Soccer's top teams tap into data

Scott Lazarus our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 5/3/2016 1:39 AM

Half-time soccer team talks used to be based around eating oranges. Now they can analyze real-time data and react to presentations.

Soccer has become a numbers game.

There is still a huge debate in the game about the use of goal-line technology, but for everything behind the scenes it seems like that battle has already been fought and technology won.

It is no longer just 2-0, 1-3 or - if you are a Barcelona supporter - 4-0 but all about a near-infinite number of figures.

Possession, territory, passes completed, the list goes on and on and on.

It's only a very dedicated soccer fan who would know that Bayern Munich midfielder Javi Martinez won an average of 2.6 balls in the air during each Uefa Champions League game so far this season. But processing this kind of data gives teams a great advantage, both in training and matches.

For goalkeepers, the guess of where a penalty might go is now a mathematical algorithm rather than an instinct.
The goalkeeper will know where the taker has placed previous penalties. If a player has hit 95% of his penalties to one side of the goal, which way do you think the goalkeeper is going to dive?

What this means is that the millions of pieces of data created must be analyzed by teams. Manchester City, for example, have 10 analysts working full-time on analyzing data, four just for the first team, so that no stat that counts - or at least worth counting - is left un-analyzed.

Pick geeks first

City defender Vincent Kompany has initiated a meeting with fellow defenders and the analysts once a week to discuss the data. The club have even experimented with making all this information public and, because of how popular it has been, are expected to resume this next season.

There was a time, not too long ago, when teams in school playgrounds were picked and the ones left towards the end of selection were often those more at home in front of a computer screen than in front of goal. Now Premier League clubs are picking them first.

"We've got a record for every shot across the top few leagues for the last five years," says Sam Green, advanced data analyst at sports data company Opta. "Beyond penalties, the tendency for people to shoot under certain circumstances and where that shot was from." "A lot of things can be done with the data. Some of the things we use it for is to look at how teams react to corners or other set pieces. How likely are they to concede a shot on a counter-attack afterwards?"

But there are limits to how far data can take you, particularly with the often distracted or influenced mind of a soccer player.

Intent

"I don't think any club is at a stage where they can use data comprehensively across every aspect of the game," says Mr Green. "There are things that we're not confident in predicting - which way they would turn, for example. "There's still an issue of intent. The shot went in the top left-hand corner but we don't know necessarily that it's where the striker was trying to put the ball."

What is often forgotten about the current data "revolution" - as some people call it - is that recording the information of soccer matches goes back a long way.

RAF pioneer

"Soccer is the original hotbed of analytics," Prof Chris Anderson, of Cornell University, and author of The Numbers Game, said. "There was an accountant and RAF wing commander by the name of Charles Reep who starting notating soccer games in 1950. "He develops a coding system, sits down at matches and does it for 60 years."

The games must still be recorded manually as automation is difficult in such a complex game. "His work has informed how [data] has reverberated in clubs through the years. "He notated with his own system all the events on the pitch and collected reams of data that he put into practice working with clubs in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He was the original soccer analyst."

Mr Reep, through his findings, has been cited as one of the main architects of the long-ball game.
Another man with a reputation as a long-ball manager, Sam Allardyce, is seen as one of the main advocates of modern data use.

Mystery

Beginning in 2000 with a change in approach at Bolton, a company called Prozone was enlisted to provide detailed statistics that Allardyce has quoted and used time and time again. He believes his use of modern techniques improves performance in a way that can be measured. But even his data use is a mystery to some managers.

One, seen as a modern, progressive coach, is critical of the reliance of statistics at all. In a similar way to soccer broadcasts, video is now a key part of feedback from coaches. "I have never used Prozone. I don't use it because I don't believe [in it]," Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas said in a press conference. "You always have to be very, very careful with statistics. It doesn't mean that we negate them completely - we just don't use them to the extent that people might think. "We have a scientific department that deals with that but we don't prepare our training or players based on the physical data we get from matches.

'Different approaches'

"The mind and how the player feels is much more important for us, rather than statistical data.

"For me it's useless but it varies from coach to coach. We all have different approaches." For a manager seen as one of the world's new breed of technically astute managers, it seems like the numbers do not add up.

If that's the case, he probably does not even know how many balls Javi Martinez has won in the air.

