Week after week, we read comments about Gillingham being ugly, long-ball merchants on social media.
I’m sure you have seen them too, but for those who have not, we have kindly reproduced some below. It ranges from criticism of their tactics to discussion about whether a fan would rather lose matches and play well, or play nasty football and win. That then leads into debates about whether Gillingham are ‘long ball’, and examples of them playing nice football in the final third. Honestly, some of it has been fairly vitriolic over the past few weeks, with almost every game leading to social media spats.
Worst footballing team in league 1 by a long way .
— David Harrison (@DavidHa99965109) March 31, 2021
Wigan played well and should have got something from it. Their finishing was woeful. Gillingham do what Gillingham do though. Technically shite, but play to their strengths: hoof the ball into the box for one of their giants up front to nod it in. We really need to be at them.
— alterego84 (@tonykellowstash) March 31, 2021
Well I think we’ve found the Newport of League One. Absolute hoof ball from Gillingham #stfc 🔴⚪️
— Tays85 (@Tays85) December 5, 2020
How accurate is this though? Gills fans feel it is a generalisation, and that much of the criticism comes from the fact they’re winning matches and threatening the top six. Others will say it is anti-football, the opposite of what they want to watch. Often, those opposition fans say it a bit louder when they’ve been beaten.
In a rare article on here due to time constraints, we have decided to compare Gillingham’s stats this season to those of three other supposed ‘long ball’ teams. Northampton had a similar reputation last season in League Two, so we’ll take them, along with the kings of the big boot, Wycombe 2019/20. Finally, we’ll throw Lincoln City 2018/19 into the mix, a team labelled long ball that also won a title.
To decide how direct a team is, we can’t just use the ‘long passes’ metric, nor will we use stats from somewhere such as Whoscored, which are erratic at best. We’ll turn to Wyscout for our numbers, an industry-trusted source. Yes, we will use the long pass metric, but we must remember what that is. In addition, we’ll take a couple of other indicators along the way. To add some context, in each instance I have also listed Bury’s 2018/19 stats. I’ve picked them because they were classed as very much a footballing side, and as they’re no more it isn’t seen as me picking a favourite footballing team unfairly!
By the way, before you get two or three paragraphs in and decide your club is taking a hammering, there is a conclusion which ties everything together. Don’t leave before then, because you won’t get the right impression of what the writer is trying to tell you.
Next Page – The Stats