Fabio Capello should be embarrassed

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The Man Who Knew Infinity
Fabio Capello is embarrassed. The Capello Index has turned sour for the England coach after the team was dumped out unceremoniously by Germany. Who can vouch for an index that bears his name? It is like calling it the Bernie Madoff Index of Business Integrity.
“The index was published without Mr Capello’s knowledge and his representatives have taken immediate steps to have the material taken down,” read an FA statement.
The Capello Index is a good index if you want to measure impact per match. It is very “event” driven which is why it is also heavily weighted towards event drivers like goalscorers and goalkeepers. Which is why it is unreliable when it comes to picking your World Cup XI because it really does not give the “complete picture”. It is at best a snapshot, at its worst it is totally at odds with a coaches philosophy.
Lets take for example – Carles Puyol in the semi-finals whose header against Germany was immense. The index ranks him 2nd amongst the semi-finalists with a score of 67.84. Hard to argue with that. His finals against Netherlands was less distinguished with fewer “events” to measure and he ends up 30th with a score of 58.54. Lower than that of Joris Mathijsen, Jerome Boateng, and Dennis Aogo. Giovanni von Bronckhorst’s fall is even more spectacular from the semi-final to the final. Yet, these two always crop up as candidates to make the World Cup XI.
Want more schizophrenia with that puzzle?
Lets settle the debate over Andres Iniesta and Xavi? Against Germany, Xavi was far superior – ranking 5th, Iniesta places a distant 27th. But we remember Iniesta’s goal in the finals and how he proved to be a livewire down the left channel against the Dutch. So, yes, unsurprisingly he ranks first by a considerable margin.
But the index is less kind to Xavi who has fallen to 24th position with Nigel De Jong in better position. We also remember the innumerable times the Dutch tried to disrupt Spain’s passing game but the ball always found its way back to Xavi who reset the attack. He was the ONLY reason why Spain maintained a coherence right up to the last minute. An advantage fully exploited by Iniesta.
Lets take it further back, Xavi was the best player at the end of the group stages but by the time the round of 16 was finished he had retreated to 54th, his place taken by Carlos Tevez. He had retrenched somewhat to the 25th position by the end of the quarterfinals before moving to 5th by the end of the semi-finals. At the end of the finals he was once again obscure.
Even more bizarre is Andres Iniesta’s movement. A respectable 8th place at the end of group stage, he is not even ranked amongst the best at the end of round of sixteen. He once again pops up on the 13th place at the end of quarterfinals zooming over Bastian Schweinsteiger and finally besting Nigel De Jong. The semi-finals saw him retreat to the 27th position before roaring back to the best player position at the end of the finals.
Did you know that Fernando Torres was in the top ten at the end of the quarterfinals, ranking 7th with 67 points enjoying a spotlight with Diego Forlan, Wesley Sneijder, Thomas Mueller, Miroslav Klose, and David Villa. So this trope of an underwhelming World Cup for the Liverpool striker is a relatively recent one – beginning after the quarterfinals. As per the Capello Index, Vicente Del Bosque made a serious mistake sitting him out in the semifinals. Aren’t we glad it was published after the World Cup was over?
It becomes even more confusing when you look at the Castrol Index which does provide a more cumulative index. According to that Index – Spain’s defenders take the top four spots plus Phillipp Lahm. Only Carles Puyol in the semi-final comes close to that ranking in the Capello index.
There are others – if you look carefully, some would land up in the doldrums and still others who would be on a drum roll making a mockery of national selections. It never really adds up to what the coach or the fan consider a gestalt. What you get are scatter plots without any pattern. As a predictor it would tell you little about Andres Iniesta being at the top of his class and it would treat Spain as a non-event. As a coach, Fabio Capello, should be the last one to recommend this sort of index as a sort of “objective measure”, even for betting purposes.
Check it out and let me know what you think?

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3 comments on “Fabio Capello should be embarrassed
  1. Interesting article and I agree with you on most points. Not everything can be measured, so you’ll always have room for discussion and interpretation. What would be the best way according to you to rate individual player performance? Basing this in a combination of statistics and a votes/ratings by the online soccer community?

  2. Cem, don’t quite know the answer to that one. Soccer is a sport that has fewer statistical events- it is too free flowing for discrete data points, unlike baseball. It is perfectly possible to have a great match but not have any “event” tied down to your performance. A more subjective assessment would be online ratings, pundits, and available statistics.

  3. Hi Shourin, you’re right that soccer has fewer statistical events. It’s not the same as with baseball, American football or basketball. Maybe if the soccer rules will change (I don’t think this will happen with FIFA in its current state) statistics will have more impact.
    However, I do think statistics still have value and by combining it with other elements it can give insight into individuel player and team performance. Food for thought :)

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