Ally McCoist absolutely slaughtered Rangers last night on one stat in particular – distance run.
For clarity, we’ll publish those – Napoli ran 118.3KM while Rangers covered 114.5KM.
Now the obvious conclusion is to suggest the team didn’t match Napoli, didn’t work hard enough and the running stat supposedly proves it. Right?
Ally we admire a great deal but we’re never going to praise our players for running like idiots when they’re not doing anything constructive with that running.
Take a comparison in Austria last night. Chelsea beat Salzburg 1-2 – they had 68% possession, and yet how much did they work and run? 110KM compared to 117KM.
Again, Leipzig beat Real Madrid on their own patch, 3-2. Running? 120KM for the home side, 113KM for the travellers.
It’s a completely meaningless stat on its own and cannot be used against Rangers on this occasion – workrate cannot be measured by how much you run. It can in part be used as a portion of the whole picture, but using distance run as a stat with which to beat the losing team is a complete failure to understand basic football mechanics.
The obvious idea is we should be running more to chase the ball down out of possession, right?
Well, if we were doing that successfully we’d get the ball back, wouldn’t we – and suddenly we’d have possession and be making the ball do the work for us. Therefore running less.
Generally whoever has the ball more will run less, because they don’t need to run like gazelles but it’s not exactly an exact science, as shown last night and in other examples.
And that’s why focusing on distance run is a bit of a pointless number to look at. Yes, Rangers were naturally second-best last night, of course we were, but just because UEFA show a stat on screen which shows Rangers’ number in some area is lower than Napoli’s, doesn’t mean it’s a valid one to criticise with if no context is added.
And distance run is not always an accurate number to be critical with.
Another example – in Holland, Rangers and PSV both ran roughly the same amount, 110KM, with Rangers slightly less at 109. Rangers won that one.
But the biggest example? When we first lost to Napoli by the same scoreline at Ibrox, most were praising our team for a notable improvement in workrate and ethic.
Napoli ran 115KM and we ran 107KM. They ran far more and apparently ‘worked harder’ and yet our players were lauded more for putting in a much better shift.
It’s not how far you run, it’s what you do with the space you have.