Fulham 0, Leeds United 3; The Worries Behind the Win   –   by Rob Atkinson


Three kinds of lies

Three kinds of lies

A wise man once told us: “There are three kinds of lies. There are lies; there are damned lies – and there are statistics.

The point he was making, of course, was that the bare numbers rarely tell the whole tale; they can be twisted and manipulated to support a variety of points of view, depending upon the user’s level of dishonesty. Ask George Osborne about that – but don’t expect anything like the truth…

It was Mark Twain who popularised the quote; the identity of the originator is sadly lost to us. But, whoever it was, if he had been present at Craven Cottage last night to watch Leeds United seemingly cruise to a routine 3-0 victory over Fulham, then he might have found reasons both to praise and damn those pesky stats.

The main statistic of course, as Sky TV hacks are always expressing it, is “that little one in the top left hand corner of your screen”. The scoreline is the Alpha & Omega of statistics; a 3-0 win is a 3-0 win, decisive and indisputable. So mote it be. And yet, the other statistics in a game of football frequently bear critical examination. This is particularly so when that bare scoreline on its own might just lead us to false assumptions about form and performance. And the human element can also act so as to skew the outcome against all the logic provided by the facts and figures of a match. Last night at Fulham, if it hadn’t been for the frankly superhuman performance of Leeds keeper Marco Silvestri in all its elastically bendy brilliance, then the trend of the game’s shots on goal figures may well radically have changed the final scoreline.

Those damned match stats

Those damned match stats (Thanks to BBC Sport)

So, to get to the meat of the matter, the fact is that watching last night’s highlights is a fairly sobering experience for any Leeds fan, and tends to cure even those glass-half-full types of any excessive post-victory euphoria. The evidence of your eyes is that Leeds United were under considerable pressure for much of the evening; this continued to be the case even after Fulham defender Kostas Stafylidis‘ two mad moments which saw him dismissed for back-to-back yellow cards. There were too many times when Leeds were cut apart; too many occasions on which heroic custodian Silvestri had to fling himself into the breach. He had a very successful evening, our Marco – but it’s fair to say that you don’t ideally want to see your ‘keeper given quite so many chances to shine. Those statistics confirm for us what we could quite plainly see; Fulham’s creation of clear-cut opportunities was right up there and on another night might well have been reflected in a different result. A combination of poor finishing (a nervous and too-eager-to-succeed Matt Smith must hold his hand up here), excellent shot-stopping and the kindness of the woodwork saw Fulham fail to score, when they could easily have had half a dozen. That’s really no exaggeration.

After the match, United coach Neil Redfearn was understandably keen to highlight the fact that Leeds could have had half a dozen of their own. And it’s fair to say that it’s not Redders’ job to spread alarm and despondency among the troops. But equally it’s important that the weaknesses inherent in a performance that afforded the opposition so many chances, should be recognised and addressed. This is the big worry that the scoreline, excellent though it undoubtedly is, tends to conceal.

The fact of the matter is that, in the medium to long term – or perhaps as soon as the next game – we will get found out if these kind of statistics keep cropping up. Numbers can be interpreted or manipulated or crunched until the cows come home – but in their raw form, they still have their own undeniable message. Conceding a large majority of possession is a worry; it’s tiring to play and chase without the ball. Shots both on and off target against your own goal – that’s another worry. If you buy enough tickets, you’re going to win a raffle sooner or later; the woodwork and an inspired goalkeeper can only do so much. The numbers suggest that Leeds were cut open by an average Championship attack on far too many occasions. The conclusion has to be that Silvestri is insufficiently protected, and that can have only one outcome over time – we’ll be conceding too many again, and results will suffer accordingly.

This is not intended to be a whinge, or in any way to detract from yet another good result on the road. We should rejoice in that; the recent run has hauled us well clear of danger at the bottom and we now have the breathing space to think about next season – a significant luxury before we’ve even reached Easter. But the planning for a new campaign in August must surely address the concerns revealed by last night’s lop-sided possession and attempts on goal stats – otherwise, eventually, we’ll pay for soft-centred characteristics.

