Modern football has its virtues and its vices like everything else, and technological advancements have brought us all sorts of statistics to peruse.
But some of these statistics have too much importance placed on them and can only be seen as luxury. You need to be careful what you're taking from stats and which ones you're using to judge players.
Here are four of the most useful statistics and graphs that we've been able to get our hands on in recent years.
Ever wondered how far your player runs, or if he puts in as much effort as he should?
Say goodbye to guess work, say goodbye to locker room disputes.
Distance covered is a tough statistic to attain—of course all the professional clubs have the details, but we're not privy to that information through the usual data streams.
Sky Sports Events Centre tracks this on UEFA Champions League games, though, and we can see the following stats:
|Player and Game||Distance Covered (km)|
|El Shaarawy vs. Barca||10.15|
|Constant vs. Barca||8.33|
|Jones vs. Schalke||10.42|
|Selcuk Inan vs. Gala||10.42|
Heat maps are an amazing and scientifically accurate way of tracking where your player has been on the pitch.
With red signifying heavy influence and yellow signifying light influence, you can see where your player spent most of his time during his outing.
I used the heat maps of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Dani Alves to identify two problems Barcelona had against Milan: a lack of width in the byline areas and a lack of penetration in the box.
You can track penalty placement in a few ways, but in truth any method is useful to goalkeepers who previously had no idea and just guessed.
Every time a penalty is about to be taken, English sports channel Sky Sports pulls up a small graphic in the bottom corner of the screen showing where the player taking them has aimed for in the current season. A white ball is a goal, a red ball is a miss/save.
Ben Foster, when winning the Carling Cup on penalties against Tottenham, watched videos of Spurs players taking penalties on an iPod Video moments before facing the real thing.
Not passes completed, not standard pass success rate.
We're talking about charting every pass for distance and placement on a graph.
AC Milan 2-0 Barcelona taught us how useless the total passes statistic is, as Xavi managed 132 and Sergio Busquets 122. Did they go anywhere? No.
You want to see passes with a purpose. Passes that stretch defences, slip through the channels or arc over the heads of the last defenders—key passes if you will (although that statistic remains a little vague).
These are the passes you want to be receiving!