PITCH IN WITH THOSE FACTS
While some data is great for training staff and coaches, other stats are just interesting to drop into conversation

169 - David James has the most clean sheets in Premier League history, 169 in 572 games
126 - Morgan Schneiderlin has made the most interceptions in the Premier League this season
123 - Arsenal have seen the most opponents caught offside this season
88 - Stephane Sessegnon has been fouled more often than any other Premier League player this season
44 - Ashley Williams has blocked the most opposition shots in this season's Premier League
7 - No Premier League team has conceded more penalties than Aston Villa this season. Manchester United are the only side yet to concede one.

Stats courtesy of Opta. Correct as of 27 April 2013

Click here to watch the video and see the related article on the web.

Related blog & news

With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.

Visit our Blogs & News portal or check out the related posts below.

How to Succeed in Self-Service BI

How to Succeed in Self-Service BI

Business Intelligence, along with Business Analytics and Big Data, is one of the terms often associated with decision-making processes in organisations.  However, there is little discussion around the importance of what skills decision makers in your organisation need to use the technology efficiently.  In recent years, the development of user-friendly tools for BI processes, Self-Service BI are increasing. Self-Service BI is an approach to BI where anyone in an organisation can collect and organise data for analysis without the assistance of data specialists. As a result of this, many businesses have invested in comprehensive storage and information processing tools. However, many are beginning to find that they are not able to realise the gains of these investments as they were expecting, may often due to underestimating the difficulties of introducing these systems into the current processes and transforming existing knowledge into actual actions and decisions.  In a worst-case scenario, if left unplanned, Self Service BI can sabotage your successful BI deployment by cutting mass user adoption, impairing query performance, failing to reduce report backlogs, and increasing confusion over the “single truth”. To prevent this from happening, here are our top three tips for ensuring the right implementation of SSBI in your company: UNDERSTAND YOUR USERS’ NEEDS There are three major user areas for analytics tools: strategic, tactical and operational. The strategic users make few, but important decisions. The tactical users make many decisions during a week and need updated information daily. Operational users are often closest to the customer, and this group needs data in its own applications in order to carry out a large number of requests and transactions.  Understanding the different needs of each group is necessary to know what information should be available at each given frequency to help scale the BI solution.  HARNESS THE POWER OF ADVANCED USERS To ensure a successful BI deployment, utilising advanced users is key. Self-service BI is not a one-size fits all approach. Casual users usually don’t have the time to learn the tool and will often reach out to ‘Power Users’ to create what they need. Hence, these users can become the go-to resource for creating ad-hoc views of data. Power Users are the ideal advocates for your business’ self-service BI implementation and should be able to help spur user adoption.  UPGRADE INTERNAL COMPETENCIES  Our final tip for a successful implementation is to communicate the new tool thoroughly to the users.  It is highly unlikely that employees who have not been involved in the actual development project will immediately understand what the tool should be used for, who needs it, and what it should replace. By upgrading internal competencies, you can avoid becoming dependent on external assistance. Establishing a cross-organizational BI competence centre of 5-10 members, who meet regularly to share their experiences will help drives and prioritise future use of the tool. The added benefit of a successful implementation is that it will generate new ideas from users for how the organisation can use data to make better decisions. If you have the skillset to implement Business Intelligence solutions, we may have a role for you.  Take a look at our latest opportunities or get in contact with our team. 

