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That ‘Capello Index’

It’s said that you can prove anything with statistics. But figures become especially dubious when human input or interpretation is required. And that’s the problem with the Capello Index.

The objection that the press is currently quarreling with is superfluous. That these numbers and ratings are freely available for everyone and anyone to gloss over is a non-issue; it’s not as though statistics and ratings aren’t widely available anyway, regardless of who came up with the formula. Hell, we should be glad that the England manager is mentally capable to cogitate such a system.

To put that into some sort of context: there should be no harm in a formula – whether it’s devised by the England manager or not – that proves how poor Wayne Rooney was at this year’s World Cup; because if the Manchester United custodian didn’t know it already, we would literally be the dimmest person on the planet.

Dimmer, in fact, than a Hollyoaks viewer, or a Raoul Moat supporter. What the numerations would do is bring it home to the striker in cold hard black and white. Then perhaps he’d start doing something about it – numbers, especially for a footballer, are hard to argue against.

capello ind

The Capello Index attempts to define a 'nice' assist.

No, the major problem is that the formula for producing the numbers in question borders on being indiscriminately arbitrary. The Capello Index’s fusion of subjective human opinion into the values used can deliver serious aberrations such as Manuel Neuer’s inclusion into the World Cup top 10 highest ranking players, even though the German goalkeeper never looked too assuring between the sticks throughout the month.

For instance: passes that lead to a shot or goal are divided into being an ‘Assist’, or the stunningly articulately named ‘Nice Assist’. Each division of assist possesses a certain criteria: ‘Assist’ is simply a standard pass or assist that leads to a shot or goal. ‘Nice Assist’, however, is defined as a ‘spectacular pass’ or a ‘very difficult pass’ that leads to a shot or goal. Clearly the self-evident problem is interpretation. When does a normal assist become a ‘nice’ assist?

Obviously, subjective interpretation then leaves the door open for argument with the numbers produced and the numbers, in the end, instead of being finite and definite, become opinions dressed as facts.

Take Manuel Neuer’s assist for Miroslav Klose’s goal against England, for example. Firstly, could his long range goal-kick even be defined as an assist? To all intense and purposes, Neuer’s kick was just a long punt up field before Klose created the space for the chance. Neuer never intended for his ball to put the German forward through on goal.

But, on the other hand, the goalkeeper’s ball was vital for the goal.

So, if it can be defined as an assist, then why not as a ‘Nice Assist’? It certainly was a long and incisive pass.

Clearly though, Neuer wasn’t attempting an assist, he was searching for either Mesut Ozil or Klose and the mistakes of the England defenders attributed to the beauty of his ball. Should that also be taken into consideration when evaluating the ‘niceness’ of the pass?

Interestingly, the Capello Index’s solution has been to put goalkeeper involvement into a separate category that doesn’t officially recognize long balls such as the Schalke 04 goalkeeper’s as an assist despite it arguably being so, and arguably a fine one at that. FIFA’s website has, however, credited the goalkeeper with the assist in its official numbers.

Yep, you can prove anything with statistics.

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