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Statistics don't tell the whole story

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I came across the rather alarming statistic earlier today that the recently derided Mikel Arteta had only registered 1 assist in this Premier League season. This appears to support many fans' criticisms and scathing viewpoints regarding the poor season he is having, though I do wonder how much blame can be laid at his feet.

Arteta has completed this term 1197 passes successfully, registering in first place for the whole squad (and a good 200 more than Marouane Fellaini, the blue-eyed boy in many punters eyes).

Regarding chances created (and not converted), he is second only to Leighton Baines, and once more above Fellaini, only this time more than double ? 37 and 16 respectively.

Fellaini has won only 10 more tackles than Arteta (at 47 to 37) and perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the big Belgian has lost more tackles than the Spaniard (19 to 17).

Add to that the fact that Mikel has two more goals than Marouane, you can maybe see the point I'm trying to make...

It's not that I believe Arteta is having a great season and Fellaini a poor one; it's that I'm merely questioning the severity of criticism and ostensibly vitriolic nature of many fans on this site and beyond.

And the constant assertion that Arteta is our highest paid player and therefore should be grabbing every game by the scruff of the neck is absurd ? Wayne Rooney is on over double Arteta's wage yet he is still a saint amongst the United fans.

I think it's clear Arteta is having a poor season, but maybe it's time to blame his fellow midfielders for the impotence of our attack.

Daniel Johnson, Liverpool     Posted 23/02/2011 at 16:32:02

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Michael O'Gorman
1   Posted 23/02/2011 at 17:07:38

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I have to agree entirely with you Daniel, much of the criticism that Arteta has faced is exaggerated. If you took Mikel out of our midfield it would be in shambles. He is the only player who has the skill to act as a holding midfield and properly pick out a pass.

Add in the fact that the unless Saha is fit (which is always a mystery), Arteta doesn't have a decent striker to distribute the ball too. This goes for all the midfielders as well, I believe that much of their struggles can be attributed to the lack of a proper striker.

Daniel Johnson
2   Posted 23/02/2011 at 17:21:56

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I think that is the crux of the point ? take Arteta out of that midfield and there is absolutely no cohesion. I remember earlier this season against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, he was absent through injury, and as a result we spent much of the game hanging onto a point. Even out of form, he is our most important midfielder.
Christopher McCullough
3   Posted 23/02/2011 at 17:14:01

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Arteta is playing 'alright' compared to his own standards. It's not through lack of effort. I've noticed his impact in every game he has played; The impression he leaves on games have become increasingly effective in recent weeks.

I don't understand your comment about ostensible vitriol. The vitriolic comments on this site seem honest enough to me. Even though I don't agree with most people.

Fellaini's presence is his best attribute.
Kevin Kendall
4   Posted 23/02/2011 at 17:38:51

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I think the title of your post rings more true than the main body of it...

He may have completed passes, but it doesn't help anything in the grand scheme of things.

I can recall at least two poor passes on Saturday: one attrocious crossfield pass to Baines, who was running forward, had to check his run and sprint 20 yards back the way came to allow Arteta's "pass" to be "completed"; and another later on to Distin, not quite a sprint this time, but definitely a lunge.

Does this also mean that Bily and Beckford have done more running than other plays during their many fruitless touchline warmups?

Like you said Statistics DON'T tell the whole story...
Steve Pugh
5   Posted 23/02/2011 at 17:57:18

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Surely if Screech has won more tackles, and lost more tackles it proves that he is getting more involved than Arteta.
Jamie Barlow
6   Posted 23/02/2011 at 17:53:54

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I'd say about 1000 of those passes from Arteta have gone backwards. To be honest, he seems to be getting up to speed and playing much better in recent games although his dead balls clearly aren't good enough.

I'd like to know if breaking up the oppositions play is classed as tackling as Felli just seems to know where the ball is going. He doesn't need to jump into tackles. A great thing he's brought to his game as it means less yellow cards.

Mike Allison
7   Posted 23/02/2011 at 18:02:30

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You shouldn't be comparing him to Fellaini in that regard as they are different players and have different roles in the team.

