyula Zsengellér had been a better player than Dr. Sárosi, until I realized that I was incredibly wrong. Dr. Sárosi became my favorite player, not just because he was an exceptional player, but because he was a milestone for me, a divider of perceptions that I had in football.
I started, from Dr. Sárosi onwards, to study more about the players' performances in general, not just how many goals each one scored. Therefore, the more I studied, I increasingly disregarded statistics for my analyses. I'll give an example:
PLAYER 'A': Goals: 30 Matches: 30 PLAYER 'B': Goals: 40 Matches: 30
Two players, but one with a better average of goals scored. Given only the numbers, without even having a greater perception, is it possible to know who was the best scorer? Of course not. What do I mean by "greater perception"? Simple. Here are some criteria that change — and a lot — the ability and conditions of a player to be a better scorer than the other:
Field position; His role; Repertoire; Team level; Opponent team level; System in which the team operates; Etc.
If, for example, player 'A' was a centre-forward focused on creating his team's chances, playing for a defensive style team, in the middle of the table, in the Italian championship of the 1930s — a championship considered very defensive for the molds of the time. Player 'B', in turn, was a centre-forward focused only on scoring goals, he played for the main team of Národní Liga, and with that same team having a very offensive system aimed at making player 'B' score a very high number of goals. Which of the two had more difficulty in scoring goals? This issue goes much deeper than just a simple comparison of numbers.
Would it be possible to compare the quality of, for instance, György Orth and Josef Bican, two centre-forwards, evaluating and placing the number of goals as the main factor or one of the main factors? Of course not. Would it be possible to compare G.O. Smith with George Camsell? No.
Numbers, statistics in general, especially goals and assists, are just a detail, but they do not serve as a basis for any decision or argument. There are several factors that alter this. Football is much more than a ball in the net, it is the four lines being analyzed at every movement, every action being taken.
To this day, I don't remember the English specialist who traveled to Central Europe, in the 1920s, to analyze football there, which was growing, and reach his conclusions. Well, he starts the text by saying that the quality of shooting of the players in Central Europe was much lower than in the British Isles. He, however, concludes the text by saying that it only takes a few minutes to realize that the goal is just a shot that crossed the line, and that football is much more than that.