Bleacher Report’s Will Tidey has the first of what are sure to be many disseminations on whether Adidas’ “miCoach” player tracking technology—which will be introduced full-time in Major League Soccer next season—will usher in something he calls the “Moneyball era” in soccer (although “analytics era” would have been more accurate, if less sensational).
Tidey rather optimistically concludes:
…you get the feeling Smart Soccer technology is just the beginning. Football data is being calculated and consumed like never before, and we’re already living in an age where the possession and completed passes numbers for Barcelona and Spain form the focus for every post-match discussion.
It’s no longer enough to spout subjective opinions on the game without foundation. Fans and coaches can now come to any conversation armed with stats to back up their argument and base their opinions on players on them too.
Whether we like it or not, football really is becoming a science.
Again, I think there is a misunderstanding here of the scope and use of data analysis in football, and Tidey may be extrapolating a little too far on a technology we know almost nothing about, which may or may not collect data that will yield counter-intuitive information for club performance analysts to use to their team’s advantage.
What really bothers me here though is the assertion that improved data collection means football is “becoming a science.” As I’ve written before, analytics need not necessarily provide revolutionary knowledge about a new, better way of playing football, although there may be one or two possible breakthroughs along those lines. In any case, football already is a science; coaches have been testing formations, playing methods, specific tactics since the game was conceived almost 150 years ago.
If anything, miCoach technology will be used to pinpoint areas where players might improve their performances. It may also add another rubric to Opta and Infostrada’s game tracking technology for casual pundits to make objective observations about a football match.
Yet as far as actual analytics go (which, incidentally, are not the same as “Moneyball”), miCoach is another, more sophisticated data-gathering tool. The real work is that done by statistical analysts attempting to piece together predictive, team stats that do not regress to the mean. That element is far more boring than a cool machine, but as far as actual analytics go, is far more important.
Image courtesy of http://news.adidas.com/US