They aka people, say that "you can prove anything with statistics" and thats what I'm going to do here, as I was having a look at some, and found them fairly interesting.
I'm not talking about some sort of Barcelona/Messi type stat-wankery, something that can help explain the teams recent demise. We've got injuries, they're really bad, we all know that, but how much of an impact are they having on the team?
Well, I'm going to show a few things, and it might, just might, open a few eyes, and show some things that others seem to be missing in amongst all the knee-jerking...Starting off looking at the team in general and indeed "the bigger picture" we need to establish. Last season, we finished 13th, with 11 Wins, 11 Draws and 16 losses totalling 44 points. A defeat to West Ham United next weekend would see us land in exaclty the same position once again. Same W/D/L, points and position (provided Aston Villa also take no more than a point from their games against Arsenal & Liverpool)
So, looking at that you ask "have we progressed?" well, technically, not really if everything is the same, however take in to account the ridiculous amount of injuries... "But everyone gets injuries!"... They do, but not to the point where you have only 11 fit players.
Who's fault are all the injuries? Regardless of speculation, we don't know. Nobody knows for sure, so it's absolutely pointless playing the blame game based upon whispers and people regurgitating things they heard from Pete Friar's Dad's Aunties Dog's Friends Brother-In-Law down The Bluebell one night.
We have injuries to key players, I'm sure you don't need reminding of the names, but here's a few little factoids about those who have been missing for extended periods this season.
Asamoah Gyan - Most Goals (10), Most Assists (4) Most Shots Per Game (2.0) in the squad. Obviously BabyJet is a major miss, and not just for his energy, but any team throughout the league would miss the player who has scored the most goals, and created the most.
Lee Cattermole - Most Tackles Won Per Game (3.9) Most Interceptions Per Game (3.0) in the squad. Aside from Catts' obvious leadership qualities as captain, someone to win the ball in midfield and break up play is crucial to any team. We've been without our best man for that for a number of weeks.
Titus Bramble - Most Clearances Per Game (9.5) in the squad. Titus has also been a big miss with his play in general, but having someone who can get the ball away under pressure is an essential element. In addition to Bramble, we've also missed our other two leaders in this field for long periods; Anton Ferdinand (8.0) and Michael Turner (7.8 per game).
Anton Fedinand - Most Aerial Duels Won (71%) in the squad. Aside from Ferdi making a massive amount of clearances, he's also won the ball the most in the air for us (barring keepers, although thats still a higher percentage than Simon Mignolet). So Anton has been a miss when we play teams who chuck it in the air, as teams are prone to do.
Four key players, and arguably the backbone of the team, with leaders in every department needed for a successful team. All of whom have sat out large parts of the season.
Looking back at our best performance of the season, the one that got us fired up and believing something special may happen - Chelsea away where we won 3-0 -only four of those who started that game started in the 1-3 defeat to Wolves: Phil Bardsley, Nedum Onuoha, Jordan Henderson & Bolo Zenden.
People say the squad is thin. It is, we can't deny that and the above injuries have certainly taken it's toll, however we have used an incredible 31 different players this year. Thats 31 who have made an appearance, I'm not even counting those like Trevor Carson or Blair Adams who despite a few appearances on the bench are yet to make a breakthrough to the first team.
You have to look at the mix of players. This season of those 31, 13 of them made their debuts in red and white. A team plus two subs of players who have never played together, don't know eachother. Give them time to gel!
I haven't even mentioned a former 15-20 goal per season striker who sulked off to a Birmingham suburb in late January, leaving us in a right bloody pickle.
And yet despite all this, we are in the same place as last season, in fact, on course to better it if we can get a result at Upton Park. Easier said than done of course, but I for one didn't see a win at Bolton and we got one, so it can't be ruled out.
Also if results go our way, and whilst it's unlikely, it's not that impossible. Depending on what time of day you read this, but we could do with the following happening...
Aston Villa lose their games against Arsenal and then Liverpool. Possible? Very much so for my money.
Stoke City lose against Manchester City, and follow that up with a home defeat to Wigan. Not quite as likely, I'll admit, but maybe Wigan will need the win like Wolves this weekend and get a result.
Fulham lose against both Birmingham City and Arsenal. I think they will get beat off Arsenal, but probably not Birmingham, but again, its certainly one they could lose.
Newcastle lose to Chelsea, and follow that up with a draw against West Bromwich Albion. I think that's doable, although as much as it pains me to say it, I think them lot will beat WBA.
Lastly we need Bolton to suffer a home defeat to Manchester City on the final day.
So, thats a hell of a lot of if's, but like I said, not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Anyway, say they do happen, and we win at West Ham... We're gonna finish 8th. I'd say that's a fairly successful season considering the injuries.
If the results go as 'expected' with wins amongst all that for Fulham, Newcastle & Stoke, then we would end up 11th with a win at West Ham. Not great, but not bad when you take into account the injuries we've been faced with that I mentioned above.
Worst case scenario, we'll end up where we are now in 13th, bob on with last season. When you look at some of the crazy things that have happened this season, is it really all that bad? Not for me. We chalk it up as another Premier League season of learning and move on to the next one.
Should the fans be demanding more? What right do we really have to be challenging for Europe? I think we all just got carried away. You'll be able to count on one hand the amount of teams who have been in the Premier League for less than 5 seasons and became Europa League/UEFA Cup candidates.
Take Bolton for example, a team doing quite well for themselves at the moment. It took them 5 seasons to end up 6th, and qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
So all in all, what am I trying to say here? We've been buggered by injuries, the stats prove it, and yet we're no worse off than last season despite not being that much better. Just imagine everyone remained fit, and look forward to next season when hopefully, the vast majority of them will be.
Take this article however you want, be it "Oh, that makes some sense" or "Stop talking crap, Bruce Out!"... it's up to yourselves, I'm just presenting an argument, and some facts. I'd love to hear from you, so why not make a comment or two!