Headline, October 28 2022/ ''' '' FOOTBALL -DATA- FOUNDRY '' '''


 FOUNDRY '' '''

EXPECTED GOALS : FOOTBALL AND DATA. In the head, not on it. So, here comes the superstar analyst.

THE MOST coveted figure in this summer's European football-transfer window was neither a superstar player nor a feted coach. He was a data analyst.

In just over a decade at Liverpool, Michael Edwards helped revitalise an underperforming giant of English football.

When he left the club in May, a flurry of rivals tried unsuccessfully to sign him. His ascent is also the story of how football, long an anti-intellectual sport, finally realised that numbers could sharpen a competitive edge.

Mr Edwards was not the first to study English football through data. In the 1950s an accountant called  Charles Reep began tallying passes, crosses and shots, annotating over 2,000 games and writing up his findings in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society.

His main conclusion was that a team's chances of keeping the ball fell with each pass.

The implication was that they should shoot on goal as quickly as possible. Reep is cited as an inspiration for the grim ''long ball'' style of play that took off in England in the 1980s and peaked in Wimbledon's victory in the FA Cup of 1988.

By the turn of the millennium, more ingame actions could be recorded more quickly and accurately. After his on-field career was curtailed by injury, Mr. Edwards began a second one at Portsmouth in the early 2000s, combining data and video clips to analyse the opposition.

In these early days, data was often used to berate players for their physical performance, such as how far they had run.

But as Rory Smith of The New York Times explains in ''Expected Goals'', a group of innovative firms and Internet hobbyists gradually collected more and more match data and drew more sophisticated conclusions.

When Mr. Edwards went to Liverpool, he built a data department that included an astrophysicist, a chess champion and former researcher on the Higgs boson at CERN.

Analysts have placed plenty of resistance. Liverpool were mocked for giving them a say in player recruitment alongside Brendan Rodgers, then the manager. The club's American owners decided they preferred Mr.Edward's empirical approach and sacked Mr.Rodgers.

Under his successor, Jurgen Klopp, canny signings saw Liverpool overhaul rivals with much deeper pockets.

''Liverpool's success gave English football a begrudging epiphany,'' writes Mr.Smith. ''It is the teams who do not invest [ in data ] who are considered outdated, old fashioned, faintly neolithic.''

Already, the adoption of analytics by most elite teams means the advantage conferred has shrunk. The launch of giants player databases has aided due diligence on potential signings.

Tactics have changed too : long-range shots and crosses have declined in the Premier League as data has shown they might lead to fewer goals than many coaches realised.

Still, there is more to come. One club official tells Mr. Smith that ''there are no more than a handful of teams in English football doing anything even vaguely useful with analytics.''

In its secrecy, at least, football remains a closed shop. Nevertheless, ''Expected Goals'' is an upbeat tale of openness. Mr. Edwards and others have proved there is more than one way to achieve success - and persuaded an often insular game to become more broad-minded.

The Honour and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Data, Analytics and Adoption, continues. The World Students Society thanks The Economist.

With respectful dedication to Football Players, Fans and Data. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society - the exclusive ownership of every student in the world : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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