What is Football Analytics?
Analytics is the use of data to find conclusions and make decisions. Football Analytics is the application of this to the sport of football (soccer) to influence and help make more informed decisions. What can it be used for?
Football Analytics can be used both on and off the pitch. Essentially anywhere you can capture data, you can pull conclusions and make decisions. Clubs can use analytics to make decisions about tactics, signings, substitutions and more.
How is it done?
On-field data provided by companies such as OPTA or STATS is used by analysts like myself to find patterns in play or significant trends. These trends and patterns form conclusions and then can inform decisions. Off-field insights can be generated from any data available. An area of interest for me is the challenge that the salary cap in the MLS provides teams – something that is not an issue (or less of an issue) in Europe.
How can I get involved/interested?
This is the easiest question to answer. There is a wealth of articles that you can find on this blog and a variety of others. Statsbomb is what I’d regard as the holy grail of football analytics. I write for American Soccer Analysis too, and would regard them as a great resource if interested in the USMNT or MLS. Bsports is a fantastic website, generating some great insights. Finally 21st Club is also a very forward thinking company which I recommend you check out.
Ted Knutson’s list is a great starting point for finding other people interested in Football Analytics on Twitter. Most still Tweet and post regular articles. If anyone has a list/article with additional people on it feel free to point me in the right direction and I’ll update this article.
For data, the two websites that I used mostly are Whoscored and Squawka. Whoscored has a great wealth of data available and Squawka has some great visualisations and post match/live match data. FourFourTwo’s Stats Zone is also a great resource.
In terms of Podcasts you have the brilliant Anfield Index podcast, the Statsbomb podcast and American Soccer Analysis too. There aren’t any others that I am aware of but please let me know of any others and I’ll update this article (and given them a listen also!).
There are also a couple of sites that collate the work of others. Abel Lorincz’s excellent “This Week in Analytics” is one, with Sports Analytics Blog’s weekly roundup of analytics articles across all sports being another. And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this extremely brief introduction to Football Analytics. Definitely check out the links within the article above and explore.
There is an abundance of different writing styles/analysis types out there and a very active and accessible community on Twitter that you can get involved with. Enjoy!
Update 07/01: Link for the recent Extra Time Radio podcast where they discussed the book The Numbers Game and analytics. Highly recommended listening!
Update 14/01: Sam Gregory recently wrote an excellent post breaking down what Analytics is to Football and giving a real-life, easy to understand application. I highly recommend this piece and feel it is a good starting point when trying to get an understanding of what Analytics is/does. Check out the article here.
Update 01/02: Omar Chaudhuri‘s excellent recap of Football Analytics over the past 4 years is really enjoyable and well worth reading. Neil Charles also recently updated his Football Analyst Network visualisation on his blog – something I find fascinating and a great place to find people who’s work you should check out.
Any feedback/updates that you have please reach out to me on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is intended to inform and educate, so changes to enhance the quality of this article would be greatly appreciated!