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Forget the stats – Bowen’s a breath of fresh air


By CandH’s top blogger Allen Cummings



I’m not a stats man myself – never have been really.

I get goals scored, goals conceded, goal difference, they’ve always been part and parcel of football. But in all honesty the plethora of stats and obscure data we now find ourselves being bombarded with on TV and via various specialist media sites leave me cold.

Maybe that’s just me being ‘old skool’. I trust what I see for myself. I know a decent player when I see one, I appreciate a 100% player, I despise a lazy player – I don’t really need any help in recognising any of those things.

So when I read former footballer and now pundit Kevin Phillips using a stat I had difficulty in even fully understanding (allowing progressive passes) to cast a critical eye over Jarrod Bowen, a player I have a great deal of time for, I felt the hackles rising.

Phillips has used stats from Wyscout to inform us all that just three other players in the whole of Europe’s top five leagues have allowed the opposition to make more ‘progressive passes’ than Bowen – putting Jarrod firmly in the ‘naughty corner’ as far as the former striker is concerned.

“Stat’s don’t lie”, Phillips tells us. Maybe not Kev – but equally they often don’t tell the whole picture either – just a selective portion of it. They don’t reflect differing situations in which they are calculated. The reasons for why or how they’ve have played out.

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They don’t reflect the wider context of the game. They are just hard, cold facts. Bowen was a much needed breath of fresh air when he first arrived at West Ham in January 2020.

His energy and enthusiasm was hugely influential in galvanising a deflated team and ultimately rescuing our season. We all loved him and rightly so.

He has featured in every one of our Premier League fixtures this season. He’s our third top scorer with five goals and supplemented that with 3 assists. Recently it became known he has been suffering with tonsillitis which everyone knows can be debilitating  – but he’s battled on – under the careful management of David Moyes.

Jarrod was the bright new kid on the block when he arrived. Since then we’ve seen the arrival of Tomas Soucek, Vladimir Coufal, Craig Dawson, Said Benrahma and most recently Jesse Lingard – all of whom have attracted their share of the headlines.

Bowen has taken more of a back seat – but he’s still an important part of Moyes’ revitalised team, and the manager will continue to use him in the way he sees fit.

I’m fully aware the days are long gone when strikers worked at one end of the pitch, defender did their stuff at the other end, and the midfielders occupied the bit in the middle.

Modern players have to multi-task like never before – I get that. But to use some obscure stat to criticise a player who most of us are happier to see as an attacking threat rather than defensive cover is to miss the point.

The stats obsession hadn’t fully arrived in Phillips’ day. But if it had, I wonder what it would have told us about his play beyond goal scoring. His tracking back, his tackling, dare I say it, his ability to prevent ‘progressive passes’.

But that didn’t matter because he was paid to score goals – and he did that regularly! Jarrod Bowen is a good, young player who at 24 years of age will get even better – and it won’t be down to stats – but good old fashioned coaching under David Moyes’ and his backroom staff.

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About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

6 comments on “Forget the stats – Bowen’s a breath of fresh air

  1. Absolutely nailed Hugh – Phillips using stats to criticise when they didn’t exist in his day – as I remember he hardly appeared in his own half let alone tracked back ‘effectively’. Stats say little – how far run, how many touches, passes complete – all irrelevant if not completed effectively with an outcome – square ball won sod all!! Phillips was hailed for scoring goals – Bowen has done fine!!

  2. I agree, Allen. I’ve been surprised at anyone being critical of Jarrod Bowen this season, especially if he’s been struggling against recurrent tonsillitis. To be able to do 60 minutes suffering with the effects of that shows his positive character and willingness to do what he can for the team. Last season showed how good he was at tracking back. Maybe this season with Coufal in place, there’s been less need. He seems a level-headed humble young man as well. I get a real buzz when he picks up the ball as he always tries to make things happen. Maybe his vision for a pass can be better sometimes, but he’s not alone in that (Salah springs to mind). I hope he remains a Hammer for the rest of his career. Can’t wait for him to be fully recovered!

  3. You’re not alone in your dispair, Allen. Too much searching of ‘statistics’ to find weaknesses and fabrication of criticisms of honest endeavour. I recall 5′ 2″ Robert Earnshaw, a Welsh scoring machine being dropped by John Toshack for not running back to defend. This was supposed to be in addition to him leading the line, being a target man, holding up play, threatening the opposing defence, intimidating their goalkeeper, making runs wide, central and inside, challenging and chasing down as first line of defence and scoring regularly to boot. Later, he played for West Brom and fell out of favour with his failure to be in two places at one time. These assessments of his performances were backed up by statistics. Worst and undeniable statistic was that Earnie was shorter than 100% of the opposition. Needless to say, he never even tried to grow up.
    Jarrod is a breath of fresh air and a good, honest player. Loads of effort and always trying. A team full of players like Bowen would be anyone’s dream. Glad he’s with us.

  4. Firstly I completely agree with the article but Bowen’s form has dipped and I accept that this can happen especially at how well he has played since he has joined. But I do find it strange why Moyes then brings him on ahead of players like Benrahma and Lanzini who are itching to get a chance. Bowen has well deserved a rest and he looks as if he needs it. If a player needs a break give him a break to freshen up and give opportunities to other players.

  5. Agree with Johnham on form, Bowen is a great asset, gives 100% every time he plays but imho his form has dipped, defences have worked out how to play him and he hasn’t found the answer to that, when realistically it’s getting his head up earlier and releasing players in better positions to shoot. He can get multiple more assists if he does that and probably the goals will flow again.

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