Here’s a quick quiz, which will tell you everything you need to know about stats and context. And the long ball.
Q1: Which English football club is top of the Premier League right now?
Q2: Which club is 18th in the League and facing possible relegation?
Q3: Which two clubs play the long ball most often in the League?
If you answered ‘Leicester’ and ‘Sunderland’ to Q1 and Q2 respectively, you would be right. If you answered ‘Leicester and Sunderland’ to Q3, you would also be right.
According to the CIES Football Observatory, Leicester play 6.9 per cent of passes long, and Sunderland 6.7 per cent, the two highest-ranked Premier League teams, and 3rd and 4th in Europe’s big five leagues. For comparison, Tottenham in second place play 3.1 per cent long ball, and Newcastle, just behind Sunderland in the League, play 5.4 per cent.
Clearly long balls can be effective, or useless. Or maybe nothing comes from them whether you hit them 7 per cent of the time or 3 per cent. In other words: statistics can be revealing, or they can confuse, or they can be simply the starting point for more digging. Something to bear in mind.
And so to the week’s matters arising. Go on, treat yourself.
I like curses, for the sheer fact they are usually testable and wrong. Here are two: Barca fall to the Champions League holders curse – ie no-one wins two years in a row; and a London 2012 curse of dying athletes. Of course, there’s no curse: in fact, the 2012 competitors mortality rate is normal, and any competition which is built to include the top clubs of Europe will be hard to win. Still.
Sport takes potential gang-members off the street and gives them hope. Boxing? Basketball? No, cricket. Really. A great read on two ex-pats in Guatemala making a difference.
If you are worried about Leicester dropping points this weekend, take a look at what’s going on at Barcelona. La Liga was in the bag, nine points clear. No longer.
Still, the season’s big losers are Villa, no question. More managers than wins? Ouch. The BBC rakes over the ashes of a season to forget.
One of the greats of basketball has just retired: Kobe Bryant. And in his last game, he scored 60 points. That’s a career finale up there with those of Pete Sampras or Martin Johnson. Here’s ESPN’s classy take.
Want to see every shot Kobe ever took? All 30,699? The LA Times has an amazing graphic in terms of compilation, if the actual take-away is a little underwhelming.
Kobe wasn’t universally loved though. FiveThirtyEight suggest the haters are stuck in 2008.
MONEY MONEY MONEY
How the hell did West Ham get to rent the Olympic stadium for less than they pay some of their top players? The Guardian called it the deal of the century, and they might be right.
Why would anyone spend $24 million to buy a 1 percent stake in the New York Yankees? Bloomberg’s answer: tax.
Is drone racing now mainstream? Quartz has the low down high up.
Are NBA players getting away with beating up Jeremy Lin? And is it a racial thing? One fan’s video edit has raised a lot of awkward questions.
A great extract from Emma John’s book on cricket, and how Dominic Cork ‘erupted into my life’. With a hat-trick, no less.
The BBC takes a look at how Lionel Messi reached his 500-goal milestone for Barcelona and Argentina