The perception of football results is fascinating.
We were very close on Saturday to potentially captioning our run during October as “no wins in five games in all competitions”, but with two late goals we flip this assessment on its head to a far more satisfying “unbeaten in six”.
It’s things like this that cause me to treat certain stats as entertainment more than offering definitive conclusions. Team form in particular is something we reference regularly when making judgements about our performance, yet it can be used over such a wide-ranging period of time, and you can often craft it to back up any reasoning you fancy, all depending on the length of time you’re choosing to include.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t term things as “good” or “bad” form. I think there’s a lot to be said for using bouts of good form to build momentum and influence outsider perspective. To go unbeaten throughout October was no mean feat, and we should now be using the “unbeaten in the league” mantra to drive us forward. Armstrong’s late show at the weekend has enhanced the ambition and belief of many fans, and this stuff has a real value if you truly embrace it and use it to set your standards. Our aim now has to be prolong that unbeaten status for as long as possible. It’s our turn to be that team.
When we were drawing those games during October, it didn’t feel too great, partially because of the pressure it placed on the next match. Especially the Swindon throwaway. But with that final victory only now can we look back over the month and assess how we performed with a more level head. You could interpret it as “one win in four”, which is true, but this conflicts with the headlines for the month which make for impressive reading: 3 wins; 3 draws; we’ve climbed 3 places in the league; kept 5 clean sheets in all competitions; and that’s not even taking into account the marque acquisition of Super Joe Cole. You’ve got to be pleased with that for 31 days work.
Player-wise, with a fistful of clean sheets and a club record already under his belt, we could have reasonably expected Reice Charles-Cook to take the Player of the Month accolade from the ratings. If we were judging based on purely qualitative info as we all tend to, you’d certainly have no issue with that. But the aim of this experiment has always been to take the match ratings over the course of an extended period and assess the cumulative fan assessment of each player. With everything collated it’s perhaps interesting to note that John Fleck has actually been our most consistent performance during October with an average match rating of 7.5.
I’m really pleased about this. Having existed during a period of useless midfielders I’ve always felt too much has been asked of Fleck and he’s taken the criticism for performances which were actually a symptom of the system he was working within, rather than his performances as an individual. Nowadays he is surrounded by equally competent players who are far more trustworthy with the ball, which seems to be affording him the freedom to play his own game and has resulted in a string of flourishing displays.
Congrats John, it’s well deserved.
Next up – November. This is when we really make our move.
But for now, click on the infographic to view all the stats from October at full scale.