There is no doubt that the footballing world is behind other industries when it comes to gaining value from data analysis. However there has been a revolution in football in recent years – though it is one that even the most committed fans will only be dimly aware of. Clubs are becoming smarter and more efficient as they begin to realise the power of performance analysis and that the information they can gather to help them gain a genuine competitive advantage.
Over the last few years we’ve seen a shift at all top level European clubs adopting a structured analysis processes and a dedicated team of performance analysts. Where once clubs had to rely on grainy VHS footage to conduct even the most basic analysis, they are now able to access high-quality footage and a wealth of accompanying statistics at the touch of a button.
We’ve probably all seen the graphics and statistics that pop up when watching a match on TV. The gathering of data in football began with counting corners and shots on goal but this is just a fraction of the data that can be collected during a game now as the analysis has become much more advanced. With all this information can bring the problem of turning it into something meaningful for the coach/manager. The basic use of data is no longer enough to maintain a competitive advantage so the focus has moved towards how the available data is interpreted and implemented.
In the modern game, the use of data is all about finding the extra 1%, the detail that can exploit even the slightest weakness in the opposition and make the difference between winning and losing. Rather than simply applying data to tactical performance, objective information is now used throughout the clubs to enhance efficiency and develop processes that enable the team to be as well-prepared as possible.
Are we likely to see the game suffer if it becomes as much a contest between the analysts off the field as the players on it? Of course not, the outcome of a game is always going to be dictated by the efforts and intuitive skill of the players during the 90 minutes, the data gathered just helps the club achieve that competitive advantage.