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®2011
Using Statistical Analysis to Replace the Impressions and Notions of Expert Opinion: 
An Illustration Comparing the 2010-2011 La Liga Season 
Performance of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Abstract
Listening to Martin Tyler’s mellifluous baritone voice announcing the play-by-play of an UEFA Champions League, English Premier League, or World Cup competition is always a joy. He has a way of explaining the flow and intricacies of the game in such vivid terms that you to can close your eyes and see his words in your mind’s eye. Mr. Tyler also has a very popular online weekly column called Stats and Facts on SkySports.com. As with almost all sports commentators and analysts, the stats he presents are primarily descriptive; numbers that do little to explain relationships or differences or even the likelihood of the findings being real or accidental. Stats and Facts provides numbers but not insight.

It is natural but also risky to presume that one player who averages 40 passes per game is more prolific than one who averages 35 passes per game simply based on the numeric superiority. The bigger question that invariably goes unanswered is, “Does this difference represent a reliably higher level of performance?” Are the chances of making the 40 passes significantly more than the 35 or is this difference due to random variation—an accident based on the limited size sample of data available and the variability of the measures?

It isn’t that Martin Tyler is uniquely guilty of using the term “statistics” loosely. In fact, Mr. Tyler is better than most. And like almost every other football journalist, he entertains by presenting highly accessible information. Unfortunately, by doing this, the descriptive numbers fall short of the available, deeper, and more useful information that could provide a more intimate understanding regarding the meaning of the numbers. It lowers the bar of insight for the general public to assume that the number is, somehow, the end point—when it is really only the tip of the iceberg.
 
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