Fellaini constantly wins the ball back for the team, this isn't registered in 'tackles' statistics, which are truly meaningless. Fellaini picks up loose balls, constantly chests down aerial balls and builds a spell of possession out of them and in general is far more useful and effective a midfielder than Arteta this season.

Your headline says statistics don't tell the whole story then your entire article is based on statistics. Nice one.
Tom Bowers
8   Posted 23/02/2011 at 18:08:39

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I would hate to see what the numbers are for Osman and Bily.
Daniel Johnson
9   Posted 23/02/2011 at 18:16:40

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Mike Allison- no prob. I think maybe you shouldn't read so much into frivolous headlines and focus more on my point which is that Arteta gets a raw deal on this site and Fellaini is periodically creamed over.
Daniel Johnson
10   Posted 23/02/2011 at 18:20:18

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... a point which was made with the aid of EVIDENCE.
Jamie Barlow
11   Posted 23/02/2011 at 18:24:15

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So far this season, Arteta deserves to get a raw deal and Felli deserves to be creamed, I think.
Alan Clarke
12   Posted 23/02/2011 at 18:33:22

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Arteta is not as bad as people make out and Fellaini isn't as good as people make out. In all seriousness does anyone think a team will pay more for Fellaini than we paid for him? I don't.

Fellaini is taking on a Big Dunc status - flashes of brilliance but mainly average. Doesn't quite fulfill his potential but seems committed and isn't scared to punch or elbow someone.
Max Main
13   Posted 23/02/2011 at 18:27:47

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It's a fair article, Daniel.

Arteta has taken a lot of criticism on this and other sites this season, and most of it has been very harsh. He's admitted himself that he hasn't been playing as well as he knows he can, but I don't think getting on his back is likely to help - as some fans seem to be. A lot of people are constantly bringing up the 75k a week as well, as if he's responsible to try harder/play better because he's our top earner. But that logic implies that the lesser paid players are okay to slack off. All players should be putting in 100%, and I don't question Arteta's effort or passion. I do think his corners and free-kicks have been terrible for a while now, but surely it's up to Moyes to dictate who takes set pieces.

As for Fellaini, I think he has been getting a lot of plaudits this season because his good attributes are more conspicuous than Arteta's. Arteta spends most of the game passing across the midfield, looking for the chances to get Baines/Coleman in space on the wing, and generally keeping us ticking over. Whereas Fellaini tends to intercept opposition passes and long balls, or do an outrageous piece of chest control or little trick (e.g. Bellamy) which gets a reaction from the crowd.

My point is not that Arteta has played better than Fellaini, just that Fellaini is basically more noticeable. And I can't be arsed to look up the stats but I'm sure Fellaini will have given away the ball a lot more than Arteta this season.

Also, those stats would mean more if they were percentages as Arteta may have made more passes than Fellaini simply because he's played more minutes. I don't know.
Brian Waring
14   Posted 23/02/2011 at 19:26:18

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Alan (#12) ? spot on, Mate.
Alex Kociuba
15   Posted 23/02/2011 at 19:27:46

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It's rather ironic that you attempt to prove statistics don't tell the whole story... using statistics!
Daniel Johnson
16   Posted 23/02/2011 at 19:25:07

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I'll try to make a point without stats.

The only reason I bothered to make a point of the Arteta/Fellaini comparison is because there have a been a few games this season where, in my eyes, there has been a large disparity between performance and fans' perception.

Against Bolton Wanderers, Arteta had a very decent game, involving himself in most things good about Everton (granted there were not many such things) and putting in a good shift. Conversely, Fellaini had something of a shocker, consistently giving the ball away and looking lethargic and off the pace.

However, many people both on this site and Bluekipper (a reliable site no doubt) praised Felli and ripped Arteta, a point which I personally found outrageous. It seems SOME fans clutch onto a player (like Big Dunc) and deify them to the extent where they are infallible. I do think Fellaini has come on a lot and does much good work for Everton, but why must we be blinkered and imbalanced because of this?

