How Much has Data Analytics Impacted Football Throughout the English Pyramid?

Data analytics has a great effect on football. Managers use data to buy better players, create a better team and adjust what isn’t working. But can you see the effects on the field? We’re breaking down how data analytics affects football here.

It offers numbers without human interpretation

Data alone can be a very useful tool in any industry, as it helps leaders make informed decisions. In football, it’s used to gather information on player performance, GPS tracking, injury susceptibility, etc. allowing managers to be more decisive, making changes to the team as and when needed.

But data is just numbers without human interpretation. Managers will have to look at the data and weigh up the risk of changing the system. For example, Man Utd star Marcus Rashford is going through a rough patch right now, where some are saying his skill is waning. The data will present his history as a whole, maybe indicating one way or another his skill level, and any manager looking to book him in the summer will have to weigh up factors like his lack of field time and shoulder injury and from there decide if it’s worth the risk.

It needs a team effort

Much like football, data requires a team effort. Using data allows you to put together a team of the best, looking for information and with a better edge.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp understands this, having created a team of skilled players, synergising with his team and with the data to back it up. Klopp is known for incorporating data science into his team decisions, and you can see that it’s working well for him just by looking at the #2 place on the Premier League table. Check out the LFC prices to see the team in team action.

Match great data with great leaders

Data is in no place to replace the decision-making instincts of managers. As outlined above, data needs human interpretation to be valuable. Managers can use data to inform their decision, sure, but there is no replacement for gut instinct.

After all, the managers of the past won’t have had any data to inform their decisions. The greats like Sir Alex Ferguson will have had to rely on a mixture of gathering information for themselves and instinct. And that is the perfect recipe for success: taking onboard the data and using human intuition.

The role of the narrative

As we’ve already pointed out, data requires human interpretation to be made sense of, but interpretation, whether it’s of polls, literature, or art, is subjective.

Visualising data is a common aspect of data interpretation to make sense of it. The simpler you can make your interpretation, the easier it will be for the others in the room to pick it up. Therefore, understanding a narrative, its purpose and how to craft one, is very important to data interpretation.

This gets a practical use in football as teams and employees in the club can understand the data on the fly and therefore understand the reason behind the decision made.


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Author: Ben Burd

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Sports Economics