Are Stats For Soccer Games Worthwhile?

Stats don't often tell an accurate picture.  In sports like American Football and especially baseball, stats can be more indicative of the true story.

I have noticed that over the past 10 years or so, statistics in soccer are becoming more widespread.  I think it goes without saying that they are pretty widespread here in the U.S., but they are also part of all match reports for pro European games as well and this is something that just wasn't around much 20 years ago.

The reason I bring this up is that for the most part, I think most stats in soccer can be misleading and not always give an accurate description of the game.  Here are some examples.

1.  In today's Newcastle v Liverpool game, which Newcastle won 3-1 the stats show that Liverpool should have won the game.  Liverpool had 21 shots to Newcastle's 7, 5 corners to only 2 for Newcastle and Liverpool enjoyed a 55% - 45% advantage in time of possession.  So they had all the stats in their favor but still lost the game 3-1.

2.  Shots can be a misleading statistics.  Shots from long distance that don't trouble the goalkeeper or weak shots that have little chance of scoring, still count the same as a 1v1 breakaway shot that has a great chance of scoring.

3.  Stats for goal chances aren't kept, which is probably a better indicator of success in a game than any stat other than goals.  For instance a team could have lots of shots, but if they are all from long distance because they can't break down the defense or they are weak efforts with little chance of scoring, they are not doing much damage.  But their stats will look beter than the opposition who created half as many shots even if they are quality goal chances.

4.  Saves are basically open to the same misuse as the stats for shots.

5.  Time of possession is usually a pretty good indicator of how a game is played...under normal circumstances that is.  But what about an underdog team that scores early and then simply soaks up the pressure from the other team.  In those cases the other team will usually have a major advantage in time of possession but could lose the game.

So, other than the only stat that matters...goals, I am not a big fan of stats for soccer.  But I'm not saying they are worthless, I just think that there are better stats that can be kept to better reflect how a game is played.

What do you think?

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