18 June, 2019

APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES OF JOHAN CRUYFF TO DATA SCIENCE

Sports Performance
Team Sports
160K

With such an ambitious goal, the Barça Innovation Hub has presented its research at this year’s world-renowned MIT Sloan Sports Analytics international conference. This research is based on a mathematical model that assesses the quality of the decisions made by players taking into account the position of their team mates and opponents every second within a match. The study is co-authored by Javier Fernández (head of Sports Analytics at FC Barcelona), Luke Bornn (former Harvard professor and current Vice-President and head of Strategy and Analysis for the Sacramento Kings) and Dan Cervone (Director of Quantitative Research for the Los Angeles Dodgers).

 

“Football is a sport that you play with your brain. You have to be in the right place at the right moment, not too early, not too late.” This is how Johan Cruyff summarised the main goal for decision-making in football, stressing that being in the right place at the right time is the cornerstone for positional play.  On this basis, Cruyff insisted that “it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball for three minutes on average. So, the most important thing is: what do you do during those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball? That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not”. With this unequivocal view, Johan expressed how individual talent must also help to create the best possible context around the ball through the movements of these players who are not in control of the ball.

In recent years, a great deal of quantitative analysis in football has focused on applying statistical analysis to isolated actions.  Statistics such as completed passes, shots on goal or the percentage of possession, is data that refers to individual actions which do not take into account the context in which they occur.  On the other hand, the research presented seeks to reverse this fundamental aspect through the introduction of a new variable – EPV (Expected Possession Value) – which determines the quality of the players’ position every second on the pitch in terms of the possibility of the action resulting in a goal. Overtime, the evolution of the EPV allows to evaluate the influence of the players’ decisions (both those controlling the ball and without it) which results by improving or reducing this value. 

To be able to build this mathematical model, the team of researchers processed the position of players in every single frame of video for the games played by FC Barcelona over the course of two seasons.  Through Machine Learning algorithms, the researchers have been able to determine during every single second, the impact of the players disposition on the probility of the possession ending in a goal.

It may seem a fortune-teller trick, but this is a cutting edge example in applying artificial intelligence to football, an area in which Barça Innovation Hub is a globally-renowned innovator. The model is still under development, but much is expected from this tool which has been made possible by the joint work of the Club’s coaches, analysts, and data scientists. This can be applied to different practical cases such as the risk and benefit evaluation of the passes, the identification of positional superiorities according to the context, and the determination of alternative options for each player at each moment, among others. It is an example of how artificial intelligence is knocking the door to enter the game through a technical implementation focused on the end user, the coach.

 

The complete paper can be downloaded here.

 

The Barça Innovation Hub team

RELATED NOTES

DO FOOTBALL PLAYER’S MENTAL ABILITIES INFLUENCE THE RISK OF INJURY?

Mental abilities, although not yet fully appreciated, are already considered a relevant part of performance. But their importance could go beyond that: Do they also influence the injury risk, including recurrence, once the player returns to play?

INJURY TYPE IN HANDBALL MAY VARY BY POSITION, CATEGORY AND MATURATION OF PLAYERS

Although several studies have tried to evaluate the characteristics of the risk of injury in handball players, they have been unable to reach sufficiently reliable conclusions. A new study of all the FC Barcelona handball categories has attempted to shed more light on the subject.

HOW PHYSICAL DEMANDS ON FOOTBALL PLAYERS VARY BY THEIR POSITION

Although there are several studies on this topic, many of them have analyzed these demands by looking at just a few variables or using very broad timeframes. A new study completed by physical trainers from F.C. Barcelona has analyzed several of these details more closely.

THE GREAT UNKNOWN OF MUSCLE INJURIES: CONNECTIVE TISSUE IN THE EXTRACELLULAR MATRIX

An article published in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine —in which members of the club’s medical services participated— now suggests to consider the detailed structure of the area affected, and treating the extracellular matrix as an essential player in the prognosis of the injury.

WHAT IS LOAD MANAGEMENT REALLY ABOUT?

In this article, Tim Gabbett and his team provide a user-friendly guide for practitioners when describing the general purpose of load management to coaches.

TWO WEEKS ARE ENOUGH TO INCREASE MUSCLE VOLUME AND STRENGTH

For the first time, it has been demonstrated that it does not take months of training to significantly improve both muscle volume and strength; instead, two weeks of an appropriate exercise are enough.

Degrees of freedom or degrees of slavery?

The understanding of the modifying variables of the game, based on the degrees of freedom.

ECCENTRIC EXERCISES: STUDYING “VACCINES” FOR MUSCLES

Training using eccentric exercises is important to prevent possible damage. However, intensive training can also cause muscle damage, so it is critical to be vigilant in order to keep injury risk to an absolute minimum.

STABILITY OR INSTABILITY, IS THAT THE QUESTION?

The importance of building a game model in football.

THE LEVEL OF RESISTANCE AS A MODERATOR OF THE TRAINING LOAD

Cardiovascular endurance manifests as a moderator of the load result to which the athlete is exposed.

Are the players well positioned in relation to the ball?

Through the use of computer vision we can identify some shortcomings in the body orientation of players in different game situations.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE?

  • SUBSCRIBE
  • CONTACT
  • APPLY

KEEP UP TO DATE WITH OUR NEWS

Do you have any questions about Barça Universitas?

  • Startup
  • Research Center
  • Corporate

PLEASE COMPLETE THE FIELDS:

PLEASE COMPLETE THE FIELDS:

PLEASE COMPLETE THE FIELDS:

The Form has been sent successfully.

PLEASE COMPLETE THE FIELDS:

PLEASE COMPLETE THE FIELDS:

PLEASE COMPLETE THE FIELDS:

The Form has been sent successfully.

PLEASE COMPLETE THE FIELDS:

PLEASE COMPLETE THE FIELDS:

PLEASE COMPLETE THE FIELDS:

The Form has been sent successfully.