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Art of goalscoring will never be buried by blizzard of stats

As space is compressed and statistics restrict the game with self-awareness football’s most basic skill seems increasingly decisive

Arsenal’s French scout Gilles Grimandi said something interesting in L’Equipe this week about football’s trend towards stats, data analysis, passing percentage points and all the rest of it. “Statistics,” Grimandi declared, “Give people the chance to exist who have little knowledge.”

This isn’t exactly news in itself but Grimandi’s beef is more than the standard curmudgeonly dismissal. Players, he said, are well aware of the way clubs use data, and how careers can rise and fall on such numbers. As a result they will often take fewer risks now, refuse to engage in “a duel” they might lose, tread a comfortable line in passing, and literally play a percentage game.

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