So we’ve had a little time since the last major newspaper column about ambient temperature and analytics, so I wanted to post something I’ve been thinking for a while now: Everything is analytics, whether you call it that or not. The two sides don’t complement each other because there aren’t two sides. Unless you purely watch soccer for the artistic brilliance of the game and make zero judgments on the game, you’re analyzing things. You’re deciding which players are good and which players are bad, which team is good and which team is bad, who should have won a game, and who will win your favorite competition. This is the exact same thing the math folks are doing, it’s simply that what we think of as “analytics” is just a more formal way of doing it than most people use.
I’m not going to write a long-winded rhetorical explanation of this point, instead I’ll just provide a few quick examples:
“Real football men” say: “Napoli outplayed Fiorentina last weekend and really deserved their win.”
“Analytics” says: “Napoli’s xG total was higher than Fiorentina’s, so you’d expect them to win.”
“Real football men” say: Walcott should have scored on his header, and Ozil’s goal was an easy finish.
“Analytics” says: “Walcott’s header had an xG of 0.34, and Ozil’s was 0.84”
“Real football men” say: “Arsenal’s playing well and could mount a real title challenge.”
“Real football men” say: “Chelsea is playing horribly this year.”
“Analytics” say: “Chelsea’s underachieving by about 7.5 points so far and need to turn things around.”
“Real football men” say: Leverkusen was unlucky to not win against Augsburg.
“Real football men” say: Fernando Torres has his confidence back!
“Analytics” quietly turn up the air conditioning and weep at their desks….ok, so not everything is analytics.
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