Introduction to Soccer Analytics – The Guys I Follow

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.

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The Most Dominant Team in Europe 2012-2013

Who is the most dominant team in Europe this season?

Schweini knows...

Schweini knows…

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.


Thoughts on the SSAC Predictive Sports Betting Panel

Despite being hugely interested in sports statistics and wanting to attend for years, I never seem to get to attend the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. I tried one year, but they were completely sold out. The conference usually occurs in late Feb, which just happens to be the start of one of my busiest times at work every year, but it’s still on my list of things to do.

Anyway, I noticed yesterday that the video for the Sports Betting Panel was now up on the site, and I jotted down some brief notes while watching it yesterday. Why should you care what I think about predictive sports betting? Well, I’ve worked for the company Haralabob says they aren’t supposed to talk about for the last six years, doing all sorts of interesting things for them along the way.

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Backtesting Models and the Desire to Cheat or KNUTSON Y U SO DUM?!

I have been backtesting some models recently to try and achieve significant N so that I can either move forward with confidence on how the models perform, or scrap them/adjust them and re-run the tests. Unfortunately, I am not a programmer. When I switched my major in college from Microbiology, I basically had two choices. I could change to computer science or politics + economics. I chose the latter. Then when I dropped out of my Ph.D program in International Political Economics I, uh…

Well, I got a job in the computer industry.


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