I am current reading the World Cup Edition of Soccernomics written by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. These guys are “disciples” of Billy Beane, who is portrayed by Brad Pitt in the movie “Moneyball”. Soccernomics documents how only recently the football world has embraced statistical analysis. The main problem has been how to translate raw data into meaningful analysis. Many teams initially started tracking information such as passes, tackles, and kilometers covered. Unfortunately, this raw data can have little or no significance. For example, what is the relationship between total distance covered and winning? Knowing how many passes a player has made does not tell us if they are killer through-balls or square passes to a static team mate. When I started looking at some of the World Cup stats, I was surprised to see that Italian midfielder Verratti had a passing completion rate of 91% against Uruguay but then under further analysis, I saw that 33 of his 43 completed passes were to three defenders (Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli) and Pirlo. Counting the number of tackles can also be a poor indicator, perhaps a player in proper position is able to deal with the ball unchallenged unlike the player who arrives late and must make the tackle.

Soccernomics book purchased by Roberto Di Matteo

Another “lesson” from the Soccernomics book is how easily our eyes can fool us, how we can be quick to make judgements, or how we (and actually many managers and players) have pre-conceived notions, totally repudiated by stats.

One of the managers who routinely relies on stats is Arsenal’s Wenger, who has an economics degree. Wenger utilized statistics to find a little known teenage midfielder named Flamini at Olympique Marseille who consistently covered 14 km per game, to replace Patrice Vieira. OWT is also supposed to be a statistics geek and he utilizes the Uruguayan firm Kizanaro Sport Technologies to analyze La Celeste performances as well as analyze opponents and their tendencies (e.g. how they play out of their end of the field, who directs the attack, etc.).

Unfortunately at LCB, we don’t have the same tools to analyze player performance but there are a couple of sites out there that deal with stats:

1) One site is squawka.com which publishes a Player Performance Score which measures a player’s ability to positively influence a game of football. An advanced algorithm that takes every recorded on-ball action on the football pitch, evaluates the outcome, the pitch coordinates, the player position and the preceding event and provides a rating. The score is broken down into 3 components; attack, defense and possession. The attack component looks at shots, crosses, 1v1s, etc. The defense component looks at tackles, interceptions, etc. and the possession component looks at passes, through-balls. The Squawka rating can be interpreted as follows:

  • Score between 10 to 20 points over 90 minutes – Average game
  • Score over 50 – Player is performing very well
  • Minus score – Poor game

2) Another site is whoscored.com which uses over 200 raw statistics in the calculation of a player’s rating, weighted according to their influence within the game. Every event of importance is taken into account, with a positive or negative effect on ratings weighted in relation to its area on the pitch and its outcome. The scoring system for the ratings is out of 10, starting from 6.0, with 10 being the highest score. The site actually provides live updates during games. A rating of 9-10 is excellent, from 8.0-8.9 very good, from 7.0-7.9 good, from 6.0-6.9 average, from 5.0-5.9 poor, from 4.0-4.9 very poor.

Here’s La Celeste’s player ratings during the World Cup, according to whoscored.com. Next I will look at the ratings for the latest call-ups.




FourThreeThree FourThreeThree 3 like

5 Responses so far.

  1. de_la_plata de_la_plata says:

    Thanks for posting the stats. Very cool to see them all in one spot like this. I’m glad someone posted it.

    Regarding the WC, I’ve been meaning to ask you guys and the readers one question. I know the Suarez break down was ultimately what led to our demise, but I re-watched the Italy game again…a few times and I can’t get over something that I keep noticing and that is, Cavani’s play looks absolutely horrible. I would even say negative.

    Things I saw from Cavani v Italy:(brackets inlcude time in game)
    -lots of one touches or easily losing the ball (16,20,27,30)
    -some horrible runs, uninspired (32)
    -Passing back to the goalie from an attacking position (36) weird?
    -pass to him in the box and instantly losing the ball (40)

    This last one, the commentator even mentions how bad it looks.

    And that was just the first half.

    In the second half I remember him being fouled and not getting the call, Cavani picked up the ball and rushed to the ref to complain. Time wasting? In a normal game I would say that would be almost appropriate, but in a game where time was of the essence (we still needed a goal) he was wasting time at a key moment. Strange.