Alex Kociuba
17   Posted 23/02/2011 at 19:39:34

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Arteta doesn't seem to be the player he was a couple of years ago, most people think they've seen him play better than he is currently playing. A reasonable assumption would be that he simply isn't putting in the effort in. This is compounded by his total inability to take a decent corner or free kick.

Fellaini, on the other hand, has gradually got better and most of the time looks like he is putting a shift in.
Joe McMahon
18   Posted 23/02/2011 at 19:56:09

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Errr Daniel, he is earning £75,000 per week, that's a bloody week. It would take me 3 years to earn that.

Do you honestly think he's earning it?
Gavin Ramejkis
19   Posted 23/02/2011 at 17:58:56

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Using statistics is a bit simplistic and doesn't account for his overall standard this season, Daniel #2 Arteta was missing through suspension for the Man City game, care to remind us of that result?
Daniel Johnson
20   Posted 23/02/2011 at 20:12:44

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Gavin, a game in which we had 3 shots on goal and once more had no cohesion even before Anichebe was dismissed.
Ian Kearney
21   Posted 23/02/2011 at 20:35:21

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I agree particulary with what you said about the Bolton game, where I thought Arteta was by far our best player.

I think Fellaini is worthy of the praise he has recieved this season, but some of the criticism of Arteta has been over the top, constantly bringing up his wages is complete nonsense, does getiing a pay raise turn you into a robot incapable of a drop in form?

Only last season he was fantastic for us, and will be again, maybe in Fellaini's absence after the summer.
Michael Kenrick
22   Posted 23/02/2011 at 20:52:22

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I honestly don't understand some of the extremes used in these analyses... "vitriolic" ... "outrageous"..."deified to the extent where they are infallible"... Uh?

Come on, we're just passing our views on how these players appear to be performing in our eyes. One thing you seem to neglect in your analysis, Daniel, is the difference in experience:

Arteta has been with us for 6 years and will be 29 in March

Fellaini has been here 2½ years and is 5½ years younger.

Add to this the inherent Evertonian knowledge of what Arteta is capable of, versus what he is currently producing, and I see nothing to be concerned about in terms of your claims.

What we all need to accept is that people are putting forward their opinions ? these are not definitive facts that can be proved or disproved with dubious statistics. As individuals, we all have differing views of such things: that does not make some of those views "vitriolic" or "outrageous" ? just different from yours.

Daniel Johnson
23   Posted 23/02/2011 at 21:03:43

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I was only suggesting that the notion of Arteta having a terrible season and Fellaini a brilliant one is perhaps not entirely accurate. And I don't claim that the statistics prove anything; they merely provide an interesting slant on the situation.

Arteta has disappointed me this season because the levels that he can attain are so magnificent, so I agree that, if you build a reputation, it's your duty to maintain it. However, there have been several occasions on this site were people have demanded that Arteta be shipped out and that he should fuck off because he earns £75K a week.

The more worrying thing is the way he is treated by the fans at Goodison currently ? a misplaced pass results in groans of derision and screams of "Fuck Off" ? something which is definitely not harmless and part of the debating process.

James Martin
24   Posted 23/02/2011 at 21:27:58

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Fellaini is young and inexperienced and it shows in his play. People have built him up far too quickly into something that he is not. In reality he's a half-decent young holding midfield player with the added bonus of the attribute of height.

Not very quick, not very agile, no long passing range, no evidence of any long shooting capability. He's a half-decent tackler and is tidy in possession, he may grow into more but he's not the colossus that some fans have built him up to be, or hope he will be. Perhaps in the future, although, in my opinion, I think he lacks the basic attributes to get right to the top.

Arteta is our best midfielder, experienced, creative and a goal threat, he's having a bad season, but we have no one better (probably not the argument to put forward my pro "Leon Osman in centre-mid" views). He's probably not earned his wage but who apart from Baines has this season? And even he's getting paid to defend which is something we've not done well as a whole.

Alex Kociuba
25   Posted 23/02/2011 at 21:42:16

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Fellaini "half decent"? He deserves more credit than that!

"Not very quick, not very agile, no long passing range, no evidence of any long shooting capability."

