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Soccer Analytics

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Soccer Analytics
Soccer analytics applied to player selection

European clubs apply Soccer analytics to measurements when selecting players for their youth programs. Analytics and the use of data has transformed the way that top European clubs select players.  Clubs apply these metrics to players they buy from other clubs. Additionally, they use them to evaluate players within their own academy systems.

Today, many clubs utilize advanced data collection methods like fitness trackers and fit-bits.  They also pay big money to have people analyze the results. These analysts collect the information and create metrics. Soccer analytics are useful to determine measurements for players.

Both youth and amateur teams are using KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure the efficiency of their defense and attack. Clubs at every level are recognizing the importance of soccer analytics.  Many coaches share this data with players to encourage improved performance and a spirit of healthy competition.  Many clubs also review game footage. The coaches highlight examples of good play. Mistakes can be useful to point out as well. These can show areas for improvement.

Analysts have demonstrated that football, despite its reliance on passion and its tendency for randomness, has constant patterns and predictable patterns. These can be mapped and exploited.

Clubs consider some measurements to be more important than others. They believe they are more indicative of future success. Clubs may consider these of greater relevance.

Possession 

One of the key metrics for any young players is possession. There are several ways in which to measure this. The simplest is to determine how often a player gets a ball, vs. how often they give it away.

Ball retention is a key skill, especially at the top levels of play. This includes the ability to receive the ball, keep it under pressure and then pass it on to the next player or take a shot.

Distance covered is also an important metric. The physical demands of the game have increased substantially in recent years. Players today are covering between 4-6 km more during the average match than they did two decades ago. Stamina is key. Teams need to know that young players can last for 90 plus minutes. This may be longer in some instances. For example, injuries can add time. Some cup competitions also result in extra time. No club wants a player who needs to be subbed out the last twenty minutes of a game.

The pace in soccer is also not continuous. Unlike track, soccer players need to make repeated short sprints. These may only have short periods of rest in between them. Data helps identify those with the ability to withstand the physical demands of the sport at the highest level.

Pass Completion

Pass completion is also a key metric in soccer analytics. For instance, how often do passes, short or long, find a teammate?  Again, it is easy to see why. Soccer is a low scoring game. It depends on having the ball in the first place in order to put the ball in the net.

Position specific metrics are used. For example, XG (Expected Goals) for strikers. Midfielders and defenders are evaluated for how many tackles they win. Goalies are judged by how many shots they face and save.

Scouts used to claim that they had a gut feeling when they spotted a good young player. However, for every hit, in reality there were ten misses with such an approach.

Only 180 of the 1.5 million players in organized English youth football will make it as a Premier League professional. These are tremendous odds. Top European clubs are pouring huge amounts of money into their academy programs. They have neither the time, nor inclination or money, to trust on instinct alone any longer.

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