Data analytics in football – Introduction :
Sports Analytics has become a major part of almost every sport in today’s day and age. The sport of football is no exception to that fact. Data analytics in football [football analytics] has been a major contributor to roster building and developing strategies against opponents in the sport of football. It also helps players understand their weaknesses and strengths. Football analytics helps players understand opponents as well as themselves. A question that most people who hear the term football analytics have is with regards to how football analytics works.
Football analytics by definition is the breakdown of football-related data from matches and players and analyse that data to create a strategy to counter or improve the particular player/team on whom/which the data has been collected. Data analytics in football has made life much easier for coaches and executives in the football industry to make decisions on roster building as well as coaching strategies that need to be applied against a particular opponent.
Data analytics in football has become the norm in the sport of football today but there are still questions that arise about football analytics in general. Sometimes even professionals in the football industry will have doubts regarding the use of data analytics in football as it is a developing field within the sports industry. A lot of people prefer to use the eye test over analytics. While analytics cannot evaluate player qualities like determination and hard work, it does give the most accurate data breakdown of an athlete with the resources we have available to us today.
In this article, we will be answering a few of those questions and help you understand how impactful data analytics in football is to the sport of football. For any aspiring football analysts that are reading this, it is important that you understand that in order to understand the world of football analytics, you need to understand the answers to these questions as well.
How football analytics works :
One of the most asked questions when it comes to data analytics in football is the question of how football analytics works. From the introduction, we understand the role that data analytics in football plays but it still does not explain how football analytics works. To understand how exactly football analytics works, we have to understand what exactly a data analyst does with the data obtained from matches.
The first part of football analytics is the collection of data. Data analysts collect data on players from matches that they play. This data is collected by devices like pitchside cameras and GPS tracker vests. Once this data is collected, it is broken down into a less complicated version in order to allow executives and coaches that are not well versed in analytics to understand what the collected data means. This in turn helps executives and coaches evaluate talent and have the information required to scout talents that are needed for the ball club.
This is where a data analyst’s job ends and it is up to the executives and coaches to decide on how they would act on the data that they have received. This is because it is the responsibility of the coaches and executives to decide whether that data is beneficial to the organisation and its players or not. A major reason for analytics not being the holy text when it comes down to sports decisions is because analytics has its limitations as well. A major limitation is not being able to judge a player’s character or how hard he works as those are unquantifiable parameters.
Hence while the data might show that statistically, a player might have a mediocre game or even a mediocre tournament, he might be a great leader in the locker room. This is why the front office and coaching staff cannot make final decisions to substitute a player or even cut or trade them based on what the analytics suggests. They have to take into consideration other factors and make a final decision based on a holistic view of the situation. That is how football analytics works and is used within a football organisation.
Why has data analytics become such an integral part of football :
Over the past few years, data analytics has become a huge part of football. A major reason why is because of the simplification of data that analytics brings to the sport of football. Football analytics not only helps collect an enormous amount of data that cannot be collected manually but once that data is processed by a data analyst, it provides a great deal of information to teams regarding their opposition as well as themselves.
Another major reason is that there have been occasions where football analytics was ignored and the team had to pay the price. When sports analytics made its way into the sports industry in the beginning, it was followed by cynicism from a lot of GMs, coaches, players and even former players because they did not believe that a computer could give them information about the game that they did not already know from their years of experience being a part of the football industry.
The best example would be that of Southampton manager Harry Redknapp in 2005. Redknapp who had an old-school mentality of trusting people and their experience over analytics, is quoted to have told the data analysts of Southampton at the time,” I’ll tell you what, next week, why don’t we get your computer to play against their computer and see who wins?”
Redknapp never utilized analytics to gameplan throughout that season and Southampton failed to get a promotion. By 2021, 19 out of 20 Premier League teams were using a player tracking software called Prozone to collect data from players. With the experiences that football organisations have had in the past, they have found a balance between the technological data they can derive from football analytics as well as the input from experienced individuals that have been a part of the football industry for a long time.
How to become a football analyst :
If you wish to pursue football analytics as a career, then it is important to understand the steps to be taken in order to become a football analyst. The first step to take is understanding what football analytics is all about. Once that is done you need to understand how data analytics in football helps a team or organisation. Then you need to find resources that can help you learn data analytics. Finally, you need to create a career strategy and layout how you will enter the sports industry as a data analyst.
The usual career path is for people to do a bachelor’s course in data analytics and then pursue a career as a football analyst. Coding is an important part of sports analytics so you need to understand the various coding languages that the football industry requires. There are video analysts that do not use programming for analysing games and make observations from footage of matches.But the demand in the sports industry right now is for data analysts that can work on the statistical side of sports analysis.
For becoming a video analyst you would need to have a degree in media and communications. The most common route to becoming a football analyst that works on the statistical side is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in data analytics, statistics, mathematics or programming and then make your way into the sports industry. Some students take majors like statistics along with a minor in programming.
With the growth of data analytics in football along with the growth of the sports industry as a whole, becoming a football analyst is a very lucrative career opportunity today. If you plan on pursuing a career in the sports industry and your field of interest is analytics, then this is the career for you. For a sports fan to be able to have a job in the sports industry is the next best option to actually playing sports professionally.
Data Analytics in football – Conclusion :
In conclusion, these are the 3 most important aspects you should know about football analytics. Understanding how data analytics in football works, why it is such an integral part of the football industry and how to have a career as a football analyst can be extremely helpful if you are planning on pursuing a career as a football analyst.
If you have doubts about a career as a football analyst then we at Mad About Sports have the best resources to help you on your journey to pursuing a career in football analytics. While this article provides information about football analytics the people that can provide better perspective are expert football analysts. At Mad About Sports, we have our very own expert football analyst, Mr Sushant Rao who can give you the best advice. To know more about the workshop click on the link below.
Author : Aniruddh S Kumar