Ipswich Town midfielder Conor Chaplin believes that stats and analysis have become a big part of modern football, although they have to be applied in the right way to have the right impact.

Numerous players have spoken about Kieran McKenna’s half-time team talks, explaining that first half clips are shown as discussions take place around how to improve after the break.

Although this is quickly becoming common practice in the sport, Ipswich seem to benefit from it quite heavily. They’ve won more points from losing positions than anyone else in the Championship, often showing a big improvement each side of half-time.

Chaplin revealed that this wasn’t common when he first started playing professional football, although his spell at Barnsley showed him what can be achieved with the right support from data and analysis, such as the 2020/21 campaign when they finished fifth in the Championship under Valerien Ismael.

“It’s football now, really,” he said. “When I first started coming through, it wasn’t a thing. Analysis was, but in-game analysis is a big thing in terms of tweaks here and there, whether that’s positionally or a shape. Any little tweaks can make a big difference.

Ipswich Star: Chaplin believes that the use of stats has changed in recent yearsChaplin believes that the use of stats has changed in recent years (Image: Ross Halls)

“I only really came across it at Barnsley, and that was with foreign managers, Austrian managers. At the time, I thought it came from there a little bit. It was really, really helpful as a player.

“Coming here, it’s gone to a different level. You feel how it goes in a game sometimes, you feel it isn’t going your way or you feel like you’re doing alright. If you change something at half-time, the boss comes in and shows us with the coaching staff. It makes a big difference usually.

“That’s probably why we’ve been so successful in the second halves of games.”

Ipswich Star: Kieffer Moore scored twice in the second half at Preston last weekend as Ipswich Town staged a comeback that fell just short.Kieffer Moore scored twice in the second half at Preston last weekend as Ipswich Town staged a comeback that fell just short. (Image: Pagepix Ltd)

Statistics are another matter. While they can be useful, they can also overcomplicate the game if used in the wrong way. Expected goals [xG], for example, is a metric that shows the quality of chances, but that can be impacted by factors such as game state.

If a team is losing to an early goal, their xG may naturally be higher because they’re fighting to get back into the game while the other side is defending their lead, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that one team is significantly better than the other.

Chaplin uses the FA Cup defeat to Maidstone United as an example. The Blues did a lot more than their non-league opponents, but they simply couldn’t finish their chances and ended up losing the game as a result. The xG ended up being 3.66 to 0.84 in Ipswich’s favour, but it showed very little other than the fact they dominated the game, which was clear for all to see, and ultimately didn’t matter.

Ipswich Star: Kieran McKenna's half-time analysis has had a big impact this seasonKieran McKenna's half-time analysis has had a big impact this season (Image: Pagepix)

Other stats, such as expected goals on target [xGOT] and passes per defensive action [PPDA] can also be useful in the right context, and while Chaplin is keen to embrace the statistical side of the sport, he knows that putting the ball in the back of the net and winning games of football is what matters at the end of the day.

“Some stats are pointless, some of them are really educational, definitely,” he explained. “It depends on your position and you as a player. Stats are there for a lot of people to feel like they’ve got an opinion and are geniuses in the game without really knowing how much they actually mean.

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“As a person and as a player, you have to know which ones are important. You can speak to the manager if you’re not sure on that and know where he wants you to improve. Stats like that, definitely.

“xG is probably the biggest one in the game now. You often see the result and then you have xG underneath it, whatever the result should’ve been. Football doesn’t work like that.

“It’s probably come on leaps and bounds from when I first came through.”