If there’s a list of phrases and terms used universally across all sports, it would probably feature ‘form’. Always discussed but never formally defined, it’s often a starting point for debate on a range of topics.
This post is inspired by this debate, and also the techniques used by sports bloggers* to quantify regression to the mean. In short, what is a better predictor of an athlete’s next performance: his most recent performance(s) or his average performance?
The former would support the view that players go through peaks and troughs of form, the latter that results randomly fluctuate around a specific skill level. This may vary from sport to sport, but I’ve focused on cricket’s Sachin Tendulkar as a case study.
The Premier League often markets itself as the world’s strongest league, and certainly the Champions League performance of its elite teams between 2005 and 2012 testifies to that.
The fantastic Club Elo website keeps a historical rating of European clubs, dating back to the 1960s. Using this database, I was interested to see how the current level of English clubs relates to how the nation’s teams have performed historically.
The Premier League’s final standings for the 2012-13 season is notable for the division between the top seven and the rest. West Bromwich Albion finished 13 points above relegated Wigan in 18th, ten places below them, but 12 points off Liverpool in 7th.
Thirteen teams conceded more goals than they scored; this hasn’t happened since 2001-02. James Grayson noted that this split didn’t just exist on a results level, but at a performance level too.
I recently questioned the relevance of the away goals rule in normal time, and received a few responses that suggested the rule was particularly unfair in extra time as it gave the visiting team an extra half hour to find an away goal.
There’s a counterargument to this; that the rule balances out home advantage. This second leg home advantage is also often arbitrarily assigned in the later rounds of European competition.
Since the away goals rule was introduced to European football in the 1960s, the European Cup and UEFA Cup (and their more recent versions) have had 198 games enter extra time in two-legged, non-qualifying rounds. This sample excludes matches under the golden or silver goals rules.
It’s the second-to-last column on every league table, but goal difference is a statistic rarely discussed in football. In the short term it can be a vital tiebreaker, but in the long term it is one of the most accessible indicators of the long term sustainability of a team’s results.
The relationship between goal difference and points is transparent and intuitive – better teams win more points, score more goals and concede fewer. The chart below shows most teams are closely scattered around the best fit line, which tells us how many points we’d expect from a team given their goal difference.
This post is by Blake Wooster, Business Development Director at Prozone Sports, with support from Prozone Sports’ and 5 Added Minutes’ Omar Chaudhuri. Blake is one of football’s foremost experts in the area of performance analysis, talent identification, player development and recruitment. Since joining Prozone in 2004, Blake has achieved the highest industry accreditation in performance analysis and become a consultant and trusted advisor to a number of leading organisations worldwide, including Chelsea FC, UEFA, FIFA and the English Premier League. Follow him on Twitter @BlakeyGW, and Prozone Sports @ProzoneSports.
In Part I, I outlined some of the challenges inherent to recruiting players during the January window, and promised to offer some suggestions around how the application of data can enhance the task.
So here are a few ideas, and perhaps an insight into some of the work already being undertaken by the Technical Scouts. Of course, every transfer situation will be different and multi-faceted, but the underlying principles should be relevant if applied in the right context:
This post is by Blake Wooster, Business Development Director at Prozone Sports. Blake is one of football’s foremost experts in the area of performance analysis, talent identification, player development and recruitment. Since joining Prozone in 2004, Blake has achieved the highest industry accreditation in performance analysis and become a consultant and trusted advisor to a number of leading organisations worldwide, including Chelsea FC, UEFA, FIFA and the English Premier League. Follow him on Twitter @BlakeyGW, and Prozone Sports @ProzoneSports.
I haven’t read the morning papers, but I imagine the back pages are filled with speculation around Messrs Walcott, Villa, Lampard and Ronaldo and awash with clichés of ‘possible movers and shakers’ and clubs posed to ‘break open the war chest’ of funds.
Despite the media’s best efforts to whip up a transfer gossip frenzy, history tells us that the majority of deals don’t happen until the final day of the window (60% of the £225m spent in January 2011) and only 8% (21 of the 253 transfer predictions) of last year’s transfer gossip reported by the BBC actually materialised.