Big Data and football, an increasingly closer relationship

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Statistics have become an essential tool for improving performance in football. The idea is that Big Data helps to improve decision-making and to minimize the margin of error, completing the knowledge of experts and constituting an effective working mechanism. It seems necessary for clubs that sports scientists interpret these statistics and their respective influence on team behavior. Several companies have specialized in data collection and analysis by signing contracts with clubs, sports federations or audiovisual producers.

Used devices

Currently, three types of electronic tracking systems converge: those based on cameras with an optical sensor, those for local positioning (LPS) and those for GPS / GNSS, where devices such as black vests are found. Unlike the other two systems, which depend on video and a more complex installation, GPS is much more independent. The compilation of the data concludes in the extension of knowledge of the technical staff on what demands the competition. Each club use Big Data to plan their training sessions and, supported by the data provided by GPS devices, they can find the best way to manage and provide the appropriate incentive for each session.

Services of Big Data in football

The benefits of this system are wide and diverse. First, technical staff can have Big Data as a reference to complete their squad. There are some cases in which the sports management has used this method to sign players based on a game system. Choosing different parameters (percentage of successful passes, distance run, duels won…) for the proposed football idea, a filter is established for what is required in each position. Data is not a conclusion, but it is a tool for clubs to be prepared for opportunities in the transfer market. Efficiency in this aspect is greater, because study time is reduced and a bigger area is covered.

Another of the most notable aspects in which Big Data can be applied is the analysis of the game. Getting results is the main goal of the team coach. The use of statistics is key to find out strengths and weaknesses of the squad, as well as to predict the characteristics of the opponent. Thanks to the data, it can be identified game patterns based on the condition of home or visitor, taking note of how many players are repeated in the starting team, their positions or how many changes are made.

The most important thing is to know how to differentiate what is useful and what is residual information. One of the clearest examples in this part is penalties. It has been commonly thought that it is a «lottery» and the luck factor was differential. A clear proof of this are the goalkeepers. They have a list of theoretical places to which their opponents can shoot. Several studies support this practice as something relevant and it has recently been proved in top-level tournaments such as the Eurocup or the America’s Cup. Every little detail counts in the face to face between goalkeeper and kicker. Other factors like psychological are essential.

An observation made by Geir Jordet, researcher in sports psychology at the Norwegian School of Sports, has clarified various aspects. In the cases in which the goalkeeper treats to delay time –making the shooter wait with the ball ready at the penalty spot–, the hit rate decreases to 70.6%. When the player can shoot without distraction, the hit rate rises up to 90%. Nothing goes unnoticed.

With that said, individual performance is the area in which Big Data is most advanced. Physical preparation is essential and it is gaining importance in the current football model. Data is collected during training sessions and matches, either technical-tactical (balls recovered, numbers of centers, shots on goal…) or at a physical level (high intensity efforts, distance covered). From that point, the following week is planned. Players are also aware of the importance of data and ask for reports to see where they can progress.

On the other hand, injury prevention is significant and this tool is very useful to sooth these setbacks during the season. The monitoring of the players allows to establish a nutritional plan based on their level of fatigue and energy exhaustion. Simulations are made to know which exercises are the most recommended or what is the best moment of rest for the players to avoid injuries. In addition to this, exercises can be individualized according to the condition of each player and even to anticipate other risk situations.

In conclusion, the proper use of these statistical mechanisms is important in today’s football. It has become a competitive advantage over the rest and due to this, investment in Big Data is increasing. The modernization of the sports directions in this innovation has become transcendental for the career and growth of the club.

The curious case of Kevin de Bruyne

Big Data has various forms of use and the Belgian footballer from Manchester City took advantage of the data to negotiate his renewal. De Bruyne hired a team of analysts to compile everything he had offered to the club on the field. In this way, he was able to demonstrate the great benefit he brought to the team. Scientifically, it was possible to value his role in the team and the options for the English team to win titles with him in the squad. He used data to negotiate a significant raise and he became the Manchester City’s highest paid player. Even though this case may be strange, more and more agents offer the statistics of their clients to prove their worth to the club interested in signing.

It is inevitable to think that there will be new uses for Big Data and its applications will spread to all fields of the game. Technologies advance and the world of football could not be waiting. Most technicians and analysts have already realized the added value of using tools like these. Information is power and any help that involves increasing knowledge about the sport is key. Therefore, we will continue to talk about everything related to it and try to discover and demonstrate the influence of statistical data.

Categorías: Blog

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