If stats could pick the England team…

Posted: June 9, 2010 by undergroundfisherman in Media, World Cup
Tags: , , , , , ,

As the British media discuss issues such as who should partner John Terry at centre-back, how to get the most out of Wayne Rooney, and why on earth Emile Heskey is there at all, it becomes more and more apparent that a lot of players have been living off their reputations, bestowed upon them primarily by hyperbolic tabloid media and pundits who will defend one player to the death when he has a bad game, and dismiss a good performance by another without any real consistency or logic.

116_b.jpg Actim Index image by AvoidingTheDrop

The Actim Index is the only in-depth statistical analysis of the Premier League and its players

There’s no doubt Fabio Capello has picked a relatively strong England team, but if we look at the Actim Index, one of soccer’s only ways of measuring the performance of players based on pure statistics, we see a major divergence from the team the legendary Italian has chosen. While I don’t believe statistics will always tell the whole story about a player, they do give an indication as to who makes a meaningful contribution on the pitch, compared to others who may be in the squad simply because of the fact that they are a big name or play for a big team.

In other sports, such as NFL, statistics are completely ingrained in the culture of the game. This is partly because it is easier to measure certain gridiron stats, but also because of the very clinical, scientific methods American coaches have for choosing their squads. Here’s how Fabio Capello’s 23-man squad would have looked if he had let the Actim Index pick the team for him.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Birmingham), Paul Robinson (Blackburn), Robert Green (West Ham).

englands number one by additional Knowledge.

He's not England's number one any more, but the stats say Paul Robinson should have at least made the squad after a good season at Blackburn

Here, we already see a change from the side Capello chose, with no David James to be seen. Paul Robinson made a very strong case for his inclusion this year with a good showing between the posts for Blackburn, and his manager, Sam Allardyce was livid upon discovering his omission from the national squad, saying “I am staggered, totally. It is completely the wrong decision,” Allardyce told the Lancashire Telegraph. “If you look at [Robinson’s] form for Rovers, there has not been a better goalkeeper who has been so consistent.” The stats suggest that Allardyce is correct, with Robinson ranking as the second best English keeper, behind Joe Hart. Capello obviously values the experience that David James can lend the team, but his torrid season picking the ball out of the Portsmouth net must have shook his confidence somewhat.

Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Jody Craddock (Wolves), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Roger Johnson (Birmingham), Titus Bramble (Wigan), Glen Johnson (Liverpool).

Roger Johnson

Roger Johnson was one of the key men for Birmingham City last season

There are plenty of surprises here, most notably Titus Bramble, who has got a name for himself as a bit of a donkey. The fact is, 99% of the time he’s a solid defender, and one who has helped Wigan cement their position as a Premiership side, and was, on paper, the 54th best player this season. Joining his Birmingham teammate Joe Hart in the squad is the imposing centre-back Roger Johnson. Many seem to have already forgotten about the Blues’ huge achievement of clinching ninth place in their first year back in the top flight. Much of this success was attributed to their well-organised defensive unit, one which Johnson was a major contributor to. City only conceded six goals more than Arsenal last season, and based on this form, the uncapped Johnson should have at least been considered for the England squad. Wolves veteran Jody Craddock was probably omitted because of his age, and the fact that there is almost no point introducing an uncapped 34 year-old into the fray at such an important occasion, but it’s worth pointing out that he was ranked by Actim as the tenth best defender of the 2009/10 season. Leighton Baines was named in the provisional 30-man squad, but left out of the final 23, statistically he was the fourth best defender in the league. If any of these were to get injured, Michael Dawson would step in, just like in real life. The Spurs man was the next highest ranked English defender.

Lampard - England's best player... Fact

Midfielders: Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Aston Villa), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Gareth Barry (Man City), Matthew Etherington (Stoke), Lee Bowyer (Birmingham City).

Frank Lampard is statistically the best player in the Premiership, more so than Rooney, Tevez, Fabregas, or whoever else you can think of. His performance on the final day of the season, as Chelsea swept the floor with Wigan, beating them 8-0 on their way to lifting the title, really summed up the kind of season he had. Lampard had his best ever season at Stamford Bridge, scoring 22 goals in 36 Premiership appearances, with 17 assists – which is just phenomenal.

Neither Ashley Young nor Gabriel Agbonlahor made it to South Africa, and yet Wright-Phillips and Heskey did...

Ashley Young, on the other hand, was inexplicably left out of the frame, not even making the squad of 30. The Villa winger would have fit in perfectly on that troublesome left-wing, and his impressive tally of five goals and ten assists in 36 Premiership games suggests he should have been included, especially when Actim has him rated as the sixth best midfielder in the whole league, with Villa teammate James Milner deservedly in fourth. One wonders why Young didn’t make it when we consider Shaun Wright-Philips, who is little more than a fringe player for Man. City, did make it. Matthew Etherington and Lee Bowyer are the “surprise” inclusions in the midfield, but anyone who saw their contributions to their respective teams will know the impact they made. Though I didn’t mention him here, it is also worth considering Newcastle’s Kevin Nolan for a place in the side. He may have been playing in the Championship, but Nolan ended the season top of the statistics table with 834 Actim points, that’s an awful lot, much more than any Premiership player. Nolan has been capped before and it would have been nice to see his efforts rewarded with a place in the squad. Nolan’s inclusion would also have shown, from Capello’s point of view, that he picks his squad on form, and leaves no stone unturned when making up his squad.

Forwards: Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Darren Bent (Sunderland), Jermain Defoe (Spurs), Cameron Jerome. (Birmingham).

The Actim Index tells us that four of the top eight strikers in the Premiership are English – but only two have made it to South Africa. The dismaying omission of Gabriel Agbonlahor, who consistently proves himself to be one of the best around, but his talents seem to have gone unnoticed by Fabio Capello, his form may have dipped in the latter part of the season, but 13 goals in 33 Premiership games is still a good record, better than both Crouch and Heskey. Apart from these four, we have to go all the way down to number 55 on the Actim list to find another English striker – Birmingham’s Cameron Jerome, who scored eleven last year. He’s been capped for the English U-21 side before, and would not have been out of the question for a call-up this year. We can talk about Darren Bent being left out until we are blue in the face, it’s easily the worst decision the English management have made this summer, Actim ranks him as the eighth best striker in what is arguably the best league in the world… madness.

It’s intriguing that Michael Carrick, Matthew Upson and Rio Ferdinand, (injured or not) doBirmingham manager Alex McLeish during the pre season friendly match between Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City at the City Ground on August 1, 2009 in Nottingham, England. not feature in this squad. Also, the amount of Birmingham City and Aston Villa players should give Martin O’Neill and Alex McLeish something to smile about, even though they must be wondering why their players have been overlooked.

Why not have a look at the Actim Index for yourself, it makes for some interesting reading about who actually makes an impact over the course of a season. http://www.premierleague.com/page/ActimIndex/0,,12306,00.html

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