It is often stated there are three types of lies – ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’. But how much can we rely on statistics in sport? Are they a vital component in understanding the game? One statistic I stumbled across during the World Cup was concerning the age when footballers reach their peak; I find this statistic very interesting.
A recent article by BBC News stated that footballers peak between the ages of 27 and 29. This is backed up by the fact that most successful World Cup teams had an mean age of 27.5. So it was very interesting to note (especially if you are a betting person) that the German team average age starting line-up was 27.7 and the average age of the Argentine starting 11 was 28.4. But then in the semi-finals Argentina beat the Netherlands whose starting 11 had an average age of 27.5. Statistics just can’t be taken as gospel.
The headlines pointed out that Roy Hodgson picked a very young team, but the truth of the matter is that England’s average age was 27.4 –England’s starting 11 in the 1966 World Cup was a lot younger at 26.7, so going by this statistic the 2014 squad should have performed better than the 1966 squad… we all know that this was far from the case. What is also worth mentioning is that Brazil’s 1958 World Cup winning team was the youngest at 26.3 but their 1962 winning team was the oldest at 30.7. So what all these statistics prove is that performance can’t be determined solely by age, but it has a great deal to do with talent. My personal point of view is that with the increase in technology and nutrition, Sports Medicine and Sports Science in years to come, the average age of a winning World Cup with increase dramatically. Ultimately, statistics do give us some knowledge about patterns and trends in sport, but they can’t be used to determine any real results, as there are just too many variables that can’t be predicted.
Just look at Ryan Giggs’ performances over the last five years. It just goes to show you that all statistics have outliers.