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Are possession stats actually meaningful?

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1 Are possession stats actually meaningful? on Wed Aug 22 2018, 07:57

Sluffy

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FOR more than two-thirds of Saturday’s match at Reading the hosts were in possession.

But after Wanderers returned home with three points, courtesy of Yanic Wildschut’s goal on the break, the club’s assistant manager Steve Parkin says the statistics do not tell the whole tale.
And, while he would like the team to enjoy more possession, neither he nor manager Phil Parkinson will lose any sleep over the numbers game if the points column keeps healthily ticking over.
“Potentially you have to analyse the game in terms of the possession the opposition have in their own half but create nothing,” Parkin told The Bolton News. “And it’s easy to get the possession stats up if there’s a midfield player passing the ball backwards to a full-back or a centre-half 40 times in a game.

“Possession stats can be a little bit false in terms of that, the key thing for us is that we want to get them up a little bit but we want to be effective doing that.
“So if our possession stats could go up but more importantly it created more chances at goal, more opportunities for the forward players, then that would be great.
“It’ll be a tough game against Birmingham, if you saw their game against Swansea they were far and away the better team.
“Again, the possession stats show Swansea had most of the ball but if you look at the match in the cold light of day Birmingham probably had half a dozen opportunities to score in the first 20 minutes.

“So they’re a dangerous team, they’ve got dangerous players and they’ve got a way they play which we respect and I expect them to be similar to us, they’re hard-working and well-organised and it’ll be a tough game.”

One challenge for Parkinson and Parkin over the next four days is to transfer their impressive away performances into back-to-back home outings – not necessarily a straightforward task, given how much the Whites may suit playing on the road.
“I think we have had reasonably good home form in the couple of years we’ve been here,”said Parkin.

“It slackened off a little bit at the end of last season, but it’s important we put a marker down. Our away form’s been terrific and we need to capitalise on two home games, as most teams want to do.
“Sometimes the team we pick is solid and strong, good at set plays, but also has pace out wide so we can quickly get at teams on the break so it’s fair to think our style may be better suited to playing away.

“We probably wasted too many passes against Bristol City, the lads would be the first to admit that, so we need just a bit more care on the ball and a bit more brightness.
“We perhaps need to be a little bit more patient, especially if teams come in and sit in. So we might need to show a bit more patience and if the fans can show that too that would be great. It’s not easy to win at home, especially if teams come well organised and resolute.

“You need that little bit of quality and hopefully we can produce it against Birmingham.”

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wanderlust

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
It's the old cliche about it being what you do with it as Steve points out, but it's an interesting topic as I think that the trend is changing again.
A few years back when it was realised that teams who had most of the possession won more often, possession started to become the holy grail for a lot of clubs and there was an ambition to emulate Barca's Cruyff legacy but most lacked the ability to be effective with it as Barca are/were.
There  are still advantages in dominating possession, the other team not being able to score whilst you have the ball being the most obvious, but most teams that focus on it don't have the level of control and movement required to capitalise on that possession going forward. It's a matter of picking a playing style that suits the players you have - or in our case, can afford. 
If you focus instead on having a well-drilled defence and have enough confidence in them and give them the fitness levels to soak up the pressure all day, possession becomes less and less important especially if you have the pace and power to be effective on the counterattack like Leicester had when the won the Prem. 
The key thing for me is that a manager has to commit to a style that is deliverable within the budget available - rather than trying to force players into a system that is not natural for them and I think Parky and many others have done just that - although i reckon there's a long way to go on the attacking side of things as we are still relatively slow at breaking forward when we do get the ball and are reticent to commit too many players forward in support of an attack, but it's fair enough as he's working with the tools he's got. 
Not necessarily great to watch - nerve shredding at times - but it's a lot better than trying to be something that these players will never be i.e. Barca or City.
In that context I don't think possession stats are any more useful than say "attacks successfully repelled", "tackles made", " team distance covered" and "turnovers" as the Yanks would say. Ultimately there's only one stat that is significant.

terenceanne

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El Hadji Diouf
El Hadji Diouf
Its an old cliché but still true for the most part. In any given game anybody can beat anybody with a fluke, own goal, bad penalty decision etc. but overall in the course of a season the team that controls the ball will do better in the long run. 
In our case we would take a lot of pressure off the defense if we could cut down on the hoof ball and play a little bit through the middle as per our goal at Reading. Looks like we have a few players now who can put their foot on the ball but all are bypassed by lumping it up the field. We are not going to dominant anybody but how about 40% possession for starters? and do something with it of course.

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