Every weekend, we're given access to millions of publicly available data points from each game across each major soccer league across the world. Want to know how many final-third tackles Monza made against Torino in Serie A? Curious about Toulouse star Branco van den Boomen's chance creation against Lyon? Interested in how effective Brenden Aaronson's dribbling was for Leeds United away to Nottingham Forest?
It's all out there, and it's all not enough.
The idea -- how we both have too much data and way too little -- is a big reason why I wrote my book, "Net Gains: Inside the Beautiful Game's Revolution." We know more about soccer than ever before, but that's also making it clear how little we actually know about how the game works. All these numbers record everything that happens with the ball, but so few of the numbers actually tell us what's helping teams win games.
This problem was the premise of a famous New York Times Magazine story, "The No Stats All-Star," written by Michael Lewis in 2009 about Houston Rockets forward Shane Battier. Despite not scoring many points, grabbing lots of rebounds or creating any assists, Battier seemingly made the Rockets play better simply by being on the court. Meanwhile, it was announced last week that soccer's version of Battier [and the subject of his own chapter in "Net Gains"] the subtle midfield genius Sergio Busquets, would be leaving Barcelona after 15 seasons with the club.
With that in mind, can we find some unsung Premier League players from this season who might be doing more than these standard on-ball numbers suggest to help their teams win?