city fan in peace
Thought the Arsenal performance at the Etihad was pretty impressive - not many teams will get points there this season and Arsenal are looking far more like title challengers than they have for a few seasons.
As for the stats - Patrick Finch aludes to it. In baseball the game is defined by very narrow ranges of probability because each phase of play contains only one set of actions and variables. Cricket is similar. In football, by contrast, due to the continual interaction of the other 21 players on the pitch, plus officials, even the crowd - spotting statistical patterns is going to be that much harder. Liverpool failed because those players they bought depended on players around them with whom to interact. Some players can be removed from this team setting and placed in another and it will work, perhaps Liverpool failed spectacularly because the metrics being measured are faulty.
In my own, amateur, observations of the game, there are broadly speaking four sets of actions
1. defensive / possession regaining actions
2. the transitional act from regaining to utilising
3. offensive / possession utilisation actions.
4. the transitional act of loss of possession
Possession regaining actions include closing players down, tracking back, blocking, defending, tackling, keeping formational shape when defending, marking runners, marking for corners, stepping up to catch players offside. And more besides. There will be measurements of a player's awareness, their movement, their tackling accuracy, and much more.
Transitional regaining acts include intercepting passes, clearances, what the player did with the ball - lump it clear or play towards one of their own - and the accuracy of that.
Offensive acts are runs made off the ball to pull defences around (really important - and also were those runs made in a realistic way so the player could have been reached by an accurate pass, or were they expecting the impossible from their team-mates?), breaks, runs made with the ball, passes, throw-ins, shots, movement - accuracy and effectiveness of all of these is important but not as important as the actual act itself. For example, in any 10 minute spell with possession, a winger can consistently make great runs and not receive a pass. This running causes a defender or two to follow him, leaving a gap. Alternatively the defenders realise the player is not going to receive a pass and may drift infield to do something more useful. At this point a decisive pass can play the under-utilised winger in and set up a goal-scoring opportunity. Obviously shots made / on target / straight at the keeper etc. There is luck involved too but the more possession and passing a team does the more likely they are to get into shooting scenarios, the more likely they are to score.
Last there is the loss of possession. Except where down to consistent carelessness, consistent poor positioning or consistent poor awareness this could be down to how your opponent plays. But it is important to note risks taken when a team is stretched - risky passes made by defenders cost goals, overly cautious passing by attacking players causes attacks to break down and lose momentum.
None of these lists are the least bit exhaustive and there will be subtleties and intricacies which as a non-player I don't see.
I don't know the answer. There is quality and consistency of decision-making, speed of thought, presence of mind, adaptability, inventiveness - how do you quantify them? Or is the metric something that is missed, but implied by all of these factors? Is it too chaotic to predict and only general patterns can be derived? Will we forever be subjected to the inane, cliche-ridden banality of football pundits who seem to have as little awareness in commentary box as they had as either players or in management?
As mentioned by others, the long ball game was the result of a poor reading of stats and it has caused unparalleled damaged to the English game. Having kids play on full-sized pitches with full-sized goals has created a nation of hit-and-hopers instead of any appreciation of the finer arts of playing...