Arsene Wenger: Statistics don’t always tell the whole story – just look at Mesut Ozil

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Despite being at the forefront of the statistical revolution in football, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes that numbers can CHEAT you.

Having had nobody but himself when he started as Gunners chief, Wenger now has a team of around 20 people working in data analysis on the performances of each and every player in the team.

Wenger’s job now involves dissecting the information to work out what is relevant and what is not – because there are plenty of numbers that you don’t need to be concerned about.

Speaking with Arsenal Magazine , he said: “Take what is vital – that’s where your eye comes in. So if the decision making is still a lonely job the manager isn’t a lonely man anymore.

“The manager’s qualities are tested to manage the support team around them as well as the players.”

David Price

Not being fooled: Wenger says statistics can cheat you

He continued: “Stats can cheat you because for example if a player has scored three goals you could think he’s a world-class player – but perhaps he’s just played against a poor centre back on the day.

“So you have always to put that into perspective, analyse the game well and remember that dry numbers don’t fit into context.

“But on the other hand if you repeat this kind of score for 100 games the numbers don’t cheat anymore. You cannot play 100 times against bad defenders! But one game isolated can get you to one conclusion through the numbers.”

Statistics can in fact prove common theories wrong – and Wenger is keen to end one about Mesut Ozil’s work-rate.

Ozil is leading the Premier League for assists this season with 13 to his name – six more than his closest competitor – but has still come in for criticism about his work rate.

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But Wenger has since been shown the statistics to prove that he is putting in the graft on the pitch.

“Most of the time the stats are most surprising are work rate, because you might think a guy who is decisive on one or two occasions has worked very hard but then find out he hasn’t worked as hard as you thought.

“Or I can give you concrete examples of the fact that Mesut Ozil’s work rate is very high, but people don’t always think that. Because people can sometimes have a style – fluent, not as aggressive – that can cheat the eye.”

Ozil is not the only example, as Wenger believes certain statistics show off what the likes of Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla give to the team – if you are looking for the right stats.

“Yes. Work rate for example is not always the absolute necessity because for a player like Francis Coquelin, who works in a tactical position, what’s important for him is that he arrives at the right moment and intercepts the ball, and then when he intercepts the ball that he is decisive.

“The decisiveness in some positions is more important than the number of kilometres you cover in a game.

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“What is important as well is the quality of the positioning, of the distribution, of the final balls – you can’t count only assists but a player like Santi Cazorla gets you out of tight situations and sometimes gives the ball before the assist, which can be even more difficult than the assist itself.”

Wenger has admitted that what has happened on the pitch has often been different to what the statistics suggest, but he believes that accepting you are wrong on occasions is part and parcel of being a modern manager.

But when it comes to buying players, Wenger likes to trust his instinct before delving into the world of data.

He said: “You have to come to your own conclusion and you have to question your impression as well. So a scout comes to you and says, ‘Boss there’s a player you should consider buying.’

“What data and stats do you focus on? Well, first of all I want to see the player – before I buy I want to see!

“Because I know what is required at the top level, and if I like what I see I will get more information about the player. Most of the time it is his attitude – his competitive attitude – and of course his physical attributes.”

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