Fire Charles Reep: 10 Things We Learned

Fire Joe Morgan was a blog that used to dissect what they considered to be poor mainstream baseball journalism, often using advanced statistics. It was a lot of fun and written by Michael Schur, Alan Yang and Dave King who you might also know as the showrunners of The Office, Parks and Recreation and Master of None. I’ve decide to put an Analytics FC spin on Fire Joe Morgan with a new series called Fire Charles Reep. Hope you enjoy! 

For the first edition of Fire Charles Reep I thought I’d take a look at one of my biggest pet peeves in football writing, the “10 things we learned” pieces. To be fair to the authors of these pieces I imagine they are incredibly difficult to write and I don’t envy being given them as an assignment. That being said let’s go ahead and pick apart some of the more flimsy narratives in the Daily Mail’s most recent weekend recap “Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might need to move on from Arsenal while Michail Antonio provides West Ham with another right-back option – 10 THINGS WE LEARNED

2. West Ham boss Slaven Bilic discovered another option within his squad with the performance of winger Michail Antonio as a makeshift right back in the 5-1 romp at Blackburn. … Not only did he win more duels (10) and tackles (4) than any other Hammers player, he also found time to get forward and have four shots on target.

Putting aside the fact I’d be hesitant to judge any player’s defensive abilities in a 5-1 win, Antonio did put up quite impressive numbers. Numbers that are incredibly atypical of Antonio’s average performances this season in which he’s put up 0.83 shots on target per 90 minutes and 1.1 successful tackles per 90 minutes. You can decided whether these stats are meaningful or not, but clearly his numbers against Championship side Blackburn certainly aren’t indicative of the type of player he is.

3. James McCarthy’s return from the troublesome groin injury that forced him to miss two months of Everton’s season could be good timing for boss Roberto Martinez. … Everton have won four of the five games since McCarthy returned to the starting side – the same number as in the 13 that he missed.

The last five matches Everton have played in which McCarthy has been in the starting XI: @ Carlisle, vs. Newcastle, @ Stoke City, vs. West Brom and @ Bournemouth.

The previous thirteen: @ Man City, vs. Swansea, @ Chelsea, vs. Dagenham and Redbridge, vs. Man City, vs. Tottenham, vs. Stoke City, @ Newcastle, vs. Leicester, @ Norwich, vs. Crystal Palace, @Middlesbrough, @Bournemouth.

Enough said.

4. Craig Cathcart has been one of the unsung heroes of Watford’s outstanding season and must be close to forcing his way into Northern Ireland’s first-choice defence for Euro 2016. … He can play a bit as well as defend – he gave the ball away only five times in the 90 minutes.

Among the twelve outfield players to have played over 1000 minutes for Watford this season only Britos and Deeney have a worse pass completion rate than Cathcart. Pass completion is a statistic devoid of context and fraught with potential for misuse, but maybe highlighting Cathcart’s few giveaways in an FA Cup game versus a struggling Championship side shouldn’t be extrapolated into “something we’ve learned” when his pass completion rate so clearly shows this isn’t the norm.

6. They say that sometimes you get considered to be a better player by not playing, and that’s certainly true of Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld. The Belgian defender was kept on the bench as an unused substitute as Spurs went down 1-0 to Crystal Palace. Alderweireld has sat out only two matches against Premier League opposition all season – the other was the Capital One Cup clash with Arsenal – and Tottenham have lost both of them.

First off this is a really weird use of the term Premier League opposition, because the only times he’s sat out against Premier League opposition have been in Cup games. Secondly, against Crystal Palace – according to Michael Caley’s Expected Goal model – Spurs held Palace to only 0.5 xG, and in the League Cup game against Arsenal the Gunners had 1.4 xG. This gives an average of 0.95 xG conceded when Alderweireld is not in the side, which isn’t significantly different from Spurs’ season average of 0.86 xG conceded. It’s also important to note that the 1.4 xG Arsenal generated in that League Cup game versus Tottenham is below their season average of 1.98 xG per game. So without Alderweireld we have: a) a small sample size, b) almost certainly a bias sample and c) no significant difference.

7. Guus Hiddink’s faith in the potential of 20-year-old Burkino Faso starlet Bertrand Traore was borne out as the youngster scored his third goal in three recent appearances as a sub.

I’ve included this just to show not all of these 10 things are necessarily off base because Traore put up some great numbers in the Netherlands and it is nice to finally see him pick up some playing time with Chelsea.

So I’ve highlighted five of the ten “Things We Learned” this week from the Daily Mail. The five I haven’t touched on were either opinions that were impossible to falsify or were more facts than opinions. But on the five I covered the author went a solid 1 for 5.

Fire Charles Reep.

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