A recurring debate that places statistics at the centre is the one that undervalues its capacity for analysis in relation to what happens in reality. There is the idea that advanced statistics cannot explain certain situations in football because they are so unpredictable and that, furthermore, the value that matters is that of the goal, the assist and the shot, as if only the statistics that count prevail and not those that can analyse.
Jonathan Northcroft, journalist of ‘The Sunday Times‘, wondered this past Sunday what is the real value of an assist if this statistic in the world of football has been inherited from American sports that only take into account the value and not its context, in relation to the fact that an assist can be a pass that does not offer too much advantage but seconds later becomes a goal and, therefore, an assist.
At Driblab we think that the value (of an action and/or great pass) should not be measured only by the result (goal assist) but by the context that allows that result, even if it does not happen, to have the possibility of happening thanks to what was created by the potential assistant. In the report by ‘The Times’, Salvador Carmona, CEO of Driblab, pointed out some reasons for this.
“Assists is a simple concept, good for the fans, but something that really wouldn’t give that much value when analysing a potential signing. The reality is that if you have big assist numbers you can’t be a bad player. But not having great assist numbers doesn’t make you a bad assist man. You may have bad teammates. Think of Cesc Fabregas. One year he made 18 assists for Chelsea and the next year it was only seven, but his expected assists were similar to the previous year. The difference was that Chelsea had swapped Diego Costa for Álvaro Morata”.
To understand this, a metric that gives value to the quality of the assist even if it doesn’t end in a goal makes much more sense for spotting players and understanding the potential of their talent. If we look at the top assists in Europe we see that they are all great players but if we look at those who had the best numbers in ‘Expected Assists’ (xA), we find lesser known players to look out for. And this happens both in a big league and in a much less media league where many young players are looking for a better opportunity.
We are Driblab, a consultancy specialized in the statistical analysis of players and teams; our work is focused on advising and minimizing risk in professional football decision-making in areas related to talent detection and footballer evaluations. Our database has more than 200,000 players from more than 180 competitions, covering information from all over the world. Here you can learn more about how we work and what we offer.