The Blind Hammer Column
Blind Hammer uses stats to measure progress despite the Brighton reverse.
Football is an emotional game and reactions to the Brighton defeat included anger and disappointment. This was born out of widespread optimism that we would win comfortably. Some disappointed fans described our performance as “royally messing up”, amongst other negative descriptors.
We have an unfortunate habit of losing games just before an International break but despite this a more nuanced view is required.
Professional sportsmen learn not to get too up after a success, but equally not too down after a reverse. The much maligned Arsine Wenger argued that performance was always more important than the vagaries of any result.
Against Brighton West Ham had, arguably, their most powerful and dominant performance of the season.
West Ham achieved, at 64.6 , by some margin, their highest rate of possession this season. This was 20 higher than in our successful visit to Everton.
Some, after my piece last week, tried to dismiss possession as an irrelevant stat. They argued that the only relevant stat is the goals stats. This to my mind is profoundly simplistic and does not understand the pressures caused in modern football by the loss of possession. None of the top six sides set out to surrender possession, but instead seek to dominate possession. These Teams will win far more games than they will lose.
Obviously, possession has to have and end result, and simply passing amongst defenders in your own half only protects your goal.
This, however, does not describe West Ham’s performance against Brighton. West Ham mounted 17 efforts on goal. This was by some margin their greatest goal attempts tally this season. It was disappointing that only 4 of these efforts were on target with over 3 times as many efforts, 13, off target.
We can then, criticize West Ham for lacking clinical finishing.Yet this is not a general negative trend. Against Everton we produced only 4 efforts on target but converted 3 of them. This clinical finishing represented a 75% conversion rate of efforts on target and 33.3% of all goal attempts. In that context West Ham mounting of 17 attempts against Brighton without achieving a single goal seem an anomaly. West ham will, over time, win many more games than lose with such domination of both possession and goal attempts.
Certainly this is not a time for panic and there is no need to go back to the drawing board just yet.