Real Time Pricing - Coming to a store near you

Real Time Pricing - Coming to a store near you

Real-time pricing: coming to a store near you.Personal shopping is on the brink of taking on a whole new meaning. The advancement of mobile technology and the information held on individuals' shopping histories means product prices could soon adapt as shoppers walk up and down their supermarket aisle.Gone are the days of retailers only being able to actively manage the price of a small number of products once a week. Algorithmic pricing and real-time competitive pricing data allows the changing of product prices on the fly.Amazon is at the forefront of such "real-time pricing" initiatives, which have traditionally been the preserve of online-only retailers.However, brick-and-mortar retailers in the US are showing their UK counterparts the limitless possibilities when it comes to dynamic pricing.Independent consumer electronics retailer Abt Electronics pipes competitive pricing data gathered by Dynamite Data into its point-of-sale systems to allow staff to negotiate prices at the point-of-sale, according to Dynamite Data chief executive Diana Schulz.Meanwhile, another one of Dynamite Data’s unnamed clients uses electronic shelf labels and re-prices every product in their stores each morning based on the prices of its rivals.The ability to change prices dynamically is not simply the preserve of all-powerful brands such as Walmart or Target either.Schulz explained that her company has "seen these types of technologies in both large and mid-sized retailers" despite the "investment in technology and competitive data that is typically needed".Commercial sensitivitiesBack in the UK things are not quite as close to a Minority Report-style personalized shopping experience.Even online-only specialists Shop Direct and Ocado claim they do not engage in real-time pricing, while those that do heavily use real-time data to adapt their prices such as the airline brands are reluctant to discuss the issues.EasyJet declined to comment when contacted because of commercial sensitivities around discussing pricing-related issues.Grocers Tesco, Asda and  Sainsbury’s have all claimed they do not engage in real-time pricing, with the latter two both citing the logistical difficulties in aligning such a strategy across their physical stores and online presence.A Sainsbury’s spokesman claims real-time pricing would result in "chaos", while an Asda spokeswoman saying such a strategy would be a "nightmare".Yet, despite such a negative perspective from UK brands, experts are confident real-time pricing will arrive on these shores sooner or later.Simon Spyer, a partner of VCCP data arm Conduit who began his career working on the Sainsbury's Nectar business, believes the UK will begin to see "more and more" of matching rivals’ prices dynamically, particularly in the grocery and electrical sectors.He explained that real-time pricing is likely to affect "anything where the product is largely commoditized" and in instances where the only way retailers can differentiate that product is by "being really keen on price".Electronic labelsAs it stands the major barrier for implementing "real-time pricing" in-store is changing the prices to match the online price, a hurdle that could be removed by the electronic shelf labels being pioneered in the US.Schemes like Tesco Price Promise and Asda Price Guarantee already use real-time data to 'price match'In the UK various retailers have dipped their toes into the water when it comes to electronic shelf-labeling including a Nisa Local store in Shrewsbury that launched a trial in August last year to carry out automatic pricing and timed promotional updates, alongside QR codes and meal deals.Tesco has also experimented with electronic labeling on various occasions with trials in 2006 and 2008, but the retail giant has yet to combine real-time pricing with its electronic labels.Spyer claims "the capability is definitely there both online and offline – it is whether there is a business rationale for investing in it".However, with major UK supermarkets lacking a pressing reason to implement real-time pricing, that investment may be slow in arriving, argues Kaye Coleman, the founder of price consultancy Ripe Strategic.Coleman explains: "The supermarkets already do price matching – it is not so sophisticated but price matching is already happening".Schemes including the Tesco Price Promise, the Asda Price Guarantee and the Sainsbury’s Brand Match currently use real-time data to "price match" by offering money off the next shop.A cynic could argue the supermarkets should knock money off at the till rather than relying on customers to redeem their vouchers at the next shop, but such an action could hit the companies' bottom line.Mobile sophisticationThe growing sophistication of mobile marketing is also likely to revolutionize the way brands approach their price matching."If you can come up with a value proposition where I check-in [on my mobile] when I walk through the store for the first time and that presents me with a personalized experience based on my purchase history then I could see the benefit for a customer and a retailer," said Spyer.The trick for retailers is persuading customers to adopt such behavior, but the offer of being delivered ever-changing personalized price offers and messages in-store is a compelling proposition.Personalization is already a priority for retailers. Sainsbury’s uses anonymized shopping data gathered from the Nectar card to personalize offers.The levels of personalization offered by Sainsbury’s are increasingly complex. If a female customer buys folic acid they will be sent promotions on other pregnancy-related supplements during the pregnancy period and offers on nappies further down the line.UK retailers are sure to keep a close eye on developments over the Atlantic, with Schulz claiming she knows of clients that are piloting technologies that enable in-store personalized discounts.The challenges on the high-street mean there will inevitably be more casualties, but real-time pricing does not have to be the sole preserve of online-only retailers.Innovative ways of manipulating real-time data could be the shot in the arm the high-street retail industry so desperately needs.This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.ukClick here for the article on the web.

RELATED Jobs

Salary

£50000 - £75000 per annum + + Benefits

Location

City of London, London

Description

This is the leading company in the online food retail space operating in the UK They are seeking an Infosec Team lead

Salary

£50000 - £60000 per annum

Location

City of London, London

Description

*SENIOR INSIGHT ANALYST - CENTRAL LONDON - SQL & PYTHON/R - UP TO £60,000*

Salary

£42 - £65000 per annum + bonus and benefits

Location

London

Description

A well known marketplace app are seeking a Senior Analyst.

Salary

£36000 - £37000 per annum + Yes

Location

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

Description

Junior Data Scientist, London United Kingdom.

recently viewed jobs