Luke Oliver and the 2%

There is something laughable in the back of the mind when recalling Luke Oliver’s comment in the week that City were 2% off being a good side when watching the 3-0 defeat to Torquay United, but there is also something utterly correct in what the defender says.

After about half an hour of the Torquay game which ended with grim talk of being a new low for the Bantams City were passing the ball around to shouts of Ole from supporters as the visitors were left chasing out long shadows on a sunny afternoon. Five minutes later and a free kick nestled in the back of Jon McLaughlin’s goal, City never looked like getting back in the match.

From that point on the Bantams were dispirited and out of sorts but before that goal – before either team had tested a goalkeeper – had City had the sort of increase Oliver talks about one might have imagined that it would have been the visitors collecting the ball from the back of the net. What is the difference between passing the ball around the defence and midfield and breaking forward to score? One percent? Three percent?

City have the lowest goals per game in the entire football league and if one lops off the afternoon in which Oxford United were put to the sword by the tune of five goals that statistic makes even worse reading. City score less than a goal a game. The average number of goals in a football match is three. It does not take a genius to work out that if you only score one of that three then the other team will end up winning.

Oliver comes off as sounding oddly optimistic – saying that the manager who replaced the manager who signs him often is near a good team is the last thing one would expect – and bordering on the ludicrous but perhaps the defender makes a point worth listening to, should one contextualise it.

If we use Oliver’s 2% away from being a good side – and assume that there is an average side in between what City are in the lower half of the table and those teams who get promoted – then we can translate the defenders musings as saying that City are a 99% team.

Someone in midtable would be 100% (obviously) and a team in the mirror position of the Bantams at the top – i.e. a team in the play offs – would be 101%. Let us assume that the team that finishes rock bottom is slightly worse and give them 98.5% and the champions (who are better than “a good team”) are 101.5%. That stats are largely fatuous but I draw them to illustrate a point.

That point is this. The difference between the teams fighting relegation and battling for promotion in this division (and in most divisions) is slight. The successful teams are a tiny bit better than the less successful teams but that success – when compounded over weeks of games – becomes the difference between the good and the bad.

The margins between the good and the bad are small. For years Bradford City have been trying for a managerial revolution on a season on season basis to make that 2% jump – and apologies for the stats, they are silly – but the tiny increments which have been ignored in pursuit of that are what suppresses City’s achievements.

One thinks back to Saturday and struggles to imagine the result turning out any different – City did not muster a shot on at goal until after an hour – but this season City have been involved in more games settled by a single goal than any other team in the division and have only once come back from behind to win. How big is that gap that means that City are never the side getting the first goal, never demoralising the opposition with that first strike, never getting ahead?

Oliver is right, City are 2% off being a good team, but 2% is a not insignificant amount and the Bantams could do with looking at small improvements.