Perhaps the root of the problem is a lack of bite in midfield when Rudy Austin isn’t present. On the other side last night, Scott Parker gave an object lesson, even in defeat, of the difference an all-action, tigerish midfield presence can make. A lot of Fulham’s good stuff came through him, and – let’s not forget – there was plenty of good stuff from them last night. That we didn’t suffer by it was an eccentricity of the occasion, with so many chances fluffed, wasted or thwarted by Silvestri. But we can’t rely upon there being too many nights or days like that.

Fulham may yet fall through the trapdoor into League One, just a season after sinking out of the Premier League. If that were to happen then – once we had dried the tears of mirth from our eyes at the way Ross McCormack‘s dream had gone sour on him – we might well wish to look at the availability of Mr Parker who, on last night’s evidence, would be an asset to many a Championship team. I’m sure we could get him for a lot less than £11 million, just to pluck a figure out of thin air. Scott Parker was, more than anyone else in a Fulham shirt, rather unlucky to be on the losing side last night, and it’s clear as day to me that he would improve our midfield options.

Pie in the sky, of course – there are currently far too many variables, including the distinct possibility of yet another TOMA scenario this summer, to speculate on the direction of Leeds’ recruitment policy. That’s even assuming that we’re going to be out of embargo. But if there was even a chance of securing a Scott Parker type for the White shirt, then surely we’d reap massive benefit from that kind of all-action, committed presence. And, maybe then, we’d see a few of those damned statistics turning the way of our beloved Damned United.

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20 responses to “Fulham 0, Leeds United 3; The Worries Behind the Win   –   by Rob Atkinson

  1. True. Damned true… Then there are those statistics!

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  2. I have to agree Rob. Despite our recent run of terrific results, there continues to be an underlying problem …our midfield concedes possession far too easily and far more often than it should, yet I’m not sure Rudy Austin is the answer, as he too concedes possession far too easily, or shoots into row ZZ. A Scott Parker, or even better, a Michael Carrick type would be a great addition … a player who has the ability to put his foot into a tackle, won’t be rushed on the ball, and with the ability to slow things down when needed … a player who rarely gives the ball away and is constantly looking for a positive forward pass, and with the ability to complete it. Without doubt, and with a little more experience, our young players will grow into that type of role.

    Perhaps Granddi N’Goyi can be that player … has Neil Redfearn not said that he has been pleasantly surprised by what he’s seen so far?

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  3. whiteshotgun

    yes we were lucky, and weathered an onslaught, however and we will always debate this, these guys are paid fortunes and Fulham should have stuffed us out of sight. But luck plays a massive part when you are on a roll and have belief. Sometimes we ask to much to be Brilliant at all times, if we were still 4th from bottom, we would be banging the gong on Redders to be sacked, Cellino to clear off, Russell Crowe or Red Bull to buy us out. So these guys who are paid fortunes, did what they had to do, they got stuck in and I for one ask only this, show us what it means to wear the colours. we were away, id take three goals away of arse, tit and shoulder …… trouble with us Leeds fans is we want it all, all of the time….. we are still a struggling championship side so reality has to come into plain sight. Lets start on the right foot next season, and see what happens. if by sheer luck we do hit the play offs which is mathematically possible, then will we groan and moan, if we don’t scrape through. id rather not have the embarrassment of being pipped by bloody Brentford. I look at us as a snickers moment, a bunch of divas (not divers although our dirty Leeds is one title we will win, needs to be sorted) we need feeding in the close season….. after all your not yourself when your Hungry !!!!!!!

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    • I’m more conservative on who I’d wish for!, some you mentioned would probably see Redders gone, top class manager installed but, the big but we would in all reality lose our fabric…..the kids that are the essence of the revolution here!!…..more of a bounty type myself
      Cheers
      Don

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  4. Asim Siddiq

    I understand your viewpoint, but it was one match, if this was every match then yes it would be very worrying, but the matter of fact is that, most opposition are having around 10 to 15 chances against us which is really quite normal. Boro beat Ipswich 4-1 at the weekend but they had 13 chances while Ipswich had 22 chances of which 13 were on target so they were lucky as well. How many times were Man Utd lucky under Ferguson ?, too many times to remember. Remember Fulham had to win this match, we didn’t and we still did. The stats show that we have the players to beat any side.

