Who took our 39 steps to safety? A man some Arsenal fans want

John McCormick: getting to the point
John McCormick: getting to the point

At ESPNFC.com, a couple of Arsenal supporters responding to end-of-season roundups, including Monsieur Salut’s, urged Monsieur Wenger to go for Simon Mignolet as his saves had kept Sunderland up. We’d all like to tell them, and Arsène if he comes, where to go. Do it politely – M Salut’s admiration for the Alsacien is well known – but make it forceful. But John McCormick has been doing his sums again to see exactly who did what to take us to our mighty haul of 39 points … and Mignolet is not the only name under the McCormick microscope …

Observant readers may remember that shortly after Steven Fletcher was injured I wrote about the points he had earned for us (https://safc.blog/?p=42612).

My original premise was that his goals had made a difference by creating wins or draws in games we would have drawn or lost had he failed to score. It’s draws and wins which move clubs up the table and that is reflected in merit payments, so it follows that it should be possible to calculate how much each result was worth to the club.

From that it should be a short step to putting a value on each of the goals scored in those games.

Now the season has ended I’m able to follow up this theme, although I won’t try to put a value on individual goals. Finishing three points and one place above the drop zone makes a nonsense of a merit payment per goal. Survival might have the potential to generate millions for the club in the future but income in the short term won’t be much.

My follow up therefore aims to assign the 39 points we accumulated over the season to individual players.

The chosen method is based on an estimation of the number points any particular goal generated and fits the description “rough and ready” but as it won’t be used to award player bonuses it will do. Scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win, for example, generates two points. Scoring in a 1-1 draw saves the loss of the single point we started with and therefore generates a single point. Calculations were not so simple for multi-goal games, when I applied a bit of logic and arithmetic to get the best approximation possible.

For examples let’s return to my original post, where I cited the home win against Fulham and the away win at Wigan. We were 2-0 down against Fulham, and earning no points for the game, when Gardner and Sess scored. The result was a draw – one point – so it’s easy to credit Sess and Gardner 0.5 of a point each.

At Wigan things were more complicated. Fletcher scored twice and he alone equalled Wigan’s goals total for the game but Gardner also scored. How many points did the win generate and who should get them?

Should Fletcher’s brace count for only one point for or does it qualify for two, with Gardner claiming the third? Alternatively, should the two points we picked up be shared 2/3 Fletch, 1/3 Gardner? You can make your own decisions and apply your own methods. Whatever you do I’d expect you to discount goals in games we lost as they didn’t get us any points.

It may seem harsh that Craig Gardner, to continue with him, gets something for putting the Wigan penalty away but nothing for doing the same against Reading but it is a logical decision when you’re assigning goals a value purely on the result of the game in which they were scored.

How many points did each player earn?

Fletcher seems an obvious place to start. He showed his worth by making the difference at Swansea and Liverpool and continued to provide winners. Multi-scoring games such as West Ham and Wigan complicate the issue but I reckon he had earned us eleven points before his season ended, well ahead of Adam Johnson and Sess, the next two best earners.

Neither AJ or Sess really came good, however. In addition  to the half point above  Sess  scored the only goal in our crunch game against Everton, so gets two points for that. He also scored in three of our highest scoring wins, Fulham away, Reading and the Mags but as he wasn’t the only scorer in any of these games he has to share the points, which leads me to the conclusion that he brought us just four points over the season.

Johnson also had a quiet season, in which his earning of points paralleled Sess. He scored the only goal against Man City to give him two straight points. He scored against West Ham, along with two other players, and he put that one away against the Mags, again sharing the goals with two other players. Rounding up his share in these games plus the  two for the City win means he also brought four points home.

Gardner has been mentioned previously. In truth, he gets little credit for never missing a penalty; we weren’t awarded enough of them to help him in the points stakes. After popping his first of the season at Wigan, where we won by the odd goal in a five-goal nailbiter, he helped to draw against Norwich and again against Fulham. So three points for Gardner, more or less.

McBardsley and O’Shea earned us one point each towards the end of the season by scoring our only goals in one-all draws.

McClean (twice), Larsson, Cuellar and Vaughan all got on the score sheet in wins where we scored three times but there were others who scored in those games, notably players listed above. The maths tells us each of our goals in these fixtures was worth 0.6 of a point and the four players above get 3 points. That’s three points between them, not three points each, although I’m tempted to let Vaughan have a full point for his goal, which killed off the Mags.

And while we’re on the subject of Mags, don’t forget Demba Ba scored an o.g. which gave us a point.

Adding that lot up brings us to 28 points. That’s eleven points short of our total for the season. It’s also the number of points Reading got and we know what happened to them. So you could say our players, with or without Demba Ba, did not score enough goals to keep us in the Premiership.

You might then ask how we managed to stay up. My answer would be to remind you that  defenders such as Danny Rose and Jack Colback made the occasional goal line clearance  to back up  Ming, whose  top class saves against the likes of Berbatov and Yaya Toure often kept us in games. Over the season Ming kept 11 clean sheets. Eleven clean sheets means a minimum of eleven points, the same as Fletcher. It takes us to 39 points, and that’s what kept us in the Premiership.

1973 May 5See all Salut! Sunderland’s articles recalling May 5 1973 and the run that took SAFC to FA Cup glory: https://safc.blog/category/fa-cup/may-5-1973/

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4 thoughts on “Who took our 39 steps to safety? A man some Arsenal fans want”

  1. Good read again John and it tally’s with who we thought had ” earn’ t” us the points.Agree with Sobs a managers accumulator would be interesting based on money spent , league position , transfer’s and players inherited from previous managers. We might get a surprise though none in recent memory would be an unqualified success or they’d still be here!

    • I was thinking of having a look at how well sacking managers works by comparing different clubs (is it 15 changes this season in the top 2 divisions?) but what you and Sobs suggest might be too complicated. After all, there’s beer to be drunk and that does take time.

      Or maybe, after I’ve drunk some, I’ll think of some way of doing it, now that you have me intrigued.

      Anyway, thanks for the appreciation

  2. John – aren’t statistics great, especially when you can generate them in such an entertaining fashion? Great read, and a clever way of accurately explaining our 39 points. Here’s a thought….can you apply the same logic to the managers? Successful substitutions or changes in formation during a game?

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