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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.


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