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Richard Whittall

  • 07 May 2015

    What if the manager is asking the wrong questions?

    A recent article by Alex Morgan for Football Everyday covered some of the football-related presentations at the recent Sports Analytics conference in London. The column featured some hitherto unknown titbits of the kind data leading club analysts have at their disposal, including a long and detailed look at the excellent work of Ian Graham at Liverpool FC. For that reason alone, it’s worth your time. 
  • 22 Apr 2015

    Can analytics help a last-placed team avoid relegation?

    Let’s pretend for a moment you’re Sean Dyche, manager of Premier League bottom-dwellers Burnley FC. All that stands between you and the drop are five fixtures against beatable sides, a potential 15 points to take your team to safety. You know, grimly, that you’ll likely need a minimum of ten to survive. In desperation to stay up, you decide to consult a stats analyst.
  • 08 Apr 2015

    When letting players know about analytics is a good thing

    When is it appropriate for a club to let footballers in on the team’s analytics research?This question came up in a conference here in Toronto last March in which I was a panelist. Other speakers included the director of analytics for the NBA Jason Rosenfeld and assistant GM for the New York Giants Kevin Abrams—in other words, people who generally knew whereof they spoke. 
  • 24 Mar 2015

    Trouble ahead in football analytics?

    The public football analytics scene has enjoyed a fruitful four or so years now. The work of a few talented analysts is garnering some mainstream media attention, and a few are being hired by clubs either as consultants or full-time staff. As with any cultural “scene” however, the analytics movement will be prone to a few existential challenges over time, some of which can at best slow progress for a few months, and at worst derail work in the field for years. Whilst I think the work of public statistical analysis in football is as good as ever, it’s best to identify key problems it will face in the near future.
  • 11 Mar 2015

    In football analytics, the media isn’t always the message

    Despite a few one off columns here and there—see Martin Samuel’s clanger on the alleged superfluousness of the marginal gains provided by analytics in football and other sports—the relationship between football stats analysts and major media organizations covering the sport has been relatively cozy over the last few years, particularly compared to ice hockey in North America. While the development and application of statistical science in the National Hockey League is the subject of fierce and often hostile debate in North American media circles, football analytics seems to be the quiet purview of a few open minded print journalists like Sean Ingle, Adam Bate and Jonathan Liew. Most football writers simply ignore it. 
  • 19 Feb 2015

    Why knowledge is the antidote to fear in youth development

    The Guardian’s Sean Ingle wrote a piece recently questioning whether England was on the verge of producing another ‘Golden Generation’ of footballers with the recent run of form of players like Spurs’ Harry Kane and Liverpool’s Jordan Ibe. Using data provided by Infostrada’s Simon Gleave, Ingle noted a remarkable drop in the number of players starting in Premier League first teams who are under the age of 24:
  • 07 Jan 2015

    Why risk isn’t always the enemy in player recruitment

    Let’s pretend for moment you’re a technical scout, preparing to add to a dossier of reasonable transfer targets for your club to cover the next three seasons. Being an analytics minded person, you are armed in your search with statistics on the effects of age on performance, advanced metrics that measure innate skill in individual players, informal data on player “agreeability”, and filters for realistic transfer fees etc. etc
  • 23 Dec 2014

    Understanding new developments in shot-based metrics

    Most regular followers of statistical science in sports know that when it comes to analytics in “team invasion sports” like hockey and football, shot data forms the basic foundation of much of the work being done today. This is why, generally speaking, developments in shot-based metrics are very important. So it wasn’t a surprise when, earlier this month, noted baseball stats analyst Tom Tango sent ripples through the hockey analytics world when he proposed a weighted shot metric.