I’ve never been one for maths, I hated the subject at school and needed a couple of bites at the cherry to pass my O’Level – that’s a GCSE in old money.
So it has been with a degree of disquiet on my part that football has started moving into mathematics.
There is an obsession with how much possession a side has during a game, how many kilometres a particular player has run.
Slowly too, statistics are creeping into the transfer market.
Players were traditionally bought because they could do a job, stick the ball in the net at one end or help keep it out at the other.
Some clubs now buy on the strength of probability and likely re-sale value.
A player can be bought on the strength of having a 47.6% chance of supplying a number of defence-splitting passes.
Brentford openly use the Moneyball system for identifying players and it appears that Liverpool have at times gone down such a route.
Their transfer ‘committee’ has come under much scrutiny this week in the wake of Brendan Rodgers’ sacking and subsequent appointment of Jurgen Klopp.
The committee supposedly has among its number a stats specialist to help target players who fall into the category wanted at Anfield.
Will it catch on in wider circles? Will the trend see an influx of deals done on the basis that statistically, a player suits the model in preference to the hard evidence of what he has previously done on the pitch?
Are we slowly seeing the decline of the manager’s role in transfers?
Once upon a time, a transfer was done start to finish by the manager – the only thing he didn’t do was write out the actual cheque.
Famously, Brian Clough invited himself in as a house guest of Archie Gemmill when signing him for Derby from Preston.
Gemmill wanted to think the deal over, so Clough took root in the midfielder’s home, did the washing up and slept overnight on the sofa.
In the morning over breakfast, a contract was put in front of Gemmill by Clough and duly signed.
Could you imagine that happening now, Klopp, Louis Van Gaal or Jose Mourinho turning up on the doorstep of a player’s tasteless mock-Tudor mansion and effectively refusing to leave until a deal was done?
There is no doubt that transfers now involve a lot more people, although Liverpool’s committee seems to stretch a point.
At most clubs, it is a case of the manager presenting his chairman or director of football with a list of targets, the ‘suits’ then left to do the deals and work things within the budget.
Earlier, I mentioned the importance placed by many within the game on possession statistics.
How many times do we hear manager and coaches trot out that their side had a certain percentage of the ball, hence being deserving of a better result.
But I detect a change in trend on that front as more teams play on the counter.
It is all whereabouts on the pitch that possession comes.
PNE had the ball just 32% of the time against Swindon in the play-off final and came away 4-0 winners.
Last Sunday when Arsenal beat Manchester United 3-0, the possession stats were 38-62 in United’s favour.
North End’s one win in the Championship to date this season saw them have 38% of the play compared to MK Dons’ 62%.
The boot was on the other foot when Derby won 2-1 at Deepdale last month, the Rams victorious despite having the ball 42% of the time compared to PNE’s 58%.
The possession stats can build up when teams play out from the back.
They don’t necessarily get anywhere with it, but the figures look good afterwards on the laptop.
Coaches are content to let the opposition have as much of the ball in their own half, then press for it back once play reaches their own half.
Again, it is an example of when statistics can paint a distorted picture of a game.
While I’m no real fan of these international breaks, I cannot help feeling that this one has come at a good time for North End.
A chance to re-group, reflect and look ahead, a chance for injuries to heel.
The next half-dozen games before the November break, are a real mixed bag in terms of where the opposition are in the table – two in the top five, two mid-table and two from the pack just above PNE.