Today’s football world is driven by statistics. Player formations, the style that different clubs employ, leading goal scorers, most goals scored, most goals conceded; there is a statistic for almost anything to do with the beautiful game. Even managers get analysed, as per Sportingbet’s analysis of the managerial sack race.
Now a new type of statistic has appeared – a player statistic which attempts to put a price on the things currently ignored.
Many sportsmen and women who don’t believe they are fully appreciated simply just mope around in a blue funk or air their feelings to the newspapers, local radio stations or social media. But those who are a little more positively, proactively minded, can drum up a new type of statistic that advertises his or her true worth.
Jens Hegeler who currently plays for Bristol City, and Stefan Reinartz who played for Bayer Leverkusen, Eintracht Frankfurt and the German national side, but who is now retired, have done just this, and their invention is now buzzing around the soccer circuit.
The new statistic they invented is referred to as “packing”, and it was recently highlighted by Reuters in the sports section of the Economic Times.
Many recognised statistics make use of certain football basics such as goals scored, and the number of assists that players make. Given these fundamentals, they are unsurprisingly aimed at strikers and attacking midfield players.
It means that players like Hegeler and Reinartz, who as defensive midfielders are in less glamorous roles, stopping and tidying things up, don’t gain the same sort of recognition as their attacking counterparts, even though they are often the starting point for turning defence into attack. Statistically speaking, they are left out.
The German pair decided that it was time that their skills of circumnavigating and nullifying opposing players should be appreciated, and so they came up with “packing.” It works like this:
If we take Stefan Reinartz as a typical example, he is not a player with amazing dribbling skills. Like most players he can trick other players to get himself out of trouble when needs must, but running with the ball and using fast footwork like the legendary George Best, were not his specialities.
What he was very good at was passing the ball forward out of defence, something that does not get properly analysed by existing statistics. Packing, however, homes in on this very valuable skill.
How it works is that any type of move (be it a long, accurate pass, a cross or a little dribble) gets a score awarded to it. It is essentially any action that pushes the ball past opposing players, with the number of players being by-passed determining the rating.
As an example, if a move starts with four opposing players between the ball and the opposite goal, and then ends with only one player in between, the move will be awarded three points.
In addition, the player collecting the ball is also awarded points.
The player coming out on top using this new “packing” stat is Toni Kroos, the 28-year-old German midfielder who plays for Real Madrid. He averages by-passing 79 players per match.
In terms of players on the receiving end of a move, the Belgian Eden Hazard who plays for Chelsea, is top dog with an average of 102 players per game.
Another way of using this packing statistic is concentrating on “last man” defenders taken out. When this particular stat is used, it is Lionel Messi who leads the pack with an average of 18 defenders being by-passed per game.
Packing is a very enlightening statistic and can be employed with any team. It is something that is catching on fast with all sorts of soccer pundits, programs and reports.