When Opta record a pass during a game, they attach numerous qualifiers to help describe it. This is helpful as it provides context.
However, when the media present it to us, either on telly or in print or even on dedicated football stats wesbites, you’ll not find those qualfiers nor the context. This is not helpful.
Take a look at this short video. You’re specifically concentrating on the contributions of Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin:
All 7 of his touches there are recorded as ‘passes’ by Opta. Headed passes.
When you next see ‘pass completion %’ as a stat on telly or quoted somewhere on a website, ‘passes’ like that will have been included. Taking them out is a pain in the arse, so they don’t take them out.
Throw-ins, free kicks and corners are included too. They’re all recorded as ‘passes’, and are also a ballache to get rid of. So they don’t.
And that’s before you start saying: ‘Yeah, but how many were sideways or backwards?’
If you’re coming up with metrics then the language around them matter. If someone asks you a simple: ‘Who’s a good passer of the ball in league x according to the data? ‘ they’re not thinking about headers or throw-ins are they?
There’s a Moneyball quote in here somewhere, so I’ll shut up now.