Capello Index: Soccer Is Not Baseball

Many of you may have heard of the Capello Index, a way of explaining who the top players in the world are.  It is the brainchild of current England national team manager, Fabio Capello.

I am here to tell you that trying to make soccer akin to baseball is completely ridiculous.

While something like the Capello Index may help lure baseball fans/mathematics junkies, it is really over-analyzing what is happening on the pitch. People need to be worried about how a team works together, rather than how many long ball passes are completed.

Capello's Index makes about as much sense as someone wanting a picture of a middle-aged dude in a speedo.

The formula works like this: Long-range passes, assists, crosses, dribbling and acceleration of the ball (not joking), aerial challenges, mistakes, sending offs, goals, interceptions and defensive cover, switch play, passes and shots, free kicks and penalties, recovery, throw-ins, headers, other field player events and goalkeeping events are all calculated in a formula with a rating. This rating is what puts them on the Capello Index.

Currently, one has been completed for the World Cup back in the summer, and the index is in its’ first full year for the Premiership, La Liga, Serie A and Champions League.

The problem? Well many things are scored on opinion. Some things (like a free-kick hitting a wall) are not scored. Also, the quality of the goals are subjective. Some can get 100 points in the system, while others can be less. People who work for the index decide this. So where in baseball, there are specific, concrete events that create stats, in the Capello Index this is not the case.

Soccer has never really been statistic-friendly. It is bizarre at best, and stupid at worst, to even see the distance a player has covered over the course of a match. Why does anyone need to know this? How can one bring it up in an intelligent conversation about the game?

Person One: “Oh, did you see Messi ran (some absurd number) during his 90 minutes in Barcelona’s last Champions League Match?”

Person Two: “Who the hell cares? He scored a goal and was amazing as usual.”

Messi: He likes to run around the pitch....like most soccer players.

I see a similar conversation surfacing regarding Capello Index numbers.

This may come off to some as a rant, but just look at the facts. Soccer is a game all about flow. Most statistics don’t really help explain what happens. If the statistics are quasi-subjective, it hurts the argument even more.

Goals, shots, shots-on-target, possession, passing percentage, cards, offsides, tackles and fouls are really all that a viewer needs to know to get an idea of what happened during the match. This shoddy form of rating doesn’t make it any easier.

You tried Fabio, but you seemed to have failed, again. Just like England in the World Cup, eh?

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by jondiced on 12/01/2010 at 03:56

    You have a valid point, but that doesn’t mean that intelligent use of statistics can’t enhance your analysis of the game. For example, everyone knows that Xavi frequently completes over 100 passes per match. One of my favorite statistics is that he also often covers more distance than anyone else on the field. Even though he isn’t a fast player, running is a central part of his game. Being in position to receive and deliver passes requires a lot of hard work!

    Reply

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