Are The In-Play Stats Misleading For Punters?

in play statsThese days you will find more and more punters using in-play stats to help them form an opinion on a football match they can not watch live. The upside of this is that, in theory, it should help you to spot more opportunities since there are often lots of football matches being played simultaneously rather then at separate times. However, the downside is that relying purely on the in-play stats could actually be misleading and could lead you into making basic errors.

The Quality Of The Shots On Goal

On this very blog you will find a useful article about what stats to look for when trading in-play. The article suggested to look for shots on target rather then shots off target which is definitely a fair point however that still does not give us the bigger picture. What we would really want to know about is whether or not the shots on target have been good quality or close calls.

For example, a scuffed effort from 25 yards that rolls along the floor to the goalkeepers hands will go down as a shot on target but you can hardly call that very close. Then, lets say the other team went down the other end of the pitch and opened up the defence with a through-ball creating a one on one chance with the goalkeeper who produces an amazing save to keep it out. The in-play stats will say that both teams have had 1 shot on target but the bigger picture is that the team who had the one on one with the goalkeeper had the much better QUALITY chance and if you had to back either team going forward then you would want to back that team.

Only watching a match live can really tell you just which team is creating BETTER chances then the other and this is what is important. I have traded matches where the home teams stats show 6 shots on target in the first half yet I know it is better to back the away team who had only 2 shots on target. Reason being, the 2 shots on target were both times that the away team got in around the back of the defence with the home teams efforts all being quite speculative.

Those punters who purely look at in-play stats will simply never know this.

The Quality Of The Possession

in play stats 2Let us also take a look at how important possession is. The average novice trader who uses in-play stats will probably look at which team has had more possession and decide that the team with more possession is the team that is playing better. I notice Sky Sports do this often at half time also and I think it is very misleading.

For me, it is not about who has more of the ball but about what they do with the ball when they get it. We have seen teams like Spain, Barcelona and Bayern Munich come unstuck in recent years famously when teams have let them keep the ball and then hit them on the counter attack. These teams will usually always keep 60%+ of ball possession but it all depends on what they do with the ball.

If you are watching the match live you can easily see if they are actually doing anything significant with the ball and looking threatening. It could be that the opposition are looking much more threatening when they launch an attack themselves however the in-play stats will still be likely to say that the opposition is not seeing much of the ball. You do not see an in-play stat on these websites that says “Everton have had 40% of possession but they have looked dangerous whenever they attack”. Well, this technology is not available as yet anyway.

Other things the in-play stats can never really tell you is the tempo the match is being played at which is very important to those who trade on the goals markets.

Should we ignore in-play stats?

I do not want anyone to read this article and assume I am telling everyone to stop using in-play stats. That is far from my point.

What I do think is that there should be many reading this who should stop relying solely on them and focus more on watching a match live when trading. Do not let in-play stats be the “be all and end all” of your trading.   If anything you should use BOTH alongside each other. Watch how the match is developing and then use the stats to confirm your opinion rather then to form your opinion.

This is a guest post from Steven Hall.  Steve is a full time football trader and also the brains behind Dynamic Football Trading which is one of the best courses on in-play football trading that have been released to date.


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  1. carsten lymann says:

    Nice article.. But looking at stats for a game that you cant see live is certain to fail at some point if you trade it because of that. I have seen several games where the stats from betfair vs bet365 vs flashscore has been very different. Even to wich side that had most SOT to also the favorite having 16 SOT and looked certain to score soon, just for me to look at one of the other sites and it was only 4 SOT there..
    So what site to use for this live stats ?

    / Carsten

    1. Sports Trading Life says:

      Hi Carsten

      That is an excellent point also, how reliable are the stats that we look at?

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