Yesterday I wrote a piece about Max Kruse’s transfer, which to me encompasses the entire reason why player analytics are important. In that piece, I was harsh on basically every major team in football, mostly for comic effect. I still find it a bit ridiculous that Kruse was bought so cheaply when the statistical case is obvious (well done, Gladbach), but mostly I wanted to show that when people like Arsene Wenger say there are no more values to be found on the market, they are either lying to you or are wrong.
I need to crowdsource something. In general I am trying to get the correct historic perspective on some older players.
Rate the players coming up from 1-5.
5=World Class, starter on a top CL team.
2=Backup in a major league
1=Lower League talent only
Messi is a 5 (and would be higher if the scale went there).
Frank Lampard is a 5
Robert Pires is a 5.
Nani is a 4 .
Gareth Barry is a 4.
Damien Duff is a 3.
Now give me your ratings for the following:
Morten Gamst Pedersen.
Scene: The board room of one of the top football clubs in England. The club Owner and Director of Football are sitting down to do an end of season recap.
The director’s assistant knocks on the door.
PA: Excuse me sir, there’s a package for you. It’s marked urgent.
DoF: Thank you, Anne.
The director opens the package. It contains a photo and four pieces of paper.
Owner: Who’s that in the photo?
DoF: Some guy named Max Kruse.
The soccer analytics community is currently growing by leaps and bounds, which means that there’s new information being processed almost every single day. It also means that there are tons of new people interested in the topic, and figuring out who to read or where to go can be a bit daunting at first.
Initially I wanted to synthesize the current literature and add links to all of the major work thus far in one spot. Unfortunately things are moving so fast right now (most topics are very much in the discovery phase), that instead I think it’s probably easier and more useful to provide a short profile of people I have found to be interesting and valuable in my exploration of the topic. Consider this sort of a Follow Friday outside of 140 characters for anyone who is interested in getting up to speed on soccer analytics.
Who is the most dominant team in Europe this season?
If you said Barcelona, you have been brainwashed by popular opinion and past success. By just about any statistical measure, Bayern Munich are the best team in Europe this year. They have a higher goal differential than Barcelona (75 vs. 66), shoot more times a game than Barcelona (17.4 vs. 13.8), allow fewer shots per game than Barcelona (8.2 vs 9.5), and have the lowest goals per game against average (.46) of any team in Europe. The only area Barcelona pip Bayern is in how many goals they average per game, with Barcelona scoring 3.09 and Bayern driving home 2.96 per game.
This is all true before Pep Guardiola takes charge this summer, and before – as announced this morning – Mario Gotze transfers from Dortmund to Munich.
To recap, Bayern are the best (and deepest) team in Europe right now. They replaced their retiring manager (Jupp Heynckes) with the man who managed what is widely considered to be the best team in modern football, depriving all potential rivals of his services in the process. They just signed the best player from their closest league rivals for 37 million Euros. And not only are they FFP compliant, they allegedly have a mountain of cash for transfers Guardiola wants and keep making a profit.
Bayern destroyed a very good Juventus team 4-0 on aggregate. Barcelona drew with a very good PSG team 3-3 on aggregate, but went through on away goals. Yet even with a gimpy Leo Messi, Barcelona are still favoured to win the Champions League matchup between the two that starts tonight? Missing Kroos and Mandzukic for the first leg will hurt, but I’m still not sure that line makes sense.
Anyway, I wrote this just so that I could make a point that I think will hold true for the next 4-5 seasons of European football. At Bayern Munich, Pep Guardiola has a very strong chance of matching or eclipsing his incredible record with Barcelona.
Bayern Munich are that good right now, and they have more financial muscle and flexibility than anyone else in Europe to fill needs as they arise. They have as much talent as any other club in Europe, they are deeper than just about anybody, and they have an amazing academy. They also seem to have a ridiculous knack of finding talent for cheap prices (with Mandzukic and Dante the latest examples. Real Madrid bought Modric this past summer for £26.4M. Meanwhile, Bayern bought Mandzukic for £11.4M and Dante for £4.1M, both of whom slotted directly into their starting 11. Even Javi Martinez, who was outrageously expensive at £35M, seems to be worth every pound of his transfer fee.) Bayern’s revenues are also some of the best in Europe, and unlike the Spanish clubs or Manchester United, they have almost no debt.
Mark it down: Bayern are the team to beat right now and for the foreseeable future.