Sometimes a football pundit’s take on a player needs to age like a fine wine. Don’t drink it straight away, keep it in a cellar for a while to allow its bouquet to become more developed and multi-layered. And when you finally open it years later and take a sip… BOOM! The complexities of the aged tipple collide with your taste-buds and create an explosion on your palette.
Ladies and gentleman, we present to you this vintage take for your delectation: Jamie Redknapp on Lee Cattermole from 2014.
Read it. Then read it again, just to be sure your eyes didn’t deceive you the first time. Yes, Jamie really did put Lee Cattermole in the same bracket as Busquets and Alonso. That really did happen. How did such a spectacular thought form inside Jamie’s head? Where did he connect the dots to create an opinion of monumental wrongness? Blame the stats, you should always blame the stats.
Stats for Nothing
Analysis using statistics is all well and good, until it stops making any sense. Take those “worst start in the club’s history” lines you often hear bandied around at the beginning of the season. For the most part, they’re pretty meaningless unless they’re comparing like-for-like. Did that club have a run of games against far-superior teams in their “worst start” ever? Maybe in every other season they started against Barnsley, Luton, and Swindon? Who knows, but such a soundbite stat often ignores these possibilities.
In Redknapp’s take, he’s pulled up a table that compares Cattermole with his more highly-praised continental peers. This table shows that Cattermole sits on top based on tackles, recoveries, clearances and blocks. And what does this tell us? Absolutely squat.
Cattermole had nearly more clearances than Busquets, Alonso, Matuidi and de Rossi combined, yeah? That doesn’t mean he’s as good as those players, it just means he’s been forced into a position where he’s had to make more clearances than them. What that stat really tells us is this: Sunderland aren’t as good a team as Barcelona, Bayern, PSG and Roma. Colour us surprised.
This stat table also fails to indicate another fairly crucial point: the Premier League is different to other leagues. We know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s actually true. Would anyone really expect a defensive midfielder in Serie A to be forced into making desperate clearances every other game? Is that a possible scenario in a country where both teams in a match are more likely to sit back and defend? No, it’s not. The stats are meaningless, Jamie. It’s time to step away from the stats.
Cattermole to the Future
The true icing on this take, though, the piece de resistance of it all, is the concluding sentence:
“Some people will never be convinced, but if he can curb that aggression then maybe even bigger things lie ahead.”
Has their ever been a more glorious prophet of doom than that little gem? Of course, we live in the future and have the benefit of hindsight that Jamie failed to have. But even in 2014, we’re pretty sure that no-one believed that Lee Cattermole was destined for bigger things; that his career could sky-rocket into the stratosphere, if only he stopped kicking other players in the shins all the time. Christ, Lee himself probably didn’t believe such an absurd exaggeration about his potential.
— The Chronicle (@ChronicleSAFC) September 30, 2017
Much like flying cars and hover-boards, none of this future would come to pass. Cattermole these days is busy depleting the financial resources at Sunderland, as he and the club struggles to survive in the Championship.
Redknapp is still a pundit though and we’re eagerly awaiting his next take to top this one on Cattermole. Because we’re bottling it and not popping the cork on that bad boy for at least another 200 years. This is going to be the Chateau Margaux 1787 of football takes.