Desperate data – the extreme numbers that defined Ipswich Town’s dismal season

Think Ipswich Town’s 2016/17 Championship record redefined tedium? Think again. Despite a low mid-table finish, set against a background of increasing supporter discontent at insipid management and directionless ownership – Town actually topped (or tailed) the league for many key attributes. Not the characteristics of a mundane team.

First up, passing. Nothing defines a Mick McCarthy team more than good passing. That is, good passing is an anathema to a Mick McCarthy team (Jay Tabb famously revealed that McCarthy “blasted” Town for trying to pass the ball too much, at half time in a match against Brighton). And, sure enough, Ipswich top the league for two key passing Stats. Town played more inaccurate long passes than any other Championship team. 2666 miss-placed long-balls! That’s 178 more than second best hoofers – Rotherham.

Given their style, stellar inaccurate long-ball numbers are perhaps to be expected. But what about short passes? Surely Town don’t play enough short passes to excel at this stat. Well, err…..somehow Ipswich also managed to play more inaccurate short passes than anyone else, 3344 – ahead of Norwich, Brentford and Huddersfield.

So, Ipswich bettered the rest of the league at both inaccurate long and short passes. I (genuinely) believe that Mick will see these figures as a badge of honour.  But where he may be disappointed is that both Reading and Blackburn managed to average more long passes per match (although presumably they hit their target more often). Still, third place isn’t bad.

The next stat will come as no surprise to anyone that’s spent 30 seconds or so watching Ipswich this season. Town hit the least shots, an average of 10.4 per match, a full 5 fewer than top placed Fulham. But shots aren’t everything. More shots usually imply increased entertainment, but not necessarily success. For example, Reading were a penalty or two away from promotion after a conspicuously shot-shy season.

Shot paucity and passing inaccuracy are statistical evidence (if evidence is really needed) that Town suck. But is there actually a measured attribute that indicates Ipswich were best at something in 2016/17? Well, here’s one – “Aerial duels won”, OK it’s a bit peripheral but being decent at winning headers is surely a good thing? I’m positive Mick will also be delighted at this one – although sadly Town’s master aerial-dueller, Christoph Berra, has departed to dominate the Edinburgh skies.

Another season high is number of drawn matches, 16 in total. And who can forget this was Town’s 15th consecutive season in England’s second tier, longer than anyone else. Certainly Norwich fans can’t – presumably because their lack of trophy winning history causes them to focus on their more successful neighbour’s past.

And, to add insult to this statistical injury, the team with the fewest shots and the most inaccurate passes, is also the Championship team with the highest season ticket price, £842 (according to the BBC’s price of football study). That’s £3.30 per Portman Road shot!

So, here’s Ipswich Town’s full 2016/17 roll of dishonour

  • Most inaccurate long passes – 2666
  • Most inaccurate short passes – 3344
  • Fewest shots – average 10.4 per match
  • Most Aerial Duels won – Average 27.3 per match
  • Most draws – 16
  • Most consecutive seasons in England’s 2nd tier – 16
  • Highest season ticket price – £842

Any crumbs of comfort to be drawn from the numbers? Not really, apart from the fact that there are few managers with a better record of defying football’s perceived numerical wisdoms than Mick McCarthy. But 2016/17’s numbers don’t auger well, and in today’s football world the numbers that matter most are preceded by big pound signs – a measure that Ipswich won’t be topping any time soon.

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