Football skills aren’t all that it takes to win a match it seems. Data science also now plays a big part in the world of football, and it seems that Liverpool is leading the way in that field.
This season alone the club has conceded at least seven fewer goals than any other Premier League team — this is believed to be largely in part to Liverpool’s ability to control the pitch, thanks to data science.
Most football clubs have data analyst departments
It may come as a surprise to some that the majority of football teams nowadays use science to improve their game. That said, a very small number of these in fact use their data to the extent that Liverpool does.
Perhaps one of their advantages lies in the fact that the club’s sporting director, Michael Edwards, is a former analyst.
However, it’s not only thanks to having members of the club like Edwards that enables the Reds to work the pitch with data science. The club’s manager, Jürgen Klopp is right on board and incorporates the science into his top-level decision making.
Furthermore, Fenway Sports Group, the group that owns Liverpool F.C., have used data for a while now. Ian Graham, the club’s director of the research division, has a doctorate in theoretical physics and evaluates players and sporting trends by crunching numbers.
This has enabled the Reds to gain a strong understanding of what’s called “pitch control.” Using graphics, such as the images included in this article, the team is able to see how best to utilize the pitch, hence the name “pitch control.”
The combination of event data and tracking data is the key to Liverpool’s data success. The team can understand how each action on the pitch impacts their probability of scoring a goal.
There’s no exact information about how much the team relies on data science, however, given their winning streak as world champions who have only lost one Premier League match since May 2018, there’s a high probability science and numbers are helping them out.