How Analytics has Changed Scouting in Football

How Analytics has Changed Scouting in Football
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The Premier League’s financial environment
makes it difficult for teams outside the top six to compete for the best players, and yet,
the rest of the league still manage to sign players of an excellent quality. Whether it’s
Burnley signing James Tarkowski when clubs like Liverpool and Arsenal were in desperate
need of a center back, or Wilfred Ndidi signing for Leicester City when Manchester United
signed Nemanja Matic for more than double the price just six months later. Some smaller
clubs do this by engendering a level of astuteness in their player acquisition and scouting,
that can compensate for their financial disadvantage. This is often due to certain inherent advantages
the smaller teams have that cannot exist at larger clubs. They can give players more game time, as they
would have to compete with players of a higher standard at bigger clubs. Clubs like Leicester
City, Everton, and Bournemouth have built a reputation for being willing to give young
players chances, but this advantage can work with older players as well. Sean Dyche has
created a climate at Burnley that makes older players, who may have failed to impress elsewhere,
feel valued. The other crucial advantage that small clubs
have is their greater risk tolerance when it comes to transfers. The bigger sides will
sometimes be reluctant to sign players from the lower leagues based on their perceived
lower quality. This leaves a void that teams outside the top six can fill. Jordan Pickford
and Lewis Cook are both good examples of this. Pickford was perhaps the lone positive in
a dreadful season for Sunderland, and both Liverpool and Arsenal were in dire need of
a better goalkeeper. Similarly, Cook was playing phenomenally at Leeds and displayed all the
attributes necessary to be a top midfielder in the modern game. Both of these clubs were
willing to take potential short-term losses for greater long-term gains, knowing that
giving game time to these young players would enable them to improve dramatically. Primarily, the development of statistical
analysis in football and its role in buying players has greatly evened the playing field
in scouting talent. Spending big on a large scouting network that can be in multiple countries
is, while still important, not as crucial as in years past because small teams of analysts
can look at large amounts of data from companies like Wyscout and Opta to extract crucial information
regarding players. This access to statistics combined with the ability to attract excelling
players from smaller clubs enables teams to acquire players who are not just talented
but can serve specific functions that improve the whole team. This is especially helpful
for teams with a specific way of playing, and the prime example of this was Burnley’s
signing of James Tarkowski. Tarkowski was a highly rated, young, English
centre back at Brentford. He was quite a gracious and elegant defender, who was solid and disciplined
defensively and was capable of playing long raking passes from the back and carrying the
ball forwards. As such, it seemed rather odd for him to join Burnley, a team that’s known
for its ‘no nonsense’ approach to defending. The low block is designed to funnel shots
towards the center of the goal and encourage teams to shoot from range by employing two
compact lines of four to compress space in the box. Its a system that requires discipline,
intelligence, and aerial prowess from centre backs. Whilst Tarkowski’s style of play was vastly
different from Michael Keane and Ben Mee, the following stats from Squawka showcase
that Tarkowski had the necessary attributes to fit the Dyche system.
He had minimal defensive errors, no dismissals and only 4 yellows in his previous season,
and he won a significant proportion of aerial duels. Dyche could also see that Tarkowski
would bring different elements to Burnley’s passing, as he usually passed longer than
Mee and Keane, assisting their direct style of attack. Burnley used statistics to look
beyond the stereotype. Another example can be found at Leicester
City, who have unearthed talents like N’golo Kante, Wilfred Ndidi, and Riyad Mahrez over
the past few years. In an interview with Leicester Mercury, former scouting and recruitment analyst
Rob Mackenzie detailed that the functions of the statistics used by the scouting team,
stating that they were able to track the movement of players “on and off the ball, and how
that compared to the players Leicester had at the time.” Mackenzie also said that the
Leicester recruitment team used specific indexes that detailed information about a specific
statistic. For example, when detailing the signing of Riyad Mahrez, Mackenzie said “We
had a positivity index for the use of the ball and how successful they are, and Riyad
scored highly. He was always looking to do something positive with the ball and was successful.” The financial gap in football is only getting
larger, but that is certainly not the case when it comes to scouting. Smaller teams will
always have an advantage over big teams in their ability to guarantee game time and take
more risks in player recruitment. This tailors their focus to players who do well in lower
leagues, and the use of statistics can enable them to find players who can fit and add to
their specific team style. Teams outside the top six have shown intelligence and innovation
in their ability to get the best talent that goes unnoticed by the marquee clubs in England.

100 thoughts on “How Analytics has Changed Scouting in Football

  1. Do you think you can make a video on spying of opposition? Do you think after the derby county spying incident spying will have serious consequences?

  2. Do you think a kinda hypothetical draft would work within a European league? It could shake up a few of the leagues that pretty much have all the top positions essentially reserved for the top teams. In American sports having one of the top young prospects in the game can change a team for a long time

  3. As a united fan we lack this. 35 scouts. More than any other team in world football but Leicester found better talent with 6 scouts at the time. Honestly shambolic, the average football manager or fifa player seem to identify talent at a years before actual big clubs do. I would just hire the people who rate players for FM and Fifa over professional scouts at this point.

  4. I thought football clubs were using Football Manager for 'scouting' purposes? looool who knows right. but in all seriousness, I think Football Manager has scary quantitative datas of footballers all over the globe. I think because they have a lot of correspondents all over the world?

  5. Another great analysis that shows the talent that you guys have to display football subjects in a way everybody can understand!