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    • Good points, cheers 👍

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      • Just like looking at the end result…..been praying for a win like that for ages did’nt care how it came…….3 nil 3 nil 3 nil 3 nil as the song goes, wonderful stuff……..stuff the ruddy stats just look it cannot change the result…..not even Mr Hardaker….god love him …..well somebody must’ve
        Cheers
        Don

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  5. RoystonLUFC

    oddly enough though, Rob, most of our games seem to have adopted that pattern but we’ve still managed an extraordinary run. The Smoggies game summed it up even more than last night’s. How we manage to nick wins while being under the cosh for so much of the game is beyond me; and yet we seem to have turned it into a profitable art form.
    Don’t get get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that all’s well, but the current formation does seem to thrive precisely on that “backs to the wall” scenario – with or without Austin. So my problem is that if a Scott Parker lined up for the team, who would be sacrificed? I think it would require a brave man to stand one of our midfielders down. Would it be Murphy or Cook? Difficult decision!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting points. However our run of clean sheets since the turn of the year suggests that we either ‘get lucky’ alot or that we’re generally hard to beat and hard to score against. Silvestri is the best shot stopper in the Division so the opposition has to be very good to beat him (Watford’s front 3 spring to mind). Bellusci and Bamba were excellent but Austin is a big miss in midfield – I doubt Parker would have had the same influence with Rudy harassing him. However the bottom line is that we played without pressure and looked like a side that was totally relaxed – maybe too relaxed – but we are starting to develop a winning mentality and were clinical in front of goal. A thoroughly enjoyable evening ! On and on.

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  7. to be honest rob , who cares about stats , its goals that count , and talking on of counting , i had a nice little double on leeds and forest so happy days

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  8. Hi Rob,well said,if I could describe our squad in 1 word,it would be, fragile.We are playing better and getting results but there is a certain something missing

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  9. p.s – tears of merth sums it up if they got down..

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  10. People huff and puff about stats, at the end of the day a game lasts 90 minutes in which a team has to kick a ball into a massive target the most times to win. Forget luck, might be’s and more luck and luck again, it is a simple game.

    I once saw Leeds play a team at Elland Rd, we huffed and puffed , had 70% possession, hit the bar, hit the posts numerous times and ended up losing 4-0, this was against Watford, the side with Luther Blissett, they got promoted an in essence were a top division side, and we were 2nd tier mid table.

    The reason Fulham are 2nd or 3rd tier was on show last night, they couldn’t do the simple thing of kicking the ball into the BIG target.
    It makes me laugh when managers moan about refs or bad luck, you have an hour and half to kick the ball into a BIG Target, that’s it.

    Leeds are a very young team, the interview with Sam Byram after the match shows that – he looks about 12 years old.

    Next season we need something more, something is missing, that midfielder, winger, striker and something to bring it all together, maybe like you say a Scott Parker or more preferably an experienced class ginger midfielder – that’s what we usually need for promotion!!

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  11. I totally agree with you about needing an experienced central midfielder like Parker and surely a tough experienced central midfielder has to be the first signing that Leeds make in the summer, just to organize the very talented young midfield and to stop constant onslaughts, like in the first 39 minutes last night and in many other games.
    I was listening to the game on Radio Leeds and very nearly turned off before the 40 minute, due to the constant, cruel pressure that Leeds were under, but I was shocked when Leeds got that breakaway goal, which was so crucial to deflating a pumped up Fulham, who could have been three goals up by then.
    During the constant pressure from Fulham, I was actually shouting at the radio for Redfearn to bring on Cooper, just to shore things up, but what a turn-around in the game for Leeds.
    Many people might be saying that Leeds stole the points, but many teams have stole wins at Elland Road, with just one or two chances, over the last few seasons.

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  12. Maybe the gypsy curse is starting to wear off?

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  13. As to your point about Scott(dances past)Parker, I think you’ve hit the spot there……what would you give to the gypsy…to have her move to Craven cottage….wel just for a few weeks?……Who knows dreams sometimes come to pass…………Currently Scott Parker is on the wish list of midfield generals for Leeds Utd
    Don

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