Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Brighton by numbers: The season in statistics


Statistics are becoming more and more a part of modern football, with most clubs throughout the country using them in at least some way to help make decisions around training, tactics and player recruitment.

Baseball's Billy Bean is the most famous champion of a statistic approach to squad building and not without a definite degree of success. He used previously ignored statistics to sign under-valued players as general manager of the Oakland As, carrying on where his predecessor Sandy Anderson had left off.

His success is perfectly illustrated by the As' 2006 MLB season during which they ranked just 24th of 30 major league teams in terms of how much they paid their players but ended the regular season with the fifth best record.

Since then a host of other clubs, across a stack of sports, have tried to use statistics to improve their chances of success. Football has perhaps lagged behind other sports but, thanks to pioneers like Arsene Wenger and the services offered by firms like Opta, it is catching up.

Statistics and football are becoming more and more interlinked. But, without access to the wealth of data supplied to clubs, what can be learn about Brighton's players and who should be selected?

Well, in truth, not too much. However, if you look at the number of games during which each player has been on the pitch for ten minutes or longer, you can try find a few interesting snippets.

With more time, each player's appearances would be weighted to take into account the time spent on the pitch, the score when they came on/were subbed off and other more in-depth areas.

In the short-term though you can limit findings to include just players who played 10 minutes or more in each match, which takes into account important cameos which no doubt contributed to the outcome of the match without handing easy plus points to players who came on for a last minute run-out.

There are some players who have made just a handful of games, such as Peter Brezovan and Torbjorn Agdestein, so the findings have been limited to those who have played five or more matches.

So far this season the Albion's league performance has read Played: 25, Won: 9, Drawn: 10 and Lost: 6. That works out as a win ratio of 36%, a loss rate of 24% and a draw level of 40%.

Below are listed the same statistics for each squad player who had completed five or more matches with a minimum of 10 minutes in each game. Some of the per centages have been rounded up, so they are only approximate to within one per cent.

Tomasz Kuszczak
Games (G): 24
Losing % (L): 25%
Win % (W): 33%
Draw % (D): 42%

Gordon Greer
G: 25
L: 24%
W: 36%
D: 40%

Adam El Abd
G: 19
L: 26%
W: 32%
D: 42%

Lewis Dunk
G: 7
L: 14%
W: 43%
D: 43%

Wayne Bridge
G: 21
L: 24%
W: 33%
D: 43%

Bruno
G: 20
L: 25%
W: 40%
D: 35%

Inigo Calderon
G: 8
L: 25%
W: 25%
D: 50%

Liam Bridcutt
G: 24
L: 25%
W: 33%
D: 42%

Dean Hammond
G: 18
L: 22%
W: 39%
D: 39%

Andrew Crofts
G: 16
L: 31%
W: 25%
D: 44%

Andrea Orlandi
G: 16
L: 12%
W: 50%
D: 38%

Gary Dicker
G: 15
L: 26.5%
W: 47%
D: 26.5%

Stephen Dobbie
G: 13
L: 38%
W: 31%
D: 31%

Kazenga Lua Lua
G: 11
L: 27%
W: 27%
D: 36%

William Buckley
G: 20
L: 20%
W: 35%
D: 45%

David Lopez
G: 9
L: 33%
W: 11%
D: 56%

Will Hoskins
G: 7
L: 14%
W: 43%
D: 43%

Ashley Barnes
G: 24
L: 25%
W: 33%
D: 42%

Craig Mackail-Smith
G: 22
L: 23%
W: 41%
D: 36%

Gordon Greer has played in every single league match this season, so there is little to find in his statistics, although the fact that Lewis Dunk has only been on the losing side in one of his seven outings could certainly be used by any arguing for the young defender's inclusion in the starting line-up.

Perhaps surprisingly, Ashley Barnes and Liam Bridcutt have exactly the same statistics while Gary Dicker, so often underrated by Albion fans, has helped the side to victory in nearly half (47%) of the matches he has featured in.

This could be because he is adding something to the Seagulls, or suggest that when Poyet sets his team out to win matches, he often includes the Irishman in his line-up alongside other more attack-minded colleagues.

A number of players have featured in every defeat this season (Kuszczak, Greer, Barnes and Bridcutt) but this is most likely because they are almost permanent fixtures in the team, rather than highlighting any personal lack of form or defensive prowess.

More interesting to look at is who has featured in each of the Albion's nine league wins. Again, having played every game, Greer kicks off the list. However, Mackail-Smith has also played in every win and the Albion have come out on top in 41% of the games he has appeared in.

They are the only two to feature in every win but looking at those who have played in, say eight of the nine and their individual win rate is more telling.

Andrea Orlandi has played more than 10 minutes in just 16 of the Seagulls' 25 games, but has appeared in eight of the nine maximum returns - meaning Brighton have won in 50% of the games he has played - a much higher rate than the team's overall record.

Gary Dicker's seven wins from 15 matches represents another high of 47%, while perhaps unsurprisingly Will Buckley has also contributed heavily to the Albion's winning performances, clocking up seven wins in his 20 games, or 35%.

And one good indicator as to whether or not you can expect a Brighton win is whether or not Bruno starts at right back. He has played in five defeats in his 20 games but his win rate sits at 40%.

So, for a bit of fun, which starting 11 would the statistics suggest Poyet should go with to maximise his chances of winning? Below is the team the stat man may pick, with their win ratio in brackets.

GK: Kuszczak (33%)

LB: Bridge (33%)
RB: Bruno (40%)
CB: Dunk (43%)
CB: Greer (36%)

M: Dicker (47%)
M: Bridcutt (33%)
M: Hammond (39%)

F: Mackail-Smith (41%)
F: Orlandi (50%)
F: Buckley (35%)

Strictly speaking Hoskins should be included, with Orlandi dropping back into midfield instead of Bridcutt, but almost all of his seven appearances came from the bench, slightly distorting his importance.

That team may not be the one Poyet believes is his best starting 11. There could certainly be a strong case for El Abd being included above Dunk - particularly as Dunk's one defeat came after a individual error early on in the Crystal Palace game - but it would be hard to argue that any other starting 11 would be better.

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