I downloaded and watched the second half of the Blackpool game again last night, I suggest you should too: Fellaini disproves everything you say in that 2nd half.
Alex Kociuba
26   Posted 23/02/2011 at 21:48:00

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"Not very quick, not very agile, no long passing range, no evidence of any long shooting capability." Applies more appropriately with Arteta than Fellaini.
Alan Clarke
27   Posted 23/02/2011 at 22:02:27

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To be honest, apart from Baines, I wouldn't be arsed if the whole squad was sold this summer. This was the squad many fans believed would be challenging the top 4 but look at us ? 3 points off fucking relegation.

Aside from a good cup result, we're utter shit. Instead of dreaming of European trips, we're listening to our captain talk about a relegation dogfight. Apart from Baines, no player has consistently performed.

The only problem with selling players is the money would not be spent on new players, so we're stuck with these over-earning under-achievers.

Tom Bowers
28   Posted 23/02/2011 at 22:01:23

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At the moment, I believe Arteta and Fellaini are crucial to get Everton away from the drop zone. Yes, they have had an indifferent season, as have most of the team, but recently I have seen some real improvement.

However, too many Everton players have been giving the ball away too easily, even in the Chelsea game, and this has been the real reason we have struggled to win this season, even against so-called lesser teams. This could be a result of poor training or mental conditioning which of course is the responsibility of the coaching staff.

Having said that, some of these players have enough experience to know when and how to shield the ball and make simple passes. Surely Man Utd and Arsenal shouldn't have the monopoly on this technique?

Tony J Williams
29   Posted 23/02/2011 at 22:08:59

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As already said, I bet that a very high percentage of Arteta's passes have either gone sideways or backwards. Still a great player though still getting over his injury, psychologically, not physically.

Stats be damned, I prefer to judge on what I see by my glassywarbles and what I have seen this season is Fellaini being a far more forward moving player than Arteta. Wins more and the one aspect I find fascinating to watch about his game is that he will nearly always bring the ball down and look for a pass, not many flick-ons by the mop-haired dope (in a nice way)!
Christopher McCullough
30   Posted 23/02/2011 at 22:13:53

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Arteta's recent performances have affected the other players positively.
Tony J Williams
31   Posted 23/02/2011 at 22:24:04

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Even against Bolton Christopher?

He is starting to look better and move forward a bit but he looked awful when he was ahead of Fellaini against Bolton.
James Stewart
32   Posted 23/02/2011 at 22:22:21

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Arteta has started to come good recently thank god but boy was he bad before! A complete liability.

Quality player though so hopefully he can hit form til the end of the season. Fellaini has on the whole been awesome this season and bossed midfield battles against the very best. Add to that he's been playing in a terrible Everton team this year.
Christopher McCullough
33   Posted 23/02/2011 at 22:27:45

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It's funny how two people can view a game so differently, Tony. I thought that was one of his better games.
Ian Kearney
34   Posted 23/02/2011 at 23:23:06

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Agree entirely Christopher, thought he was the only player worth his salt in that game.
Mike Green
35   Posted 23/02/2011 at 23:59:39

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I love a good stat but Fellaini has wiped the floor with Arteta's performances this season IMO. Sorry but no contest.
Paul Olsen
36   Posted 24/02/2011 at 06:15:47

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Passes are well and good but, when 1050 of them have been 5 yard passes backwards or sideways, it kinda just proves a whole other point.
Stephen Lewis
37   Posted 24/02/2011 at 11:16:15

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I think Mikel has started to look a lot better in recent weeks. I think he has suffered because of a lack of consistency up front and I suspect many of our opponents have got wise to Everton: they know if you shut Mikel down we struggle to function. He has therefore had to drop a lot deeper to find space and pick up the ball.

I also thought he was half decent against Bolton slightly further forward. I think I even witnessed him breaking out into a sprint at one point!
Matt Traynor
38   Posted 24/02/2011 at 11:49:09

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For me, this thread highlights how people view the game from different perspectives. Clearly when people have polarised views on a player or the team's performances in a given game, they both can't be right, can they?

