Football Analytics The role of context in transferring analytics to the pitch PDF

Football Analytics The role of context in transferring analytics to the pitch PDF

Football Analytics The role of context in transferring analytics to the pitch


Football is a very complex sport to be understood and explained in a simple and linear way.
Many factors provoke countless responses that are nested and create constant adaptations.
Football is a complex adaptive system at different scales, in a constant balance between order and disorder.
Therefore, football is mainly about players and the interaction between them and their environment.
Coaches generate stories around an idea of the game, a competition, an opponent, a match; and players have the ability to believe these stories and cooperate with each other to achieve a goal.
The success of a team depends a lot on this story and how credible it is to the players.
The emotions aroused by this interaction among team members (including the coaching staff) means that these behaviours derived from the style of play can be stabilised or, on the contrary, diluted.
Why should a player or a coach believe more in data or an algorithm than in an expert opinion that explains a specific situation of the game?
Why are a couple of subjective phrases from a coach more successful than a table of objective data from a scientist?
We must know that football is infinitely more complex than a set of computations and instructions, of ordered and finite rules that try to give an answer to a problem or solve an equation.
It will be difficult, or almost impossible, to control the game from mathematics, but the closer we are to understanding the context and contextualising the data, the closer we will be to the game and the players.
On the other hand, we must recognise that people today know less than we think they do.
Moreover, we do not think as individuals but rather in groups, as we treat the knowledge of others as if it were our own.
We humans are very limited thinkers on an individual level, but very powerful on a collective level. I would like to invite data scientists who want to devote themselves to the world of football to think about their role.
The document that the reader is about to discover scientifically justifies the importance of contextualising data.
But this is only the beginning. The data cannot be thrown directly onto an analyst’s or a coach’s desk; that would be the quickest way for it to end up in the bin if delivered on paper, or in the computer trashcan if delivered digitally.
Reports must also be accompanied by a story that makes them credible. That is to say, in addition to computing with the maximum rigour, and paying attention to the context, it will also be appropriate to analyse the results in a group and to collaborate with the sport’s practitioners to try to reach a conclusion together that provides added value.
In this way we can generate a short story that is both intelligible and agile.
Data has arrived in football, just as it has arrived in other areas of our lives in recent years:
invasively and almost always in a contradictory way.
This leads to its rejection in some professional environments.
Therefore, an effort must be made to make sense of the information and to discern what is important from what is not.
Above all, a data scientist who wants to succeed in the world of sport must have, beyond technical knowledge, highly developed skills in areas such as:
An understanding of the phenomenon being studied, which allows for analyses tailored to the reality of the end-user.
• Collaboration, to be able to think with others, to learn, to optimise their work and to evaluate knowledge.
• Communication, to be able to explain their knowledge and findings, to integrate into multidisciplinary teams and to find the right moments to communicate each specific aspect.
• Creativity, to explore new scenarios, to reinvent themselves, to give answers to questions, and to redirect their theories.
• Critical thinking, to reason and reflect without being influenced by power; to know how to discriminate what is important from what is not; and to make decisions and solve problems in critical or extreme situations.
Enjoy reading this publication without forgetting to know yourself and to think about what you want in life.
Always keep in mind the ability to control technology, before technology controls you.

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