The football revolution Portsmouth boss Kenny Jackett feels still has a long way to travel

If you’re a keen follower of the modern-day game there’s a fair chance you know your xG from your xA and pay attention to your heatmaps and radars.

Saturday, 23rd November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 23rd November 2019, 2:30 pm

The statistical revolution is sweeping through the world of football, so much so it’s no longer exclusive to the analysis department of football clubs, with in-depth information freely flowing to and fro in the conversations of everyday fans.

The catalyst for change stretches back 17 years and to the world of baseball, when Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane ripped up the rulebook by using an analytical approach to take his overachieving team to successive play-offs.

But when does the mountains of data now available go from being insightful to of little consequence? Is there too much of a good thing when it comes to metrics?

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In a 23-year career in football management, Kenny Jackett has long embraced advances in technology and been a keen advocate of the use of stats.

But, ever a stickler for detail and wary of misinformation, the Pompey boss has preferred to compile his own data as both a player and manager.

And for the abundance of positive uses to come out of analysis, the 57-year-old knows there’s still a long way to go.

‘They say there’s lies, damned lies and statistics,’ Jackett said.

Kenny Jackett

‘It will be interesting to see how the stats packages improve over the next five years.

‘I feel there has to be a better breakdown to, say, possession analysis.

‘There has to be a breakdown of that possession. If you have the majority of possession, are 1-0 down and are keeping the ball in your half with the other side having 11 behind the ball, it’s not good possession.

‘There has to be a breakdown on possession and similarly shots.

‘I read different things from people saying a lot of their coaching now is don’t shoot from outside the box, because the ratio of shots outside the box per goal is very high.

‘Similarly, if you can get into a certain area in the 18-yard box it’s a lot better.

‘There’s always that slight overlap. We all look at the stats but sometimes I feel you just need a little bit of a better breakdown.

‘I watch all our games right through and I do my own stats, if you like, which is something formed over a long period of playing and coaching.

‘There is a breakdown of shots of which I call inside the ‘goalscoring area’ and shots not. It’s out to the 18-yard box and then narrowing off both 18-yard areas.

‘It’s a rectangular area and that’s something which can be a difference.

‘You’d rather have more possession, but that’s only one area.

‘Step one is having the ball and step two is what you do with.

‘It’s not just we had 58 per cent possession, it’s what you do with it.

‘There need to be an in-depth further breakdown and follow up.’

Statistics have been used this season to show how Pompey’s performances are worthy of a much higher place in League One than they currently occupy.

That could be interpreted as both encouraging in terms of the chances being created and frustrating the opportunities aren’t being converted into a tangible return.

Jackett acknowledged as much, while adding the caveat that technology still has a distance to travel to accurately measure what unfolds on the pitch.

He said: ‘You’re better to be better at one end than the other and finishing comes into it. It’s why people pay their money.

‘It’s better to be there and gives some confidence and hope as well.

‘You do look through and put it against your own interpretation and what you see with your own eyes.

‘That’s the balance and you can use it for fitness, sports science and I do think analysis of signings as well.

‘The stats packages are excellent now with those along with the work you need to do with the training regime, too.

‘But in terms of quantifying an 11 v 11 match on a Saturday it’s still not quite as easy.’