4 Nov 2015

Debunking LFC Myths [No 19]: Most of Martin Skrtel's passes are 'sideways' or 'backwards'

According to OPTA stats, Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel is Liverpool's most consistently effective defender over the last three years (and this season) and he also consistently achieves one of the best passing accuracy rates in the team. Despite these irrefutable facts, some Reds fans are hellbent on spreading spurious myths about Skrtel's ability, the most prevalent of which appears to be the unfounded contention that most of Skrtel's passes are sideways or backwards. This is complete and utter tosh, and I will prove that with factual statistics.

Earlier today, one of the site's visitors posted the following comment:

"I'm worried that Skrtel can't pass the to other LFC players. Look at Sakho's passes. Mostly forward. Skrtel? Sideways".

Like so many football views, this comment is totally subjective, unfair, and arguably based on personal bias. The poster clearly prefers Sakho as a player, so he denigrates Skrtel in a bid to present Sakho as the more effective player.

This is par for the course when it comes to fans, though, many of whom genuinely believe in the rampantly egotistical concept of 'I see, therefore it is'.

So, let's test theory: the post above claims that most of Skrtel's passes are sideways. Here his passing stats for this season:

* Average passing accuracy this season: 86%

* Chelsea: Passes: 58 | Forward: 42 (72%)

* Bournemouth: Passes: 54 | Forward: 45 (83%)

* Southampton: Passes: 65 | Forward: 56 (86%)

* Rubin Kazan: Passes: 78 | Forward: 66 (85%)

* Spurs: Passes: 42 | Forward: 32 (76%)

* Everton: Passes: 38 | Forward: 28 (74%)

* Aston Villa: Passes: 54 | Forward: 48 (89%)

* Norwich: Passes: 72 | Forward: 61 (85%)

* Man United: Passes: 62 | Forward: 50 (81%)

* West Ham: Passes: 68 | Forward: 58 (85%)

* Arsenal: Passes: 18 | Forward: 14 (78%)

* Bournemouth: Passes: 54 | Forward: 44 (81%)

* Stoke: Passes: 47 | Forward: 35 (74%)

* TOTALS: Passes: 710 | Forward: 579 (82%) | Back/Sideways: 131 (18%)

* AVERAGES: 45 forward passes per game | 8 Back/sideways passes per game.

* Another interesting stat: Sakho has lost possession 8 times in 9 games this season. For Skrtel it's 3 times in 13 games, which shows yet again how effective he is on the ball.


As you can see, it's factually inaccurate to claim that most of Skrtel's passes are 'sideways' or backwards. The opposite is true: The majority of his passes are FORWARD (82% of total passes for the season so far), and the stats for the last three seasons show the same trend.

When assessing a player's effectiveness, factual stats are *aways* a more accurate determinant that individual perception, which is fundamentally flawed, and egregiously unreliable.

This won't stop some fans, though. Some will come back with even more bizarre exceptions/rationalisations in a desperate bid to prove that their individual perception is more valuable that actual facts (newsflash: it isn't, and the same applies to me).

Don't get me wrong, individual perception in football is important, and has lots of value, but when it comes to statements about specific, measurable aspects of performance, it has little relevance.

For example: I can argue all day that Luis Suarez is a poor striker, but in the face of overwhelming factual evidence proving the opposite, my opinion on the issue is wrong (I don't actually think that about Suarez; it's just an example).

In this case (and most cases where I uses stats to present an argument), it's not me who's right; it's the stats that are right.

Author: Jaimie K


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