Statistics, damn lies and Aston Villa..
Statistics, damn lies and Aston Villa..
Despite the ability of the number-crunchers to feed their chosen parameters into their probability-engines, press ‘go’ and get their hedged and qualified predictions; in the outcome, when they calculate that a team has a 55% chance of losing, they never quite predict the sturm und drang of the unfolding drama. So fans are left to visualise the imagined possible outcome, which usually includes the likelihood of defeat, but in an excusable way, where their team is blameless and the outcome is mostly down to the face-saving brilliance of the opposition and/or refereeing error, rather than the glaring shortcomings of their own beloved team.
So it was with Liverpool last week, when the prognosticators had given the home team a very substantial probability of winning but didn’t quite predict how inevitable the outcome looked at the final whistle, which made the computers’ predictions look so cautious. No Villa fan who had travelled to Anfield in the reasonable hope that Villa would defy the stats men, would have predicted that James Milner would be given time and space to perform an unmolested three-point-turn, on the edge of Villa’s box, so he could score on sixty-six seconds. None of them expected to see Villa’s defence look quite so static and allow Danny Sturridge three completely unchallenged shots on goal, in the course of a few minutes, two of which went in the Villa net.
Liverpool’s third and ultimately winning goal was gut-wrenching, following so quickly, as it did, such a wonderful headed goal from Gestede, only a minute before. Set up by another Amavilous (geddit?) cross, it certainly looks like, given the service, big Rudy is quite capable of scoring one goal in two for Villa. From the sheer power and accuracy of the header and the fans tendency to criticise his ground play, you can’t help but think of Tony Hateley, who, even when compared with the Grays, Lochheads, Withes and Regises, stands out as one of Villa’s greatest post-war headers of the ball. So more to come from there we hope.
It seems that the Liverpool fans could hardly be too pleased with their own team’s performance either, because despite seeing their team enjoy two-thirds of the possession, must have been aware that Rodgers’ stay of execution was more down to Villa’s errors than to Liverpool brilliance. Something to be confirmed later in the week when their manager made seven changes to take on Swiss minnows FC Sion and to little effect. But I have little doubt that the number-crunchers would claim that their computer models took Villa’s high unforced-error-rate into account, and even in spite of Liverpool’s shortcomings a 3-2 home win was exactly the outcome they expected.
So the Villa faithful were all left feeling a bit gutted this week, after another self-inflicted defeat made the club’s systemic failings undeniable. Even manager Sherwood’s post-match explanations were less than convincing, and he wasn’t too keen on taking the blame either. I think most of the fans think the club have signed some really talented players and are willing to take their youth into account. The question as to how long it should be expected to take for a team to gel persists but compared with other managers and at other times, when there was a large influx of new players, Sherwood compares badly. Check out the results for other eras and the inconsistency is visible. Very good one week, poor the next two, but one win in seven and one draw and five defeats in six, can’t be explained away with the facile explanations on offer.
But with Villa getting their injured players back and a home game against Stoke tomorrow, they have the best possible chance of putting things right. Stoke are one place above Villa in the Premier League table and three places above Villa (bottom) in the form table. Needless to say, Villa and Sherwood desperately need to get something from this game and with plenty of pundits predicting another Villa loss, Sherwood’s team really need to show their mettle and give a resounding riposte to their critics. With Sunderland and Newcastle both with tough games, it really would be a very useful time to take three points from a game.
With Villa’s better players now available and Stoke not looking too great, I think a score-draw or narrow Villa win is 49% likely. I don’t care what the computers say, just give me some shelter.
Keep the faith!