How Statistics is Changing Football

You don’t have to go back very far to a time when statistics was considered an intellectual pursuit — a pursuit that played a very small role in football.

Possession was perhaps at the forefront of quantifying a football match, which was also promoted at the time when Pep’s Barcelona team was around in 2010. It was a team that dominated possession so much that it was common to talk about. But today, football stats for betting have come a long way.

xG, which stands for expected goals, has been adopted by mainstream broadcasters in recent years. This is a statistical method of evaluating football matches that resembles ‘expected value’ in economics; a way to measure how many goals were expected given the game’s activity. Each year, football fans across the world become more accepting, and even interested, in the maths behind the game.

How statistics is changing management

How statistics is changing management

Ever since Moneyball was cinematically documented, it was evident that some sports teams, much like Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, were using numbers to gain an advantage. In this example, it was mostly around transfers: buying good value cheap players, whose value would grow, and then potentially selling them for a profit.

For scouting, this may mean looking at their performance numbers, xG, and weighing that up against their price tag. The Colorado Rapids are an example of this, as they narrow down their player selection through data filters and performances, along ith potential for development. The analysis will identify areas where the player is lacking, which will then inform the coach on what to focus on improving.

In fact, this is the case for managers heading into every game, as they now get briefed by their analysts that help profile their opponent. Perhaps the most “intrusive” area has been in sports science, where players wear devices that tracks things like steps, heart rate variability, and so on. Jose Mourinho is one of the few managers who resists using such technology, showing that there is a slight struggle for sovereignty between managers and data.

How statistics impacts betting practices

How statistics impacts betting practices

Betting is also an area that has been impacted heavily by data. It’s common to use the most influential variables behind a team's success, which are things like home-field advantage, goals for and against, recent form, player values, and many more. Of course, intuition and heuristics remain a large part, but more and more people are opening up Excel sheets to develop their own strategy, as if they would with currency trading.

Some novel variables have been discovered to correlate with results, like weather and time of day. The amount of goals scored in a game is one of the most popular bets, as it relieves the bettor of having to predict the outcome, but instead predict the type of game it will be (cagey and slow, or open and exciting).

With the oncoming influence of AI and the democratisation of data, it’s increasingly likely that everyday bettors of football will be using more sophistical statistical modelling – even if they do not fully understand it under the hood. The same goes for the billion-dollar industry of club football, which is ramping up data scientist personnel.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply