How many league assists did Cesc Fabregas create at Arsenal?
|Source:||Fabregas Assists 2004-2011|
Okay, we have a difference of opinion! I have no idea who is transcribing the information for each of these online resources & it is not my intention to criticise anyone for providing that service, merely to highlight discrepancies in data collection, so for that reason i've anonymised the sources. Moreover, the differences are quite large. So is it a matter of a specific outlier? Maybe the data becomes more unreliable as you go back in time? Theoretically, given the increased interest in the use of football statistics you might presume the most recent numbers would be more consistent:
Hmm... not the case.
Are there any two sources the same?
No. Sources B & D concur on all years except for 2008/9, which is encouraging; or at least it is until you realise that source B is Wikipedia, so basically regurgitated information derived from elsewhere.
The most baffling season is 2006/7. One source gives a mere 6 compared to 11-13 from the other sources. I decided to try and ascertain the truth. Having squinted pointlessly at blurry Youtube videos, the method I resorted to was to look at the post match write ups, which are conveniently available on the BBC website. They do a pretty decent job of describing the action during a match and the events leading up to a goal. Here's what I came up with:
|@Man Utd||0-1||Adebayor||'forced error, threaded pass'||Y|
|v Watford||3-0||OG||'free kick flicked by Adebayor forcing OG'||?|
|“”||“”||Henry||'brought down for penalty'||?|
|v Liverpool||3-0||Flamini||'crossed low to near post'||Y|
|v Blackburn||6-2||Flamini||'beat Savage by corner flag, keeper parried'||?|
|@Tottenham||2-2||Toure||'free kick chipped to far post'||Y|
|“”||“”||Adebayor||'free kick chipped to far post'||Y|
|v Fulham||3-1||Adebayor||'through ball'||Y|
Before you read on, I implore you to enjoy this clip from the Blackburn game:
So the upshot is, I count eight clear assists and three others that could be counted depending on how you define 'assist'. FIFA attempted to define what they considered an assist after producing a Technical Report for the 1986 World Cup & revised one element after the 1990 tournament. They say this:
- An assist was awarded to the player who had given the last pass to the goalscorer.
- In addition, also the last but two holder of the ball could get an assist if his action had decisive importance for the goal .
- After goals from rebounds those players were awarded an assist who had shot on target.
- Where goals resulting from penalties are concerned, the player who is fouled in the area receives an assist point (unless, that is, the player who is fouled subsequently executes the penalty himself)
So what is the point?
Data collection within football is not new, but the extent to which it is being collected has accelerated during the Premier League era, especially in recent years as public resources have cropped up. What concerns me is that beyond simple measures such as goals or appearances, there are inherent flaws in the collection of any other data. Specifically i've looked at assists here as beyond goals and appearances, they are the next level of detail in statistically describing a game; they are necessarily rarer than goals so shouldn't take much counting, yet in the example shown there is great variance within a small sample.
The example I have used is historic, I didn't seek it out, I just found it in the course of research & was actually surprised at the variance I found when trying to look for a definitive number. I do appreciate that both public and private data recording is ever-improving & these examples are now historic. (Although it seems crazy to think of 2007 as a historical backwater, but comparatively, it was). The hope is that eventually, football will realise the value of standardising some of it's metrics across the resources that are available and when an assist is declared an assist it's as fixed as any goal or appearance.
Thanks for reading.
Not all assists are born equal; this got charged to Karim Benzema the other day & is probably not one for his highlight reel:
PPS: I was reminded to finish this article by Ted Knutson's irritation that Fabregas' wiki page had no assists credited to it, whereas Thierry Henry's did. Well, a couple of weeks ago they were listed & for some unknown reason, now they are not. Maybe the most recent wiki editor found it as difficult as I did to create a definitive total?
PPPS: I appreciate that plenty of what i've written here will be a case of 'WE KNOW' to some people and that greater detail could have been incorporated, but i've tried to keep things generally light and uncontroversial with the aim of making a point rather than driving a wedge.