Portland Timbers

Moneyball 2 – Soccer Statistics – Taking it to the next level

Probably the biggest leader in soccer analytics (Prozone Sports) have released two products in the last year, or so, that should begin to change the landscape of soccer statistics.

I applaud their actions but I’m still not convinced they scratch the right itch, or least my question; what are the best statistics available to better understand team performance and how individual players influence the outcome of team performance?

Warning – before settling down to read this, get a cup or pint of your favorite beverage.

My reason for wanting to know the answer to this question is three fold:

  1. The first is knowing, or having a better idea, of what information I would like, as a senior leader/owner, to best understand my teams’ performance relative to my opponents/competitors.
  2. The second is knowing, or having a better idea, on what types of players I would need to buy/sell in order to improve my team.
  3. The third is knowing, or having a better idea, on what the true value of a player is when looking to negotiate a contract.

Before digging into what might scratch my itch here’s a summary on what Prozone Sports has done of late:

Styles of play (Possession) = (tactical profiling).   Dr. Hector Ruiz and Prozone Sports have identified eight styles of play (what I almost call eight styles of possession).  They are:

Each of these styles of play have definitions and video examples on what they mean and how they are calculated.  It’s a great presentation and opens the eyes on many different ways we can view the game.

Now my own thoughts on Tactical Profiling:

Game Intelligence; A product developed by Prozone Sports that is similar to what has been offered in the NBA (gravity).  They have identified eight of them; here they are with their brief definitions provided by Prozone Sports:

Now my own thoughts on Game Intelligence:

In short, this product is an attempt to address the weaknesses in current statistics – there isn’t a great way to measure the un-measurable. In particular the unmeasured statistics on the defensive side of the pitch.

Like Tactical Profiling I believe Prozone Sports have taken a great leap forward in doing this; but it still lacks.

A good example on why it lacks is the statistic called “Player Attraction”.

In conclusion:

So what’s next?

I think the number of styles of play/possession by Prozone are excessive. Its’ simpler than that. For me there are only two styles of play (possession). They are:

What does Possession with the intent to possess mean?

What does Possession Penetration into the Attacking Final Third mean?

Back to my original question:  

What are the best statistics available to better understand team performance and how individual players influence the outcome of team performance?

For me, the first statistics to help answer this question are those used in Composite PWP:  The difference between how the opponent attacks against you and how you attack against the opponent.  With these team statistics being the most important:

Put differently – any or all of those Tactical Profiling or Game Intelligence statistics should be evaluated for how well they correlate (influence) these team statistics.  If there is a strong negative or positive correlation to any of my PWP team performance indicators then they add value.

Next – what current individual statistics, in this list below, show a consistently strong negative or positive correlation to the team statistics above?

In reality – none of them show strong consistency from team to team.  

Here’s a recent example that may better describe what I mean.

In closing – this game is about two teams playing, not one; therefore all relevant team statistics, and subsequent individual player statistics must account for both teams activities, not just one.

Best, Chris

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Chris Gluck

I have been covering the Portland Timbers and Major League Soccer, as a community blogger/analyst for the Columbian Newspaper, since June, 2012. Since then my involvement in soccer analysis has expanded to include participating in the Regional Emmy Award Winning Soccer City PDX TV Show (Comcast Sports Northwest). My unique analytical approach has been published in Europe and presented at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014. I also appear regularly as a co-host on Rose City Soccer Show and the Yellowcarded Podcast. You can find my work on PossessionwithPurpose.com, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.

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