How much emphasis do you place on “data” when it comes to determining how good (or not!) a particular footballer is?
Take Reo Hatate for example.
Your own eyes seem to tell you that he has everything required to be a top player.
An impressive first touch, excellent technical ability, and the vision to make a defence splitting pass in the blink of any eye.
But the “data” tells you otherwise!
So where does this leave us?
THE REO HATATE QUESTION
There’s been much debate recently about the importance of data in football, particular in the Celtic media space.
And specifically about the talents of Japanese star Reo Hatate.
In a recent episode, the excellent Huddle Breakdown channel spent some time assessing the young midfielder and questioned whether he was “good enough” for Celtic – specifically in terms of any European ambitions we may have.
It’s an interesting debate and worth checking out here (starts at 31m 30secs)
Before discussing the merits of this one way or another it’s important to point out that context as always is crucial and I’d recommend watching the full section (around 7 mins long) for balance.
Last week a short snippet of the discussion was posted on the Huddle Breakdown twitter channel and the unsavoury response (from some) was disappointing.
Healthy and passionate debate when it comes to Celtic (or anything else) is always encouraged. Personal abuse and trolling however isn’t acceptable.
The world of Celtic online can be a lively place at times and the response to this debate absolutely split opinion.
@JucoJames led the conversation on Hatate by stating.
“He’s just not a physical presence, stature, he doesn’t have game changing speed. His defensive output isn’t great.
Over the course of many games I’m probably falling out of the Hatate camp”
This was followed up by fellow contributor Alan Morrison (@celticbynumbers on twitter – well worth following) providing a balanced viewpoint in terms of Hatate’s overall output.
“This is a really difficult conversation because Hatate is a provider of beautiful moments. There’s no doubt about that.
Unfortunately I remember all the other stuff. I study the ‘other stuff’.
(However) if you strip away the beautiful moments and you look at the other stuff, there just isn’t enough there.
And I know that’s going to get a bad reaction”
In terms of creativity Alan has also noted that “Hatate’s numbers are well below” that of David Turnbull, Aaron Mooy and Matt O’Riley.
This is countered by show host Enda Coll who suggests this may be down to the fact that Hatate is “a brave player who takes risks”.
Of course this type of action may go against his overall stats at times, but is it worth it if that then leads to a goal or a big opportunity?
I’d argue that it is, and you can be sure that this type of action is encouraged by Ange Postecoglou.
He demands bravery of his players,
You just need to look at this reaction to his defence in a Scottish Cup tie with Raith Rovers in February of last year to see that.
Playing the “safe pass” doesn’t cut it in an Ange Postecoglou side.
(Learn a bit more about Reo Hatate’s footballing journey in this short twitter thread)
🇯🇵 Reo Hatate made his debut in professional football just 3 years ago this month.
At the time of his first game with Kawasaki Frontale he had just turned 22.
That’s a late start in the game by anyone’s standards!
Here’s a short Reo thread 🧵 pic.twitter.com/GzSHWDZX01
— The Celtic Exchange (@CeltExchange) December 26, 2022
DATA? THE EYE TEST? OR BOTH?
Data has become increasingly important in the modern game.
There’s no disputing that. Nor is that what we’re trying to do here.
But like many things in competitive sport it’s always important to find a balance.
Data can help you assess a player in a number of ways with metrics such as completed passes, ball progressions, xG and a whole host of additional figures.
But there are intangibles in football which are a huge reason that so many of us fans keep coming back for more.
The drop of a shoulder, a deft flick, the outrageous piece of skill that inspires a team mate, or even a whole crowd!
So whilst the data has it’s part to play, nothing will ever replace those “beautiful moments” that Alan rightfully highlights.
And whether you think Reo’s a superstar or not? Well that’s up to you to decide – whether with data, the eye test, or a combination of the two.
I know he’ll do for me though!