    Contrast that with Cebolla’s play- When Veratti went down injured in the second Cebolla ran to the stretcher crew and grabbed the stretcher himself and sprinted them to Veratti to save time. Heroic, and you can only slightly tell from the televised game that he did this. It was awesome to see it live (brag).

    My last two points are perhaps indicative of my paranoia more than anything, but what the hell, here they are,
    -when Godin scored, Cavani didn’t even raise his hands in celebration, at the most it was lack luster
    -And last, but certainly not least…Cavani swapped jerseys with Pirlo at half time. Did anyone else see this? To me swapping Jerseys at half time is a crime. No excuse. After the game, sure, but half time, never. I know it was Pirlo’s ‘last game’ or whatever, but still…inexcusable.

    Anyway, those are my “What was Cavani thinking?” moments of the game. It seemed to me he was not interested in winning and I would go as far as saying I would want Declan Hill to analyze his play.

    Thanks for reading.
    Let me know what you think.

    Current score: 4
  2. Maldoror55 Maldoror55 says:

    It’s famous saying;”There is a lie,bigger lie,the biggest lie,damned lie,and statistics.”
    Good for some reference,some general orientation,but never to be literally accepted,like it does our Maestro.One has to see directly how some player make his impact on the pitch.It is very complex,and versatile situation,infinitelly interconnected,depends on quality of passes,their impact on result,on game,drawing of players who mark him,creating free space.Football,just like life or love,is fluid,fluent,flowing,infinitelly interconnected with everything,and we would make a great,and harsh injustice to try to put it in some rigid categories.

    Current score: 2
  3. very interesting stats, some that do surprise me to be honest. Such an opportunity blown last world cup, in Brazil with all the history and the tournament actually being in south america ! Uruguay with Suarez could of gone to the quarters at least, but Uruguay with a few young promising players really could of had a chance of making the semis. With the right squad, and Suarez and Cavani in full force, Uruguay could of got past Colombia, and beaten a weak Brazilian team, who we could of beaten if we played our cards right, but then i would of expected to be knocked by Germany in the semis.

    Current score: 2
  4. FourThreeThree FourThreeThree says:

    The “push” for statistics is driven normally by the team’s technical staff, but as you say, many of Uruguay’s coaches and teams are not interested in stats, they prefer to coach by the seat of their pants, or with their “guts”. It’s also because soccer is more dynamic than other sports (compared to baseball which is more “situational”). I think that like anything, you have to try to balance it, or use the stats as back-up or as a type of acid test. If we used “playing with balls” as a parameter, we would probably still be capping Perez and Lugano.

    The book gave some good examples of how our pre-conceived notions can be totally wrong. Like how in the EPL, a goal is scored every 35 free-kicks, yet due to all the highlight reels we would expect this figure to be higher. Another example is how Man City staff analyzed goal kicks and more goals were scored at the near post than the far post (a stat that Mancini did not believe). The problem is that goals at the near post tend to be scrambled plays and not very pretty to look at. And consequently do not make the news reels.

    One of my pre-conceived notions for la Celeste is that Lodeiro is a better player than Gonzalez. As you can see, the stats, for the World Cup, at least, don’t support my opinion.

    Current score: 2
  5. Yorugua Yorugua says:

    433 – Good post, especially when you talk about some of the main points from Soccernomics.

    Billy Beane is an interesting figure, I can’t confess to knowing much about him except from what I saw in Moneyball – which is a very good film – I do know he is interested in soccer/football but have no idea where that interest will take him?

    From the movie though, the debate put forward is that analytical data strips away the power of the scout and perceived notions on what constitutes a talented player. The movie takes this position that Beane’s “stripped away” notion of baseball is some kind of return to the origins of the game.

    In real life I do not know what this idea will do to World Football.

    In Uruguay, Tabarez seems to prioritize statistical data as your post mentions as some type of method to keep calling up players like Tata Gonzalez or Diego Forlan, but outside of that, Uruguayan football continues to live in it’s own bubble devoid of any new advances in the sport, which is good to a certain extent as the game’s purity is kept alive but bad as it really sets Uruguay behind the proverbial 8-ball.

    Everything nowadays is being reduced to statistical data, but I’m not sure statistical data can measure desire, courage or balls… traits we usually attribute to The Sky-Blue.

    Current score: 2

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