Robin Sainty: Balancing act needed when it comes to the stats game at Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 00:05 28 April 2018 | UPDATED: 00:05 28 April 2018
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As City's disappointing season meanders towards its seemingly interminable close, games and results have become almost secondary to statistics, which are being pored in over in much the same way that an ancient Roman oracle might study the entrails of a freshly-sacrificed sheep.
Of course, the great thing about statistics is that they can be used selectively to justify any argument, and over the last few weeks I’ve seen all sorts of figures quoted to justify all sorts of conclusions about City, ranging from brighter prospects ahead to terminal decline.
For example, I recently read that City have won fewer games at Carrow Road than in the season when they were relegated to League One, with this single statistic presented as if it were the alpha and omega of City’s current situation.
I quote it not because it’s not a relevant piece of information, nor because I don’t share the writer’s concern, but simply because it perfectly illustrates the dangers of taking any such statistic in isolation.
Yes, City’s home form has been hugely disappointing, but it can’t be taken in isolation because the fact that they have won twice as many points away from Carrow Road this season than the 14 that they managed in 2008/9 is equally important and explains why they will finish in mid-table this time around.
It’s all about presenting a balanced picture.
However, all the statistics in the world can’t produce any other conclusion than that after 10 seasons of excitement the last nine months have been frustrating, often depressing and generally very heavy going.
While there have been clear improvements in City’s defence it is only in the last few weeks that we have seen any real improvement in the side’s attacking capabilities, although as an aside, I do find it encouraging that this has been achieved while returning to a back four without weakening the defence.
However, I think we all realise that, wherever we each currently sit on the spectrum of positivity, this summer is going to be the key to the ultimate success or failure of Daniel Farke’s regime.
Of course, for some that will revolve around the future of James Maddison above all else, and it was interesting to hear what the player himself had to say at last week’s press conference.
One thing that did come across very strongly is that, should he decide to move to the Premier League this summer, Maddison, unlike Alex Pritchard, is unlikely to jump at the first offer that comes his way and force City’s hand.
His affection for the club that gave him his big step up and the fans who have treated him with adulation all season shone through in his interview.
If he does leave in the summer he will do so with the best wishes and thanks of virtually every Norwich fan, and whilst his departure would clearly leave a large hole to fill on the pitch, it would simultaneously plug one in the club’s finances and finally put them back into equilibrium with the last of the big contracts coming off the books next summer, assuming that Stuart Webber isn’t able to move them on first.
However, today will be all about a farewell to another City hero as Wes Hoolahan makes his final Carrow Road appearance as a Canary.
There is no doubt that it will be an emotional afternoon, and I’m glad that the club and Wes have reached a decision on his future in time for him to have a last goodbye to the fans as a player, although he will, of course, be returning for his testimonial next season.
Often brilliant, sometimes frustrating and totally unpredictable, Hoolahan is, without doubt, a one-off, and will leave all of us with many great memories of his 10 years in yellow and green.
Slán agus beannacht leat, Wesley.