    Can you possibly make a video about high flying Belgian leaders KRC Genk? They play some of the best football seen in recent years in the Belgian league as well as giving Belgium a good image in the Europa League. Would be interesting to see how they do it! 😎

  6. I think of football today as F1 racing. It costs around a billion pounds now to shave off a second around a track (general rule of thumb). The difference between Man City and mid table teams is shaving 0.1 second off from each player, your'e just going to have to pay serious money to get that extra second, when the margins are so tight.

  7. I really like your channel and videos in general 👍
    But could you please focus on other leagues as well? I think PL is the least best league to underline the point you're trying to make clear. Take La Lige for example where smaller clubs discovered Nemanja Maksimović, Enis Bardhi, Borja Iglesias, Aïssa Mandi, Felipe Caicedo or Adalberto Peñaranda. While this has system for decades in other countries it still is not fully established in England imo where player quality is often regarded equal to transfer fee.

  8. Talk about what happened with Ottawa Fury FC and Concacaf. It’s a very interesting topic and tifo football would do a great job talking about it.

  9. Former Boca Pres and Now President of Argentina Mauricio Macri is a good topic for a video of meet the (former) owners.

  10. Another advantage you forgot to mention. Selling clubs will charge different transfer fees depending on who the buyer is. When the buyer is a small club they will seldom charge an unfair fee, in fact they'll often sell for bargain prices. But when the buyer is a big club, no matter which player they're selling, he's going to go for a higher fee than he's actually worth.

  11. Odd though that Burnley's defense keeps shipping in so many goals and struggle to score (aside from the past month) more goals. Could this be attributed to them losing the ball in the midfield?

  12. But then once the smaller clubs discover missed talent, the bigger clubs snatch the players anyways. Smaller clubs will honestly never have a chance anymore

  13. Another great vid – I remember Grant Hanley a few years ago joining a smaller club for the same reason when all the big teams were after him.

  14. Liverpool have signed Robertson, Wijnaldum and Shaqiri all from lower league teams. They have definitely benefited from canny scouting compared to other top 6 teams.

  15. a) how did you only mention Brentford in relation to Tarkowski when we brought this to the English game and signed Tarkowski from Oldham originally using analytics b) Tarkowski ended up at Burnley because he essentially went on strike at Brentford because he ‘wanted to move back near his family’ when actually he wanted more money. Therefore we were forced into selling him

  16. If I had one criticism of this channel, it's that the videos are too short. I only feel this way because I want more of this amazing content.

  17. How long till we get a video on how Ole has turned United's season around, with an in-depth tactical analysis. Especially after beating spurs?????

  18. Football Fantasy games give me the best analysis of player performance every weeks…
    I haven't lost any game in Fantasy Premier League since the start of the season but I lost twice in La Liga Fantasy already…
    My teams still leading both league anyways…

  19. It's easier to get mid table players with the budgets of mid table PL team than getting top six caliber players when you don't have to budget of the Manchester clubs. Almost no other teams that are the level of, say, a Everton in other leagues can match the wages that they can offer, and it's the same for clubs that are lower down the table.

  20. The thing with being comfortable mid table or just below the top six is that you can take more risks because you know you don't have to be at your very best throughout the season to avoid relegation, and anyway that risk is exactly required to bridge the gap between you and the top six

  21. Great video. You guys never seize to impress with the detailed analysis and insight into the awesome world of football.

  22. A big thing about Tarkowski was that he was able to bleed into the side for a year as a sub. Despite the stereotype, he was able to learn how Burnley played through a year on the sidelines. The same thing is happening with Gibson this year.

  23. How is data about team play and individual player stats collected? I mean, for example, possession. Is there someone actually watching the game and holding two stopwatches? Or is it some AI that recognises which team has the ball on a screen? What about players' heat maps and where they took their touches of the ball during the game? Who or what and how are number and percentage of passes completed collected? Such data has been used and broadcast on TV for years. But I've never seen anyone explain how it's done. @Tifo Football, if you could enlighten me, thank you!

  24. Please do a Ole GUNNER Manchester United tactical analysis plz mate… I would love to see your view on it…. Your research and awareness of what teams and managers do on the field is too good not to review this

  25. Love these insightful videos as ever. PLEASE cover the current Marcelo Bielsa "spying" saga, especially his post tactical presentation to the press! Cheers ~

  26. Basically Moneyball then. Great book and okay movie. I'd recommend reading the book. But if you're not much of a reader then just watch the movie. I'm sure it's on Netflix.

  27. Less financially powerful top 6 sides do also do this sometimes, i.e. Andrew Robertson, Dele Alli, etc. although that's often a function of the scouting personnel being big fans of the player than being based on a specific transfer policy.

  28. To me, this video shows that small teams plays a very important part in the football "ecosystem". Big teams need small teams for taking risk in recruiting, small teams need big teams for selling players and brand (marketing value for the whole league, incoming players at the end of their career)

  29. I should have written this comment 6 days ago, but better late than never right? This was uploaded on my birthday yay! I find this comment silly but I kinda felt I should do it.

  30. You doing some great videos out there. Could you please make a video about how Frenkie de Jong will fit into the Barcelona System? Maybe adding KPB 😉

  31. Sooo… the league is a glorified academy for the top teams and this is good? That is a cancer and precisely why football is becoming more and more uninteresting.

  32. Hi Tifo, as usual great video.
    Can you next cover the story behind Real Madrid football academy? For several years now their academy is the best in the world and as Madridista Im curious how they can manage that. Another one about their transfer policy. Its already 3 seasons now and they havent bought any mature players (above 20), they only focuses on wonderkids. Is there any explanation of this decision?

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