Liverpool’s data science is so advanced, the club’s analysts have created algorithms to highlight certain opponents who will be susceptible to being pressed, and others who won’t.
The players are fed this information and certain opponents are hunted in packs – something we’ve often seen on the pitch but something we perhaps naively didn’t realise was so calculated.
This is according to a lengthy report in the Athletic about data analysis in football.
One unnamed source from the club describes the behind the scenes work of Dr Ian Graham, a genius with a Cambridge degree, who helps gives Jurgen Klopp and his team a cutting edge:
“He and his team process these algorithms to identify trends and find players to fit into the system. This is presented to senior scouts, and Klopp has the final say. These guys are phenomenal. I wouldn’t like to play chess against them. One of the impressive things: they can work out the speed at which the opponent moves and controls the ball. From there, we can identify pressing ‘victims’ and tell our players to apply pressure to specific opponents.”
We remember when FSG were initially criticised and even mocked for trying to implement a Money Ball approach to football, a game with less goals and less predictive metrics than baseball.
But after ten years at the helm, they now oversee the world’s best football team.
Obviously, a huge reason for this is the decision to appoint Klopp – and the German deserves more credit to the team’s success than they do – but his appreciation rather then scepticism for data science has helped us become the most forward-thinking club on the planet.
Just look at last season when we appointed a throw-in coach, for example. It was derided at the time, but we quickly had the best ball retention stats from that particular set-piece in the country.