Occasionally we like to look at the numbers behind the opinions – it’s all to easy to criticise a player for not perceivably playing well but when we look at the numbers behind those criticisms, do they stack up?
Well, two of the most heavily maligned players at Ibrox, especially by us on Ibrox Noise, are Connor Goldson and James Tavernier.
We rated them as 6 a piece for their performances last night – solid, decent, but little more, but do their hard stats for the visit of Porto agree with our scores?
Let’s look at Goldson:
When it comes to clearances, we praised him for the number of these he managed, and the stats agree – he cleared the ball 8 times in this one. Now, you might not think that is stunning, but by comparison Filip Helander managed a very poor single clearance. That’s right. Just one. As we rated, he did very little other than looking for someone to pass to.
Meanwhile James Tavernier managed an honourable 6. Indeed, Goldson and Tavernier were individually by far the most prolific for clearing the ball. The next best was Barisic with just 3.
Now, in Tavernier’s case, we praised his quantity of crosses, but were slightly more critical of their quality. Guess what, the stats show he crossed the ball 10 times, a very decent number, but none of them hit their mark. Not a single good cross.
Meanwhile we suggested Barisic’s crossing was non-existent – and we can barely remember seeing many, but guess what – he managed 8, and 2 of them were bang on the money. He was even more adept for the long balls – he tried 7 of those, and 3 came off.
By comparison, Connor Goldson tried 13 (backing up his tendency to do that a LOT) and a modest 3 hit their target.
Meanwhile, in the defensive vein, remember we rated Arfield 7 for a good impact when he came on, highlighting how underrated he is? Stats wise, the Canada international, on for 25 minutes, got stuck straight in – he got one big tackle in, one big interception, and one blocked shot.
On the flip side, Ryan Jack, for his defensive bailing out of Tavernier, in fact managed a single tackle the whole night and 3 critical interceptions with one blocked shot. It wasn’t overall Jack’s most shining performance but it was still miles better than Filip Helander:
That single clearance, and one blocked shot was his entire defensive contribution the whole match.
There’s no doubt about it – while it’s been easy for us to see what we think we see, the numbers suggest Filip Helander had a thoroughly passive match while Goldson was left to do pretty much all the defensive work alone. But then, on the flip side – how many tackles and interceptions did Goldson manage? None of either. He also fouled twice while Helander didn’t commit a single one.
In short, it’s all very well to say someone had a shocker, but the numbers do not always agree with that. It’s all too easy to forget each clearance, each block, each tackle, unless you rewatch the match over and over, and the reality is the numbers for Goldson and Tavernier actually defend (pun not intended) their places in the team.
But for some comparison, let’s look at the corresponding fixture in Portugual:
In that one Filip Helander had an excellent night – and the stats back that up. 10 clearances, 2 interceptions and one critical tackle.
By comparison Goldson, who we suggested had been poor, managed a modest 6 clearances, one critical tackle and one clearance. We were certainly a little harsh on the Englishman, but his numbers were substantially below his partner.
For Tavernier, who we said had a solid enough game but no more, he managed 2 tackles, 3 clearances and one interception while Barisic (who we’d said hadn’t had the best night) had just one tackle, and 2 clearances. Both Barisic and Tav managed 8 and 7 crosses respectively, of which one of Tav’s hit the spot while 3 of Barisic’s did likewise.
What’s the moral of the story here?
We will all see things differently, but we must also be honest when we look at the undisputed facts – if we attack Goldson for being too passive when we watch him, we must hold our hands up if the stats don’t back that up, and be justified in feeling vindicated when they do.
But it is a mix, and ratings are not an exact science – they are an emotional judgement call based on a viewer’s own biases and values – there are just some players we don’t individually favour compared with others, and we may judge them more harshly.
But when we see a Goldson managing 8 clearances when we thought it was way lower, we must also be fair in giving that some credit. Likewise calling Helander’s performance underwhelming, when, in fact, the stats back that opinion up.
They say it’s all about opinions?
Not really – the stats matter as well.