One of the benefits of watching on TV, is with the use of replays and different angles, you can see the play from a wider perspective. Often a player's contribution when he's not on the ball is vital ? either getting in position to support or defend etc.

When I was in UK and used to go to the games, I used to watch it again on TV whenever possible, and often the difference was marked.

Players obviously do hit periods of good and bad form, and some are consistently inconsistent. But for me it's all about how you view the game as a competition ? one man's player with a "languid style" is another one's "lazy bastard"...
Daniel Johnson
39   Posted 24/02/2011 at 12:37:55

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I think Arteta is one of the few genuine ball playing midfielders in the Premier League. Besides Fabregas and Xabi Alonso, I can't see many over the past 5 years that have made a mark.

Look at the way Aquiliani failed to make any kind of an impact for Liverpool. If you look through the central midfielders across the country you'd be hard pushed to find an elegant controller of the game. Stylian Petrov is as close as Villa ever got under O'Neill, and he strikes me as anything but a midfield general.

Even the top two teams over the last few years, Chelsea and United struggle to field such players. Essien, Lampard, Darren Fletcher, Anderson ? all athletic high energy players but, besides Paul Scholes, does either side really boast such a player.

My point is essentially that I think it's something of a miracle that we have Arteta at all, and that without him we'd be similarly creatively redundant through the centre. Most teams in England use wide men to break teams down, so to expect everything to go through the little Spaniard is quite unfair. It's interesting that people often accuse Moyes of being negative and tactically turgid; I think he's actually trying to emulate our European cousins in that he wants every midfielder to be able to receive the ball and pick a pass.

Tony J Williams
40   Posted 24/02/2011 at 13:17:47

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Daniel, I would take Essien in a heartbeat, one of the best midfielders in the league.
Gavin Ramejkis
41   Posted 24/02/2011 at 14:01:03

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Arteta has improved over the season but it's taken most of the season for him to do it. Watching him, his gameplay (for whatever reason ? psychological? or the formation forced upon him?) has seen him become crablike with sideways or backwards passing ? hence his image in many match-going fans' eyes as being disappointing, as he was previously creative, making incisive runs and passes forwards.

The one thing which hasn't improved though ? and not a stat in the world can change ? is his shocking take on set pieces, both corners and free kicks; thank god Baines took that one against Chelski.

Howard Don
42   Posted 24/02/2011 at 15:47:43

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Have to agree, Daniel. It doesn't take a genius to spot Mikel hasn't been himself this season, but he's been nothing like as bad as some would have. Fallen short of his own high standards would be more accurate. I'd also agree, thank goodness, he's getting closer and closer to the real Arteta and yes, even amongst the dross of the Bolton game, he was probably our best player, which I know isn't saying much.
Craig Walker
43   Posted 24/02/2011 at 16:40:18

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It's goals that count. I saw a thing on Sky the other week where they were waxing lyrical over how many passes Xavi, Iniesta, Messi etc had completed during the Arsenal game. "Only Wilshere was in the top 10 passers" boasted Sky. Yeah but Arsenal won the game! I'm all for pass-and-move football but sideways passes and no movement forwards are misleading. How many times has Arteta taken anybody on this season?
David Price
44   Posted 24/02/2011 at 21:40:26

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Arteta has actually looked good in the last few games. We just need Saha back and scoring for a decent finish to the season.
Rob Hollis
45   Posted 24/02/2011 at 23:51:27

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Stats are a waste of time. If you watch a game then you know who is the influence, who makes the difficult tackle, who hassles the opposition. Stats are categories for fantasy football and a further excuse for the media to talk utter shite.
Mike Atherton
46   Posted 25/02/2011 at 11:32:37

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I wish people would stop going on about Arteta's wage. You would think he is the only player in the league earning that kind of money. £75,000 a week does not get you a player who is world class.
Ian Edwards
47   Posted 25/02/2011 at 19:18:47

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Arteta has spent the season getting the ball and then turning and passing it ten yards sideways. A good manager would have dropped him for a few games. A great Manager would have spotted his decline and sold him and got a few million. A bad manager would just pick him game after game, regardless of how he played.

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